Daylesford Neighborhood Association

Capital Health ‘flips’ Jimmy Duffy’s property — Sage Senior Living Development is ‘new owner’

This is provided as a follow-up to last night’s presentation at the Planning Commission meeting  on the planned assisted living project at the Jimmy Duffy’s site.

The sketch plan for the new assisted living facility presented by Kelly Cook Andress, President of Sage Senior Living Development, had some notable changes from the original Capital Health plan of 2012.  Gerald Farrell of Capital Health, developer Ed Morris and their attorney Denise Yarnoff attended numerous Planning Commission meetings and community meetings with neighbors and concerned citizens during 2012.  These meetings were the precursor to the township changing CI zoning to permit assisted living as a usage.

Up until the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting was released, we assumed that Capital Health was the owner.  There was no reference last night as to when Sage Senior Living came into the picture or why Capital Health was no longer involved.  However, Denise Yarnoff and Ed Morris do remain as the attorney and developer, respectfully, working now with Andress on the Sage project.

Although the information was not provided at the meeting, according to Caroline O’Halloran’s  Main Line Media News article, Eagle National Bank sold the property to Capital Health on March 29, 2013 for $2.25 million and then immediately ‘flipped’  the property to Sage Senior Living sometime in the last 3 weeks.

When originally presented to residents by Ed Morris in early 2011, the proposed project was described as a ‘retirement’ facility for seniors … a place for local residents to downsize from their large homes but remain in Tredyffrin Township.  I recall Morris initially suggested that many of the residents would have their own cars and be driving in the community.  As the project moved forward, Morris backed off the idea that most of the residents at the facility would be driving — he probably realized that by promoting that residents would be driving also meant they would have cars; and cars would mean greater parking requirements on the site.

Last night, Andress painted a very different picture of the project, stating that the average age of people moving in to the proposed assisted living facility would be 86 years, not the ‘empty nesters’ of the earlier plan.  She spoke of her Towson, MD facility, similar in size to the 78-80 units planned for the Duffy site.  At her Towson facility, only 2 of the residents still have drivers licenses and only one of them has a car.  Andress used the rationale of so few drivers as the reason that Sage Senior Living would not need the required parking.  She spoke of the stricter

How many parking spaces does Andress need for her Sage Senior Living project?  Here’s the applicable township zoning regulation:

§208-103 Off-Street Parking

(23) Residential care facilities for older persons and skilled nursing facilities: one parking space per two permanent beds approved unless otherwise a greater number is determined by the Zoning Officer after taking into consideration the number of units, occupancy per unit and number of employees.

Looking at Andress’ plan for 78-80 units (and assuming only one bed per unit) at a minimum, this assisted living facility requires 39-40 parking spaces.  The C1 zoning for assisted living permits a facility to have 100 beds, which would require a minimum of 50 parking spaces.  Although the adjacent VetCare has parking, those parking spaces cannot be included in the development project. The sketch plan indicated 37 parking spaces, which falls short of the township required parking.

The earlier assisted living facility plan required the use of the R1 zoning parcel to meet the parking requirement.  Andress’ plan show

Several times during the Sage Senior Living presentation, Andress referred to sub-committee meetings with Planning Commissioners.  It was unclear from the meeting which commissioners were part of this sub-committee although Commissioner Tory Snyder referenced these prior discussions in her comments to the applicant. As an audience member,  it was very confusing to follow the references to these non-public meetings.

Due to weather, Daylesford Neighborhood Association President Trisha Larkin was delayed in Chicago and unable to attend the Planning Commission meeting.  Trish provided the following statement to Community Matters:

Unfortunately my flight was delayed yesterday and I couldn’t attend the meeting.  However, I was briefed by several residents and here are our top concerns:

1. When C-1 zoning was changed last Fall to include ALF use, it was all predicated on the OLD owner’s vision and site plan.  Last night, the new owner (Sage) proposed a much different vision and perhaps a more “institutional” use than what was approved for Capital Health by the BoS.  The “lock-down/underground” dementia/Alzheimer’s Unit that Sage has in mind leaves us questioning if the PA Code allows for such use in C-1?  It seems that more discovery should take place to determine if such use is permitted in C-1.

2. § 208-103 Off-Street Parking Facilities.  Perhaps Sage is under the impression that supplying enough parking in the C-1 space is optional vs. mandatory.  Tredyffrin Township Zoning Code 208-103 states they must provide 1 parking space per 2 permanent beds.   This has been the DNA’s point for over a year – the Duffy space is entirely too small for this project.

If Sage chooses to put that many beds (78 – 100) on 1 acre, then they MUST provide a minimum of 39 parking spaces.  It’s irrelevant if the average resident is 86 and doesn’t drive.  Zoning laws are zoning laws! Tredyffrin already did Ed Morris a solid and changed C-1 zoning for this project.  Now what?  The PC, BoS and Zoning Health Board should just whimsically reduce the # of parking spaces required too?   Seriously?  You can’t have it both ways!  39 spaces are needed to safely accommodate employees, visitors, residents, deliveries, physicians stopping in to provide care, rehab nurses, etc.

It’s my understanding that Dr. Rowan of Paoli Vet Care was adamant at the PC meeting that he doesn’t intend to “share” his allotted 15 spaces with Sage.  Therefore, Sage should not include those spots in their June site plan.

So, the DNA asks (again) – HOW can Sage build the facility, the parking, picnic areas, etc. all on ONE acre of C-1 space?

Easy – they’ll ask the PC and BoS to “borrow” from the one acre of R-1!  Although the current sketch plan showed the R-1 parcel as “green” space, the DNA is very concerned Sage intends to use the R-1 space as “overflow parking” down the line.  The PC, BoS and ZHB cannot allow any more concessions for this project!  R-1 is a precious commodity and it needs to be protected!  The DNA must be assured that the green space (R-1) must never be used for anything other than green space!

Perhaps THIS is why ALF’s should have a have a 3 – 5 acre minimum requirement??  Try as you may…you JUST can’t stuff a Size 10 foot into a Size 5 shoe!!

3.  “Secret” Meetings:  It’s very concerning that a few PC members admitted that discussions took place at Sub-Committee meetings.  News to the DNA!  We’ve never been invited to any such meetings, nor did we know any such meetings occurred.  Since we are the folks that are most directly impacted by this project – (yet again) WHY are we not included in the process?  Frankly, it’s insulting.  It seems that the builder, the ALF owner, and a few township officials are involved in Sub-Committee (secret) meetings, but the residents are left out time and again.  Very sad.

The DNA plans to stay actively involved in the Site Plan process.  We respectfully request that the Township make no further concessions for this project.  If Sage is compelled to build such a massive project, perhaps they can look to larger parcels that would more appropriately accommodate such an ambitious project.

Thank you,
Trisha Larkin
DNA President


Addendum to this article:
As part of her presentation to the Planning Commission, Sage Senior Living Development President Andress described her other two assisted living facilities, one in Towson, MD and the other in Wallingford, PA – Plush Mills.  Because Plush Mills is close, I was interested to learn more about that facility and its management.  Plush Mills is a 7-story high-rise building in Delaware County and would have the same oversight by PA Department of Public Welfare as the proposed Paoli facility.

Researching Plush Mills online, I found violation reports from PA Department of Public Welfare stemming from annual state inspections.  Annual inspections are required for assisted living facilities in Pennsylvania.  All violations specified on the violation report must be corrected by a specified date and continued compliance must be maintained.

Some of the Plush Mills violations are as mundane as missing trash can lids to more serious issues including employees not receiving required Federal criminal background checks within required 80 days of hiring and discontinued patient medicine not properly destroyed.

Below are the links to complete PA Department of Public Welfare violation reports for Plush Mills:


From Jimmy Duffy’s Catering to Sage Senior Living … Planning Commissioners to review plans tonight

Looks like the old Jimmy Duffy catering site may soon to have a new name … ‘Sage Senior Living Development’.

For months leading up to September 2012, there was an urgency to pass the new C1 zoning ordinance to permit assistant living facilities (ALF).  The driver behind this zoning change was Capital Health and developer Ed Morris with plans to build an ALF on the former Jimmy Duffy’s Catering site on Lancaster Ave in Daylesford. During that period there was much discussion and debate with township supervisors, planning commissioners, township manager and residents regarding the C1/R1 site and its suitability as the future home of an assisted living facility.

On September 18, I wrote “Community Matters: Your Voice Matters … Except when it comes to C-1 Zoning Change” discussing the ordinance change and what I viewed as a flawed township process. Here is an excerpt from that post …

I thank all the citizens who took 4-1/2 hours of their time on Monday night to show support and to have their voices heard on the C-1 zoning change to permit assisted living usage. Tredyffrin residents spoke out from across the township, Paoli, Berwyn, Strafford, Wayne, etc. not just the Daylesford neighbors.  Hours of public testimony and not a single resident voiced support for the proposed C-1 zoning change. Citizens stated opposition for a host of reasons … flawed process, spot zoning, preferential treatment to a developer, should be a conditional use not a by-right use, bed density, safety concerns for patients, increased demand on township’s emergency services, etc. — the list went on and on.

Given the urgency in pushing the C1 zoning change through the system, it has been very surprising that the developer and his plans have been MIA for the last seven months.  If you recall, one of the rationales from the Planning Commission in regards to the C1 zoning change, was the fear that the township might lose Morris’ development plan if they took too long in changing the zoning.  Touting economic development for the community, there was a concern among some of the planning commissioners that we might lose this opportunity if the township didn’t move swiftly to permit ALF as a permitted use in C1.

So … on tonight’s Planning Commission agenda is the following:

06-2013; Sage Senior Living Development: Sketch Plan Application for an assisting living facility in C1/R1 Districts (parcels 43-10J-127/43-10J-128.1). Action: Discussion and input by the Planning Commission to the applicant for conceptual site plan prepared by Momenee & Associates, Inc., dated 4/4/2013.

The Jimmy Duffy site is comprised two parcels, zoned C1 and R1  … for Ed Morris to make his proposed ALF project work he needs use of the R1 for parking.  The Sage Senior Living Development project hinges on whether the R1 parcel is ‘legally’ abandoned. Last year, Tredyffrin’s solicitor Vince Donohue provided an opinion letter in regards to the grandfathering usage of parking on the 1-acre R1 parcel.  Although the Jimmy Duffy property has remained abandoned for several years, Donahue was of the opinion that the nonconforming use of parking remains available to the owner.

At least one other attorney did not share Donahue’s legal opinion that the nonconforming use of parking in the R1 parcel can continue.  In a July 20, 2012 Community Matters article, “Tredyffrin’s Proposed C1 Zoning Amendment Change … Where do we go from here?” attorney John Petersen offered his opinion,

Perhaps the bigger issue is the R1 parking and whether it is grandfathered. There are four reasons why Vince Donahue’s analysis in his opinion letter is flawed:

  1. There has been a change in ownership
  2. The catering business ceased at least 3-5 years ago
  3. Mr. Donahue’s analysis leaves it to a reasonableness standard
  4. Donahue cites fact in support of his conclusion as opposed to case law

The conclusion in Mr. Donahue’s opinion is that the zoning officer “Could not reasonably conclude that the use has lapsed.” In fact, I just gave a number of reasons why Matt Baumann, our zoning officer, could reasonably conclude that the use did lapse. In fact – I’d say that based on these facts – Baumann couldn’t reasonably conclude the use didn’t lapse. If the township tries to grandfather this use, that itself could be a prima facie case of contract zoning – which is always construed to be spot zoning.  Ironically, where the PC and at least some on the BOS thought they were helping this project along, they actually did more to harm it by not following sound process and procedure.

Whether or not the grandfathering of the R1 parking is permitted is the key to the Sage Senior Living Development project.  For the project to move forward with the Planning Commissioners will require a resolution.  The Planning Commission is 7 PM tonight at the Township Building.


Is 7 the Magic Number? Seven Public Hearings for Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay Ordinance

Following the regular Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday is the continuation of the public hearing to “consider and possibly enact an ordinance amending Chapter 208, Zoning, to Article XXX Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay (TCS) and creating permitted uses, area, bulk, and buffer requirements and special development regulations; amending Article II.  Definitions; amending Article XXVII, Conditional Uses.”

I have been approached by several Glenhardie area neighbors about the Richter property and Joe Duckworth’s proposed land development plan for the property.  Residents have asked me ‘why’ I don’t write about the plan, wanting me to take a similar approach as I did with the  C-1 zoning change for the Daylesford project at the Jimmy Duffy site. In my opinion, the Daylesford and Richter proposed land development projects (and their developers) could not be further apart for a litany of reasons. (For the record, if you type ‘Richter’ in the search box above, you can read four articles I have written on this topic.)

First off, I believe that the recent C-1 zoning change process was flawed; a change pushed through the system without any long range planning or consideration of the implications for other C-1 properties in the township.  Tredyffrin Township has a $100K contract with a consulting company to review commercial zoning and I was of the opinion that before racing to accommodate a developer and his zealous attorney, this township change should have slowed to await the consultant’s recommendations.

At the September 17 public hearing, residents from across the township voiced wide-ranging concerns over the C-1 change, ranging from traffic and safety issues to bed density and property size.  With the C-1 zoning change, the previous 10-acre requirement for assisted living facilities is now apparently possible on Duffy’s 1-acre commercial site. Although not a single resident spoke in favor of the C-1 zoning change, the supervisors voted 6-1 to approve the change, citing reasons like economic development and a desire that the developer not incur further costs by waiting for the consultant’s report.

The sweeping township-wide C-1 zoning change was predicated on ‘one’ development and ‘one’ developer … and a change approved during its one and only public hearing on September 17. Six of the seven supervisors voted in favor of the change against major opposition from township residents; believing I suppose, that they know ‘what’s best’.

OK, let’s compare the Jimmy Duffy site and the C-1 change to the Richter property and the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay (TCS) district. The first thing to note is the number of public hearings – one public hearing for the C-1 zoning versus seven public hearings for TCS.  That’s right, October 1, is the seventh public hearing this year in regards to this issue.  Let’s not forget that each public hearing costs the taxpayer additional money – advertising, court reporter, etc.  I do not recall any recent issue in the township where there was this many public hearings.

For the record, here’s the list of Trout Creek Stormwater overlay district public hearings:

  • January 23
  • February 27
  • March 19
  • May 14
  • June 18
  • July 16
  • October 1

We know that there is a cost to the taxpayers for public hearings, what about the cost to the developer?  Taking aside the number of planning commission and community meetings that the Daylesford and Richter developers attended, look at the public hearings – 1 public hearing versus 7 public hearings.  The Daylesford project attorney Denise Yarnoff lamented that her client could not afford to wait for the consultant report – the process was costing money and they needed a decision.  Voila, the supervisors complied.  Not wanting to risk this assisted living project going away, the developer and his attorney got what they wanted from the supervisors … the C-1 zoning change.

What about Joe Duckworth and Arcadia Land Company?  It doesn’t seem to me that Duckworth has been given the same advantage as Ed Morris.  Duckworth and his team to-date have attended six public hearings, some going on for hours, late into the night.  Duckworth has not complained about the time and money that his company has spent on the public hearings, planning commission meetings or citizen meetings.  One could argue that the Richter tract at 36 acres is so much larger than the Daylesford property at 2 acres (R1 – 1 acre, C1 – 1 acre approximately) that the Richter property deserves more attention.  Twenty-six acres of Richter is zoned R-1 residential and the remaining 10 acres is zoned ‘professional’ district.

I cannot imagine what the potential economic impact for the township will be from the thirty-six acre Richter tract. Duckworth’s plans for the Richter site include carriage houses and townhouses which, in addition to revenue, could provide a great option for Tredyffrin residents, particularly those wishing to downsize from their large single-family homes, to remain in the community.  The last numbers that I have indicated approximately 120 units between the carriage houses and townhouses in the proposed development; although I do not know the breakout between the design types.  Pricing for the carriage houses would probably be mid-$500K and the townhouses in the $400K range.

Certainly, the financial gain to the township with the development of the Richter property will far exceed the redevelopment of the Jimmy Duffy’s site as an assisted living facility.  Using the supervisor’s logic of economic development as rationale for the assisted living project, one could assume that the proposed land development plan for the Richter tract would be a slam-dunk.   There is an extra township wide benefit to the Richter development project – additional stormwater requirements contained in the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay district.  This proposed overlay district would provide incentives for certain large sites in the Trout Creek watershed as a way to encourage developers to build substantial stormwater management facilities on those properties.

To be clear, the creation of the TCS district is not a quick fix to years of stormwater problems. The massive stormwater issues were not created overnight and will certainly not be solved quickly.  However, to do nothing is certainly not the answer. The Richter property was one of the 10 locations named in the 2010 Trout Creek Watershed Study and Stormwater Management Practice Analysis for stormwater best management practice in the township.  The study suggested a 6-8 acre stormwater basis and Duckworth has said that his Richter plan sets aside 8 acres for the basin.  The cost for the township to construct this large stormwater basin would be approximately $1 million plus the additional cost of land acquisition. Were the township to purchase the property and construct the stormwater basin, the costs would be several million dollars.  As part of the Richter land development project, Arcadia Land Company (rather than the taxpayers) would absorb those stormwater costs.

From my vantage point, it appears that unlike Ed Morris, the Daylesford developer, Joe Duckworth and Arcadia Land Company have bent over backwards to listen and accommodate residents.  It would seem that Duckworth is going more than the proverbial ‘extra mile’ to try to help with stormwater issues, even those not on the Richter property.  If some of the residents of Glenhardie prevail and stop this development plan from moving forward, when do you suppose there is going to be stormwater relief?  How long is going to take to find another developer willing to take on this large a project and try to satisfy the neighbors?  Personally, I think that Joe Duckworth has done a yeoman’s job in that respect … I understand that at the end of the day, a developer needs to make money on a project, but I have found Duckworth to be patient and respectful of the residents, and a willingness to accommodate if appropriate.

Compare the C-1 zoning change that permits an assisted living facility at the Jimmy Duffy’s site to the proposed TCS overlay district and the proposed townhouses on the Richter property.  Looking at economic gain to the township, ongoing costs to the developer, or stormwater benefit to residents, you would need to conclude that for the supervisors to have passed the C-1 zoning change for the Daylesford project, they would approve the proposed TCS overlay district.

To respond to those Glenhardie residents that suggested I write about the Richter property as I did for Daylesford project; it is not possible.  As I have repeatedly stated, I believe that the process was not followed for Daylesford, too much credence given to the developer and his attorney and the decision to approve the C-1 zoning change not a careful, thought-out decision. I found the actions of the supervisors particularly troubling because the voices of many township residents were ignored.

To the Glenhardie neighbors that oppose the Richter tract development, you have had so many more opportunities to have your voices heard than the Daylesford neighbors have.  In fact, the supervisors even appointed a citizen working group with subcommittees to review the proposed ordinance and provide input.  The Richter development has a developer that has consistently attended citizen meetings, listened and made changes to his plan. The Trout Creek Stormwater overlay district and the development of the Richter property can be a start to improving stormwater problems.  Unlike the limited economic benefit to the township of the Jimmy Duffy’s assisted living facility, the development of the Richter tract has great economic potential.



Updated Draft C-1 Zoning Ordinance Amendment … Looks Like ‘Spot Zoning’!

Per the July Planning Commission meeting, attorney Denise Yarnoff returned to the drawing board to add her style of regulations to the proposed C-1 zoning text amendment change.  If you recall, her client Ed Morris, presented a sketch plan to the Planning Commission for an assisted living facility on  the old Jimmy Duffy catering site on Rt 30 in Daylesford.

Ms. Yarnoff’s first draft of the C-1 zoning ordinance change was met with great displeasure from many in the community; vague and without associated restrictions or requirements for assisted living facilities.  More or less, an ‘anything goes’ kind of approach to the zoning ordinance change … no restrictions in the way of height, buffer, lot size, bed density, nada.  In other words, the proposed zoning change suggested a carte blanche approach for developers; i.e. build any size assisted living facility on any lot size in C-1 commercial zoning districts in Tredyffrin Township. No surprise that Daylesford neighbors, and many other community members, balked at Ms. Yarnoff’s initial draft ordinance.

To be clear; Denise Yarnoff wrote the draft zoning text amendment change for Tredyffrin Township but on behalf of her client, developer Ed Morris.  Although I still do not understand this process of having a developer’s attorney write township ordinances, apparently, it is legal and that other municipalities handle this type of situation similarly.  As I said in an earlier post, ‘if’ (and that is a big ‘if’) I buy into the reasons (financial, etc.) that a developer’s attorney can write a draft township ordinance amendment, I think that any revisions to the document need to come from the township (either staff or Planning Commissioners).  At least in the case of the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance amendment change, this was not how it was handled … Ms. Yarnoff did the rewrite on the text amendment and has resubmitted it to the township for next week’s Planning Commission meeting.

To review Ms. Yarnoff’s revised and updated proposed C-1 zoning text amendment change, click here. Here are the six items that Ms. Yarnoff added as restrictions for an assisted living facility in C-1 Commercial District:

  1. The property shall have direct access to an arterial street;
  2. The property shall be located within ¼ mile of a regional train station;
  3. The maximum number of beds per assisted living facility building shall be 500 square feet of the Tract per bed;
  4. The maximum number of beds per assisted living facility building shall not exceed 120 beds;
  5. The development shall comply within the buffer requirement to a residential use set forth in Section 208-66H; and
  6. The assisted living facility shall be licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Looking at this list, I would expect nothing less from a good real estate attorney – the client is paying her hourly rate and she needs to get the best deal for him that is possible; I get it.  However, seriously, I am embarrassed for Ms. Yarnoff … I’m no attorney, but is this the best that she could come up with?  Does she think that these are acceptable restrictions?

Bed density was one of the major problems that many neighbors and township residents had with the Morris sketch plan of the proposed assisted living facility.  His plan suggests 93 beds/79 units on the 1 acre C-1 Jimmy Duffy site — a higher bed density than anywhere in the county, including the downtown West Chester.  Because so many residents took issue with bed density, it made sense that Ms. Yarnoff would probably lower that number, make it less dense in the re-write of the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.  Not so … in restriction #4, Yarnoff increased the permitted bed density to 120 beds!  So much for listening to township residents.

Looking at #2 of Ms. Yarnoff’s restrictions which requires that assisted living facilities in the township be built within ¼ mi. of a regional train station.  Doesn’t that restriction make it convenient for the ‘Jimmy Duffy Assisted Living’ project?  How in the world can this restriction in the proposed zoning ordinance change not be viewed as ‘spot zoning’.  How many C-1 properties, other than the Jimmy Duffy location, could meet this restriction?

How about #6 on Ms. Yarnoff’s list of restrictions — licensing.  Isn’t licensing already a state requirement for assisted living facilities.  How does this add to the proposed zoning amendment change?

Lot size … where exactly is the lot size requirement in this proposed zoning change?  Without offering any lot size restrictions, is Ms. Yarnoff suggesting that ‘anything goes’? In Tredyffrin, build an assisted living facility on a postage stamp lot and it can have 120 beds!  Don’t we need a minimum number of acres for assisted living facilities in Tredyffrin Township?  Remember, currently assisted living facilities is included in the township’s Institutional Overlay (IO) district — with  a 10-acre requirement.  Some argue that the 10-acre restriction is antiquated and needs updating.  However, I cannot believe that the township needs to go from 10 acres down to no acreage requirement for assisted living facilities.

And folks, remember that the township recently signed a $100K contract for consultants to review and make recommendations on commercial zoning in the township.  What about waiting for those results before we make a change that will affect commercial zoning in the entire township?  The next opportunity for public input is on Thursday, August 16, 7 PM at the Planning Commission meeting.


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.


Tredyffrin’s Proposed C1 Zoning Amendment Change … Where do we go from here?

Residents from the Daylesford neighborhood made their opinions known at last night’s Planning Commission meeting. With the exception of one person, all others in the Daylesford community spoke against the proposed C1 zoning ordinance change and the assisted living facility plan for the old Jimmy Duffy catering site.

The president of Daylesford Neighborhood Association, Trisha Larkin, presented a powerful 20-min. power point presentation, which explained the timeline to date for the C1 zoning ordinance change and the rationale behind the resident’s objections to the proposed assisted living project.  It was obvious from their reaction, that some audience members and Planning Commissioners were not fully aware of the timeline and ‘how in the dark’ the most-effected neighbors were in regards to this proposed project. (Click here to review the timeline.)

A couple of things were striking about the comments from Larkin and other Daylesford community members … R.E.S.P.E.C.T.   I have attended many Planning Commission meetings and often neighbors become very vocal in their opinions, and at times disrespectful to the planning commissioners, staff and/or applicants.  Not so last night.  A steady stream of residents offered their positions on the proposed C1 zoning change; their comments delivered with the utmost respect.  Although the vast majority of residents were either opposed to changing the C1 zoning to permit an assisted living use and/or asked for additional restrictions to be added to the zoning change, those choosing to comment did so with respect for the developer, his attorney, township staff and Planning Commissioners.

The other striking theme to the discussion on the proposed assisted living project was the process itself.  The planning commissioners acknowledged that they have been working on this project with the developer Ed Morris of Berwyn Real Estate and Gerald Farrell of Capital Health Service, for over 2 years. Yet the residents most-effected by the proposed assisted living facility only found out about in January of this year. By the time the Daylesford Neighborhood Association were aware of the proposed C1 zoning change, Morris and Farrell along with their attorney Denise Yarnoff, had attended several Planning Commission meetings.  Morris openly declared at these public meetings that there was no opposition to the project from the neighbors.  Resident after resident pointed out, they could not support (or oppose as is the case) a project that they knew nothing about.  Unfortunately for Mr. Morris,  he misspoke when he portrayed the neighbors supported this project … as evidenced last night, nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition to Daylesford neighbors, the proposed C1 zoning ordinance change brought questions and concerns from other township residents in attendance.  Berwyn resident Andrea Felkins asked about the definition of ‘assisted living’ versus ‘personal care facilities’ … how was it defined in the municipal zoning code, what was the difference? Her questions hit a cord with Planning Commissioner Ed Sweeney who in his remarks, referenced Felkins question, and asked for clarification from township staff and/or solicitor for the August Planning Commission meeting.  Andrea offers further explanation as follow-up to her comments given last night:

The C1 Ordinance Amendment draft describes the additional use as “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.”

In contrast, a very preliminary search of regulations for PA provides this language:

 “What is the difference between an Assisted Living Residence (ALR) and a Personal Care Home (PCH)?

ALRs are different from PCHs in 3 ways: concept, construction and level of care. ALRs embody the concept of allowing a resident to “age in place” without having to move to a licensed long-term care facility when their needs increase.

The construction of an ALR is different from a PCH. PCH residents live in bedrooms that may be shared by up to 4 people. ALR residents will have living units with kitchen capacity. No one will be forced to share a living unit. Living units will have a door with a lock and a private bathroom. This housing-service model will allow for privacy and maximum independence. It is similar to a studio apartment where the resident can make meals if desired and have a private bathroom.

The level of care provided in an ALR is distinguishable from a PCH, offering another choice of long-term living options in the commonwealth. A person who needs the level of care of a nursing facility is not permitted to reside in a PCH and must transfer when their needs become too great. That same person, however, will be able to live in an ALR where they’ll be provided with the services they need to age in place. “

Even on its face, the ordinance amendment makes no distinction about which purpose the property intends – stating only that it will follow the applicable state statutes.   No statute is identified … I’m not a real estate lawyer, but with this lack of specifics, this amendment seems to broadly define a use. Likewise, unless “arterial street” is a defined term in our zoning codes, then any C1 property would be free to build any quality or size of facility.  I’m not suggesting that is what is intended, but when we write laws/rules/ordinances/amendments, I think a bit more clarity would be prudent.

Tredyffrin Township solicitor Vince Donahue provided an opinion letter in regards to the grandfathering usage of parking on the 1-acre R1 parcel of the Duffy property. Although the Jimmy Duffy property has remained abandoned for several years, Donahue is of the opinion that the nonconforming use of parking remains available to the owner.  Paoli resident and attorney John Petersen disagrees with Donahue’s opinion, believing the nonconforming use of the R1 parcel for parking has lapsed and offered his comments to the Planning Commissioners last night.  For the assisted living project to ‘work’ on the Jimmy Duffy site, it requires the 1-acre C1 parcel plus the continued use of the R1 parcel as parking.  In an effort to better understand Petersen’s position on the Jimmy Duffy development project, I asked him for clarification.  Here are his comments …

In my opinion, Ed Morris’ contemplated development of the old Duffy’s Catering site is dead in the water for several reasons. 1 – And this is a preliminary point that focuses on the general lack of process and procedure around this particular plan.  2 – Which builds on point 1 above, this is effectively become a spot zoning/contract zoning issue. 3 – The pre-existing non-conforming use of the R1 parcel for parking to support the C1 use has lapsed – which itself is a fatal blow to the project.

On one hand, the PC wants to see the site is used. On the other hand, the PC wants to be comfortable with the use. In last night’s proceedings, it was far from clear how the PC and the BOS could let things get this far. Trish Larkin’s presentation (which by the way I was happy and honored to have input on) made crystal clear how problematic the situation is. What was clear from last night’s meeting was that the PC was giving great weight to the developer, their time, money spent, and almost no consideration to impacts of the zoning change or the needs and concerns of the citizens. To suggest that a “Super Wawa” could go there is a false choice. First, that is a use of right. Second, it is an entirely inappropriate comment to make by Ed Sweeney. The absurdity here is that a legal use is being subordinated to a non-permitted use. Again, it is entirely inappropriate for the PC to consider the money spent by a developer – unless of course – this is really a contract.

The stated reasons in previous paragraph outline a process that is unreasonable and arbitrary. It is unreasonable to the extent the way the needs of the developer appear to be the only areas of concern. There is little to no consideration of the broader zoning impacts. The only consideration appears to be for this developer, this project and this parcel of land.  The arbitrariness goes to the general lack of process. The extent of un-reasonableness and arbitrariness are direct factors that go to determine if spot zoning is in fact, present. One can argue that in reality, there is a contract here – which gives rise to a contract-zoning case.

Perhaps the bigger issue is the R1 parking and whether it is grandfathered. There are four reasons why Vince Donahue’s analysis in his opinion letter is flawed:

  1. There has been a change in ownership
  2. The catering business ceased at least 3-5 years ago
  3. Mr. Donahue’s analysis leaves it to a reasonableness standard
  4. Donahue cites fact in support of his conclusion as opposed to case law

The conclusion in Mr. Donahue’s opinion is that the zoning officer “Could not reasonably conclude that the use has lapsed.” In fact, I just gave a number of reasons why Matt Baumann, our zoning officer, could reasonably conclude that the use did lapse. In fact – I’d say that based on these facts – Baumann couldn’t reasonably conclude the use didn’t lapse. If the township tries to grandfather this use, that itself could be a prima facie case of contract zoning – which is always construed to be spot zoning.  Ironically, where the PC and at least some on the BOS thought they were helping this project along, they actually did more to harm it by not following sound process and procedure.

By the end of the evening, it became apparent to the Planning Commissioners that there were too many unanswered questions surrounding the C-1 zoning ordinance change for them to feel comfortable taking a vote to move the proposal forward to the Board of Supervisors.  The applicant’s attorney agreed to add restrictions to the proposed text amendment and re-submit at the August Planning Commission.  In the meantime, the township staff will work on finding answers to the questions asked by the Planning Commissioners and residents, including a review of other municipal zoning ordinances that govern assisted living facilities.

I caught up with Trisha Larkin today — curious to know what the DNA president and her neighbors thought of the Planning Commission meeting.  She offers her thoughts below …

Thank you to the Members of the PC, along with the many Tredyffrin residents, and DNA members that participated in a respectful and thoughtful dialogue about the proposed C1 Ordinance Amendment.

DNA members articulated their concerns that the Township could set major negative precedence for changing ALL of the Township’s C1 zoning for this ONE developer, for this ONE project, on this ONE space.  We fully agree with Mr. Lukens that as our population ages, we shouldn’t have to leave Tredyffrin in order to find a suitable Assisted Living Facility.  However, we respectfully request that the PC give a comprehensive analysis as to why Assisted Living use in C1 is a good idea.  The goal should be to have consistent and compatible uses that meet the needs of ALL residents. If the PC recommends that Assisted Living use should be added somewhere OTHER than in the Institutional Overlay districts – ONE THING CLEAR – Tredyffrin has ONE shot to “get it right“.

The DNA was thrilled and grateful to the Planning Commission for delaying the vote last night and opposing the Ordinance Amendment with no restrictions.  We appreciated that the Applicant was asked to “go back to the drawing board” and place conditional uses/special exceptions/regulations.  Rushing this decision comes with a high cost, and careful deliberation is required.  As it stands, the Supervisors delayed the Public Hearing until the September 17 meeting.  The PC has a daunting task to exhaust all possible options by that deadline.

So … what’s next in this process?  Where do we go from here?  Further discussion of the proposed C1 zoning ordinance change is scheduled for the August 16 Planning Commission meeting.  It is anticipated that the developer and his attorney will present an updated version of the zoning ordinance change; hopefully it will include additional regulations and requirements.  We learned this week that the supervisors moved the public hearing on the proposed C1 zoning ordinance change from their August BOS meeting to their September 17 meeting.


Tredyffrin Township: What Price Economic Growth?

What price economic growth …

  • What is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?
  • Is it OK to green light a land development project even when it doesn’t meet current zoning regulations?
  • Is it right for a developer and his attorney to create a zoning ordinance amendment to Tredyffrin Zoning Code to suit their needs for a particular project?
  • As a community, do we want zoning amendment changes in Tredyffrin Township without restrictions, requirements or conditional uses?
  • If you are a developer considering a project in Tredyffrin but cannot find suitable zoning, that may not be an obstacle to your plans. All you need to do is write a new ordinance, call it economic development and then watch as the plan moves forward.

This post is an update on the old Duffy catering site on Lancaster Ave. and the proposed assisted living facility.  The vacant Duffy property contains approximately 2 acres, with a 1 acre parcel zoned C-1 and a 1 acre parcel zoned R-1.  Current zoning does not permit an assisted living facility in C-1 or R-1 in Tredyffrin Township.

With an idea to build a 93-bed/79-unit multi-story assisted living facility on the C-1 parcel, the developer Ed Morris through his attorney Denise Yarnoff of Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco, submitted a zoning ordinance amendment change to the township to permit assisted living as a C-1 usage.

Tredyffrin Zoning Code currently addresses assisted living facilities in IO (Institutional Overlay) zoning and includes four pages of restrictions and regulations, including residential density, bed density, buffers, setbacks, etc. in addition to a 10-acre minimum acreage requirement.  Yarnoff skillfully, and in the best interests of her client, reduced the four pages of regulations to a one sentence zoning ordinance amendment change. She offers no restrictions, regulations or conditional uses … just a C-1 amendment that would allow assisted living in C-1 zoning.  I give Yarnoff credit – as the attorney for Ed Morris, she is certainly maximizing the land development needs of her client.  Assuming Yarnoff gets this C-1 zoning amendment change, then it should be full-steam ahead for Morris to build his assisted living facility — 93 beds/79 units on 1 acre.

Members of the public do not dare call this proposed action ‘spot zoning’.   Supervisors, Planning Commissioners and township staff cringe when residents refer to this proposed change as spot zoning – telling us that it can’t be spot zoning if the change affects all C-1 zoning in the township.  On the flip-side, some of these same people tell us there are no plans for assisted living facilities in any other township C-1 locations.  As I see it, they cannot have it both ways.

A quick real estate Google search indicates a Tornetta Realty Corp. listing of 6.1 acres of ‘Prime Development’ C-1 land available for $3.5 million at 1057 Howellville Road, Berwyn. Now here’s a thought — if Yarnoff’s proposed zoning amendment change can permit 93 beds/79 units on 1 acre in Daylesford, then by my calculations, there would be room for 560 beds on Tornetta’s 6.1 acres in Berwyn.    (Click here to see Tornetta’s Howellville Rd. listing)

I don’t know why certain supervisors and planning commissioners would have us believe that assisted living facilities are not planned for any other C-1 locations.  Seems to me that the C-1 land on Howellville Road for sale would present an excellent opportunity for Morris, Yarnoff et al to build a sister location to their Daylesford assisted living facility!   And remember folks, no official land development plan has been submitted to the township for this project; this is about changing zoning in anticipation of a plan! Yarnoff’s proposed amendment change for C-1 zoning is being considered without the submission of a land development plan. What’s the saying about the “cart before the horse”?

But aside from any concerns about putting 93 beds/79 units on a 1-acre site, I take an exception to the township’s handling of this land development plan and making changes to zoning to suit a particular developer. Where is the voice of the residents?   When elected or appointed officials characterize citizen activism as politics, they’re attempting to marginalize the citizens’ concerns.  The most-affected neighbors to this proposed project, the Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA) with Trisha Larkin as president, have banded together hoping to have their collective voice heard.  Their green and white ‘No C-1 Zoning Change’ signs are populating township lawns and the support is building beyond the immediate neighborhood.  Much like George Lucas’ storm troopers in Star Wars, the DNA and their supporters are organizing and preparing for battle but … will it be enough to turn the tides?

Although no land development plan has been officially filed with the township, some seemingly already have the facility built.  Let’s disregard the required process in favor of what some officials believe should be the desired outcome.  The proposed C-1 zoning ordinance change is on the agenda for Thursday, July 19 Planning Commission meeting — concerned township citizens plan to attend.  Right now, I am not certain that their voices will make a difference. According to tonight’s Board of Supervisors agenda, the supervisors will “Schedule Public Hearing to be held on August 20, 2012, to consider amending the Zoning Ordinance, Article XVII §208-65, C-1 Commercial District, Use Regulations to permit a new use: “residential care facility for older persons providing permanent residential accommodations and/or assisted living facilities/services (and supplemental services)”.

Additionally, I have learned that on July 5 the township sent a letter, formally requesting that the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC) review and provide a formal recommendation on Ed Morris’ proposal to change C-1 zoning. The C-1 zoning amendment change as sent to CCPC is the version written by Morris and Yarnoff, with no restrictions, requirements or conditional use. The deadline for CCPC comment is by August 5 … no accident that the deadline is prior to the proposed August 20 public hearing date.

From my vantage point, the scheduling of the public hearing on the proposed C-1 zoning change and the review request by Chester County Planning Commission in advance of the upcoming Planning Commission meeting is preemptive of the process and citizen input.  To move this process along before hearing the concerns of the community is to marginalize the voices of the citizens. Balancing public concerns requires public input and is crucial in determining the pros and cons of development and possible zoning ordinance changes.  Residents deserve respect and an opportunity to receive answers from those elected to represent us.

Why the rush to push this zoning ordinance change through? Why no bed density restrictions or regulations?  Why no conditional use?

And let’s not forget that Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors hired a consulting team in April to conduct an 18-month, $100,000 analysis of the township’s commercial zoning ordinances.  This proposal to change the township’s C-1 zoning ordinance is preemptive of the consultant’s analysis which begs a question —  why is this township spending $100K for a consultant to analyze the township zoning and make recommendations?


What is the Price Tag for Economic Development in Tredyffrin Township?

What is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?  Is it economic development at any cost; or is the answer to the question … whatever it takes.

Is it OK to ‘green light’ a land development project in Tredyffrin Township even if it doesn’t meet current zoning regulations?  Is it OK to change zoning usage to suit a particular developer (and his plan) simply for the sake of economic development?  Is it OK to change zoning to accommodate a specific project and developer … and by so doing, change zoning for the entire township? Is it OK to have developers and their attorneys create zoning ordinance amendment changes to Tredyffrin Zoning Code … to suit their particular needs?

I’m talking about the old Duffy Catering site on Lancaster Ave. and the proposed assisted living facility. No land development plan has been ‘officially’ filed with the township, yet there are some appointed and elected officials who seemingly already have the facility built! Facts and the required process seemed to have been discarded in favor of what ‘some’ officials believe should be the desired outcome. In this case, that means change zoning to allow a developer to construct a multi-story assisted living facility on barely 1 acre of commercial property when current zoning only permits such use on 10 acres as an institutional overlay.

At first blush, a resident might think that building an assisted living facility on the old Duffy property on Route 30 is a good idea. Before knowing all the facts, I probably would have agreed that this sounds like a good use for the property.   I’m not opposed to an assisted living facility in Tredyffrin Township and …, as long as an open and transparent process is followed, all questions are answered and no rules are changed or broken, such a project could have my complete support.

But unfortunately, that is not looking like the path that is being taken for this project.  The Duffy property is a 2-acre site, with approximately 1-acre C-1 zoning and 1-acre R-1 zoning.  (The R-1 parcel of the property was used by Duffy’s for parking).  Current zoning does not permit an assisted living facility in C-1 or R-1 in Tredyffrin Township.  Rather than taking the traditional path seeking either a variance or conditional use, the developer Ed Morris, through his attorney Denise Yarnoff have submitted a C-1 zoning ordinance amendment change, to allow assisted living as usage. (As I have previously stated on Community Matters, Planning Commission meeting minutes indicate that Yarnoff thought that seeking a variance would be too costly and too time-consuming for her client.)

The Tredyffrin Zoning Code addresses assisted living facilities in Institutional Overlay (IO) Zoning and includes 4 pages of restrictions and regulations, including residential density, bed density, acre requirements, buffers, setbacks, etc. Ms. Yarnoff reduces the pages of assisted living facility regulations in Tredyffrin Zoning Code to 1 sentence in her requested zoning ordinance amendment as follows:

“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 statues, rules and regulations along with support services, which may include, but not limited to: personal health care and health care services, medical services, skilled nursing, community facilities, and congregate dining facilities”

I need to be very clear … this requested zoning ordinance amendment change is for all C-1 zoned property in Tredyffrin Township.  The developer and some of our local officials would like to have it both ways.  On one side, they refuse to admit that this requested zoning amendment change permitting assisted living facilities as a usage in C-1 zoning is ‘spot zoning’.  But on the other hand, they would have us believe that there would be no plans for assisted living facilities in any other C-1 locations.  Sorry, but I don’t think they can have it both ways.

For the record, ‘spot zoning’ as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

: the illegal singling out of a small parcel of land within the limits of an area zoned for particular uses and permitting other uses for that parcel for the special benefit of its owners and to the detriment of the other owners in the area and not as a part of a scheme to benefit the entire area.

I would love for someone to explain to me how changing zoning to suit a specific developer and his plan is not ‘spot zoning’ … looks to me like the Duffy assisted living project fits Webster’s definition!

The draft plan for this assisted living facility indicates a bed density of 93 beds on 1 acre.  It is my understanding that this level of proposed 1-acre residential density for the Duffy property does not exist anywhere else in all of Chester County!  It is also interesting to note, that changing C-1 to permit an assisted living facility usage also has not occurred in Chester County.   Commercial zoning is for the regulations of goods and services not people; which is why assisted living facilities would typically be found in residential zoning code not in commercial zoning code.

Here’s something else — when Duffy’s was an operational catering business, the R-1 parking (non-conforming use of land for parking) was utilized.  The developer’s plan for an assisted living facility on this site assumes the continued use of R-1 parking; a belief that this non-conforming parking use would be grandfathered in and therefore available for use in the proposed assisted living facility.  A review of the Tredyffrin Zoning Code would indicate otherwise – see below:


General Provisions

§208-99. Nonconforming buildings or uses.

Zoning, Chapter 208, page 108

D. Restoration. Building reconstruction to restore a building containing a nonconforming use shall commence within one year of the date the building was destroyed or condemned and shall be carried on without interruption.

[Amended 9-10-2007 by Ord. No. HR-360]

E. Discontinuance. If a nonconforming use of land or of a building ceases or is discontinued for a continuous period of one (1) year or more, subsequent use of such building or land shall be in conformity with the provisions of this chapter.

The Duffy property has sat vacant (and for sale) for at least 4 years, which means (according to Tredyffrin Zoning Code above) that the developer for this proposed assisted living facility cannot use the R-1 parcel for parking in his plan. Clearly exceeding the discontinued use of 1 year per the Tredyffrin Zoning Code, no grandfathering on the R-1 parking is permitted.  We can add this to the list that makes this proposed assisted living facility at this particular location problematic.  Or, is it possible that our elected officials may just ignore the township’s Zoning Code to accommodate the project?

We should not forget that two months ago, our supervisors voted to spend $100,000 for consultants to review the township’s existing commercial zoning and make recommendations.  If the township is spending $100K for professional zoning advice, it would seem that there should be a moratorium on any zoning changes until the zoning expert has an opportunity review and weigh in.  My guess is that setting precedent by changing C-1 zoning to include assisted living facilities without any regulations or restrictions would not be something that most zoning experts would think is a good idea.  If an assisted living facility as a usage in C-1 zoning is so important, why wasn’t it included in the update of the township’s comprehensive plan completed just 3 years ago, in 2009?

Why is there such a sense of fait accompli among some of the appointed and elected officials in this township in regards to this project?   The proposed assisted living project may have started out as a ‘not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) zoning battle between a Daylesford homeowner and a developer but now has many of us in the community asking questions.  Perhaps originally only concerned for her backyard, Trisha Larkin, the Daylesford Neighborhood Association president is now taking a stand for her neighborhood and for the township.

Voicing strong opposition for the requested C-1 zoning change and the proposed assisted living facility, Trish states, “The DNA favors economic development where solid process is followed, and when it serves for the greater good of its residents.  This proposal favors the developer and NOT our community or Tredyffrin Twp.!”

An online ipetition has been created to “Oppose Ordinance Amendment adding Assisted Living Facility use in Commercial (C-1) Zoning in Tredyffrin Township”.   Changing C-1 zoning to include assisted living is not just a Daylesford neighborhood issue; it is a township wide change.  If you would like to add your name to the petition, click here.

For some of the appointed and elected officials in this township, the requested C-1 zoning change to permit assisted living facilities may be a fait accompli, but for some residents, that decision may be far from over.

Again, I ask … what is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?



Proposed C1 Zoning Change in Tredyffrin to Accommodate Developer and Specific Project

A couple of weeks have passed since supervisor JD DiBuonaventuro held a town hall meeting for members of the Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA). Also attending the meeting were township manager Mimi Gleason, zoning officer Matt Bauman, supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Michelle Kichline and Kristen Mayock, and planning commissioners Bob O’Leary, Tory Snyder and Trip Lukens. Representing the proposed project were developer Ed Morris, Berwyn Real Estate L.P., Capital Health representative Gerard Farrell and attorney Denise Yarnoff. The focus for the meeting is a 93-bed assisted living facility proposed for the old Jimmy Duffy’s catering site on Lancaster Ave. in Daylesford. The property is 2.069 acres, containing 1.069 acres of C1 Commercial and 1 acre of R1 Residential property.  Current zoning does not permit this usage.

The mid-May meeting follows other DNA meetings, planning commission meetings and Board of Supervisor meetings where the assisted living project was discussed.  Attending most of the meetings, I have now decided this proposed project represents something more significant than simply a NIMBY (Not-in-My-Back-Yard) syndrome for a local neighborhood.  Residents raised questions about the proposed project including traffic, density, lighting, trash collection to name a few.  Although certainly important issues to those residents most affected, I was not entirely convinced that an assisted living facility was a bad idea.  In an attempt to gain community support, the developer made concessions at the town hall meeting  –  the latest sketch plan reduced the number of floors, closed off the back exit to adjourning Pennsylvania Ave from the site, enclosed trash collection, etc.

My problem with the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project has nothing to do with the specific project but rather, the way this project has seemingly been fast-tracked and given a green light to move forward.  What do I mean?  An assisted living facility is not currently on the list of permitted uses in the township’s C1 district.  Because the current zoning does not permit an assisted living facility, traditionally a developer would seek either a variance or a conditional use for the project.  When questioned at the October 2011 planning commission meeting as to why the applicant would not take this approach, attorney Denise Yarnoff responded that, “the process would delay the project, cause a financial burden, and not address all the project-related issues.”

If you are a developer and don’t want to see your proposed project bogged down by the time required to seek a variance or conditional use (and don’t want the additional cost this path would require) why not just get Tredyffrin Twp to change the zoning to accommodate your plans.  Yes, that is exactly what has happened … an Ordinance Amendment draft to permit assisted living in C1 zoning was submitted by Yarnoff along with a $5,000 application fee. The ordinance amendment is scheduled for the Planning Commission’s July 19 meeting.  In researching this situation, I have not been able to find any other project in the township in recent years where zoning usage was changed to accommodate a specific developer and specific project.  What is it about this specific project or its developer that would warrant such special treatment by the township?  I have no idea.

Anyone that is reading this post needs to recognize that this situation and the ramifications of the proposed zoning change is not just about the Daylesford assisted living project. Should the C1 zoning Ordinance Amendment continue down the green light path, the zoning change will permit assisted living in all C1 districts in the township.  Should this ordinance amendment be approved, it means that a zoning change for a specific project, benefiting a specific developer will change the permitted uses for all C1 properties in Tredyffrin Township.  So the next question is ‘why’ have a comprehensive plan?

According to the township website, the comprehensive plan “provides local officials with a highly effective planning tool that will support day-to-day decisions about future development so that they may be thoroughly rational and consistent …”   I have to ask, is changing zoning to accommodate a specific project “rational” ? A comprehensive plan is in place to guide growth and development in an orderly manner … does changing zoning to accommodate a specific developer’s needs promote a fair and orderly process?

Beyond obvious concern that changing zoning for a specific project is precedent setting for the township, there’s something else.  In April, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to spend $100,000 for a consultant to update commercial zoning regulations in the township.  The consultant was hired to review the township’s existing commercial zoning and make recommendations.  Would it not seem to make sense if the township (taxpayers) is spending $100K for professional zoning advice, there should be a moratorium on any zoning changes until after the expert presents his update?  That is not to say that this assisted living project couldn’t move forward – the developer would just have to use either the variance or conditional use routes versus the zoning ordinance amendment change.

As follow-up to the town hall meeting, DNA president Trisha Larkin sent a series of questions to supervisor DiBuonaventuro in regards to the proposed assisted living project.  A specific question and response from DiBuonaventuro caught my attention –

4.  Why is there not a moratorium on commercial zoning (re-zoning) until the independent consultant comes back with some solid recommendations?

This developer began talking to the Township last year, before a decision was made to begin work on the commercial zoning districts.  The commercial zoning work is just beginning and will take another 18 months before it is completed.  In fairness to the developer and to the bank that owns the property, a decision needs to be made one way or the other long before the completion of the commercial zoning work so the bank knows whether it should seek a different buyer.

Should the process for a land development project be based on what is ‘fair’ to a developer or the property’s owner (in this case Eagle Bank)?   Or … should any proposed land development project be based on what is ‘fair’ to the community and its residents?  Zoning decisions must be policed both from the top-down and from the bottom-up, using processes that encourage neighborhood residents to participate actively in decision-making.  Citizen participation both gives voice to the interests of neighborhood residents and provides the most effective safeguard against corruption of the zoning process.

The rationale behind municipal zoning power is that effective land use planning is necessary to promote and protect the interests of the entire community. Those making land development decisions need to create the community that we, the residents, want.

I am going to be very curious to see how the assisted living project plays out … will the draft C1 ordinance amendment, as provided by the developer’s attorney, win the approval of the Planning Commissioners and go on to the Board of Supervisors for their final approval?  Will DNA residents continue to voice their concerns over the project?  Will other township residents view zoning changes to suit a specific project or to accommodate a particular developer as setting precedence … and therefore,  worthy of further discussion?  

Stay tuned; the outcome on this proposed zoning change may mean a new era for development in Tredyffrin Township.


Jimmy Duffy Redevelopment Project … Does the End Justify the Means?

This is a follow-up to an earlier post, Jimmy Duffy’s Redevelopment Plan Requires Zoning Change … Is There Community Support?  

Last week’s town hall meeting included an update on the redevelopment project from developer Ed Morris, who was accompanied by Capital Health Group, LLC representative Gerard Farrell and their attorney Denise Yarnoff of Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco. In addition to members of the Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA) was Mimi Gleason, township manager and Matt Bauman, township zoning officer, 3 supervisors (JD DiBuonaventuro, Michelle Kichline and Kristen Mayock) and 3 Planning Commissioners (Bob O’Leary, Tory Synder and Trip Lukens).

Perhaps the intentions of the meeting were good but overall, I found the meeting less than satisfactory as an audience member.  Having attended the 2 planning commission meetings (September, October 2011), 2012 January Board of Supervisors meeting and developer-DNA public meeting this past February (where this project was discussed), I expected that this latest meeting would give local residents an opportunity to really be ‘heard’ by those representing our government, in addition to an update from the developer.  I did not leave the meeting feel that mission was accomplished.

The discussion surrounding the Jimmy Duffy project is confusing … on one hand, there has been no formal land development plan presented to the township by Capital Health.  (Currently, the C-1 and R-1 zoning of the Duffy property does not allow for an assisted living facility.)  Yet, on the other hand, based on the number of meetings and input from planning commissioners, supervisors and township staff, suggests that this project has advanced beyond a vague, casual stage.

Eagle Bank owns the Jimmy Duffy property and with the current economic climate, I’m guessing may be willing to sell it for a significantly reduced price.  However, a developer probably would not want to purchase the property unless there was  a degree of assurance that the deal would go through so … he/she would be looking for ‘buy-in’ to the project from the community and the local government; hence the visits to and discussions with, the planning commissioners.

However, here’s the ‘dicey’ part for me and what I do not understand.  Although Ed Morris has made concessions in his latest draft drawings of his project (one less floor, more trees, etc) he still has the problem that the current zoning does not permit this usage of the property.  Current zoning only permits assisted living in the Industrial Overlay district and that has a 10 acre minimum requirement.  As I understand township zoning, an applicant would need to take his land development plan to the Zoning Hearing Board and seek a variance to build the project on the 2-acre Duffy site.  But rather than taking the variance route, the discussion has evolved to Ed Morris writing an amendment to the current C-1 zoning ordinance to include assisted living as an acceptable use.  Although I have been told that it is a normal, and acceptable practice, for a developer to draft zoning ordinance language, it certainly appears odd and rather self-serving to me. But I certainly do not claim to be a zoning or planning expert!

Former township supervisor and  Zoning Hearing Board member John Petersen weighs in with his opinion on the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project.  He has submitted the following op-ed article, ‘Why the contemplated development at the old Duffy Catering site is a bad idea’ to Main Line Media News for publication:

Why the contemplated development at the old Duffy’s Catering site is a bad idea

This critique has nothing to do with the project’s underlying merits. It may very well be that an assisted living use may be a good idea on the 2 acre site in spite of the fact that such a use is currently only permitted on a 10+ acre parcels. Rather, this critique has to do with the process and procedure surrounding the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) and Planning Commission’s (PC) apparently affinity to abandon established process and procedures in favor of fast-tracking said project on said site. To fast track the development, the BOS and PC are considering the drastic step of adding assisted living as an approved use in the C1 zoning district. There are 3 basic and simple reasons why the BOS and PC are yet again, showing an astonishing lack of judgment.

1. The project developer, already has a remedy that has not been exhausted
The developer has not applied for a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB). A zoning variance allows for a use or condition that exists outside the current zoning regulations. If the ZHB were to grant a variance, a wholesale change to zoning would not be required. The benefit is that the change applies only the specific parcel and can be tailored to only apply to current owner. When asked about a variance, developer’s counsel replied “That would take too long.” I used to sit on the BOS and the ZHB and I don’t recall “Taking too long” as being a bona-fide reason to abandon procedure. It’s also been reported that the township’s zoning officer kept “deferring” to applicant’s counsel. That is highly irregular. In effect, applicant’s counsel is dictating and driving procedure, and in this case, changing it for the benefit of the developer. It is certainly to the developer’s benefit to have the zoning changed since that would obviate the need to seek a variance. As one supervisor pointed out at the town hall meeting “It’s not the BOS’s job to seek out projects.” Yet, that is exactly what is happening here. At the very least, this project sought out this BOS and PC. Regardless of how they found each other, the BOS and PC seem ready, willing and able to give this specific developer, this specific project and this specific parcel of land special treatment. This sets a dangerous precedent.

2. The BOS just committed to spend $100K on a review of its ZO
Some would point out that grant money makes the net cost only $30K. However, those grants are not guaranteed. The only thing that is guaranteed is the $100K consulting appropriation. Only when and if the revised zoning, based on the consultant’s recommendations are approved, do the grants have the potential to be realized. Once the BOS committed to having the ZO reviewed, a moratorium on zoning changes should have been established. What if this contemplated new use in C1 is deemed to be a less than optimal use? It appears foolish to tweak something that is about to undergo a comprehensive and expensive review.

3. The process and procedure (or lack thereof) sets a precedent for future developers and projects
The BOS and PC might as well put a large for sale sign on the township. Consider the next developer who seeks to develop a C1 parcel or perhaps a residential or industrial parcel with a use that is not contemplated under the ZO. What are the BOS and PC going to say then? No? That developer may have a very good case to take to court. Zoning must be non-prejudicial. It must be a-political. Zoning represents 50-100 year decisions. These are long term in nature. The costs of making wrong decisions are high. We are already dealing with storm water problems in the township that are due, in part, to bad planning. Good planning begins with a vision that is independent of any specific project. The goal is to have consistent and compatible uses that meet the divergent needs of residents and businesses (retail, commercial and sometimes industrial). You don’t begin with specific projects and let the model shake out from there. We have a zoning map that will now undergo review based on the results of the 2009 Comprehensive Plan Process. At the same time, a new use will be added to C1. And very likely, there will be another parcel in the township that this developer or another developer will seek to develop for another non-permitted use? Based on this precedent, the BOS will be obliged to say yes because the BOS cannot and has not offered a single articulable rational basis for this decision. And let’s not forget that there are no plans in front of the PC. How can this possibly be contemplated now? How is this not favoritism – the problem encountered with spot-zoning?

The 3 aforementioned reasons make it clear that the contemplated actions of the BOS and PC are not in the best interest of this community because the actions represent a departure from established procedures. The actions do not represent what could be considered best-practices insofar as zoning and land use procedure is concerned. Any developer should first submit plans to the PC and where necessary, seek a variance. As a record proceeding, citizens have an opportunity to be present and heard. If that variance is granted, the citizens at least have legal recourse to have such a decision reviewed by the Court. If the variance is denied, then the developer can then seek to have the use added. In that event, the BOS and PC have the benefit of the ZHB proceedings to make a better, more informed decision.

In a civilized society, the ends rarely, if ever, justify the means – especially in the case when there are the means to do things the right way – within the framework of existing policies and procedures.

John V. Petersen
Paoli, PA

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