Global Warming: Important Meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 PM

Global warming graphic

You are Invited to Attend:

Open Land Conservancy of Chester Counthy Annual Meeting
Guest Speaker: Climate Change Expert Richard Whiteford
Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 PM
Great Valley Presbyterian Church, 2026 Swedesford Road, Malvern

The Open Land Conservancy has scheduled ‘Global Warming’’ as the important topic for its Annual Meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 PM at Great Valley Presbyterian Church, 2025 Swedesford Road, Malvern, PA.  Light refreshments will be served.

Following a brief business meeting, internationally acclaimed climate expert Richard Whiteford will present the keynote presentation on global warming and lead the discussion. This meeting is an opportunity for the public to learn more about global warming and what it means to us here in Southeastern Pennsylvania and you are encouraged to attend.

How will global warning impact our streams, trees and pasture?  How will global warming affect our way of life, our health systems, and our grandchildren? Should I be worried about climate change, will it affect me personally?

Have these and other questions answered by an expert. Richard Whiteford has experience and a broad background in the field of environmental climate change.  Advocating for stronger environmental protection, Whiteford is involved at the local, state and federal levels. He has worked for the Sierra Club, Highlands Coalition, Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife. Serving as a environmental; consultant to universities, high school and environmental education centers, he has also appeared on BBC and Korean television, NPR, AccuWeather, and Northern Deutsch Radio. Whiteford wrote a three-year series about endangered special for the Philadelphia Inquirer and in 2006 wrote the book “Wild Pennsylvania”.  In addition, Whiteford has served as an advisor on the White House Interagency Climate Adaption Task Force and was a founding board member of the PA Biodiversity and a consultant to PA 21st Century Environmental Commission.

We are grateful to Open Land Conservancy of Chester County (OLC) for inviting the public to attend this meaningful presentation on global warming. For those that may not know, OLC is the oldest Land Trust in the US. Established in 1939, OLC now protects 493 acres of open space, most of which is located in Tredyffrin Township – 375 owned acres in 8 nature preserves that are open to the public and 118 acres of private property under conservation easements.  OLC is the largest non-government landowner in the township.

Completed volunteer supported and managed* , OLC is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. The Conservancy has acquired its properties through gifts and through state and country grants.  Volunteers provide the ongoing maintenance with some contracted services.   OLC is leading the effort to preserve the local community’s remaining open space, by caring for hundreds of acres of protected land.

To find out more about the OLC, becoming a member and volunteer needs, visit their website:  http://www.openlandconservancy.org/

TESD: Proposed Tax Increase of 4.3% Drops to $3.875% — School Board to leave $20 in taxpayer pockets

Tax-increaseFor the 13th year in a row, it looks like the TE School Board will vote to increase taxes to its residents.

At the District’s budget workshop last night, the public learned that the proposed 2016/17 tax increase has decreased – the tax increase has reduced from the 4.3% contained in the preliminary budget approved in January.  The proposed tax increase is now 3.875%.  This ‘decrease in the increase’ means homeowners will keep roughly $20 of the proposed tax increase in their pockets.

T/E School District has one of the largest fund balances in the state – in 1996/97, the District had a fund balance of $4,333,661 and in the last decade we saw the fund balance increase to more than $28 million.  The total fund balance as of June 2015 was $32,381,047 – that’s $32.4 million in taxpayer dollars. Continuing to grow the fund balance, the District shows a budget surplus for the fifth year in a row yet residents continue to feel the sting of an annual tax increase.

Ray Clarke and Neal Colligan were in attendance at the budget workshop and their comments from the meeting are appreciated.  Thank you both.

If residents care about the proposed ‘thirteen years in a row’ tax increase, they should plan to attend the TE School Board meeting of April 25 and voice their opinion.

Budget Workshop Notes from Ray Clarke:

Three hours of discussion at last night’s TESD Budget Workshop culminated in some good news for taxpayers – although you’d need a microscope to see it.  The Board will vote at its April 25th meeting for a “Preliminary Final Budget” that includes a tax increase of 3.875% – down from the maximum allowable by a token 0.4% (worth about $20 for the average taxpayer, who is still faced with an increase of more than $200).

Notwithstanding well-articulated positions from members Dorsey, Sweeney, Burger and Hotinski (and from the audience) for a lower rate, more considerate of the increased fees to families and the fixed, inflation-linked incomes of retirees, the outcome seemed pre-ordained, driven by the same majority that voted for the senseless VFMS fences.  That majority seems pre-occupied by risk and unable to appreciate that every number they are given by the Administration is conservative.  For example:

–  Half of the adjustments to the Preliminary Budget could arguably be higher – most notable being the use of approved rather realistic estimates to budget the impact of staff retirements.

–  There was much lamentation of the possible impact of the next union contracts (due in 2017/18), without recognition that the projections already include 7-10% increases in the benefits costs (worth 1-2% in total compensation).

–  Revenue projections are especially murky.  This year’s transfer tax is already $1 million over Budget, as are even base real estate revenues – the most predictable of all line items!  It’s not at all clear if next year’s Budget, developed months ago, considers these developments.

Years of operating outcomes favorable to Budget show that the Administration is skilled at managing its resources.  Superintendent Gusick read a scripted plea for the Board to set the District’s tax parameters and pledged to implement a process next Fall to conduct the oft-advertised “deep dive” into expense strategies that would address any apparent operating deficit that resulted.

The April 25th Board vote is not final, but is nevertheless significant.  Anyone that believes that our School District should be managed more like the County Intermediate Unit, which also last night presented its Budget and a commitment to live within the Act 1 2.4% Inflation Index, should come out in support of our Board members who are trying to hold the line here in TE

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Budget Workshop Notes from Neal Colligan:

-Current Year operating projections now show an estimated $984,000 Surplus for the District for the 2015-16 fiscal year (this year).  Current year’s budget was passed with an anticipated deficit of $1.654 MM.  It’s a miracle…a $2.5 MM swing!

-This “miracle” of Deficit Budget morphing into an Actual Surplus has now happened in EACH of the last five years.

-As a result of these Surpluses; the District has added almost $12 MM to its Fund Balance over the last 5 years…that’s a pretty profitable operation!!!

-With over $32 MM in Fund Balance (about to be over $33 MM with this year’s Surplus); at what point is that adequate?

-The growth of the Surplus is remarkable as we always seem to be “up against the wall” when it comes time to set a new tax rate.  Possibly this pattern is a result of the budget forecasting methods employed when looking at the next year’s budget.  On average (10 years); the District collects a bit over 100% of budgeted revenue and spends about 95.5% of budgeted expenses.  Perhaps this speaks more to the budget estimates used at tax setting time than actual operational changes employed during a given fiscal year.

-At 3.875%; the tax increase this year will be higher than the 3.84% increase imposed on the community for this year.  Not sure the new Board Members ran to increase taxes.

-Perhaps it is time to look at using a small amount of our Surplus (88% funded by local sources) to dampen current tax increases?  One could certainly argue that the Fund Balance is now super-adequate and it is taxpayer money that they were told would go to education….!!!???

TESD: Meetings tonight to discuss football team hazing, VF Middle School fencing, student computers and reapportionment

TE School District administrators and school board members are responding to the community on range of important topics tonight.

At 6 PM in the Conestoga High School auditorium, the District residents have an opportunity to comment on the recent events involving the football team.  My guess is that the administration will have little to say regarding the criminal charges filed against three senior players for their alleged assault of a freshman 14-yr. old student. Now a legal matter, the issue is in the hands of district attorney Tom Hogan and the courts. However, I would expect comment from the administration and school board regarding “No Gay Thursday”, the weekly hazing tradition in the locker room. The letter of March 17 from the District indicated hazing occurred. The implementation of a zero-tolerance hazing policy going forward is needed.

The administration has conducted its own internal investigation and the community should expect an update on their findings.  We know that Conestoga’s head football coach John Vogan resigned from his position and the other varsity and junior varsity football staff – five people – have been relieved of their coaching jobs in all sports through the fall season.

The regular meeting of the school board follows the public meeting regarding the football team – 7:30 PM in Conestoga High School cafeteria. Priority discussion topics on the agenda include the Valley Forge Middle School fencing project, one:one computing initiative, and reapportionment plan.

According to the agenda, the Valley Forge Middle School construction documents include options for 4 feet, 5 feet and 6 feet chain link fencing and 4 feet, 5 feet and 6 feet black estate fencing.  According to the agenda, “The base bid will be per the recommendation of the safety and security consultant of a 6 foot chain link fence with the other options being bid as alternatives”.  The $15,500 consultant’s report recommended a minimum of 5 feet fencing (and 6 feet fencing preferred), so why is 4 feet a consideration? I thought the public was told that 4 feet fencing does not meet school security standards. But more importantly, … where’s the ‘no fencing’ option?

“To fence or not to fence” was at Valley Forge Middle School was a  major campaign issue in the November TE School Board elections. Several candidates, now school board directors, used ‘no fencing’ as part of their campaign platform. In District 2, school board directors Michelle Burger and Ed Sweeney, were both extremely vocal in their fencing opposition; promising voters they would not support additional fencing at VFMS.  By some accounts, former school board president Kris Graham lost her bid for re-election over the VFMS issue and her support for the fencing. Tonight it looks like the fencing project may finally be coming to a head and it will be interesting to see how each school board member votes.  A vote for no fencing remains an option.

On the plan to outfit students with District computers, not everyone in the community shares the administrations’ interest in the student computer initiative — for a variety of reasons, product choice, leasing vs purchase, privacy issues, costs, etc.  Has the proposed one:one computing initiative been thoroughly vetted? The taxpayers are facing a significant tax increase for 2016-17, is the school board satisfied that they should move forward to implement this computer plan?

A reminder that in January, the school board unanimously adopted the 2016-17 preliminary budget, which contains a 4.3% tax increase.  At that time,  the Board decided to “keep their options open” by approving a preliminary budget with the Act 1 index of 2.4% and allowable exceptions to Act 1 of 1.9% to close the project budget deficit of $4.75 million.  If the 2016-17 budget passes with a tax increase, it will mark the 12th straight year of a tax increase. Some of the school board members publicly voiced concern over the proposed tax increase, vowing to work to lower the increase in the final budget.

TESD Administration reacts against Conestoga High School hazing with strong words and offers course for change

Hazing abuseIn the two weeks since Chester County DA Tom Hogan filed charges of assault, conspiracy, unlawful restraint and other crimes against three Conestoga football players, the hazing scandal has brought nationwide attention to the TE School District. Allegedly, the senior boys penetrated a freshman teammate with a broomstick after he refused to help other underclassmen clean the locker room while wearing just their underwear. According to Hogan, the “No Gay Thursdays” was a tradition started by the football team at least three or four years ago, in which behavior the team normally considered to be “gay” was considered “not gay” on Thursdays,

The hazing scandal has quickly gained national attention and continues to appear in articles from the New York Times to the Washington Post.  Locally the community appears divided between those students and parents suggesting that the October 15 incident never happened to others in the public who were outraged and wanted answers.

I have found myself caught in the middle of the two camps. I fully support ‘innocent until proven guilty” regarding the three Conestoga football players – the presumption of innocence is essential to the criminal process. We know of mistakes made by overzealous district attorneys and lawyers who were quick to judge – look at the Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of rape in 2006. The mishandling in that case cost that district attorney his job and his law license, not to mention the millions of dollars paid by Duke University for legal bills and lawsuits.  On the flip side, it is hard to believe that the highly respected Chester County DA Tom Hogan and his office were not thorough in their investigation. Regardless … the boys are innocent until proven guilty.

There are important issues at play here. One is the criminal charges filed against the football players for the alleged assault. On that score, it is up to the legal process to decide the fate of those accused not the school district or the residents.  But another important issue is this so-called “No Gay Thursday” weekly hazing tradition – and the expectation from many in the community (including myself) that the administration can (and should) institute a zero-tolerance hazing policy going forward.

On Thursday, TESD Supt. Dr. Richard Gusick and Conestoga HS Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger released a letter to school district families. (Click here to read letter). Although understandably unable to comment on the legal investigation, the letter provides an update on the District’s internal investigation and findings, including the following:

* Hazing activities occurred with some members of the football team over the past several years, including back slapping, horseplay, and obscene behaviors targeted toward underclassmen.

* These activities sometimes occurred under the label of “No Gay Thursday.”

* No interviews or other evidence indicated that any adult had knowledge of these activities.

* The locker rooms had an insufficient adult presence throughout the football season, creating an environment where hazing activities could occur.

Accepting responsibility that hazing had occurred at the high school, the letter went on to say, that the school “… does not accept any type of intolerance, hazing, bullying or intimidation within our school community. “No Gay Thursday” is ignorant, intolerant, and has no place in any school. Even though no gay students were specific targets of discrimination, the practice itself is an affront to us all. We are committed to eliminating these activities and providing a positive, respectful environment that is safe for all students.”

These are words that the community needed to hear – a statement containing a clear anti-hazing message and indication that the District is taking the hazing seriously and is taking strong action against it for the future.

We also learned from the letter that John Vogan, Conestoga’s head football coach, had resigned, effective immediately. And that the entire football coaching staff was relieved of all coaching responsibilities in all sports through the fall season. (Does this mean there’s an opportunity for the District to re-hire the coaching staff after the Fall season?)

The administration is recommending hiring a full-time Athletic Director for TESD middle school and high school sports programs. Creating a new position for oversight of the sports programs is a good suggestion – however, for me there’s one caveat, conduct a search and hire from the outside. The District athletic program needs a new start.

This tragedy has shaken all of us and the public needs assurance that the District will take every step to try to prevent this from happening again.  Although originally the stance was no public meetings on this topic, the District has changed course and is now encouraging residents to share their thoughts on Monday, March 28, 6 PM in the auditorium at Conestoga High School.  This meeting will occur before the regularly scheduled school board meeting which starts at 7:30 PM.

TESD: Conestoga Senior Michael Zhang Awarded $75,000 in 2016 Intel Science Talent Search

Michael-Zhang-300x300

Exciting update —

Conestoga High School senior Michael Zhang, 18, of Berwyn, PA won the Second Place Medal of Distinction for Global Good in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search last night in Washington, DC. He engineered tiny virus-like particles to deliver gene-modifying proteins to target cells for medical therapy by altering the genome of those cells in a controlled way.

The second place medal comes with a $75,000 award! Congratulations Michael and the Zhang family!

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I previously posted the following on Community Matters (January 20, 2016) when Michael was listed as a 2016 Intel finalist:

The list of finalists in Intel’s 2016 Science Talent Search (Intel STS) was released today and Tredyffrin Easttown School District student, Conestoga senior Michael Zhang. is on the list! Michael’s impressive achievement was based on his ‘Design and Assembly of CRISPR/Cas9-based Virus-like Particles for Orthogonal and Programmable Genetic Engineering in Mammalian Cells’.  Congratulations Michael!

Run by the nonprofit Society for Science & the Public since 1942, the Science Talent Search is America’s oldest and most prestigious science competition for high school students. Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., has sponsored the competition since 1998. Intel STS recognizes 300 students as semifinalists each year.  From that group, 40 finalists receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 1016, where they will compete for more than $1 million in awards.

As an Intel STS finalist, Zhang will participate in rigorous final judging sessions, display his work to the public, meet with notable scientists and compete for three Medal of Distinction awards awards of $150,000 each – one for basic research, one for global good and another for innovation. Additionally, there are three second-place awards of $75,000, and three third-place awards of $35,000.  Each Intel STS finalist receives at least $7,500.

According to Intel STS website, alumni of the competition have made extraordinary contributions to science and “hold more than 100 or the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including twelve Nobel Laureates, eleven National Medal of Science winners, two Fields Medalists, and eighteen MacArthur Foundation Fellows.” Intel STS 2016 finalists are from 38 schools in 18 states. Fifty-two percent of this year’s finalists are male, while 48 percent are female.

As one of the nation’s top high school researchers, congratulations and best wishes to Michael in Washington!

Three Conestoga senior football players charged with sexual assault of freshman player – This is no rite of passage!

FootballA month ago, we learned that an extensive law enforcement investigation was underway at Conestoga High School after they got wind of hazing allegations. The investigation centered on ritual hazing by football players which occurred on the same day each week at the high school.  Apparently some of the students were aware of the hazing and would deliberately avoid the gym at certain times.

Today we learned from Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan that three 17-yr. old senior football players, including the team captain, at Conestoga High School have been charged with an October 15 hazing incident where they allegedly penetrated a younger player with a broomstick after he refused to help other underclassmen clean the team locker room while wearing just their underwear. Criminal charges were filed against the three juveniles for “assault, conspiracy, unlawful restraint, terroristic threats and other offenses.”

According to Hogan, the football team had a tradition called “No Gay Thursday” where all “gay” behavior was allowed.  Allegedly the team’s upperclassmen bullied the younger team members, often in sexually explicit or suggestive ways, during the weekly Thursday locker room hazing incidents.

The October 15 assault occurred after underclassmen were told to strip to their underwear and clean the high school locker room. The 14-year old victim stripped to his boxers but then reconsidered.  When the high school freshman tried to leave the locker room, he was held down by his attackers and abused sexually with a broom handle.  The prosecutor said that the three upperclassmen football players “will not face sexual assault charges because the law requires a motive of sexual gratification, which was not the case here.”  I suggest that the law needs to change … this was rape.

Although Hogan said that there is no evidence that the coaches were aware of the assault, Conestoga’s head football coach John Vogan was suspended from all coaching activities pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the TE School District.

District Superintendent Dr. Richard Gusick has sent a letter to the T/E families, which stated that administrators will conduct a “thorough school-based investigation to determine whether code of conduct violations occurred and the awareness and supervision of the coaching staff.”

Some may view school football hazing as a rite of passage – sexual assault with a broom handle is rape. Bottom line, the TE community needs to hold the District’s administration, staff and school board accountable and demand answers.  No one should be allowed to hide behind the curtain of “number one school district in the country”!

I suggest that the TE School Board members need to stop talking about school fencing and focus on what’s really important — sexual assault in the high school … the real safety risk to our children!

The Fate of Tredyffrin Township’s Covered Wagon Inn spurs discussion by Radnor Commissioners

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If nothing else, the possible demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn is furthering discussion about local historic preservation and municipal protection (or lack thereof) of historic buildings.

The ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ historic preservation issue has not aired publicly in Tredyffrin Township. However, it was good to see that Radnor Township Board of Commissioners used the precarious future of the old inn in Tredyffrin, as an impetus to discuss ways to strengthen their own protection of historic buildings at their meeting this week.

As reported by Linda Stein in Main Line Suburban Life, Radnor Board of Commissioners President Jim Higgins asked local historian Greg Prichard to update the community on the protection of historic buildings in Radnor. One of Prichard’s recommendations for the township was to update the inventory of historic properties — Radnor’s current survey list is over 25 years old.

Interestingly, Tredyffrin Township already accomplished Prichard’s recommended task with their own 2003 Historic Resource Survey, which researched and photographed over 400 historic properties in the township, including the Covered Wagon Inn.

I was on the Tredyffrin Township’s HARB at that time (Tredyffrin no longer has a Historical Architectural Review Board) and it was our intent, at that time, that the 2003 survey would become the basis for a historic preservation ordinance to protect the community’s historic properties. But sadly, without municipal and/or elected official’s support, the historic preservation protection initiative never moved forward in Tredyffrin.

Fast forward to 2016, and local residents who care about protecting the Covered Wagon Inn, find themselves at the mercy of the CVS/Summit developers.The good news is that the developer has shown a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to help save the Covered Wagon Inn.

In discussing the plight of the Covered Wagon Inn, Prichard told the Radnor Commissioners, “The next time an important place is threatened in Radnor, I feel we shouldn’t have to organize big protests and publicity campaigns, when in most other places as special as ours, it’s a matter of policy.”  Following-up on Prichard’s remarks, Solicitor John Rice offered that Radnor could update its zoning ordinance to offer more protection of its historic properties.

Thank you Radnor Board of Commissioners for caring about historic preservation and thank you for having an open dialogue of ways to increase ;protection of historic buildings. We know that all developers will not be as willing as Summit Realty to help save a historic building, especially if there is nothing to prevent their demolition.

Preservationist and retired architect Edward Davis Lewis of Gladwyne penned the following op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week … at a minimum, the fate of the Covered Wagon Inn has people talking.

ISSUE | HISTORIC PRESERVATION

Save the Old Covered Wagon Inn

Bravo for running “Preservationists try to save landmark inn” as a front-page story (Feb. 16). In a toxic, throwaway society, voices of conservation should rightly be front page.

Like so many old taverns, the Old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford, Chester County, is a landmark, a milestone, a stopping place on the turnpike of our shared history. Inns served as meeting places for traders and travelers, post offices, polling places, and employment centers for immigrants. In the age before radio, TV, and the Internet, locals gathered in them to hear news and discuss the issues of the day. They are our national heritage.

If the developers, Summit Realty Advisors, would build next to, instead of in place of, this old inn, they would gain value and give identity to a CVS pharmacy, unlike those in so many anonymous crossroad malls. The tear-down, throwaway mindset needs to be replaced by recycle, reuse, and renew with creative planning.

|Edward Davis Lewis, retired architect and preservationist, Gladwyne

People continue to sign the online petition, ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ — to date, over 4,100 have shown their support. Click here if you would like to add your name.

Support continues to grow on the ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ Facebook page – click here to visit the FB page.

Update on TE School District’s Finance Meeting

school-financeMy friend Ray Clarke attended the TESD Finance Meeting last night and kindly provides us with the following notes. Thanks Ray! Others in the community attended the meeting; I encourage you to offer your comments.
Some brief and arbitrary personal notes from last night’s TESD Finance Committee. There was fair community attendance and engagement, so hopefully others can supplement.
 
The attendance may have been encouraged by the prospect of “drilling down” into the expense Budget that requires the 4.3% tax increase, but once again we were left flat on our backs as Lucy pulled the football away.  For example, we learned that Special Education purchased services are slated to increase by $0.9 million, but have no idea why, beyond “unfunded mandates”.  Maybe someone can point out any new mandates, and indeed offer a quantitative analysis of how the $20+ million a year Special Education enterprise spends that money, where the increase is going next year, and why exactly the projection model has the expense increasing at 10% a year for the full five year length of the model.  Committee Chair Lastner again held out the prospect of sharing more with the public in future meetings.
 

The community is also struggling to understand the trajectory of health care costs.  Since the district went to the current self-funding model, experience has fluctuated considerably, $1 million or more ahead or less than budget.  Analysis of this is left to the insurance broker/administrator, so we have not seen the thinking that supports next year’s budget projection of a 5% increase and subsequent 8% annual increases.  If taxpayers are to be comfortable accepting perpetual tax increases to cover this benefit for our employees, it would be nice to see some “drilling down” here, too.  Let’s look at the five year trend, understand what’s driving that trend, including any change in the demographics of the covered population and the employee contribution, budget to that long term trend and use the $5 or $6 million of taxpayer money tucked away in the Fund Balance to systematically smooth out the inevitable fluctuations.

A comparison of budget to actual for the last three years was notable for one factor: in every year, actual employee compensation costs have been better than budget by at least $1 million and in 2013/14 more than $2 million to the good – because the impact of retirements and unpaid leaves of absence (both of which bring replacement with lower cost staff).  And a similar outcome is projected for the current year.  But we were told that this over-budgeting – which leads every year to a higher than needed tax increase – can not be budgeted for because the district only officially learns of retirements after the budget is completed.  Somehow we can estimate cost increases (eg: healthcare), but can not manage to deal with decreases?

More information to come re the laptop plan (hardware choice, roll-out timing, cost-sharing, etc.).  I gather the Education Committee approved the educational rationale, so maybe a good start for communicating that rationale to those of us who bought their own log tables and slide rules would be to provide a white paper documenting how educational outcomes will be improved.

Since the passage of the District’s preliminary budget last month which contains a 4.3% tax increase, it is not good news to read that there’s been no movement in the direction to decrease.  At the time the preliminary budget was passed, I recall that the Finance Committee Chair Virginia Lastner told the public that this only to “keep the options open”. Lastner stated that all expenses would be reviewed ‘line by line’. Maybe that discussion will happen at the budget workshops.

On Thursday, February 18. the Facilities Committee (with Virginia Lastner, chair) will return to the discussion of the fencing project at Valley Forge Middle School and the consultant’s report.  Interestingly, a review of the meeting agenda indicates a strict time schedule — public comment is from 5 PM – 5:05 PM. Five total minutes for public comment — what is that about?

In 1986, the Covered Wagon Inn was saved from demolition — will history repeat itself?

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Timing really is everything!  Over the last couple of weeks, I had been working with Philadelphia Inquirer writer, Michaelle Bond on her Covered Wagon Inn article for the paper.  As often happens in the newspaper world, local stories tend to get pushed back from their initial date of publication. I had just about given up on ever seeing the article, when “Can main line history coexist with a CVS” appeared on the  front page of today’s Philly Inquirer and, as they say in the newspaper world, the story was “above the fold”.

Michaelle did her homework on the article, reaching out to the developer, Summit Realty Advisors, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society and Tredyffrin Township staff. She also spoke with the Greg Caneda, a member of the family who owned the Covered Wagon Inn from 1959 to 1986. Since 1986, the property has been owned by John G. Hoopes of Berwyn.  All parties contacted by Michaelle responded with the exception of Hoopes, who did not respond to her requests for comment.

Hoopes owned Hoopes Realty, one of the Delaware Valley’s largest residential real estate firms for many years. I did a little research on Mr. Hoopes and interestingly thirty years ago, Hoopes had plans to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn. Immediately after  Hoopes purchased the property on the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Old Eagle School Road from the Caneda family, he presented his redevelopment plans for a 9,000 sq. retail building to the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission in January 1986.

Hoopes’ plans called for a new retail building using a mixture of exterior materials, including stone and stucco. One of the walls was to use glass brick and the building was to be topped by a clerestory tower. Hoopes land development plan included the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article dated January 20, 1986, ‘Building Plan Called Junk’, Hoopes proposed plan, which included the demolition of the old Covered Wagon, was called “junk” by several of the township’s planning commissioners.

An interesting read thirty years later, the article states that former Commissioner Robert Rand said to Hoopes, “You’re taking an ‘anywhere USA’ solution to what we think is a unique corner,”

In explaining his desire to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn, Hoopes said, “The building there now is very unfriendly to the public.”  Former Planning Commissioner Chair Oleg Dudkin responded, “What you’re seeing here is a unanimously unfriendly attitude now to what you’ve got!”  He further stated, “There’s an impasse here. That corner is sensitive”.

Thirty years ago, Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commissioners stood up to Hoopes; telling him that he needed to redesign the plan so as not to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn.  Although certainly dissatisfied with the planning commissioners, Hoopes balked at redesigning and did not pursue his 1986 land development plan, The Covered Wagon Inn was allowed to remain for the next thirty years.

As was the case in 1986, and continues to be the case in 2016, there is no historic preservation ordinance to protect the Covered Wagon Inn or any other historic building in Tredyffrin Township. Will our 2016 Tredyffrin Township officials have the same commitment to preserving our local history as those who served thirty years ago?  We may have an answer to that question soon.

On Wednesday morning, I will join the developer, his attorney and engineer, township staff, a planning commissioner and a couple of supervisors for a meeting to discuss the CVS Pharmacy land development project. Here’s hoping that there’s a solution for the fate of the Covered Wagon Inn.

Ford Motor Company featured the historic Covered Wagon Inn in 1956 publication!

Covered Wagon Inn Ford Times coverFord Times was a monthly publication produced by Ford Motor Company and given to buyers of new Ford cars by the selling dealership. The first issue was published on April 15, 1908. It remained in publication until 1996. Each issue consisted of several articles about sports or vacation destinations, fun stories about people

According to vintage Ford facts, the Ford Times was most known for the recipes. For many years recipes from famous restaurants across the country were published towards the back of the magazine. The Ford Times of October 1956 contained a painting of the Old Covered Wagon Inn by Ruth Baldwin and included favorite restaurant recipe chopped sirloin a la Mario and garlic bread.

I wonder if the Sam (Severino) Caneda family was the owners of the Covered Wagon Inn when it was featured in Ford Times in 1956.

A special thanks to my friend Greg Prichard, board member of Radnor Historical Society and Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, for scanning his copy of the Ford Times and providing these historic images.

Covered Wagon Inn Ford Times

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