Last night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting and public meeting on student housing was a marathon! After 4-1/2 hours, the meeting finally ended at 11:45 PM . . . a long meeting by any standard; plus there was no air conditioning! By the time the meeting ended at nearly midnight, all that remained of the audience was myself and 2 other residents, the township staff and the supervisors. I didn’t realize until I got home but the taping of the meeting stopped at about 11:20, which was prior to the 3 important votes – decisions of the evening.
Many who attended last night’s supervisors meeting waited patiently for the public hearing on the two proposed college student housing ordinances – the Registration Ordinance and Zoning Ordinance Amendment. As the hour got later and later, a decision was made to suspend the regular supervisors meeting, conduct the public meeting on the student housing ordinances and then complete the regular supervisors meeting.
As was discussed in an earlier post, the Planning Commission had come up with very strict language in their proposed ordinances. In my opinion, the proposed ordinances provided as much future protection against student rentals as was possible within the law. In fact, some of the restrictions (including a 10 ft. wide buffer on the sides and back of the student rental properties struck me as a bit ‘over the top’ and overly restrictive). It was obvious that some of the supervisors had a clearer understanding of the proposed ordinances than others – at one point, it was suggested that the public meeting be continued until a future date. But Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Donahue pushed for resolution last night on the ordinances.
Many Mt. Pleasant residents attended last night’s meeting and were determined that their voices would be heard. And heard they were! On one side, the residents very much wanted to see the proposed ordinances passed but they also wanted more to be included in the proposed zoning ordinance amendment. Specifically, the residents sought to remove the grandfathering rights of the landlords from the ordinance. The residents wanted the same restrictions for new student rentals to be imposed on existing student rentals. But as they were told, this is simply not possible legally. Not because of township laws, but because of Pennsylvania state law.
Supervisor Kichline and the township solicitor explained to the residents that those properties that were existing student rentals would be allowed to continue operating and would not be subject to the proposed zoning amendment ordinance. However, all current student housing landlords would have to conform to the proposed registration ordinance. Mt. Pleasant residents questioned if other municipalities had taken out the grandfathering clause from their student housing ordinances, why couldn’t Tredyffrin. As township manager Gleason explained, other municipalities may not permit grandfathering in their student housing ordinances but it is not enforceable by law. Period. Not the answer the residents wanted; they had to accept the proposed zoning amendment could not legally include existing student rentals.
The supervisors passed the student registration ordinance with minor tweaking but there seemed to be endless discussion on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment. Lamina made a motion to continue the discussion on the zoning amendment to the 2nd meeting in September. The motion was seconded but failed to receive the necessary votes. There was more discussion and a motion was made on the proposed zoning amendment ordinance – to pass it ‘as is’ . I don’t know if it was the lateness of the hour (by this point it was 11:30!), the audience remarks, or what . . . but the motion was seconded and passed unanimously. That’s right, Tredyffrin Township now has a very strict zoning amendment ordinance for student housing and a student registration ordinance. Although the newly passed ordinances are not going to solve all of the student housing issues in Tredyffrin, I think great strides were made in the right direction. Gold stars to the residents, the Planning Commissioners, the township staff and to the supervisors for working together for resolution!
The public meeting ended, many in the audience departed and the regular supervisors meeting resumed. The meeting agenda finally got to the new matters – Board members, and I waited to see if the suggestion of public budget meetings discussed at the July board meeting would be re-visited. And yes, Supervisor Donahue once again brought up the suggestion of a public budget meeting (to be scheduled in advance of the traditional November budget discussions.)
All 7 supervisors agreed in favor of a public budget meeting. Supervisor Olson suggested a Saturday morning meeting at the township building as a good time to schedule the meeting. Lamina suggested either Saturday, September 18 or 25 but Supervisor Kichline quickly pointed out that September 25 was my historic house tour (thank you Michelle!) and maybe the budget meeting should not be scheduled on that date. Lamina asked Mimi to look at the calendar and see about setting up the public budget meeting in September. Under new matters – citizens, Dariel Jamieson thanked the supervisors for setting up the public budget meeting and asked if the BAWG recommendations could be included in the meeting . . . the supervisors seemed to think that was a good idea and will include BAWG updates at the meeting.
Thank you supervisors for choosing transparency and citizen participation in the township budget process – we will wait to hear the date and time of the public budget meeting.
Just a couple of other items from the supervisors meeting. As a member of HARB, I joined the other members in thanking Jim Garrison, a historical architect, for his 12 years of service to the HARB. Jim and his wife recently moved from the township and therefore he is no longer permitted to serve on HARB. In their move, the Garrison’s have joined the ranks of ‘old house owners’. They purchased a 250-yr. old stone farmhouse that is on the National Register. Congratulations to Jim but the HARB will miss him!
The other item of personal interest from last night has to do with Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust. Newly appointed Trust board member, Jean Sauer, presented an update and PowerPoint presentation on the Jones Log Barn project. She provided a short history and background on the barn. The Trust is now in Phase II (final phase) of the project with an intended completion date of 2011. On behalf of the Trust, thank you Jean for providing a wonderful overview of the project.
I updated the supervisors on our Trust fall events, including the 6th Annual Historic House Tour on Saturday, September 25. our annual In the Mood fundraiser on Friday, October 22 and our Fall Lecture Series. (Tickets for the house tour are now available on our website, www.tredyffrinhistory.org) The Trust is underway with the Capital Campaign to raise the remaining $200K for Phase II. Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help with the Capital Campaign, the house tour, In the Mood fundraiser, the Jones Log Barn reconstruction project, etc. – we will be put your time and talents to good use!