Jimmy Duffy’s

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jimmy Duffy Redevelopment Project … Assisted Living Facility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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