John DiBuonaventuro

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 –

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

DiBuonaventuro:
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.

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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.

————————————————————————————

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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Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors – ‘Team Players’ and TESD Budget Discussions Get Underway

As is often the case, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting conflicted with the TESD Board meeting last night.  I attended the BOS meeting and Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and graciously offered his comments from the meeting.

The Board of Supervisors meeting saw the swearing-in of four supervisors —  Paul Olson and JD DiBuonaventuro returning for new 4-year terms, Mike Heaberg starting his first full-term and newly elected Kristen Mayock joining them.  Although rumored over the past few weeks, it was probably still a surprise to some that Michelle Kichline was named ‘Chair’ and JD as ‘Vice Chair’ of the Board of Supervisors.  The board members themselves nominate and vote on these positions and traditionally, these positions go to the longer serving members of the Board of Supervisors.  However, in this case, Michelle received the unanimous support of her fellow board members for the chair position after serving only 2 years as a supervisor and neither as a vice chair. Congratulations to her and to JD as Vice Chair.

It was obvious from the moment that Michelle was named chair that there is going to be a distinctly different tone to the Board of Supervisors – starting with gifts for freshmen supervisor Kristen Mayock and for Tom Hogan, Tredyffrin Township’s former solicitor and newly elected Chester County District Attorney.

Michelle made a special point in describing the qualifications and strengths of  each of her fellow supervisors and described the Board of Supervisors as members of the ‘team’ and here to serve all the people.  This team approach and sense of community could provide a winning combination for moving the township forward in 2012.  There have been some missteps by Board members in the past and we know the Board is faced with some unfinished business from 2011, so here’s hoping this upward movement and spirit of cooperation continues.

As I said, Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting last night and provides us with some interesting notes below.  He mentions the Catholic Schoolclosings and the possible effect this could have on T/E school district.  I was surprised to learn that T/E has 600 students who attend Catholic Schools.  My guess is that the Catholic school closings may not affect many of these students as it is unlikely that schools which typically draw TESD students like Villa Maria, St. Monica’s, Devon Prep, Malvern Prep and Archbishop Carroll would be on the ‘closing school list’.  Nevertheless, this is another dynamic to consider in the school district budget discussions.

TESD Notes from Ray Clarke:

A fair turnout (~50?) for the TESD Board meeting on Monday. They voted 7-2 to apply for Exceptions that allow a property tax increase of 1.6% on top of the 1.7% increase allowed by the Act 1 Index. Much lip service paid to the fact that this was not a vote to actually increase taxes by that amount, although we do know how that works. Brake and Mercogliano were the two dissenters, with the former articulating the danger of the incremental policy-making that will just give us over the next ten years the 50% tax increase we had over the last ten. He wants to give taxpayers a break. He was also the only one to give a realistic assessment ofHarrisburg’s view of PSERS: the options are to increase taxes or reduce benefits – and neither is going to get any political traction in the near future.

Let’s think about PSERS for a minute, because no one seems to be being objective here.

The state allows school districts to increase taxes to fund the increase in contribution to PSERS. Next year that tax increase is $0.94 million, the net PSERS expense increase about $1.1 million – pretty much one for one. That tax increase is about 1%. All the other cost increases ($4 to $5 million in 2012/13) are for things other than PSERS, yet all the school board could do was blame Harrisburg. The PSERS increases for the next two years are a little more (about $1.3 million a year), and then fall $0.7 million in 2015/16, then little changed for a decade or so, before tapering off. We can deal with a $4.4 million net increase in PSERS costs with a 5% tax increase over 4 years, and if we use the $15 million of fund balance set aside for that purpose, we can spread out that tax increase over twice the number of years.

No one wants to think objectively and long term likes this, because that would force attention on the issues within the District’s control:

  • Pay salaries and benefits that the taxpayers can afford
  • Get really rigorous with suppliers of all purchased supplies and services
  • Manage the cost of in-house services (like janitorial, maybe maintenance?) to market levels
  • Accelerate the hard look at nice-to-have things like the extra paid in-service days

Much commentary that about the cuts in FTEs, programs and costs in recent years, but none about where all the money saved has actually gone: employee compensation (and not yet PSERS, either).

It’s time to stop passing the buck!

One factor outside the district’s control, and which could have a major impact on costs: which Catholic schools will the closed, and what will that mean for TE enrollment? There are currently about 600 students living in TE that attend Catholic schools. It was stated that there is to be an announcement of the school closings on Friday.

Another observation: new Board member Kris Graham was a consistent pro-teacher advocate, and tried to invoke the hoary old chestnut that the homestead exemption offsets the property tax increase! Not recognizing that the exemption actually makes the property tax even more regressive. Because the exemption is a fixed amount, unchanged for many years now, the lower the assessed value the greater the effect of a given millage increase. The 3.3% tax increase is actually 3.5% for a home assessed at $150,000 that claims the homestead exemption.

And finally: it was notable that Mike Broadhurst showed his hand, advocating for keeping the janitorial out-sourcing option on the table, not “going too far” with tax increases so that “Harrisburg’s hand will be forced again”, questioning many of the projection model assumptions, and drawing attention to the hardly-new-news that the employee benefit cost is $1,040 per year for a family (but not completing the calculation to show that this is merely 1.2% of the median $85,000 teacher salary).

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Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors; I do solemnly swear . . .

I do solemnly swear . . .

Tonight at 7 PM, Tredyffrin Township will swear in four supervisors to the Board of Supervisors.  Incumbent Paul Olson (R), who narrowly beat his Democratic opponent  Tory Snyder in the general election, begins his new term as the most senior and longest-serving member of the Board of Supervisors.  John DiBuonaventuro (R) will be sworn in tonight for his second term as supervisor.  JD has the distinction of second longest-serving supervisor and ran as an uncontested candidate in the last election.  Mike Heaberg (R) will be sworn in for his first full term as a supervisor, having served on the Board in 2011 as an interim supervisor.  If you recall, Heaberg was appointed to fill the vacated seat of Warren Kampf, who resigned after winning his State House 157 election.  Heaberg won the special election in May; continuing to serve on the Board of Supervisors.

Newly elected to the Board of Supervisors in November’s general election, Kristen Mayock (R) will take her place on the dais among her fellow Republicans.  Kristen’s election to the Board leaves a vacancy on the township’s Zoning Hearing Board.  Supervisor Michele Kichline, also an attorney, served on the ZHB before her election to the Board of Supervisors.  It has been several years since there were three women serving together on the Board – it will be interesting to watch that dynamic at play.

Something else that the women on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors share in common … Mayock, Kichline and EJ Richter are all TTGOP committeewomen.  Two years ago, (January 12, 2010) I wrote an article for Community Matters, “Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors – Some are Political Party Committee Members – is this OK?  Radnor Township  Says No for their Commissioners”.  

I have been open in my concerns related to political committee people who continue to serve in that capacity once elected to the Board of Supervisors.  As I stated in 2010, “… supervisors are elected to serve all the residents, and by remaining a committee person for a particular party, I would think that there is an appearance that a political committee person would ‘lean’ in the direction of their party.”

As was the case in 2010, of the seven members of Tredyffrin’s 2012 Board of Supervisors, we once again have three supervisors who are also TTGOP committee members (Kichline, Richter and Mayock).

Although Tredyffrin Township’s Home Rule Charter does not address this subject, neighboring Radnor Township, which also uses Home Rule Charter for their local government, is very clear on the topic and what they perceive is a conflict of interest:

From Radnor Township’s Home Rule Charter:

§ 21.9-904. Prohibitions.

 A. The activities which follow shall be prohibited in the operation of the Township government.

     3. Political Party Office. No Township official elected under this Charter, no appointed official, and no full-time Township employee shall hold any elected or appointed political party office.

Under the penalty section, Radnor’s Home Rule Charter further states:

  B. Violation of any provision of this Section shall constitute grounds for forfeiture of office, termination of appointment, or dismissal.

So . . .  do I expect supervisors Kichline, Richter and Mayock to step down from their TTGOP committee member positions?  No.  However, as we look ahead to tonight’s Board of Supervisors swearing-in ceremony, I do point to this information as cautionary.  Whether political committee members or not, I hope that all our supervisors appreciate that once elected, they are to represent and serve all of the residents of Tredyffrin Township, regardless of political party affiliations.

As the Board of Supervisors starts a new year of service to the community, I offer my best wishes for a successful 2012.

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Citizens Should Matter More to Township Staff and Elected Officials

This is a follow-up to my last post on Community Matters.  Without repeating the entire post, here is the short version – on Monday at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the township manager Mimi Gleason presented the 2012 preliminary budget including a power point overview of the budget.  Copies of the preliminary budget and the township manager’s 4-page budget summary were available at the meeting and online.  Included in the budget draft was a 6.9% millage real estate increase.

In his review of the preliminary budget, former township supervisor John Petersen found multiple mathematical errors in Gleason’s summary report. On Tuesday, Petersen sent several emails to Gleason detailing the mistakes.  I was copied on all the emails as was resident Ray Clarke and township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro.  Before writing my last post on Community Matters, I double-checked the budget summary numbers as did Ray Clarke and we agreed with John that errors were contained in both the revenue and expenditure summary tables.  The errors when applied to the budget narrative further compounded the problems in the summary information,

With declining revenues and increasing costs of our current economic climate, it is more important than ever to account for every dollar. As a taxpayer, I want to feel confident in our local government.  Beyond the troubling math errors, there was no response to any of John Petersen’s emails; absolutely no acknowledgement to him (or Ray Clarke or myself) from the township manager.

Our supervisors talk about the importance of communication to our residents, so what does this lack of response say?  A resident takes the time to do an analysis of the preliminary budget and is not afforded the courtesy of a response. In addition to Petersen’s efforts, Clarke also reviewed the budget materials and reached a similar conclusion as to the errors.  As residents and taxpayers in this community, do we not matter?

Here is another concerning point. Petersen, Clarke and I live in the western part of the township, in District 3 – Supervisor DiBuonaventuro serves this district (which explains why he was copied on the emails from Petersen to Gleason).  DiBuonaventuro ran unopposed in last week’s election and was re-elected to the Board of Supervisors for a second 4-year term. During the early years of his first term, residents often remarked about DiBuonaventuro’s strong constituent service and quick resident response.  The Petersen, Clarke and Benson families are all constituents in his voting district yet we received no email response or phone call in regards to this serious situation.

This got me thinking – if there is no acknowledgement from the township manager or response from our district supervisor, what does this really say about our local government. The supervisors received the budget information in their packets the week before the meeting so there was time to review the summary.

The township’s Finance Committee (supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Paul Olson and Phil Donahue) had been working with the township staff on the budget so it is expected they reviewed the preliminary budget before it was sent to the other supervisors.

If Gleason and DiBuonaventuro choose not to respond to the citizens, I then question if either of them bothered to advise BOS chair Bob Lamina of the errors in the budget summary.  If the other supervisors were not told of the citizen concerns, how would they know there were mistakes in the budget summary – by reading Community Matters, TE Patch or the Main Line Media News?

This is not intended as some kind of ‘gotcha’ moment against the township staff or supervisors! We all make mistakes.  Rather to ask where the respect is for the citizen who takes time to review the budget, sends emails and receives no response?

I want assurances from our elected officials that they are ‘watching the store’ for all the residents of this community.  DiBuonaventuro should have responded with an email or phone call to tell us he appreciated the seriousness of the situation, and to assure us that, if warranted, the math errors would be corrected.  Given that Supervisor DiBuonaventuro is a member of the township’s Finance Committee, our district supervisor and someone who repeatedly speaks from the dais on the importance of ‘due diligence’, I am disappointed.

Somehow, it seems we have lost our way.  Township staff and elected officials – don’t you care about the residents of this community and doing what’s right?

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League of Women Voters Forum for Tredyffrin Supervisor Candidates . . . A Debate or a ‘Love Fest’?

The League of Women Voters held the Tredyffrin Township supervisor debate last night.  Seven candidates are vying for four seats on the board, with incumbents JD DiBuonaventuro (R), Mike Heaberg (R) and Paul Olson (R) trying for another term.  Candidates stepping out for the first time include Kristen Mayock (R), Tory Snyder (D), Murph Wysock (D) and Molly Duffy (D). Incumbent DiBuonaventuro  is unchallenged in the township’s District 3 race.

The format of the evening was a 2-minute self-introduction by the seven candidates, followed by answers submitted by audience members and ending with closing remarks by. Each candidate was asked the same question, with the initial question rotating through the candidates.  The debate was taped but there will be approximately a 24-hr. delay before residents can watch it at home.

So . . . what was my opinion?  How did the candidates perform?  Was there a theme of the evening?

Buzz phrases of the debate . . .

  • Protection of public safety
  • Hold the line on taxes
  • Economic redevelopment
  • Reinvestment in community
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Avoid unnecessary spending

If I did not know the party affiliation of the supervisor candidates, there were times during the debate that their responses and choice of words were so similar it was hard to differentiate between the Republicans and the Democrats.  Is that an indicator that the politics of Tredyffrin Township fall somewhere in the middle, in the ‘moderate’ range or . . . is it an indicator that the candidates are politically savvy and have figured out what sells to this community?  The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

How were their responses similar? On the topic of Earned Income Tax, every candidate was opposed to adding another tax – an opinion offered equally by both Republican and Democratic candidates.  What was unclear re EIT . . . were the candidates opposed to the EIT for the school district and the township?  Or where they only opposed to the EIT for the township?  I submitted a question to the League of Women Voters that was not chosen that might have clarified the candidate’s positions.  My question, “If the school district (in the next year or two) were to place an EIT on the ballot, what would be your position on taking the 50% to which the township is entitled by state law?”  Would the candidates still be opposed to the EIT under these conditions?  Don’t know.

Although all candidates stated they opposed an EIT, Democratic candidate Tory Snyder indirectly referenced the ‘no EIT’ Republican campaign signs.  Snyder who has served on the township Planning Commission for the last 10 years and served as chair of the Sidewalk Subcommittee understands the value of volunteer’s time who serves on township boards, committees, etc.  So although personally opposed to an EIT, Snyder made a point of the stating her respect for community volunteers serving on the school district’s tax study group, their work and upcoming presentation on the EIT.

All seven candidates repeatedly stated the need for township budget support for police, fire and emergency services. If you recall the 2010 township budget included reduced funding to the fire companies.  However, after hearing the very loud public outcry to replace the reduced fire funding in the budget, three supervisors (Warren Kampf, Bob Lamina and Paul Olson) took their appeal to local businesses and residents and was able to recover the funding for the fire companies.  If last night was any indication, the local fire companies have nothing to worry about when it comes to township funding support. All supervisor candidates listed public safety as a priority and its funding a necessity.

Several candidates spoke of community engagement in order to best represent the desires of their constituents.  Economic revitalization and redevelopment were repeatedly discussed as one question very specifically asked about Chesterbrook and what would the candidates do to improve it.  As current township supervisors, DiBuonaventuro and Heaberg both said that it has been difficult to get to the new owner of the Chesterbrook shopping center. (Australian company Centro Properties sold the shopping center to the Blackstone Group earlier this year).

Candidate Molly Duffy offered that the Chester Valley Trail and Patriot’s Trail would be coming through Chesterbrook.  Duffy explained that the new sidewalk at Penn Medicine would eventually connect through Chesterbrook offering new revitalization opportunities. As an attorney working in real estate and a current member of the township’s Zoning Board, Republican candidate Kristen Mayock offered that she would be able to help potential developers through the system.  Mayock would like to see the township business development process more stream lined and easier to use.

Heaberg discussed the Economic Development Committee that was approved back in April and of his work with the large leasing companies, small business owners and corporate representatives.  Heaberg, with supervisors Phil Donahue and Michelle Kichline are interviewing prospective members for the Economic Development Committee with the idea that the committee will be able to offer assistance in township business development and redevelopment.

It was interesting to note that Democratic candidates Murph Wysocki, real estate attorney,  Tory Snyder, planning professional and Molly Duffy, attorney and small business owner have all applied to serve on the Economic Development Committee.

From my vantage point, probably the most important question asked during the debate was (1) what the candidates viewed were the priorities for the township and (2) how would they fund these priorities.

Candidate Wysocki responded that money and the township budget was a priority. Wysocki suggested the need to prioritize necessary services to taxpayers but at the same time offering the taxpayers better value.  He suggested creatively using grants and pooling purchases as ways to fund the priorities and stated that economic revitalization will broaden the tax base.

DiBuonaventuro stated that there are two priorities facing the township — (1) managing the township budget and (2) reinvestment in the community and township.  Duffy listed economic development as her priority and used Paoli and Chesterbrook as examples of areas that need redevelopment. She stated that the Chester Valley Trail will be a way to increase property values and suggested that vision for the future.

Heaberg stated that ‘my priorities are your priorities’, indicating that he believes in following the priority needs of the residents.  He stated that residents have indicated public safety and infrastructure needs (sewer, paving roads, snow removal, libraries, maintanence of the 13 township parks) as important priorities.  Heaberg believes in addressing priorities in a fiscally responsible way.

Mayock’s list of priorities for the township is two fold; holding the line on taxes and the encouragement of redevelopment.  She supports continuing to keep pressure on the Paoli Transportation Center project; offering that she had contacts that can help move this project.   Olson stated the health, safety and welfare of residents are his priority plus continuing to support the library.  He offered that the township has a $17 million reserve and that was achieved by being fiscally responsible.

Snyder offered that her priority for the township is (1) the management of the $30 million taxpayer’s dollars in the township budget and (2) to bring value to residents for services.  However, beyond that, Snyder wants to bring ‘vision’ to the Board of Supervisors — enthusiastically stating that is what planners ‘do’!  Snyder cited the township’s comprehensive plan that she worked on and of the plan’s specific steps for implementation.  Synder pointed to using qualified professionals who live in the township, as volunteers to help implement the plan, summing up that we “need people that recognize vision”.

As I was leaving the debate, someone commented that it was like a ‘love fest’ among all the candidates.  I knew exactly what this person meant.  It was refreshing . . .  there was no arguing or partisan wrangling; all the candidates (4 Republicans and 3 Democrats) conducted themselves with civility and respect for their fellow candidates.

To all the voters in Tredyffrin Township – let me say, all of these candidates are qualified to serve as your elected officials.  Attorneys, planning professional, small business owners, financial experts, community volunteers . . . yes, it was obvious they all have the experience, background and the credentials to serve.

Your supervisor selection is a very personal choice — I encourage you to watch the entire debate and decide for yourself.  Personally, I think that one candidate excelled last night and one candidate fell a bit short but it should not be about Pattye Benson’s opinion . . . talk to the candidates and ask them your own questions, watch the debate and then take your decision to the polls on November 8.

Your voice does matter and your vote counts!

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Paoli Transportation Center Project Takes Big Steps Forward – A Letter-of-Interest Request Issued by Tredyffrin Township and Request-for-Proposal Issued by SEPTA!

Plans Afoot For Troubled Paoli Rail Yard, Can It Become A Transportation Center With Buses And Better Parking?”

This Philadelphia Inquirer headline above was not written this week, this month, this year — no, the article is seventeen years old, dating from September 14, 1994!

This years-old Inquirer article focused on the possibility of turning the “problematic Paoli rail yard into a sophisticated intermodal transportation center” which would accommodate “a transportation center, complete with buses and improved parking.” Can it be that the dream, this vision for the future may still be possible?  Maybe so.

At the last Board of Supervisors Meeting, I was disappointed that the supervisors did not update on the process of the Paoli Transportation Center.  There had been previous discussion about an upcoming issuance of a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) on the N. Valley/Central Avenue road and bridge improvement project (part of the Paoli Transportation Center project) and I was seeking an update — specifically was an RFP issued?  If so, what was the status, how many bidders, due date, etc.

Many of us have followed the saga of the train station for years, and remain interested in the progress (if any) on the project.  My intention in asking for an official public update was certainly not to step on the toes of either the township staff or our elected officials, but just to seek information.  What’s the old adage, “Ask and ye shall receive”? I was asking the questions, but I guess I wasn’t asking the right way or to the right people.

Although not listed on the township website, I discovered with some Internet research that the Tredyffrin Township Engineering Department has issued a ‘Letter of Interest’ for the “Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Involvement Program”. According to the township’s Letter of Interest request, all phases of the Feasibility Study will be 100% state funded and that the township is encouraging responses from small firms and firms that have not previously done work for the township.

The township’s public Letter of Interest advertisement gives the full solicitation details on the Paoli Road Improvement Project and includes the following:

Tredyffrin Township Letter of Interest Request:

Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Improvement Program

Tredyffrin Township will retain a PADOT qualified engineering and public involvement consultant team to provide a feasibility study and public involvement and outreach program to assess the traffic, roadway, infrastructure and community stakeholder needs, and identify potential alternatives for the existing local and PADOT roadway network located in Paoli, in the vicinity of S.R. 0030 (Lancaster Avenue), E./W. Central Avenues, Paoli Pike/ Greenwood Avenue, Darby Road, Plank Avenue and N./S. Valley Roads. The Township seeks a feasibility study that provides cost effective alternatives to allow for traffic calming, streetscape, intersection modification, and signal timing adjustments to address existing congestion and public safety concerns while providing for the needs of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, rail users and the overall vision for a multi-modal Paoli.

Alternatives included in the feasibility study should emphasize solutions that meet current PADOT design and safety standards, and the local stakeholder and Township vision for the Paoli Transportation and Town Center Districts. In addition to the Feasibility Study, an intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process must parallel the identified Feasibility Study phases to ensure final recommendations have been thoroughly discussed, stakeholder input received while ultimately working toward a consensus on roadway improvements for consideration and prioritization for future design and construction phases of the project.

The township’s Letter of Interest words, “. . .  intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process . . .” aligns with my request that the public remain ‘in the loop’ and informed on the process of this important community project.

The list of companies already registered to submit a Letter of Interest to the township on the Paoli transportation project is impressive!  To date, 50+ companies have registered, including local companies from Wayne, Malvern, West Chester, Collegeville, Exton and Kimberton and several companies from Lancaster, Gettysburg, New Jersey and Delaware.  Source Management Onvia of Seattle, Washington has also registered to bid the project!  Letters of interest are due by bidders to the township by 2 PM on September 15, 2011. It is my understanding that registration does not necessarily imply that all registered companies will submit a Letter of Interest.

According to the Letter of Interest advertisement by the township, the evaluation and selection process by Tredyffrin Twp is:

For the purposes of negotiating a contract, the ranking of a minimum of three (3) firms will be done directly from the Letters of Interest. Technical proposals will not be required prior to the ranking. Only the top three (3) firms will be requested to prepare technical proposals. The top three (3) firms will then be ranked based off the Technical Proposal and the top firm will be requested to submit a cost proposal.

In another big step for the Paoli Transportation Center project, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has issued a Request-for-Proposal, Proposal Number 11-091-DMH for qualified “Consultants for Architectural/Engineering Services for Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center”.

SEPTA’s A&E Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center RFP description states:

Consultant services include, but are not limited: the development of construction documents (plans and specifications) for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center in accordance with the scope of work of this RFP and in full compliance ADA and other governing authorities.   The deadline for proposals is September 7, 2011.

The issuance of a Letter of Interest by Tredyffrin Twp and a Request-for-Proposal from SEPTA is positive and encouraging news for the community on the Paoli Transportation Center project and marks real progress in this long journey.

As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

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Paoli Transportation Center and economic redevelopment – Important community issues or simply political campaign fodder

Unfortunately, in between primary and general election campaign season, the [Paoli] train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer. Does the transportation project only exist as a political campaign talking point? 

Following-up on my last Community Matters post, I was looking forward to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday night.  I had emailed the Board of Supervisors requesting two items for the meeting agenda – (1) official public update on the Paoli Transportation Center project and (2) an update on the Economic Development Committee.  Assured via email from the township manager that, “Both items will be addressed during the meeting.  If they don’t come up earlier, Bob will raise them during BOS comments” , I looked forward the public status report. Although neither item was listed on the agenda, I was confident that these important topics would be discussed during the meeting.  Further, Mimi copied the seven supervisors on her email to me, so everyone was seemingly on the same page.

The meeting progressed with no mention made of either topic.  There was approval for a community initiative grant for zoning ordinance update but no discussion of the Economic Development Committee that was approved back on April 4.  Look around at the empty storefronts, the vacant box stores and leasing agent signs on many corporate buildings . . . Tredyffrin Township is no longer exempt from the economic woes of every other community in the country.  But where is the importance and priority from our elected officials?

The Paoli Transportation Center . . . there was no update, no discussion, not a mention.  Does the transportation project exist simply as a political campaign talking point?  Do our community leaders only discuss the transportation center and place an importance on the project during campaign season? Where is the advocacy and enthusiasm for the train station project and economic redevelopment from our elected officials?

How many local candidates over the last two decades have used the train station project in their campaign promises to voters?  The answer . . . many! The Paoli Transportation Center project deserves more attention than use as campaign fodder. And remember, what is most significant is what you do with those campaign promises, once elected! 

The last substantial movement on the Paoli Transportation Center project was June 21, 2010 with then State Rep. Paul Drucker’s announcement of $1 million in state funding for the project. On Community Matters that day, I wrote . . . “Today’s announcement signifies a new beginning for Paoli and for the larger community . . . a day to celebrate!”  After fourteen months, shouldn’t the public expect a progress report?

Immediately following the Monday’s supervisors meeting, I asked Mimi for an explanation as to ‘why’ there was no update on the train station (and the Economic Development Committee) when she had previously said there would be — her response, “I guess Bob forgot”. 

How does one forget these important issues?  The other supervisors — did they likewise ‘forget’, was theirs a calculated political decision or worse yet, do they simply not care?

Unfortunately, in between the primary and general election campaign season, the train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer.

____________________________________________

The update on the proposed sidewalk ordinance and sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club from Monday’s Public Hearing to follow.

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Tredyffrin’s proposed sidewalk amendment is separate and apart from St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks . . . so agree Supervisors Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Kichline

I think that we’re making progress on the sidewalk saga of St. Davids Golf Club. Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting marked the first of multi-public hearings planned to review the township’s proposed sidewalk amendment change to the land development ordinance. 

If you recall, sidewalk discussion in the township began 19 months ago (December 2009) over St. Davids Golf Club and their pre-existing land development agreement to build sidewalks.  Although the Planning Commission had repeatedly rejected appeals by the country club not to build the sidewalks contained in their agreement with the township, some supervisors did not support the building of the sidewalks.  At that time, there was much heated debate between supervisors and residents, including the threat of a lawsuit against the township.  Less than favorable headlines marked this dark time in Tredyffrin history. 

Because of the turmoil created by the St. Davids sidewalk issue, a special sidewalk subcommittee was formed which met monthly for over a year.  The subcommittee gathered public input, held public meetings and conducted a resident survey.  They reviewed the “Green Routes Network”, pedestrian and bicycle network and applicable sidewalks requirements.

I attended the sidewalks subcommittee meetings and the group unanimously approved to send their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Their recommendations (including the sidewalks at St. Davids) were presented to the Board of Supervisors – earlier this year, the supervisors voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of the sidewalk subcommittee.

The supervisors asked the Planning Commission to review the sidewalk subcommittee recommendations and create a new sidewalk amendment for the land development ordinance. After Planning Commission input, the proposed sidewalk amendment was sent back to the supervisors for discussion through a public hearing, which brings us to last night.

I should mention that supervisors Phil Donahue and Bob Lamina were absent for last night’s supervisors meeting and public hearing.  As vice chair of the Board of Supervisors, Paul Olson presided over the meeting and the public hearing.  Mimi Gleason presented a slide presentation on the proposed sidewalk amendment as an overview before turning it over the supervisors for questions and comments. 

First to offer his comments, Mike Heaberg remarked that he was of the opinion that the ordinance change should only affect prospective land development agreements, not pre-existing land development agreements.  John DiBuonaventuro agreed with Heaberg, suggesting that the amendment change should focus on future projects. Likewise, Michelle Kichline agreed with Heaberg and DiBuonaventuro. EJ Richter did not state an opinion on this issue but Olson repeatedly commented that sidewalks cost taxpayers money.  Olson asked Steve Burgo how many additional miles of sidewalks could be built in the township, and followed that question with how much would it cost to build the sidewalks.  Gleason quickly injected that the sidewalks would only be built as areas are developed and included in land development agreements.  She explained that taxpayers do not pay for the sidewalks – sidewalks are part of subdivision and non-residential land development plans and developers are responsible for those costs.

It was as if Olson did not understand Gleason or refused to accept her information.  The entire sidewalk amendment discussion continued to be laced with Olson’s talking about ‘sidewalks to nowhere’ and that there were better uses of taxpayer money, etc.  It was then the public’s turn to speak. 

Tory Snyder, who chaired the sidewalk subcommittee and is a member of the planning commission, very succinctly explained the Green Routes network and how the sidewalks, bicycle paths and trails fit into the overall master plan of the township.  Although it was clear from Snyder that developers pay the cost of sidewalks, etc. in their land development agreements, Olson refused to accept the information and continued to remark about the state of the economy and that taxpayers could not afford to pay for sidewalks.

It was frustrating to listen to the discussion of supervisors and then members of the public of the pros and cons of sidewalks in the township – it was as if time had stood still and we were back in December of 2009, rehashing it all over again. The only difference between December 2009 and July 2011 is that no one mentioned the ‘elephant in the room’ – the sidewalks at St. Davids. 

Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Kichline stated, that they were of the opinion that the proposed sidewalk amendment change should be for prospective development only, but did not specifically use the words ‘St. Davids’.  Although there are currently eight open land development projects in the township (which include sidewalks in their agreement) clearly, St. Davids is the long-standing open sidewalk issue, stemming back years and what many believe is the impetus to amend the township’s sidewalk ordinance.

Unable to sit any longer, I needed clarification – specifically on the St. Davids sidewalk issue.  I asked and received confirmation from DiBuonaventuro, Heaberg and Kichline that their opinion was that the sidewalks at St. Davids were separate and apart from the proposed sidewalk amendment. Kichline clarified further that the eight open land development projects (including St. Davids) would not be affected by the proposed amendment change.  These supervisors reiterated that the proposed sidewalk amendment should be for prospective developments, not pre-existing agreements.

I then turned by question about St. Davids sidewalk to Olson and Richter.  Olson repeated that these sidewalks at St. Davids were ‘sidewalks to nowhere’ and that people didn’t want them.  He further suggested to me that would not it be better to take the money for the sidewalks at St. Davids and give it to the fire company.  At this point, Kichline jumped in to tell Olson that his suggestion was ‘illegal’ – you cannot transfer money from one organization to another.   

I prefaced my question to Richter by pointing out, that as a member of the sidewalk subcommittee, that she voted in favor of the subcommittee’s recommendations which included sidewalks at St. Davids.  Her response was that she viewed that recommendation as a ‘starting point’.  When I pressed her about the sidewalks at St. Davids, her response was that she was ‘neutral’What does that mean? You believe either that St. Davids sidewalks should be considered in the proposed ordinance change or you do not.  As I suggested to her, a ‘yes or no’ response was what I was looking for – but I received ‘neutral’.

So where do we stand on this topic?  Summing up, the eight pre-existing land development agreements should be separate and apart as agreed by DiBuonaventuro, Heaberg and Kichline.  No was from Olson and a ‘neutral’ from Richter.  I asked the supervisors where we go with this and Kichline offered that she thought that Phil Donahue and Bob Lamina should weigh in at the August meeting. 

The August BOS meeting will mark 20 months since this saga began and I think we are all ready for final resolution. I would like to see (1) a vote that the proposed sidewalk amendment is for prospective development only (the eight pre-existing land development agreements are separate from this amendment) and (2) a vote to enforce the construction of sidewalks contained in the pre-existing land development agreements.

It has been years since St. Davids Golf Club signed the land development agreement with the township and now the conditions of the contract need to be enforced.  As a community, we need to close this chapter!

Kudos to Kichline, DiBuonaventuro and Heaberg . . . great progress last night and I am looking forward to final resolution in August.

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What’s the future of the Paoli Transportation Center project . . . Remember, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’!

I continue to wonder about the PA Department of Transportation’s interest in the Downingtown train station; the cost of purchasing land and building a new train station when the existing station is only 20 years old.  I am certain that Downingtown probably needs additional parking but with one-third the daily ridership of Paoli, I am troubled how the Downingtown project, seemingly out of nowhere, appears to have shot to the ‘head of the class’ in interest for the DOT.  With major budget cuts in Harrisburg, and a finite amount of dollars for transportation projects, there should be alarm for existing transportation projects such as the Ardmore Transit Center and the Paoli Transportation Center. Will there be enough money to go around to all these projects?

There is concern in Ardmore that their long-standing transportation project may likewise take a backseat to Downingtown, and the suggestion is that it is political connections – either by Downingtown elected officials or ‘lack of’ connections by Ardmore’s elected officials.  To read further about Ardmore, see the latest post from Carla at Save Ardmore Coalition.

Why does politics have to drive projects in Harrisburg?  Is it the squeaky wheel that gets greased?  Sen. Andy Dinniman’s jurisdiction covers both Downingtown and Paoli, so which train station project does he prioritize . . . the project that is years in the making (Paoli) or this new train station project in Downingtown? 

Serving as state representative for the 155th legislative district, which includes Downingtown, is Curt Schroder (R-East Brandywine).  A quick review of his website did not produce any news on the Downingtown train project, but I did discover that Schroder chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee that is responsible for the state’s gambling industry.  As a senior state representative, I am guessing that Schroder has a direct line to Harrisburg and the governor.

Back to the Paoli Transportation Center – some would suggest that what goes on in Downingtown has no bearing on Paoli; that these transportation projects are separate and apart.  You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, I think that sums up the Paoli Transportation Center project.  How does a community sustain interest in a project, when there appears to be so little forward movement? 

In 1996, the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force composed of representatives from Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships, Chester County, Septa, Amtrak, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the US Environmental Protection Agency, PennDot and elected officials completed a feasibility study that recommended:

  • construction of a new station and associated facilities 800 feet west of the current station;
  • preparation of a conceptual transportation center, access and development plan; and
  • preparation of preliminary development costs and income potential.

Look again at the date of that study, 1996 . . . 15 years ago!  We know that Rome wasn’t built in a day but how many years does it take to build the Paoli Transportation Center?

Last June 2010, there appeared to be a shot in the arm for the Paoli Transportation Center.  Former State Rep Paul Drucker, a staunch supporter of the Paoli transportation project, announced $1 million in state funding from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation facility and named Strategic Realty Investment as the project’s developer. Through Drucker’s efforts in Harrisburg, there seemed to be a renewed sense of urgency and momentum to build the train station with on-site parking garage and new office and retail space.  Evidenced by the $1 million in state funding, many of us saw this as kick-starting the project that would create jobs and provide economic stimulus for the community.

When Drucker lost his state house re-election bid in November, did the community also lose their most vocal supporter of the Paoli Transportation Center project? During the last 13 months, since the announcement of the $1 million funding, I have not heard of any ‘new’ news on the train station project. We saw the Paoli Transportation Center project used in campaign literature in November and by political candidates in the May primary, but what really has changed in the last 13 months?

Hoping to gain perspective and an update on the Paoli Transportation Center project, I contacted elected officials and supervisor candidates.  The following individuals were contacted for comments:  State Rep Warren Kampf, State Rep Dwayne Milne, Michelle Kichline and John DiBuonaventuro,   (Tredyffrin Twp supervisors and members of the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force) Norm MacQueen (Willistown Twp supervisor) and Tredyffrin Twp supervisor candidates Kristen Mayock, Tory Snyder, Mike Heaberg, Paul Olsen, Murph Wysocki and Molly Duffy.

Understanding my short timeline for responses, coupled with summer vacation and work schedules, I accepted that some of those contacted would be unable to respond.  However, I want to thank those that did take time from their busy summer schedules to offer their comments for Community Matters readers.

As a response for an update on the Paoli Transportation Center, I received the following from State Rep Warren Kampf:

Pattye:

Thank you for your email. I appreciate your concern as a constituent regarding the Paoli Transportation Center.

My recollection is that most of the legislators and County officials support this project. The PennDOT Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) currently has the Paoli Transportation Center (MPMS# 47979 and MPMS #60574) as a priority project and Chester County has this listed at the top of their list.

Every few years the TIP projects are reviewed and that process is again underway. I will continue to advocate for the Paoli Transportation Center. Other communities have needs of course, but I consider Paoli to be a very high priority.

I would caution you or anyone who sees planning or activity on other projects, for example, Downingtown, as somehow linked to the standing of Paoli. The process does not appear to work that way as I understand it. My belief is any work related to Downingtown that would receive State funding would need to go through the TIP process, and I do not see it on the TIP list I have. Further, I presume that the size of that project is far, far smaller than Paoli, so they would logically have different levels of work and funding associated with them, and probably very different timelines.

The Paoli project is moving forward. I am told that both Tredyffrin Township and SEPTA are preparing separate RFPs for road way design needed for the transportation center this summer. Precise timelines, however, are not available. That there is work being done, and the funding needed for that work exists, are good signs in my view.

Warren

Michelle Kichline and John DiBuonaventuro as Tredyffrin Twp supervisors and members of the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force provided the following joint response:

In response to your question about the status of the Paoli Transportation Center, the following is the most recent update:

Both Tredyffrin Township and Septa are about to issue Requests for Proposals for transit and road improvements. all of the work will be grant funded, mostly from federal funds.

SEPTA’s RFP will be for design of the new station and parking garages. Tredyffrin is issuing 2 RFPs : one to lead the public input process and design road improvements associated with the Paoli Transportation Center; and the other for the design of the improvements recommended by the recent feasibility study for the Rt 252/30 intersection. The Township told me that once the RFPs are ready to go out they will be posted on the Township website, along with a project update.

We are assured by Township and County representatives that Paoli remains a top transportation priority for Chester County. It continues to have the support of Federal and State representatives.

If you have any further questions please let us know.

I sent the following question to Tredyffrin Twp supervisor candidates Mike Heaberg, Tory Snyder, Paul Olsen, Kristen Mayock and Murph Wysocki:

Please make a brief statement on the Paoli Transportation Center project. In 200 words or less, please offer your opinion on why the project has lagged for 15+ years, if there is a future for the project and whether or not you support the project. If you support the Paoli Transportation Center project, as a supervisor, what would you do to ensure that it is a priority of the state’s Department of Transportation and receives adequate funding.

Below are responses from Heaberg, Synder, Mayock and Wysocki:

I fully support a new Paoli Transportation Center, built in a way that improves the quality of life of our community and fully protects the interests of Tredyffrin residents.  This project is a top local transportation priority for our federal and state legislators, the DVRPC, PennDOT, SEPTA and Amtrak. 

As a current Supervisor, I have participated in recent planning discussions and at our upcoming meetings the Tredyffrin BOS will consider two Requests for Proposals: 1) a public input process to assure that our community’s voices are heard and 2) design of local road improvements in the Paoli community, including the 30/252 intersection.  Also, SEPTA is preparing a RFP for the design of the new station and parking garages.

We’re making progress…Thank you for your interest in this important project.

Michael Heaberg
Current Supervisor-At-Large
Republican Candidate for Supervisor-At-Large

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It is frustrating to see how slowly the Paoli project is taking, but it is significantly more complicated than a “simple” regional rail station relocation.  The Paoli project is a public/private development on a former superfund site, which required clean-up, a zoning change in two municipalities,  awarding of a contract to a private developer, coordination of two transit agencies (Amtrak and Septa), and juggling of various public funding sources.  We have actually made a huge amount of progress on this complex process, but the devil is in the details and that is where we are  —  waiting for formal submission of plans from the developer and the transit agencies. That said, I believe that at least in Tredyffrin, there have been a number of individuals, some elected, some not, who have been advocates for the Paoli project over the years and have given endless hours of their time to help move the process forward. What I think we have lacked is a united Board of Supervisors in support and as advocates of the project, without which the need for the project probably seems less urgent at the state and federal levels. My goal as Supervisor would be to work to create that united front.

Victoria “Tory” Snyder,
Democratic Candidate for Supervisor, East District

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Paoli has the potential to be a jewel in Tredyffrin.  As someone who uses the Paoli station for travel to Philadelphia and New York and who lives near the station, I strongly support and will advocate for the Paoli train station redevelopment project.

The infrastructure of the station is outdated and dilapidated.  The roads around the station are unsafe and gridlocked.  Lack of parking is a significant contributing cause of failed local businesses.  Tredyffrin has lost out to neighboring townships in attracting new businesses because of the limited usefulness and overall undesirability of the Paoli station.  We cannot afford to continue to do so.  Exactly why the project has lagged is not as important at this juncture as recognizing the progress made in the last few years and keeping the pressure on to advance the project. Tredyffrin has a unique opportunity to transform a run-down station into a vibrant, smart growth transportation center.  Intelligent redevelopment of the Paoli Rail Yard will encourage economic development in the Township, improve local traffic problems, alleviate congestion on local roads and encourage rail travel.

This project is going to happen. Tredyffrin and SEPTA have already put the wheels in motion for transit, station, parking and area road improvements, using mostly federal grants.  I have existing relationships with the Township and State leaders who are active participants in the reinvigoration of this project.  As Supervisor, I will ask to be a member of the Township’s Task Force, making it one of my top priorities.

Kristen Kirk Mayock
Republican Candidate for Supervisor-At-Large
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Tredyffrin’s Opportunity. Some might offer the following reasons for the more than fifteen year tortuous path of the Paoli Transportation Center (Center)—complicated project, numerous governmental and private stakeholders, burdensome procedures, environmental issues, money, developers, and two townships.  I say that this project has suffered from a lack of political will and vision.  The Tredyffrin community would have long been enjoying a completed Center and a vibrant Paoli if Tredyffrin’s governmental leaders had vigorously pursued this important project with vision and leadership.

I fully support the completion of the Paoli Transportation Center.  This project creates jobs, short term and long term.  The Center will revitalize Paoli.  It will help make Paoli a vibrant town center in and for our Tredyffrin community.  The new Paoli will mean an expanded tax base for the Township. 

If elected, I will fight for the completion of the Paoli Transportation Center.  I will work with my fellow supervisors to present a united front in Harrisburg in the pursuit of project priority and funding. I will lobby legislators and other governmental officials, alone and with other stakeholders, relentlessly seeking our  rightful share of funds.  We must seize this opportunity for our Tredyffrin community.

Thank you,

F. Michael “Murph” Wysocki
Democratic Candidate for Supervisor-At-Large

I hope that this offers some perspective on where the Paoli Transportation Center project stands with our elected officials and an indication from supervisor candidates as to what they would do to help the process, should they be elected.  For those unable to respond by today’s deadline, due to work or vacation schedules, I will be glad to add their comments at a later time. 

Also, it is my understanding that there will be an official update on the Paoli Transportation Center project at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  Looks like  progress and forward movement on the project may be coming this way  . . . .

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