historic preservation ordinance

Tredyffrin Special Election Supervisor candidates – Where do they stand on the digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency? Know before you vote!

How many of you know that there is a special election on November 6 to fill an at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors? And that for the first time in township history, both candidates running to fill the vacancy are former supervisors! 

The last time that there was a special election on the ballot in Tredyffrin Township was in May 2011; a highly contested race between Mike Heaberg (R) and Molly Duffy (D) to fill an interim supervisor seat, as a result of Warren Kampf’s election as PA State Representative. If you recall, the special election results were so close that the winner’s name changed when malfunctioning voting machines required ballot hand counting. Ultimately, Heaberg was declared the victor and in the general election match-up race the same year, he won a regular 4-year term.

Now seven and a half years later, township residents will be choosing a supervisor in the special election on Nov. 6. In the sea of political campaign lawn signs are a couple of locally familiar names – Republican Judy DiFilippo and Democrat Mark Freed are the special election candidates running to fill the vacated at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.

Republican Sean Moir, a second term supervisor abruptly resigned last month, having moved from the township and therefore no longer eligible to serve. The term for the vacated seat runs through 2019. The good news for residents is that both DiFilippo and Freed are seasoned township supervisors – Judy served for twenty years, six as its chair and Mark completed one four year term (2014-17).

Whoever wins the upcoming election will determine the party majority on the Board of Supervisors. With the departure of Moir (R), there are three Republicans (Heather Greenberg, Paul Olson and Trip Lukens (and three Democrats (Murph Wysocki, Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell) currently serving. Because so often local township votes come down on party lines, the impact of who fills the seventh seat could be significant and if Freed wins, it will mark the first time in township history for a Democrat-majority board of supervisors.

The township and its residents is embroiled in a serious issue that would forever change the landscape and village feel of Paoli – the proposed digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. I remain troubled that as a community we were kept in the dark for 18-24 months while township supervisors discussed the proposed digital billboard. The public only learned at the 11th hour with the township solicitor Vince Donohue using words like “negotiations” and “settlement agreement” in advance of the Catalyst presentation. I, like many others took that to mean that the digital billboard was a fait accompli.

With nearly 2,500 signatures showing support for the Change.org petition to “BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli”) and a GoFundMe exceeding its goal, the community is fully engaged.  The laws signs are scheduled for delivery this week!

It is critical that voters know where special election supervisor candidates DiFilippo and Freed stand on important township issues –  the proposed digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency in local government. The candidates received 3 questions from me and were asked to respond in 100 words or less to each question. The following are the questions and the candidate responses, in the order received.

Question #1: As you are aware, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors is entertaining a proposal to construct a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli. The community has been told by the township solicitor that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will initiate legal proceedings if the digital billboard is not approved. If you are elected before the vote occurs, how will vote and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: I do not support the proposal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising to construct digital billboards at the Route 252/Lancaster Avenue intersection.  In addition to the concern for safety of the traveling public, in my opinion, the mass of the signs proposed is not appropriate on that site. They do not reflect the overall aesthetic desired in Tredyffrin and do not respect the existing structure and its significance. If there is a deficiency in the Township’s sign ordinance relating to digital signs, a moratorium should be considered on any future applications for digital billboard signs until the ordinance is corrected.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I oppose the Catalyst digital billboard proposal.  This billboard is wrong for Tredyffrin Township and would result in the destruction of a valued historic resource.  I have opposed the billboard since the concept was first floated by Catalyst when I was on the Board of Supervisors. I advised both my fellow Board members and Catalyst of my grave concerns.  I have not seen anything in the recent presentations to change my opinion and remain opposed to Catalyst’s proposal.

Question #2: Unlike most Main Line townships, Tredyffrin does not currently have a historic preservation ordinance. Please comment as to whether or not you would support such a township ordinance and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: The Township has an award-winning 2003 Historic Resource Survey that lists hundreds of historic buildings and it explains the historic and/or architectural significance for each.  Valley Forge National Historical Park lies within Tredyffrin. We have a significant link to the founding of our country.  We should be proud to share that history.  I support the creation of an ordinance that appreciates and protects our most significant historic resources. Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code and Chester County’s Planning Commission have tooIs available to help us do that, including adaptive reuse.  We can protect historic resources and still respect an individual’s property rights.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I support a historic preservation ordinance that protects our Township’s valued historic resources.  We must recognize Tredyffrin’s rich historic heritage.  We must also be mindful of the rights of the owners of historic resources. I understand that the Historical Commission has proposed an ordinance amendment that would prohibit the demolition of designated historic resources unless reviewed by the Historical Commission and approved by the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing. This amendment would prevent the issuance of over-the-counter demolition permits that have resulted in almost immediate demolition of our historic resources.  It would be a significant step forward.

Question #3: The support for openness and transparency in local government often appears on candidate campaign literature. What does it mean to you for local government to be open and transparent? Please be specific.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: Transparency means you abide by the Sunshine Law. Certain matters dealing with Township personnel or pending litigation can be discussed in Executive Session by the Board and the Solicitor. When Executive Session meetings are held, it is announced during the Public Meeting. All Township Commissions, Advisory Councils, and Boards must abide by the Sunshine Law as well because their decisions and recommendations also impact the Township.  Open discussion by the Board and with the public is the only place for decision-making. The public should be able to rely upon that and upon the trust given to the individuals they elect.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: To me, openness and transparency mean providing the public with information in a timely manner, giving the public the opportunity to express their views at public meetings and elsewhere, listening respectfully, responding forthrightly, and letting the public know that their voices have been heard and respected.  They mean being clear and direct with the public about the Board’s decision-making process.  They mean remembering that Board members serve the public.

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The Sam (Severino) Caneda family owned the Covered Wagon Inn (1950’s) and share their personal memories

The passage of time … The following is a press release from the Sam (Severino) Caneda family, owners of the Covered Wagon Inn in the 1950’s, regarding the proposed land development plan which includes the demolition of the building.
Covered Wagon Inn early photo

Folks driving through Strafford have probably passed the Old Covered Wagon Inn building – as we know it – and wondered what it was. We pass it and see it as home and as a living manifestation of the American Dream.

When our parents opened the Covered Wagon in the 1950’s they had nothing but determination and a belief that their hard work would be rewarded. Their commitment to living their dream paid off. For decades the Old Covered Wagon Inn was the center of civic and social life in Wayne. The hottest big bands of the day, stars like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, stopped by to play there. Saturday days were for wedding receptions, nights were for dancing to Orr Marino and the Mainliners; weeknights were for Rotary & Lions Club meetings, Ward Marston on the piano, flambéed entrees & Caesar salad prepared table side in the colonial rooms. The Junior League held their Tinsel Ball there every year, St Raphaela Retreat house held an annual first flower of spring luncheon fashion show in the terrace, Villanova’s Blue Key society held fund raisers and Villanova boosters launched their campaign to reinstate football (they won!) at “the Wagon.” On any given day, at lunch or dinner, you would see the who’s who of Strafford, Wayne and Devon. Small business owners, whether it was Rod & Charlie Park from the hardware store, Bill Braxton, Joe Flagler (Flagler’s Citgo), Mr.& Mrs. Pugh, Mr. & Mrs. Rossi (Anro, Inc.), Russ Morgan (Main Line Printing), Mr. Eadah (Eadah’s Rugs & Ernest’s dad), The Taylors from Taylor Gifts, Sam Katz (Wayne Jewelers), Mr. Cappelli the Tailor, Mr. Fox & Mr. Roach BEFORE they became Fox & Roach, “the regulars,” all part of the history of that wonderful building.

The days when such community institutions existed may have passed, but the value of a building that reminds us of what it means to be a community has certainly not. And you can see that meaning in the memories and stories people posted online in response to the news that a developer is looking to tear the building down.

What’s more, there is real economic value in a building with the architectural surprises of the Old Covered Wagon Inn. Many of those treasures have been covered up over the years but all it takes is one visionary entrepreneur to figure out how to embrace the uniqueness of the building and its meaning as a community institution while giving it a 21st century twist.

A CVS can be built – or rebuilt – anywhere. A drive thru may be convenient but it certainly does not make our community special.

Once you tear down a historic building that meant so much to so many for so long, you do lose a piece of what makes a community special. We lose a piece of what makes Strafford, Strafford. And then what’s to distinguish us from every other town in Pennsylvania, or the United States, for that matter?

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