Capital Health Services

Jimmy Duffy’s Redevelopment Plan Requires Zoning Change … Is There Community Support?

UPDATE May 8, 2012: According to the township zoning officer, Matt Bauman, the Jimmy Duffy property is not 2 acres C-1 Commercial and .3 acres R-1 Residential as was stated by Ed Morris, the developer for the proposed project.

The property is a total of 2.069 acres containing 1.069 acres of C-1 Commercial and 1 acre of R-1 Residential. If the commercially zoned part  of the site was 2 acres as previously stated, the developer could probably just ask to change the C-1 zoning. But now it appears that Morris would need to ask for variance on both the C-1 and R-1 sections.

Taking the ‘amending the C-1 Commercial ordinance route’ to include assisted care facility would suggest that it is OK to construct this type of structure on 1 acre rather than the 10 acre minimum as is currently required under IO Institutional Overlay zoning district.  The Jimmy Duffy property actually only contains 10% of the property currently required for an assisted care facility.

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It has been 2-1/2 months since the players in the Jimmy Duffy’s redevelopment project last met publicly … but this Wednesday, May 9, 7 PM at the Tredyffrin Township Building, they will take up where they left off with a town hall meeting.  What’s changed with the proposed plans for a multi-story assisted care facility? I don’t know if any of the plans have changed from the developers-side; it’s more about the fact-finding that has occurred with the Daylesford neighbors.  I will get to that, but first here is the abbreviated history on the project.

The decaying catering facility that once housed Jimmy Duffy’s is on Lancaster Avenue in Daylesford.  The 2.3-acre property is wedged between the Paoli Vetcare (the 2 properties share a parking lot) and a large new office building.  On and off over the years, the property has seen its share of redevelopment interest but most notably the 2006 proposed Arc Wheeler townhouse community.  That proposal, ‘Station Square’, called for the teardown of 14 single-family homes (in addition to Duffy’s) and the construction of 150+ residential units and retail space.  With much backlash from the neighboring Daylesford homeowners and many heated discussions, the developer eventually decided against further pursuit of that project.

Several years passed without any new suggestions for the Duffy site until last fall.  In September 2011, Capital Health Service and the project’s developer Ed Morris, presented sketch plans to Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission to redevelop the property as a multi-story assisted living facility.  Planning Commission minutes from September and October 2011, and January 2012 Board of Supervisors meeting minutes reference the discussion.  Here’s the sticky wicket for Capital Health and Ed Morris – the 2.3 acre Duffy property consists of 2 acres of C-1 zoning and .3 ac of R-1 zoning.  The C-1 Commercial District does not permit an assisted care facility as a usage; nor does R-1 Residential District.

The township does have zoning that permits residential care facilities – Institutional Overlay (IO) but the proposed Jimmy Duffy project would not comply with this ordinance – why?  The answer:  An IO zoning district requires a minimum of 10 acres and the Jimmy Duffy site has 2 acres. The applicant for the project could ask for a variance to the IO zoning, but 2 acres is not exactly close to minimum 10-acre requirement.  Under these conditions, would the township Zoning Hearing Board grant this type of variance request? My guess is that Capital Health Service and Ed Morris figured that their best shot at getting this project approved was to have the C-1 zoning district amended to include an assisted care facility as an acceptable use.

According to the January 2012 Board of Supervisors minutes, “The developer [Ed Morris] is drafting the language as qualified by the Planning Commission for the proposed amendment to the C1 zoning district that is under consideration by the Planning Commission at this time.” The minutes from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors meetings, give the impression that the Daylesford neighbors were contacted and that their response favorable to the project. This is probably why Ed Morris et al received the green light to draft language for a zoning amendment change.

What’s the saying, the devil is in the details.  At the February 23 public meeting between the Daylesford Neighbors Association (DNA), Capital Health Service representatives and Ed Morris, the detail that the project’s success hinged on a zoning ordinance amendment change was not an obvious part of the discussion. The Daylesford neighbors focused their concerns on the height of the proposed building, lighting, traffic, trash, etc. but most attendees missed the greater issue – that a residential care facility was not permitted in C-1 zoning and that there was not sufficient property for IO zoning (remember, IO requires 10 acres and there’s only 2.3).  I admit that like the Daylesford neighbors, I too missed (or overlooked) the significance of what this project would require … the zoning amendment change. To say that the developer’s discussion at the February 23 meeting was ‘incomplete’ would be an understatement.

Fast forward since February and DNA residents have gone on a fact-finding mission to educate themselves on local zoning ordinances, C-1 Commercial, R-1 Residential, IO Institutional Overlay districts, conditional use and variances.  As a result, I think that the developer would better serve the neighbors if there were a full and fair presentation of the project at Wednesday’s meeting.  Ed Morris should come prepared to explain why the township should grant a C-1 zoning amendment change to include assisted care facility when the township already has the IO ordinance that includes this usage.  At 2.3 acres, the Jimmy Duffy property is off by an order of magnitude to meet the IO requirement of 10-acre minimum for this type of project.

Simply stated, the proposed Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project does not match up to the requirements of IO Institutional Overlay zoning requirements and is not currently included in C-1 use regulations.

If the township allows a developer to draft a C-1 Commercial ordinance amendment to fit his specific project, what does that say for future developers in Tredyffrin? Will they too be afforded that same opportunity? It is important for the community to encourage local economic development and redevelopment.  However, if a proposed project requires a zoning ordinance amendment, I ask for careful and thorough analysis. Although Wednesday’s town hall meeting is intended for those directly involved in the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project (Daylesford neighbors, Capital Health Service representatives and the developer, Ed Morris), the ramifications of the actions taken in regards to this project are far-reaching for all future township development.

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Trisha Larkin, President of Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA) and her neighbors are circulating a “Petition to Oppose Ed Morris Proposal for Assisted Living Facility on Duffy Site”.  Click here for copy of petition.  According to the petition, the neighborhood members further state that “DNA opposes any FUTURE proposals that require zoning changes” for the Jimmy Duffy property.

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Assisted Living Facility . . . A Good Fit for a Decaying Former Catering Business

Since attending this week’s meeting between the developers for the Jimmy Duffy’s project and the neighbors, I have received a number of calls and emails.  Some township residents have thanked me for my support and “thoughtful’ articles while others have questioned ‘why’ I am involved; reminding me that it is not my backyard. Several attendees of the meeting called or wrote to say that my account of the meeting was accurate but I also received remarks that I did not provide a balanced view of the redevelopment plan.

First, I have to accept that I will never please everyone.  That said, Community Matters represents my thoughts and opinion of an issue; I am not a paid newspaper reporter nor do I receive any revenue from advertisers.  Whether it is attending a community meeting for a proposed redevelopment project, a facilities subcommittee meeting of the school district, or responding to a resident’s email or phone call asking for my help – it’s just what I do, whether it is my backyard or not.

As for the proposed redevelopment project for the Jimmy Duffy’s site – let me re-state clearly, that I support Capital Health Services proposal for a residential care-assisted living facility at this Lancaster Avenue location. I understand that there will be many opportunities for public discussion as this project moves through the extensive planning and township approval process.  It is assumed that all issues or questions from neighbors concerning traffic, lighting, trash removal, landscape buffering, etc. will be addressed as the plans progress.

At the meeting, a question arose as to how an assisted living facility would affect local property values.  Based on one resident’s account of theft of copper from the old catering building and observations of vagrants around the property, I think this proposed redevelopment project would add favorably to the real estate values of neighboring residential properties.

As I told one resident after the meeting, unlike a fast food restaurant or a typical office building, an assisted living facility will need to have upscale, resort-type landscaping to increase the curb appeal and desirability for prospective tenants.  Another advantage to the local residents is the proposed project will include increased storm water management requirements.

Answering a question about the resident rental rates for the proposed facility, the developer indicated the cost at $4-9K per month, depending on size and whether single or double occupancy. I don’t know what these kind of units generally rent for in the area, but this sounds very upscale and will certainly attract the kind of residents that we would all like to have as neighbors. In addition, there is the extra bonus of bringing in a population that is not likely to disrupt the current local residential community.

I still stand behind my previous articles on the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project.  As I indicated, there have been discussions with the township in regards to this project and presentations to the Planning Commission dating back to September and October of last year and to the Board of Supervisors as recently as last month.

An assisted living facility is an excellent use for the old Jimmy Duffy building and would be a welcomed replacement for the decaying former catering building.  In addition, a residential care option would provide a way to utilize this property in a way that still brings a residential flavor (versus commercial) to the neighborhood.  However, to maximize the potential for a successful redevelopment project, it is very important for the developer to keep those most affected by the proposed project – the residential neighbors – fully engaged and informed in all aspects of the process.

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Attending last night’s meeting between the Daylesford Neighborhood Association and the developers of the former Jimmy Duffy’s catering site was interesting. Representing the applicant for the project was Gerard Farrell, partner and general counsel for Capital Health Services along with the project’s attorney Denise Yarnoff and the developer Ed Morris of Morris Realty Advisors.

For the first hour plus, most of the 50+ neighbors listened intently as Ed Morris spoke of the planned redevelopment project, a residential care – assisted living facility. Morris repeatedly described the project as ‘beautiful’ and presented an aerial view of the proposed structure, the parking, neighboring buildings – the Vetcare on one side, a large office building on the other side and to the rear the Larkin’s residential property.

The focus of the questions was primarily centered on traffic concerns.  Although Morris attempted to assure the residents that traffic from the proposed assisted living facility would enter and depart from Lancaster Avenue, many in the audience were not believers.  From the rear of the Duffy property, there is an emergency exit onto Pennsylvania Avenue, which residents report is routinely used by employees of the adjacent office building. Pennsylvania and Glenn Ave. are quiet suburban township streets and residents suggest that there will be increased traffic due to shift changes of the workers employed by the assisted living facility.

In addition to the traffic concerns and the suggestion that perhaps, that Pennsylvania Avenue could somehow be blocked for use by the assisted living employees, other concerns surfaced including privacy issues, lighting, height and size of structure, parking, trash and trash removal, landscaping, etc.  For the most part, the representatives for the proposed redevelopment project, did a good job of explaining and convincing the residents that they were listening to their concerns and delivering assurance that they will ‘work’ together with the neighbors for satisfactory solutions.

As I said, for the first hour plus, the presentation was going well and I thought most people were buying in to the project.  I thought Morris sincere in his response to resident’s questions and concerns.  In fact, satisfied by what they had heard, some residents began to leave the meeting.  About this time, Trisha Larkin (the neighbor whose property is closest to this proposed redevelopment project) makes a statement that suggests Morris has not been entirely forthcoming or upfront with residents; and that this proposed redevelopment project has been going along for sometime without their knowledge.  Morris would have been well served to say nothing but unfortunately, he decided to spin the story, claiming that a recent article [Community Matters] was incorrect and that he had not been to the township in regards to this project, etc.

I have never met Ed Morris and he obviously does not know who I am but there was no way I was going to sit there and let him suggest that I somehow misrepresented the redevelopment project in Community Matters.  I explained to him and the audience, that I was the writer and that the information contained in the article was entirely accurate.  The quotes contained in the article came directly from the meeting minutes of September and October 2011 Planning Commission meetings and the January 2012 Board of Supervisor meetings, which indicate discussion of the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project and presentation of sketch plans.  (If you click on these links, you will see that the redevelopment project was formally presented to the Planning Commission along with sketch plans – the meeting minutes speak for themselves.)

This twisting or stretching of the facts by Ed Morris is obviously what has troubled the Larkin’s, and probably the reason that Trisha Larkin took up the cause to inform her neighbors of this project.  In a matter of a couple of minutes, I went from completely supporting Ed Morris and his redevelopment plans, to fully appreciating the concerns of the neighbors.

For the record, I support an assisted living facility as a good use for this site, especially given all the far more invasive types of buildings that could go there, fast food, restaurant, bar, etc.  I just wish that the developer had not turned a positive meeting with the neighbors into a situation that left me questioning his sincerity.

As I said yesterday on Community Matters, to maximize the potential for a successful redevelopment project such as what is being suggested for the Duffy site, it makes good business sense for the developer to engage and get ‘buy-in’ from those most affected – the neighbors.  What I should have added is that this ‘buy-in’ from the most affected – the neighbors, needs to be with honest and open discussion from the developer.

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Jimmy Duffy Redevelopment Project … Assisted Living Facility

The old Jimmy Duffy’s catering facility has sat empty on Lancaster Avenue in Daylesford for several years.  It is an odd-looking building that previous owners added on to as their catering business grew.

Wedged between the Paoli Vetcare and a large new office building, the Duffy property has seen its share of redevelopment interest over the years.  Back in 2006, Arc Wheeler proposed a townhouse community, ‘Station Square’ that would stretch along Route 30 between Glenn Avenue and Longcourse Lane in Daylesford.   The plan was to take fourteen existing single-family homes plus Duffy’s and turn them into 150+ residential units plus retail space. The plan created much backlash from the local Daylesford homeowners and many heated discussions, the developer decided against further pursuit of that project.

Since Arc Wheeler’s redevelopment plan for the Duffy property, several years went by without any new suggestions for the site.  Then last fall, I was at Planning Commission meetings in September and October when a sketch plan for the property by the applicant, Capital Health Services was presented.  The plan would redevelop the former banquet hall into a residential care – assisted living facility.  For the record, the September and October 2011 Planning Commission meeting minutes indicate that the applicant had spoken with Daylesford neighbors of the Duffy property.

As explained at the Planning Commission meeting in October, the proposed assisted living facility would require a zoning ordinance change.  The current C1 zoning district of the Duffy property does not permit an assisted living facility nor does it allow for a 5-story structure.  The interesting point is the Planning Commission minutes in October reflect the following, “Denise Yarnoff, Esq., representing the applicant, stated that the applicant had met with neighbors of the proposed facilities and the project type and proposed building heights have been well-received.”   

On January 3, 2012, the township supervisors received an update on the Duffy property from a Planning Commission representative on the proposed redevelopment plans for a 5-story assisted living facility.  The January Board of Supervisor meeting minutes reflects the following, “The developer has had favorable response from the neighborhood behind the site and has not received any neighbor opposition.”  The minutes also state that supervisor “DiBuonaventuro added that there have been no negative comments or resistance from the community for this proposal.  

I remember thinking as I attended the fall Planning Commission meetings and the January Board of Supervisor meeting that it was surprising that no Daylesford homeowners attended either to show support for the project or to voice concern.  How was it possible that the local Jimmy Duffy neighbors who had loudly opposed the townhouse project a few years ago, were now quiet and accepting of the proposed plans and required zoning changes?  Well, the answer is that until about three weeks ago, many of the Daylesford homeowners had no idea of the Capital Health residential care – assisted living project.

As this redevelopment plan has moved through the Planning Commission and to the Board of Supervisors for discussion, at least some of the immediate neighbors to the project were not notified; although the project applicant and their attorney stated otherwise.  Not only was it stated that the neighbors were notified, the applicant gave the impression that the neighbors were supportive. Although at both the Planning Commission meetings and the January Board of Supervisor meeting, it was stated that neighbors were contacted and the project had their support, I have received emails and phone calls from members of the Daylesford Neighborhood Association that would say otherwise.

I am a proponent for redevelopment and certainly Jimmy Duffy’s vacant building, now owned by the bank, is a prime location for such a project.  To maximize the potential for a successful redevelopment project such as what is being suggested for the Duffy site, it would make good business sense for the developer to engage and get ‘buy-in’ from those most affected – the neighbors.

Because the existing support (by the neighbors) for the Duffy redevelopment project may have been somewhat ‘stretched’ by the applicant and his representatives, the neighbors are now upset and do not understand how the project could be so far along without their knowledge.  A zoning ordinance change requires notification to local neighbors but proposed plans to the Planning Commission do not. (It should be noted that a residential care – assisted living facility is not currently a permitted use in C1 zoning district.)

The neighbors have many questions about the proposed facility and zoning change – height of building, footprint of the structure, lighting, screening, traffic, etc. As an example of the frustration, the Larkins home on Pennsylvania Avenue sits directly behind the Jimmy Duffy site and the owners were never notified of this project.  A few trees and a splint rail fence is all that separates the Duffy building from the Larkins property.  Last summer the Larkins added a swimming pool to their backyard, which may now by in the shadow of this proposed large assisted care facility.  It is easy to understand their concern if this redevelopment project has patient windows overlooking their family backyard activities.

But this is not just about one family, and their possible loss of privacy.  The project needs to be fully vetted by the community members that will be most affected by the proposed zoning change required in this redevelopment project.  It’s not to say that the project cannot move forward but it needs to be with the full knowledge and understanding of the plan by the Daylesford homeowners.

Ed Morris of Morris Realty Advisors, developer for the proposed Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project is meeting with the homeowners and interested members of the public tonight, 7-9 PM at the Carriage House at the Upper Main Line YMCA.

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An update on the C1 zoning district change that would be required to permit a 5-story building at the Jimmy Duffy site — It is my understanding, that Ed Morris has notified one of the Daylesford homeowners that he is reducing the height of the proposed structure to comply with the current C1 zoning height restriction.

The initial proposal indicated the structure having four stories in the front (Lancaster Ave) and due to the slope of the property, five stories in the rear.  The communication from Ed Morris to one of the neighbors indicates that he has “eliminated a floor’ which is assumed to mean four stories in the back (the side that impacts the neighborhood) and three stories in the front (Lancaster Ave).

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