Murph Wysocki

Election 2017: Candidates for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, TESD School Board & Magisterial District Judge, District 15-4-01

The 2017 Election campaign season is officially underway for Tredyffrin Township supervisor, TE School District directors and Magisterial District Judge candidates.

All candidates who wished to appear on the Democratic or Republican ballot in the Primary Election needed to have filed their “nomination petitions” along with a “statement of financial interests” with Chester County Voter Services. The nomination petition documents required the signature of registered voters, who are enrolled in the party of which the candidate sought nomination and reside in the electoral district of the office sought. The statement of financial interests requires the candidate to provide information regarding the filer’s source of income.

Below is the list of our local candidates for supervisor, school board and magisterial district judge – best of luck to all those taking the journey!  Regardless of party affiliation and stance on specific issues, we thank you for your time, effort and willingness to serve!

The last day for withdrawal by candidates who filed nomination petitions is March 22.  The Primary Election date is May 16.

Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors

There are three Tredyffrin Township supervisor positions available – two at-large and one in the middle district.  Currently serving at-large supervisor Mark Freed (D) and middle district supervisor Evelyn Richter (R) have chosen not to seek reelection.  At-large supervisor Murph Wysocki (D) is seeking a second term. Terms are four years.

Three attorneys, a physician, corporate CEO and real estate agent will vie for Tredyffrin Township’s three available supervisor seats.

For Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following candidates:

  • Supervisor at Large: Raffi Terzian, MD
  • Supervisor at Large: Robin Bond, Attorney
  • District 2 (Middle): Beth Coppola, Real Estate Agent

For Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has announced the following candidates: (official endorsement meeting not yet held)

  • Supervisor at Large: Matthew Holt, Attorney
  • Supervisor at Large: Murph Wysocki, Attorney *
  • District 2 (Middle): Kevin O’Nell, CEO, Peoplelinx

* Incumbent

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TE School District School Board

For the 2017 election, there is a change to the election districts in the TE School District. The regional election districts in the TE School District were approved for realignment last year to address changes in population that had resulted in disparity among the voting regions. The new regional election districts take effect with the 2017 voting cycle. Terms on the school board are four years.

Voting Precincts: (Representatives will serve through December 31, 2017.)

Region 1- Tredyffrin E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, M-1, M-5, M-6
Region 2- Tredyffrin  M-2, M-3, M-4, M-7, W-1, W-2, W-3, W-4, W-5
Region 3- Easttown 1-7

Voting Precincts Beginning with the 2017 Election: 

Region 1- Tredyffrin E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, M-1, M-2, M-5, M-6, W-3, W-4,
Region 2- Tredyffrin M-3, M-4, M-7, W-1, W-2, W-5
Region 3- Tredyffrin E-1, Easttown 1-7

The Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following candidate for the office of Tredyffrin-Easttown School Director:

  • Region 2: Doug Anestad, Senior Technology Consultant

The Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has announced the following candidates for the office of Tredyffrin-Easttown School Director: (official endorsement meeting not yet held)

  • Region 1: Scott Dorsey, Pastor, Director of Children’s Services *
  • Region 2: Kyle Boyer, Educator

* Incumbent

Incumbent school board director Scott Dorsey (D) is seeking a second term on the TE School Board. The Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has chosen not to oppose Rev. Dorsey in the Region 1 school board race.

Incumbent school board directors Doug Carlson (R) and Virginia Lastner (R) are seeking reelection for a second term in Region 3.  Carlson currently serves as the President of the TE School Board.

UPDATE: Candidates Tina Whitlow (D) and Heather Ward (D) have filed to run for TE School Board for Region 3.

The Region 2 school board race will be interesting.  Republican Doug Anestad, a computer consultant, attends many of the school district meetings and is an active resident participant – most notably outspoken in his opposition of the VF Middle School fencing project (which the current school board elected to install).  Anestad’s opponent in the school board race is candidate Kyle Boyer (D) who is a currently a TESD social studies teacher at VF Middle School.  I do not recall when we have had a candidate for the TE School Board, who was a current TE School District teacher.  This could prove to be a delicate balance for candidate Boyer – employed as a teacher in the school district where he seeks to serve on its school board.

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Magisterial District Judge, District 15-4-01

Incumbent Analisa Sondergaard (D), an attorney is seeking her second 6-year term for Magisterial District Judge, District 15-4-01.  Opposing Sondergaard is Liz Mercogliano(R), attorney, realtor and RN.

Unlike the school board and supervisor candidates, where only 10 signatures are required on the nomination petitions, the magisterial district judge candidates are required to have 100 signatures. As is the case with school board candidates, those seeking district judge position, can cross-file and appear on both Republican and Democratic ballots.  To appear on both Republican and Democratic ballots, a school board candidate would need to have a minimum of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats signatures and a magisterial district judge candidate would need a minimum of 100 signatures from each political party.

The Fate of Tredyffrin Township’s Covered Wagon Inn spurs discussion by Radnor Commissioners

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If nothing else, the possible demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn is furthering discussion about local historic preservation and municipal protection (or lack thereof) of historic buildings.

The ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ historic preservation issue has not aired publicly in Tredyffrin Township. However, it was good to see that Radnor Township Board of Commissioners used the precarious future of the old inn in Tredyffrin, as an impetus to discuss ways to strengthen their own protection of historic buildings at their meeting this week.

As reported by Linda Stein in Main Line Suburban Life, Radnor Board of Commissioners President Jim Higgins asked local historian Greg Prichard to update the community on the protection of historic buildings in Radnor. One of Prichard’s recommendations for the township was to update the inventory of historic properties — Radnor’s current survey list is over 25 years old.

Interestingly, Tredyffrin Township already accomplished Prichard’s recommended task with their own 2003 Historic Resource Survey, which researched and photographed over 400 historic properties in the township, including the Covered Wagon Inn.

I was on the Tredyffrin Township’s HARB at that time (Tredyffrin no longer has a Historical Architectural Review Board) and it was our intent, at that time, that the 2003 survey would become the basis for a historic preservation ordinance to protect the community’s historic properties. But sadly, without municipal and/or elected official’s support, the historic preservation protection initiative never moved forward in Tredyffrin.

Fast forward to 2016, and local residents who care about protecting the Covered Wagon Inn, find themselves at the mercy of the CVS/Summit developers.The good news is that the developer has shown a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to help save the Covered Wagon Inn.

In discussing the plight of the Covered Wagon Inn, Prichard told the Radnor Commissioners, “The next time an important place is threatened in Radnor, I feel we shouldn’t have to organize big protests and publicity campaigns, when in most other places as special as ours, it’s a matter of policy.”  Following-up on Prichard’s remarks, Solicitor John Rice offered that Radnor could update its zoning ordinance to offer more protection of its historic properties.

Thank you Radnor Board of Commissioners for caring about historic preservation and thank you for having an open dialogue of ways to increase ;protection of historic buildings. We know that all developers will not be as willing as Summit Realty to help save a historic building, especially if there is nothing to prevent their demolition.

Preservationist and retired architect Edward Davis Lewis of Gladwyne penned the following op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week … at a minimum, the fate of the Covered Wagon Inn has people talking.

ISSUE | HISTORIC PRESERVATION

Save the Old Covered Wagon Inn

Bravo for running “Preservationists try to save landmark inn” as a front-page story (Feb. 16). In a toxic, throwaway society, voices of conservation should rightly be front page.

Like so many old taverns, the Old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford, Chester County, is a landmark, a milestone, a stopping place on the turnpike of our shared history. Inns served as meeting places for traders and travelers, post offices, polling places, and employment centers for immigrants. In the age before radio, TV, and the Internet, locals gathered in them to hear news and discuss the issues of the day. They are our national heritage.

If the developers, Summit Realty Advisors, would build next to, instead of in place of, this old inn, they would gain value and give identity to a CVS pharmacy, unlike those in so many anonymous crossroad malls. The tear-down, throwaway mindset needs to be replaced by recycle, reuse, and renew with creative planning.

|Edward Davis Lewis, retired architect and preservationist, Gladwyne

People continue to sign the online petition, ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ — to date, over 4,100 have shown their support. Click here if you would like to add your name.

Support continues to grow on the ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ Facebook page – click here to visit the FB page.

In 1986, the Covered Wagon Inn was saved from demolition — will history repeat itself?

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Timing really is everything!  Over the last couple of weeks, I had been working with Philadelphia Inquirer writer, Michaelle Bond on her Covered Wagon Inn article for the paper.  As often happens in the newspaper world, local stories tend to get pushed back from their initial date of publication. I had just about given up on ever seeing the article, when “Can main line history coexist with a CVS” appeared on the  front page of today’s Philly Inquirer and, as they say in the newspaper world, the story was “above the fold”.

Michaelle did her homework on the article, reaching out to the developer, Summit Realty Advisors, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society and Tredyffrin Township staff. She also spoke with the Greg Caneda, a member of the family who owned the Covered Wagon Inn from 1959 to 1986. Since 1986, the property has been owned by John G. Hoopes of Berwyn.  All parties contacted by Michaelle responded with the exception of Hoopes, who did not respond to her requests for comment.

Hoopes owned Hoopes Realty, one of the Delaware Valley’s largest residential real estate firms for many years. I did a little research on Mr. Hoopes and interestingly thirty years ago, Hoopes had plans to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn. Immediately after  Hoopes purchased the property on the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Old Eagle School Road from the Caneda family, he presented his redevelopment plans for a 9,000 sq. retail building to the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission in January 1986.

Hoopes’ plans called for a new retail building using a mixture of exterior materials, including stone and stucco. One of the walls was to use glass brick and the building was to be topped by a clerestory tower. Hoopes land development plan included the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article dated January 20, 1986, ‘Building Plan Called Junk’, Hoopes proposed plan, which included the demolition of the old Covered Wagon, was called “junk” by several of the township’s planning commissioners.

An interesting read thirty years later, the article states that former Commissioner Robert Rand said to Hoopes, “You’re taking an ‘anywhere USA’ solution to what we think is a unique corner,”

In explaining his desire to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn, Hoopes said, “The building there now is very unfriendly to the public.”  Former Planning Commissioner Chair Oleg Dudkin responded, “What you’re seeing here is a unanimously unfriendly attitude now to what you’ve got!”  He further stated, “There’s an impasse here. That corner is sensitive”.

Thirty years ago, Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commissioners stood up to Hoopes; telling him that he needed to redesign the plan so as not to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn.  Although certainly dissatisfied with the planning commissioners, Hoopes balked at redesigning and did not pursue his 1986 land development plan, The Covered Wagon Inn was allowed to remain for the next thirty years.

As was the case in 1986, and continues to be the case in 2016, there is no historic preservation ordinance to protect the Covered Wagon Inn or any other historic building in Tredyffrin Township. Will our 2016 Tredyffrin Township officials have the same commitment to preserving our local history as those who served thirty years ago?  We may have an answer to that question soon.

On Wednesday morning, I will join the developer, his attorney and engineer, township staff, a planning commissioner and a couple of supervisors for a meeting to discuss the CVS Pharmacy land development project. Here’s hoping that there’s a solution for the fate of the Covered Wagon Inn.

Preserving Tredyffrin: Inside the Covered Wagon Inn Today

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There has been questions about the exact date of the Covered Wagon Inn. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the construction date is attributed to circa 1780. A team of professionals from Preservation Design Partnership in Philadelphia conducted the municipal survey documentation project, which surveyed and documented over 350 historic resources in Tredyffrin Township.

Interestingly in 2004, the Historic Resource Survey was given the Government Award by Preservation Pennsylvania. The project was described as “providing a usable preservation planning tool for a suburban township currently under intense development and redevelopment (in the form of “tear-downs”) pressure.”  The award description went on to say that, “Tredyffrin Township Historic Resources Survey represents a model for the use of technology to document and plan for the management, protection and preservation of historic buildings, sites and districts valued by a municipality.”

The township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey was funded with taxpayer dollars and was intended to aid the municipal officials and staff in the protection of Tredyffrin Township’s resources. The preservation of historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn is a one-way street.  There is no chance to reuse or save the building, once it’s gone.  Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling.  What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder.

Do I have absolute certainty that the construction date of the Covered Wagon Inn is 1780?  The simple answer is no but does that make it less important to save?

Brass plaques on the floor the Covered Wagon Inn marking Delaware County and Chester County.

Covered Wagon Inn fireplace

The Covered Wagon Inn is on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave. This intersection marks the boundaries between Radnor Township in Delaware County and Tredyffrin Township in Chester County.  There has been a story swirling that the Covered Wagon Inn is actually in both Radnor and Tredyffrin townships. The plaques face each other, one labeled Chester County and the other Delaware County. Story is that patrons dining in the old inn would want to sit at the table placed over the plaques and enjoy joking that they were sitting in different counties!

Tredyffrin Township’s township manager Bill Martin and zoning director Matt Baumann confirmed that the Covered Covered Wagon Inn interiorWagon Inn is located completely in Tredyffrin Township. The historic building probably was originally in the two counties but at some point, the property boundaries were realigned.  But it still makes for a great story and the brass plaques which remain on the floor are priceless to local history.

When I visited with the staff of Thos. Moser, the current tenants of the Covered Wagon Inn, I took a number of interior photos of the building’s wonderful interior, including the brass plaques on the floor and the large stone fireplace.

The restored interior space is the perfect backdrop for the fine American handmade furniture of Thos Moser.

If these walls could only talk …

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Carla Zambelli in her Chester County Ramblings blog writes in her recent post about the effort to ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’. Click here to read: For the Love of Community and History

Please sign the Change.org petition to Save the Covered Wagon Inn by clicking: http://tinyurl.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn In 36 hours, over 1,700 signatures.  People from as far as Hawaii, Washington State, Florida, etc. are sharing memories of the Covered Wagon Inn. Please sign and share your memories.

There is a Facebook page, ‘Save the Covered Wagon Inn’ which has over 1,300 ‘likes’.  Please visit the page and support the effort to save the historic building.  http://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn

Save the Covered Wagon Inn … Say No to Demolition of Main Line Landmark!

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In front of Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioners on Thursday night was the Preliminary Land Development application for 625/629 East Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.  Developer Summit Realty Advisors submitted a plan which demolishes the historic 18th century Covered Wagon Inn to construct a new CVS Pharmacy with drive-through and parking.

I attended the Planning Committee meeting and wanted to update on the project. But first as means of full disclosure, when it comes to historic preservation, I am biased. For the last decade I have served as president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, (www.tredyffrinhistory.org) whose mission is to “preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in Tredyffrin Township”, chair the Annual Historic House Tour and own one of the oldest houses in the Tredyffrin Township.

On to the update:  Presenting the redevelopment application on behalf of the developer was real estate attorney Alyson Zarro, real estate attorney with Exton firm Riley Riper Hollin Colegreco. (Interestingly, Zarro’s educational background includes a BA in History and a MA in Preservation Studies in addition to a JD).  Summit’s preliminary redevelopment plan was presented to the Planning Commissioners by project engineer Joel Dellicarpini of Bohler Engineering.

According to Google Maps, the proposed redevelopment site is approx. 1.73 acres (75,358 sq. ft.), a significant redevelopment parcel. (Click here to see the aerial view of the property and note the small building in lower right corner is the Covered Wagon Inn). The historic Covered Wagon Inn is not located in the center of the property but rather its location is at the edge, on the far corner.  A tiny speck on the aerial map, the historic building is only 1200 sq. ft. in size (on the 75,358 sq. ft. parcel).

Delicarpini showed the preliminary architectural drawings for the large CVS pharmacy and its drive-through. Unlike other CVS buildings, this structure would fit its surrounds and the engineer was proud to point out the short stone wall design feature as somehow that would make up for the destruction of the 250-yr. old Covered Wagon Inn.

Following Delicarpini’s presentation, there was much discussion from the Planning Commissioners regarding the project.  Much to my surprise, many of the comments centered on the demolition plans and wasn’t there a different way that would allow the historic building to remain.  The engineer repeatedly stated that they had ‘tried’ in the design phase, but that leaving the Covered Wagon Inn would somehow impede on their ability to have a drive-through!

Once public comments were permitted, I immediately launched into an impassioned plea to the Planning Commissioners to save the old Covered Wagon Inn.  I gave the history of the township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey which was to have been the basis for historic preservation ordinance.  I was on the township’s HARB at that point and involved in the selection of the 350 historic resources that are part of the survey. The vast majority of the resources are personal residences with a handful of commercial buildings – including the Covered Wagon Inn!

In my appeal, I revisited the demolition of the 18th century Ann Pugh

18th c Pugh Road House demolished January 2014

18th c Pugh Road House demolished January 2014

Farmhouse in January 2014. It was my personal hope that its demolition would have spurred local legislation to protect our historic properties.  Sadly, in the intervening two years, nothing has changed and all historic properties continue to remain at risk.  I explained that because Tredyffrin Township has no ordinances to protect its historic properties, there is nothing to prevent Summit Realty Advisors from demolishing the Covered Wagon Inn.

Of the seven Planning Commissioners, it was remarkable to have so many of them understand and appreciate my passion for historic preservation and indicate support the saving of the Covered Wagon Inn.  I want to personally thank four of the Planning Commissioners — Chair Tory Snyder, Vice Chair Bill Rountree, David Biddison and Scott Growney for their support! Snyder, a land use planner, Rountree, a civil engineer and Biddison and Growney , both real estate attorneys, all know that legally the developer ‘has the right’  to demolish the historic building yet each asked that they look for a way to save it.  I know that the Planning Commissioners hands are tied – their decisions have to be based on the existing township zoning ordinances.  Without a historic preservation ordinance on the books, their job is difficult!

Township supervisor Murph Wysocki attended the Planning Commission meeting as the Board of Supervisor liaison.  I have attended many, many Planning Commission meetings over the years and I have never known a sitting supervisor to take the microphone and offer his personal opinion on a land development project, until this meeting.  Wysocki was clear that he was not speaking as a supervisor but rather as resident. As a retired real estate attorney, Wysocki completely understands the ‘rights of the developer’ in this case but he too appealed to Summit Realty Advisors to come up with a way to save the old Covered Wagon Inn.  A former board member on Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and a sponsor of the Annual Historic House Tour, Murph appreciates the importance of historic preservation in this community and I thank him for his support!

The Covered Wagon Inn is a physical link to our past. Yes, we’ve all heard that before.  But it’s not just about saving an old stone building, but about saving the layers and layers of information about our lives and those of our ancestors.  Without that, we’d erase the stories of our past, as if the people came before us never existed.

Historic buildings like the Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford play a special role in creating the distinctive character of our community.  Historic places matter because they help tell the story of who we are and where we come from.  As suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more places look the same, it should be more important to preserve the history that makes this community special.

The Covered Wagon Inn at the corner of Old Eagle School and Lancaster Avenue stands at the crossroads of Radnor Township, Delaware County and Tredyffrin Township, Chester County.  Do we really want the ‘gateway’ to our historic 300 year-old township replaced with a drive-through CVS pharmacy?  Where will it stop?

So what is the next step … where do we go?  There were a number of Summit Realty engineers, staff and legal counsel in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting.  They heard the Planning Commissioners, a supervisor, myself as president of a historic preservation organization and several other community members appeal to the developer to come up with a plan that would save the Covered Wagon Inn.  Time will tell to see if they got the message.

Because there is no historic preservation ordinance opposing the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn, it may take public input to persuade the developers.  I will be sending the link to this post (and the last post with its many comments) to the president of Summit Realty Advisors, John Zaharck as well as the project engineers and legal counsel. In addition the links will go to the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, Township Manager Bill Martin, Planning Commissioners and PA State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157).

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What can you do to Help Save the Covered Wagon Inn –

A Facebook page, ‘Save Covered Wagon Inn’ was set up at: https://www.facebook.com/SaveCoveredWagonInn  Created less than 24 hours ago and there are over 430 Likes.  Please join the growing list of supporters.

Continue to leave your comments here on Community Matters. Not everyone is on Facebook and because I am sending the link to this post to our elected officials and developer contacts, they will your comments here.

Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Approve Wayne Glen’s Conditional Use application, 5-2

Wayne Glenn aerial map

Wayne Glen, NW corner of Swedesford & Old Eagle School Rds.

Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors approved the Conditional Use application for the Wayne Glen project by a vote of 5-2 at the special Board of Supervisors meeting last night.  The proposed mixed-use development of townhomes and carriage homes plus a commercial office development is located on the Northwest corner of the intersection of Swedesford and Old Eagle School Roads in the Glenhardie section of Tredyffrin Township.

Wayne Glen’s developer Arcadia Tredyffrin LLC will be the first developer in Tredyffrin Township to utilize the Trout Creek Overlay District zoning which requires increased stormwater management and flood control in the flood-prone Trout Creek area.  The plan is for 108 residential units and a 240,000 sq. ft. office building.

Arcadia filed its application in April 2013 and many, many meetings have taken place in the intervening two plus years – with the Planning Commission, Glenhardie citizens and homeowner groups, residents, supervisors, township staff, experts, etc.  The township held seven public hearings regarding the proposed project in 2015, where citizens with standing, and experts for the township and developer, provided testimony.

Based on the testimony received by residents and experts, the conditional use permit required additional conditions beyond those imposed by the township’s Planning Commission. Many of the concerns raised by residents during the process were addressed in the compromise contained in the approval of the conditional use application, including the increased minimum road width of 24 ft. from 20 ft.

Knowing that you can never “please all the people, all the time”, there were a couple of Glenhardie residents, Jacqueline and Richard Kunin, who expressed their displeasure at the supervisor’s vote to approve the conditional use.  The Kunin’s have passionately stated their opposition to Wayne Glen throughout the process, claiming that the stormwater and sink hole issues are not adequately addressed by the developer’s plan. They have also continued to cite concern that the proposed project may be located on a sacred burial ground of Revolutionary War soldiers and Indians.

The vote of 5-2 by the Board of Supervisors to approve Arcadia’s conditional use application came down along political party lines – the five Republicans (Mike Heaberg, Kristen Mayock, EJ Richter, Paul Olson and JD DiBuonaventuro  all voted in favor of the conditional use application and the two Democrats (Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed) voted against the application.  Both Wysocki and Freed delivered lengthy remarks as to why they could not support the project. Wysocki used the words “unsuitable”, “unsound”, “unsound” and “unsafe” in describing the Wayne Glen project and Freed claimed that Wayne Glen was “ill-advised” and that the property was “not suitable” for this type of development.

According to Arcadia’s website, the developer states, “With cutting edge techniques for integrating stormwater management and urban design, Wayne Glen will alleviate existing problems with streambank erosion, poor water quality, and flooding.”

The next step in the Wayne Glen project is for Arcadia to submit their land development plan to the Planning Commission.

Tredyffrin BOS discusses Town Center zoning changes and TESD finances discussed

As is often the case, last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting conflicted with the Finance Committee meeting of the School District.  I attended the Supervisors meeting as I was particularly interested in hearing about any Chesterbrook Village Center updates.

Prior to the regular BOS meeting, the supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed amendment changes to the Town Center zoning ordinance which would affect the redevelopment of Chesterbrook.  The 122,216 square foot shopping center lost its anchor store, Genuadi’s supermarket in August 2010.   With the departure of the 40,000 square foot grocery store, the Center saw a significant drop in foot traffic and began a downward spiral as the empty storefronts continued. The shopping center was sold at a receiver’s sale November 1 for $8.9 million to 500 Chesterbrook Boulevard, LP.  As someone who lives in the western part of the township, I regularly use travel through Chesterbrook and I look forward to seeing its redevelopment.

Lou Colagreco, attorney for the shopping center owner, offered eight suggested changes to the township’s Town Center zoning ordinance.  After much discussion from the supervisors and with opinion offered from audience members, there were a couple of sticking points that could not be satisfied.

Colagreco sought to decrease the parking requirement from 2.5 parking spaces to 2.25 parking spaces per townhouse, citing various national surveys and local development trends.  Although Colagreco offered neighboring municipalities have decreased their parking requirements, he found little support for this change from the supervisors and definitely not from the residents, many of which live in Chesterbrook. He also hoped to change the stormwater requirements and exclude decks as part of impervious coverage requirement.  Because of the severity of stormwater issues in the township, lessening this requirement also did not meet with a favorable response, particularly since these changes would affect the entire township, not just Chesterbrook.  After a couple of hours of discussion, the supervisors decided to send the suggested Town Center zoning ordinance changes back to the Planning Commission for further review and revisions rather than approving.

I am anxious for the redevelopment of Chesterbrook and look forward to seeing  the preliminary draft of the plan when it is available. The Town Center ordinance combines commercial and residential usage. Last night marked the last official supervisor meeting for supervisors Michelle Kichline and Phil Donohue; we thank them their commitment to the community and their public service during the last four years.  On Monday, January 6, Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed will be sworn in and join the Board of Supervisors.

Ray Clarke attended the TESD Finance Committee meeting and I thank him for providing his notes from the meeting.  I note that the school board is resurrecting the Public Information Committee which is great news.  If you recall, Debbie Bookstaber chaired this committee but after she left the school board, the committee was disbanded.  At that time, Betsy Fadem stated the committee was not necessary, as each existing committee would provide their own public communications.  But as we have seen during the last year, communication could be improved and I am grateful that Scott Dorsey is taking over this role to chair the committee.  Ray also mentions that the Board intends to have public discussion on the Affordable Care Act and its requirements.  The aides, paras and substitute teachers received a reprieve on this TESD jobs for one-year that runs until June 2014. To meet the ACA requirements will require the school district to offer affordable health insurance to all employees so this discussion should start soon rather than later on this topic.

Here are Ray’s notes:

A note before getting to the meat of last night’s TESD Finance Committee – some encouraging signs on the communications front.  The Public Information Committee has been resurrected, now under Scott Dorsey’s leadership.  The FC meeting was structured to facilitate community input (although the competing Township event limited participants).  And the Committee took steps to add back historical context to the monthly financial statements, so our analysis should become easier.  Time will tell on all of the above, but the intent seems real.

1.  2013/14 Forecast.  The budgeted $1.7 million deficit is now projected to turn into a break-even (including the one-time TEEA bonus).  This is driven by the $0.65 million benefit from the Vanguard settlement, a $1.4 million favorable variance in salaries (factoring in all retirements, resignations, leaves), a $0.2 million reduction in salary-driven benefits, a $0.2 million savings in transportation, offset by (non-salary) special education expenses that are $0.85 million over budget.  So, yet again, the budget under-estimated the salary “breakage”.  The special ed development is perhaps more of a surprise and although it wasn’t clear, seems to be made up of outside tuition and legal costs driven by an unexpected influx from early intervention programs.  That seems like an especially large variance given a total special education budget of $16 million.

2.  Preliminary 2014/14 budget.  The FC voted to approve for discussion at the January 6th Board meeting a draft that calls for a 3.2% property tax increase: the 2.1% Index and 1.1% PSERS exception.  This looks to me like a budget with enough leeway to absorb costs of a TEEA agreement and AHA solution, both of which are left as “status quo” in the first pass.  The ~$3 million expense increase is a result of a $1 million net PSERS increase, and a $2 million increase in “other” expenditures.  The breakdown of the “other” number was not quantified, although Special Ed and Maintenance cost increases were cited.  Interestingly healthcare costs are expected to be flat.  The salary line is level also, but results from a number of puts and takes: absence of the $1 million plus bonus and savings from the new TENIG agreement, offset (completely?) by nine additional teachers, six due to enrollment, two due to special ed, one for mental health.  No sign of the (in) famous breakage in this calculation, though!

My take-away:

1.  The Board needs to be persistent in seeking a full accounting of the projections, as the high level numbers net out and obscure many different trends (more detail was requested).  Also, it’s too easy, as was done last night, to place the blame on Harrisburg/PSERS, when in fact that’s only one third of the expense increase.  Everyone last night quickly accepted that all cost savings opportunities have been implemented after the efforts of recent years.  It may be helpful to the community to recap what possible next steps would be (eg are we really down to major and unlikely options like class size, arts programs, transportation, facilities capital spending**, etc., and what would be the magnitude for those?).  [**Capital spending is paid for by tax payers, too].

2.  The size of the Special Education program in total, the “miss” this year and continuing above-index increases are clearly a budget concern.  The district has taken steps to control costs, but those are being overwhelmed.  I think it would be helpful to the community to have an exposition of the program, perhaps at an Education Committee meeting?  A description of the services offered, the utilization and price trends, steps we have taken and plan to take, comparison with other districts and so on.

3.  There is no sign yet of any increase in the real estate assessed base value, which is budgeted flat, but signs of development suggest that any change will be to the upside.  On the other hand, residential development will increase enrollment, and as Dr Motel is quick to remind us, that’s a net negative for the school district.  So the pressure on real estate taxes to increase above the rate of inflation will continue.  (Although PSERS will be more or less leveled out by 2018/19, even with the just-released slight increase in planned contribution rates).  I continue to believe that it makes sense to share the tax burden between property and income via an EIT, although of course implementation would be a huge problem.

4.  The community needs to pay attention, starting with the January 6th Board meeting.  Although the budget evolves as more data comes in, and exceptions advertised may not be requested or indeed taken, early numbers have a way of being sticky.

A final note: President Buraks informed us that the district is putting together a full analysis of the options associated with the requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act.  This would be presented for community discussion rather than as a Board recommendation.  The idea seems to be to do this soon, although no specific timing was given.

State Rep Warren Kampf takes on TTDEMS Chair Dariel Jamieson for lying about him … again!

Below is an excerpt from an op-ed written by State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157).  In the article, Kampf is calling for an end to uncivil discourse.  He uses a couple of examples in his editorial of uncivil speech, including Dariel Jamieson’s recent letters to the editors.  It is not Jamieson’s right to voice her opinion concerning Kampf’s vote on the transportation bill that is the issue but rather her lying about a political pledge she states that Kampf took.  As I said in my last post, Jamieson compounded the difficult situation by writing a second letter to the editor and not taking responsibility for her incorrect accusations contained in her first letter. Civil discourse means to engage in conversation intended to enhance understanding – personal attacks and lies are wrong and diminish the value of the argument.

In his latest op-ed, Kampf does not say Jamieson’s actions were politically motivated.  However, when you write an editorial attacking a Republican elected official and sign the letter as chair of the local Democratic Committee (as Jamieson did), it is not a stretch to come to that conclusion.  For those keeping score – Dariel Jamieson has now written two editorials attacking Warren Kampf in the last couple of weeks and Kampf’s op-ed marks his second response back to her.  Here’s hoping that Jamieson does not feel compelled to write a third letter to the editor on the same topic!

Beyond the uncivil discourse created by Jamieson’s letters, I remain troubled that her actions as the political party chair are putting Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed, the newly elected Democratic Tredyffrin Township supervisors, in an awkward position less than a month before they take office.  Wysocki and Freed will join five Republican supervisors on the Board and this ‘war of words’ from Jamieson going on in the background cannot be helpful to them.  I will not believe that Jamieson sought counsel with either Wysocki or Freed before engaging in this discourse against Kampf – if she had, it is extremely doubtful that they would have approved either of these letters.

When you accept the role of president or chair of an organization, and act publically in that capacity, you need to ensure that your voice is representative of those that you are elected to serve – are Jamieson’s letters to the editor representative of TTDEMS members opinions?  I hope not.

In closing, I echo Kampf’s words,” … every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse …”   Below is the excerpt from Kampf’s Op-Ed, to read the entire article, click here.

It’s Time to End Uncivil Discourse

As State Representative, I am accustomed to hearing from constituents as they present their views and positions on issues being addressed in Harrisburg and here at home.  Some agree with me.  Some do not.  But, mostly, all make their points in a manner that is respectful and fair.   I work hard to do the same in answering their concerns.  It’s called civil discourse, and it is one of the foundations of our representative democracy.

Unfortunately over the past few months – as we have seen arguments over government shutdowns in Washington, D.C., differences surrounding the recently enacted Transportation Funding package in Harrisburg, and now the passionate feelings over eminent domain issues in Phoenixville – it has become clear that too many have abandoned civil discourse in favor of uncivil speech and actions.

This speech and these actions do us no good.  It forces people, who are otherwise normally reasonable, to abandon the idea of achieving pragmatic progress.  It forces gridlock.  It stops us from addressing truly important issues.

During the debate over the Transportation Funding package, I was accused in a Letter to the Editor of choosing my position based on a political pledge to a Washington, DC special interest group.  The problem?  I had never taken any such pledge (something that was easily verifiable with a simple internet search) and I had made it known publicly that my position came from surveying the people I represent.  My attacker, however, had no problem simply submitting a lie to the newspaper.  That’s uncivil discourse.

I give my attacker respect for her position on the issue and her passion over it.  I believe, however, her point could have been made in a way that was more respectful to both the public and me.  Had she made her point this way, I believe it may also have been more effective for those she wished to persuade. . . .

Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that citizens abandon making their voice heard, be it in favor or opposition to an issue.  As the saying goes, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I am just suggesting that all of us – every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse again.   In this way, we can find our way to truly addressing issues rather than just fighting about them.  That is a simple goal we should all strive to achieve if we truly care about making our community stronger.”

Rather than partisan mudslinging, can we come together and move the Paoli Transit Center project and the economic redevelopment of Paoli forward?

The passage of the $2.4 billion transportation bill which will provide new funding for the state’s roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems over the next five years, and the subsequent $14.5 million award earmarked for the Paoli Transit Center, brought excitement and renewed hope for Paoli. In discussion for 30 years, the train station project has languished with little movement and the new transportation funding, including multi-million dollar award for Paoli Transit Center, could be the needed catalyst. The economic redevelopment of Lancaster Avenue through Paoli hinges on building the Paoli Transit Center – its time is now. Paoli deserves a new beginning.

The release of Chester County Planning Commission’s 2013 Transportation Priority Projects report occurred prior to the House vote on the transportation bill although I did not see it until afterwards.  The report lists Paoli Transit Center as a transportation priority and includes a current photo of Paoli train station serves as the report’s cover. There is no question that the recent release of the Chester County report was a significant factor in the $14.5 million funding award for Paoli.

In addition to the county’s Planning Commission prioritizing Paoli Transit Center, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) continues to strongly support the project.  DVRPC adopts the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), the regionally agreed upon list of priority transportation projects (as required by federal law) and its recommendations. TIP’s 2013-2016 project list includes the Paoli Transit Center as a priority.

As residents in this community, we are aware of the importance of the municipal government and school district receiving Moody’s Aaa bond rating. Moody’s ratings scale range from Aaa (highly unlikely to default) to D (in default).  To receive the highest rating, requires very strong financial operations, ample reserves and strong management policies. In fact, candidates seeking office often promote maintaining our Aaa bond rating on political campaign literature.  So … it was interesting to read that we can add Moody’s Investors Service (www.moodys.com) to the list of those pleased with Pennsylvania’s transportation funding bill, calling it “a credit positive for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.  Moody’s also gave the bill a credit positive because it phases out the annual funding burden that the prior transportation bill (Act 44) created for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

There is strong support for the Paoli Transit Center including Tredyffrin Township (Paoli on the Move), Chester County Planning Commission, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Transportation Improvement Program, SEPTA, Paoli Business and Professional Association, local business community, elected officials and many residents.

However, initial excitement about the transportation bill and multi-million award for the Paoli Transit Center, has been marred by some finger-pointing and local political wrangling.  In advance of the final House vote on the transportation bill, a letter to the editor by Darien Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Democrats, appeared in the Main Line Suburban.  In her letter, Jamieson criticized State Representative Warren Kampf (R-157) for his lack of support for the proposed transportation bill.  Unfortunately, Jamieson took her criticism of Kampf too far, making an inaccurate and unsubstantiated claim.  Jamieson’s letter ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ stated that Kampf took the Grover Norquist “No Tax” pledge. Her statement was not substantiated and the claim was incorrect.

In his response to Jamieson (which also appeared in the Suburban), Kampf refuted her claims, stating, “I have never taken a “no tax increase” pledge with any group, including any in Washington, D.C., as Ms. Jamieson claims. I would challenge her to offer proof for this claim or admit it is 100% a fabrication”.   A couple of days later, the transportation bill passed (without Rep. Kampf’s vote) and the subsequent announcement made about the $14.5 million award for the Paoli Transit Center.

This week Main Line Suburban contains another letter to the editor written by Jamieson. Writing as the chair of the Tredyffrin Township Demoratic Committee, I assumed that the purpose of Jamieson’s latest letter was to offer a public apology to Rep. Kampf for her previous unsupported accusations.  But no, there was no apology or retraction from Jamieson to Kampf in her letter, ‘Warren Kampf: Watch what he does – not what he says’ .

As a supporter of the Paoli Transit Center and the redevelopment of Paoli, I too questioned Kampf’s lack of support for the transportation bill and did not agree with his position.  However, it was wrong of Jamieson to ‘make facts up’ to strengthen her case against Kampf.  The situation made worse by the fact that Jamieson had the opportunity to apologize to Kampf  and retract her accusations and chose not to.

I’m not certain from where Jamieson is taking her cues but I would think that following the local Democrats impressive election wins last month, she would take a low profile. With two newly elected Democrats (Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed) joining Tredyffrin’s historically Republican Board of Supervisors, it would not appear helpful to have their party chair immersed in a ‘war of words’ with our local state representative.  To be successful in their new supervisor roles, requires Wysocki and Freed to leave their political party ‘hats’ at the door and prepare to work hard for all the residents – Republicans, Independents and Democrats. That same sentiment goes for the Republican supervisors.

The transportation bill passed and the community received good news for the Paoli Transit Center – rather than continuing the partisan bickering that only serves to divide, can we come together and move the train station project and the economic redevelopment of Paoli forward.

Election 2013 Results: Surprises for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors & T/E School Board!

The 2013 Election Day results are in and there are some changes for the Board of Supervisors in Tredyffrin Township and the T/E School Board.  National politics and the Tea Party movement certainly appear to have influenced the outcome in some of our local races.

In a surprising upset, two Democratic at-large candidates Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed, beat incumbent Michelle Kichline (R) who currently serves as the chair of the Board of Supervisors and Trip Lukens (R), chair of the township’s Planning Commission.    In the middle District supervisor race, EJ Richter (R) beat Laurie Elliot (D).  Prior to this election, only 2 Democrats (Paul Drucker and Mark DiFeliciantonio) have ever served on Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.  As of Election Day 2013, that number has now doubled.

For the T/E School Board, incumbent school board president Kevin Buraks (D) won his race against opponent Pete Connors (R).  However, incumbent Rich Brake (R) lost his seat on the school board to Democratic candidate Scott Dorsey.  Election results indicate that Republicans Virginia Lastner and Doug Carlson will join the school board from Easttown Township.

Thank you to all the candidates and congratulations to those who won!

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