Chester County Planning Commission

Proposed digital billboard and demolition of R. Brognard Okie building – Tredyffrin Township, is this progress?

The Trust’s 14th Annual Historic House Tour this past Saturday was a huge success, raising over $30,000 for historic preservation and the completion of the Jones Log Barn as the Living History Center at Duportail. We are grateful to the wonderful historic homeowners for opening their beautiful historic homes to the public … and for the generous individuals and company sponsors who make this annual event possible. (Click here for list of sponsors). We thank the sponsors and homeowners for prioritizing the importance of our local history and its preservation. And to the many volunteers and Trust Board members, I say thank you – including sixteen student docents from Conestoga High School who gave up their Saturday afternoon to help!

With the annual historic house tour in the rear view window, I turned on the township’s Board of Supervisors meeting last night to watch a presentation by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising. Catalyst is proposing the installation of a monument billboard in Paoli to ‘welcome’ people to the township. This proposed large electronic sign (similar to the digital billboard on Rt. 202 in East Goshen) is planned for the corner of the busy intersection at Lancaster Avenue and Rt. 252.

Image result for catalyst billboard chester county, pa

I am not a fan of billboards in general and yes, there is currently a small traditional billboard on that corner by the Septa train overpass. Although the Catalyst presentation was wrapped in landscaping plans for the corner, featuring seasonal plantings and offers to provide free advertising for township announcements, events, etc., there is major revenue for Catalyst in these image-shuffling, highly lucrative digital billboards — bringing in many times over the income of traditional billboards.

When the Catalyst presenter named the types of digital advertisers, car dealers topped the list; making the support from a Del Chevrolet representative in the audience no surprise (the dealership is walking distance of this proposed billboard!) By design, these large 20 ft. high digital signs are intended to be attention getting. Our lives are becoming increasingly digitized – these digital screens are popping up everywhere. Have you ever tried not to watch a flat screen TV mounted in a restaurant or public waiting area?

There was not a large audience at the supervisors meeting and a few people, maybe three or four spoke in support of the digital sign (including the Del Chevrolet representative).  However, one resident brought up exactly what I was thinking as I watched the presentation – safety concerns with the proposed digital sign at one of the busiest intersections in the township!

Although safety concerns were quickly dismissed by the Catalyst representative as not a problem, there are many available accident studies about driver distraction as a result of digital billboards that would counter his position.  These digital billboards are extremely bright and are designed to be visible in bright sunlight. With images rotating every few seconds, this type of signage is designed to be eye-catching (read distracting), and they are.

Perhaps an argument could be made for these “televisions on sticks” on long stretches of highways but please don’t try to sell the residents that Tredyffrin Township needs one as a ‘welcome’ monument to our community – in my opinion, a huge TV screen that plays moving ads by the side of the road does not represent our historic 300-year old township.

Aside from my strong aversion to these large computer generated billboards, I have saved the best for last. To accommodate the installation of this large 20 ft. high billboard, Catalyst will need to demolish the historic Clockworks building that is located on the proposed site.

The Clockworks building was chosen as worthy of protection and was included in Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey. The building dates to 1900 and is built in the Colonial Revival architectural style. Although it is not an 18th century toll house, it was built to replicate a toll house which was originally located on the site. The best part of the story is that the building’s design was by none other than famous American architect R. Brognard Okie. The Clockworks building is a complete Okie house (versus an Okie restoration or addition) and is a prized building by many and meaningful in the architectural development of the township.

Three years ago, many helped fight the battle to save the Covered Wagon Inn, the ‘welcome to the township’ building located on the corner of Old Eagle School and Lancaster Avenue. If you now travel west on Route 30, you enter Tredyffrin Township greeted with the beautifully restored 250-year old inn – representative of our local history.

The proposed ‘welcome to the township’ monument on the opposing side of the township in Paoli does not represent our community’s 300-year history. And members of the Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors, the inclusion of field-stone in the digital billboard design does not replicate the township’s historic roots.  (Look again at the Catalyst billboard photo on Rt. 202 above – does that make you think ‘history’?)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for progress and thoughtful development but do we really need or want digital billboards in our 300-year old township? Remember, there are two other traditional billboards, one on Rt. 252/Bear Hill Road and another on Lancaster Avenue across from the BMW dealership — are they next for digital billboard advertising?

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Rather than partisan mudslinging, can we come together and move the Paoli Transit Center project and the economic redevelopment of Paoli forward?

The passage of the $2.4 billion transportation bill which will provide new funding for the state’s roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems over the next five years, and the subsequent $14.5 million award earmarked for the Paoli Transit Center, brought excitement and renewed hope for Paoli. In discussion for 30 years, the train station project has languished with little movement and the new transportation funding, including multi-million dollar award for Paoli Transit Center, could be the needed catalyst. The economic redevelopment of Lancaster Avenue through Paoli hinges on building the Paoli Transit Center – its time is now. Paoli deserves a new beginning.

The release of Chester County Planning Commission’s 2013 Transportation Priority Projects report occurred prior to the House vote on the transportation bill although I did not see it until afterwards.  The report lists Paoli Transit Center as a transportation priority and includes a current photo of Paoli train station serves as the report’s cover. There is no question that the recent release of the Chester County report was a significant factor in the $14.5 million funding award for Paoli.

In addition to the county’s Planning Commission prioritizing Paoli Transit Center, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) continues to strongly support the project.  DVRPC adopts the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), the regionally agreed upon list of priority transportation projects (as required by federal law) and its recommendations. TIP’s 2013-2016 project list includes the Paoli Transit Center as a priority.

As residents in this community, we are aware of the importance of the municipal government and school district receiving Moody’s Aaa bond rating. Moody’s ratings scale range from Aaa (highly unlikely to default) to D (in default).  To receive the highest rating, requires very strong financial operations, ample reserves and strong management policies. In fact, candidates seeking office often promote maintaining our Aaa bond rating on political campaign literature.  So … it was interesting to read that we can add Moody’s Investors Service (www.moodys.com) to the list of those pleased with Pennsylvania’s transportation funding bill, calling it “a credit positive for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.  Moody’s also gave the bill a credit positive because it phases out the annual funding burden that the prior transportation bill (Act 44) created for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

There is strong support for the Paoli Transit Center including Tredyffrin Township (Paoli on the Move), Chester County Planning Commission, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Transportation Improvement Program, SEPTA, Paoli Business and Professional Association, local business community, elected officials and many residents.

However, initial excitement about the transportation bill and multi-million award for the Paoli Transit Center, has been marred by some finger-pointing and local political wrangling.  In advance of the final House vote on the transportation bill, a letter to the editor by Darien Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Democrats, appeared in the Main Line Suburban.  In her letter, Jamieson criticized State Representative Warren Kampf (R-157) for his lack of support for the proposed transportation bill.  Unfortunately, Jamieson took her criticism of Kampf too far, making an inaccurate and unsubstantiated claim.  Jamieson’s letter ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ stated that Kampf took the Grover Norquist “No Tax” pledge. Her statement was not substantiated and the claim was incorrect.

In his response to Jamieson (which also appeared in the Suburban), Kampf refuted her claims, stating, “I have never taken a “no tax increase” pledge with any group, including any in Washington, D.C., as Ms. Jamieson claims. I would challenge her to offer proof for this claim or admit it is 100% a fabrication”.   A couple of days later, the transportation bill passed (without Rep. Kampf’s vote) and the subsequent announcement made about the $14.5 million award for the Paoli Transit Center.

This week Main Line Suburban contains another letter to the editor written by Jamieson. Writing as the chair of the Tredyffrin Township Demoratic Committee, I assumed that the purpose of Jamieson’s latest letter was to offer a public apology to Rep. Kampf for her previous unsupported accusations.  But no, there was no apology or retraction from Jamieson to Kampf in her letter, ‘Warren Kampf: Watch what he does – not what he says’ .

As a supporter of the Paoli Transit Center and the redevelopment of Paoli, I too questioned Kampf’s lack of support for the transportation bill and did not agree with his position.  However, it was wrong of Jamieson to ‘make facts up’ to strengthen her case against Kampf.  The situation made worse by the fact that Jamieson had the opportunity to apologize to Kampf  and retract her accusations and chose not to.

I’m not certain from where Jamieson is taking her cues but I would think that following the local Democrats impressive election wins last month, she would take a low profile. With two newly elected Democrats (Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed) joining Tredyffrin’s historically Republican Board of Supervisors, it would not appear helpful to have their party chair immersed in a ‘war of words’ with our local state representative.  To be successful in their new supervisor roles, requires Wysocki and Freed to leave their political party ‘hats’ at the door and prepare to work hard for all the residents – Republicans, Independents and Democrats. That same sentiment goes for the Republican supervisors.

The transportation bill passed and the community received good news for the Paoli Transit Center – rather than continuing the partisan bickering that only serves to divide, can we come together and move the train station project and the economic redevelopment of Paoli forward.

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Chester County Planning Commission Comments Reflect the Views of Many Tredyffrin Residents … Will the Board of Supervisors Listen

As follow-up to my Community Matters post of July 20,Tredyffrin’s Proposed C1 Zoning Amendment Change … Where do we go from here’, here’s the latest installment in the continuing saga of the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance change to permit assisted living facilities. Although the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance change would permit assisted living as a ‘by-right’ use for all C-1 township properties, the focus is on the 1-acre Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Ave in Daylesford.

Tredyffrin Township’s proposed C-1 zoning ordinance amendment (below),

“A residential care facility for older persons providing permanent residential accommodations and/or assisted living facilities/services (and supplemental services) as defined in the applicable Pennsylvania state statutes, rules and regulations along with support services, which may include, but not limited to: personal care and health care services, medical services, skilled nursing, community facilities, and congregate dining facilities; provided that the property shall have direct access to an arterial street.”

was sent to the Chester County Planning Commission for review on July 5 and this past week Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission received their comments/remarks. (Click here to read the CCPC response).

Although we were told that is procedurally OK that the township sent the proposed zoning ordinance amendment to Chester County Planning Commission, it struck some of the residents (myself included) rather pre-emptive to ask for comments from the county in advance of our own Planning Commission giving their ‘thumbs-up or thumbs-down’ on the amendment.  As many Daylesford neighbors and other township residents have repeatedly commented, the proposed zoning ordinance amendment needs restrictions/requirements attached to it.

Reading the comments on Tredyffrin’s proposed C-1 zoning amendment change, it is apparent that the Chester County Planning Commission echos concerns of many township residents.  The official response from the county, offered the following comments in regards to the proposed C-1 zoning amendment change:

  1. The proposed zoning amendment does not appear to be consistent with the Township’s land use policies as currently written.
  2. The proposed zoning amendment does not appear to be consistent with the goals and objectives specified on page 67 of Tredyffrin’s Comprehensive plan.
  3. The proposed zoning amendment does not appear to be consistent with the purpose statement of the C-1 Commercial District, which, according to Section 208-64, is “designed to encourage and provide for attractive, company, retail convenience-type commercial development in locations close to the residents served”.
  4. Residential care facilities are currently permitted by conditional use in the IO Institutional Overlay District with specified bulk, height and buffer regulations.
  5. Other Chester County municipalities address assisted living facilities utilizing conditional use in medium to high-density residential or institutional zoning areas.
  6. Assisted living facilities are not found in any other Chester County Commercial zoning districts.

If I did not know better, it would seem as if the Chester County Planning Commission were audience members at Tredyffrin’s supervisor and Planning Commission meetings.  Every one of the points that the Chester County Planning Commission presented in their review of the township’s proposed C-1 ordinance amendment have been made repeatedly during the last several months by  township residents.

The Chester County Planning Commission summarizes their remarks by stating, “Tredyffrin Township should consider the comments contained in this review before taking action on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.”  Well, … by their comments, it appears to me that Chester County Planning Commission is suggesting that assisted living facilities should not be in Tredyffrin’s C-1 zoning districts.  My understanding of their comments appears to suggest that clarity is needed from the township with respect to restrictions and regulations.

Here’s an interesting point to consider – although the Chester County Planning Commission looks to be in complete agreement with many of the township residents opposing the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance amendment change, their opinion will not decide the matter.  Members of Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission, and ultimately the Board of Supervisors, will have the final say on whether assisted living facilities become a ‘by-right use’  in all C-1 zoning districts.  Should the supervisors approve this proposed zoning ordinance amendment change, they will also decide whether to add any restrictions to the ordinance, such as bed density, height, buffer requirements, etc.

Although not a legal requirement for our Planning Commissioners or supervisors to give any credence to Chester County’s recommendations on the proposed C-1 zoning amendment change, I would hope that they seriously consider these comments in advance of the next Planning Commission meeting on August 16.

Ed Morris, the developer eyeing the Jimmy Duffy site for an assisted living facility, will need the C-1 zoning amendment change to move forward.  It was Denise Yarnoff, Morris’ attorney, who wrote the township’s proposed amendment change.  We learned at the last Planning Commission meeting that the applicant’s attorney agreed to add restrictions to the proposed amendment and re-submit for the August Planning Commission meeting.  We have been told that there is nothing wrong with the applicant’s attorney writing the proposed amendment but where does it end?  After Yarnoff created the draft amendment, I think it needs to be the responsibility of our Planning Commissioners and/or township staff to add any additional requirements or restrictions.  I am troubled that the re-write of Tredyffrin Township’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment is in the hands of the applicant’s attorney … just doesn’t feel right to me.

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‘422 Corridor Master Plan’ Overview is Coming to Tredyffrin on Monday Night

In checking the agenda for Monday night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting, I noted Chester County Planning Commission presentation of the 422 Corridor Master Plan.  Not being quite sure exactly what this ‘master plan’ entailed, I did some background research. Here’s a link for the 422 Corridor master plan if you’re interested.

On a schedule since the first of June, representatives from the Chester County Planning Commission, Montgomery County Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission are presenting their 422 Corridor Master Plan outreach program to the various municipalities.  They are bringing their draft master  plan to Tredyffrin this Monday’s  Board of Supervisors meeting.  A new transit line, as well as tolls on Route 422 may be in the area’s future (albeit probably not in the immediate future). A possible train line is seen as an option to provide an alternative to travel by automobile — extending transit service beyond Norristown along an already-existing rail line.

The creation of the 422 Corridor Master Plan is to provide a comprehensive approach to planning development in the 24 corridor municipalities in Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties. The 422 Master Plan is a comprehensive land use and transportation infrastructure plan that looks at the entire corridor.  An important element of the master plan is how to handle growth, development and the ever- increasing traffic on 422.  The plan suggests the widening of 422 in addition to ramp and interchange improvements. 

Since the tolling of Interstate 80 has fallen through, the financing required for the 422 Corridor Master Plan would appear to be a bit in limbo.  Why does the fate of all local state improvement projects seem to lead back to I-80’s loss of tolling?  It is my understanding that the tolling of 422 is still considered a possibility to help offset the major land developments costs contained in the 422 Corridor Master Plan.

The county planning commissions are taking the 422 plan ‘on the road’  to each of the municipalities hoping that elected officials and residents will provide comments.  The township supervisors will be asked to consider adopting a resolution endorsing the master plan’s principles and strategies.  Looking to have the municipalities work together in partnership with the county planning commissions is probably the premise behind Monday’s presentation at the Board of Supervisors meeting.  

State Rep Paul Drucker is on record as supporting 422 tolling and, as I recall, was later criticized by his state representative opponent Warren Kampf for supporting the project.  With the county planning commissioners seeking a partnership agreement with Tredyffrin’s supervisors for their 422 Corridor Master Plan, it will be interesting to hear Kampf publically voice his opinion.

On another note — the Board of Supervisors meeting agenda is the scheduling of the public hearing for student housing registration ordinance.  This is a first step in the process to manage student housing issues in the township (specifically in the Mt. Pleasant community). I am glad to see some positive movement in this direction and look forward to some resolution for residents with student rental issues.

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