Planning Commission

What does historic preservation, an assisted living facility and a high school parking lot have in common? Answer: Tredyffrin Twp Planning Commission Meeting, Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 PM

There should be a standing room only audience for the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission meeting (Click here for agenda) on Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 PM at 1100 Duportail Road, Berwyn. For those that do not typically attend these meetings, I suggest that you come prepared to “stay awhile”!

First up on the agenda is the historic resource amendment. The township has over 800 historic buildings and this ordinance is to protect (from demolition) the 70 most critical historic structures.  The 70 township structures on the list are either on the National Historic Register or are deemed eligible. Putting my historic preservation “hat” on as president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, chair of the annual historic house tour and owner of one of the 70 historic properties on the list, this ordinance has been a long time coming. Members of the township’s Historic Commission and the Trust are in full support of this ordinance and look forward to a recommendation from the Planning Commission. The proposed historic preservation ordinance will next go to the December Board of Supervisors meeting.

Next on the agenda is the final land development application for Solera Senior Living, the proposed assisted living facility on Russell Road in Paoli. You may recall a few years back; C-1 zoning in the township was updated to include multi-family and assisted living facilities. As a result, the Daylesford Crossing assisted living facility was built as a permitted use in C-1, with many neighbors opposing. However, Daylesford Crossing is located on Lancaster Avenue, not on a narrow residential street like Russell Road.  The Russell Road applicant plans to demolish two office buildings, consolidate three separate parcels and construct a 3-story 116 unit assisted living facility.

There is increased discussion about reviewing the permitted uses of C-1 zoning. However, it should be noted that any future zoning changes to C-1 will not impact the Solera project, already in progress. In addition, there are some in the community who feel that the Board of Supervisors should retain final land development approval not the Planning Commissioners who are appointed, not elected.  At this time the planning commissioners will have final approval on the proposed Russell Road assisted living project.

TE School District’s $40 million high school expansion and parking lot plan is back in front of the Planning Commission. At the Zoning Hearing Board meeting tonight (Wednesday, 7 PM at township building) the District will seek an amendment to its appeal to reduce the number of proposed parking spaces from 128 to 94 (270 parking spaces are required).

The District is seeking preliminary/final land development approval to build a 40,500 sq. ft. two-story addition to the existing 215,900 sq. ft. high school. In addition, a new surface parking lot with 94 spaces (presuming it is granted by the Zoning Hearing Board).  It is the proposed parking lot on Irish Road and the possible unintended consequences that are of concern to many of the neighbors. In addition to the removal of many mature trees, questions/concerns about the parking facility range are wide-ranging including storm water, increased traffic, safety, lighting, etc. etc.

Adding to another layer of complication to the proposed project, is the very recent decision by the school board to take the 13 acre Doyle-McDonnell nursery site by eminent domain. There are some in the community (including myself) who feel that the pause button should be put on the proposed $40 million high school expansion plan and parking lot. I understand the demographics and increasing student enrollment plus the perceived additional cost (?) to slow down and review but still … there could be additional opportunities for the high school expansion plan with the purchase of the adjacent nursery property (and this is a $40 million taxpayer-funded project!)

I am of the opinion that to push forward with the parking lot and the high school expansion without a thorough review of alternatives (in light of the eminent domain purchase of 13 adjacent acres) is short-sighted. This planned parking lot on Irish Road is going to have a detrimental impact to the neighbors – in an area already greatly affected by stormwater issues.

All residents should be encouraged to attend the Planning Commission meeting – find out firsthand what is planned for the community – this is your tax dollars.  All Voices Matter!

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Developers propose demolition of 18th century Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford

Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission has a full agenda for their first meeting of 2016 tonight (7 PM, Tredyffrin Township building). The list of Items include a preliminary/final development application for the redevelopment and expansion of the long vacant Paoli Diner (Dany’s Diner, Pizzeria Uno) property as a Nemours medical office.

Developers will present a subdivision application to consolidate four lots on East Conestoga Road in Wayne to create one new parcel. The proposed land development plan on the property is the construction of Brightview Senior Living, a five-story building with 156 beds.  The four properties (293, 301, 309 and 319) are located behind Toppers Spa, across from Nudy’s Restaurant.  That section of East Conestoga Ave. angling off of Lancaster Ave. is narrow, congested and difficult to maneuver – this proposed plan is going to need road improvement/driver visibility requirements.

The last item in front of the Planning Commissioners tonight has personal interest – a land development application to demolish a building a construct a CVS Pharmacy and drive-thru.   Summit Realty Advisors will present a plan for the 1-1/2 acre property located at 625/629 East Lancaster Ave. in Wayne.  This property is located on the corner of Old Eagle School Road and Lancaster Ave – the Paddock Restaurant (previously John Harvards Brew House) property.

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I have no issue with the redevelopment of this property, including the demolition of the ‘new addition’ located at 629 Lancaster, which housed the Paddock Restaurant. But … I have a real problem with demolition of 625 East Lancaster Ave, the historic building that currently houses Thos. Moser Furniture. According to Tredyffrin Township’s 2003 Historic Resource Survey, the building was built about 1780 as a private resident. John Palmer owned a farm which included this structure in 1873, indicated on the 1881 atlas map.  The structure was enlarged during the 20th century and was known as the Covered Wagon Inn.  Well-known on the Main Line for fine dining and dancing, in its heyday the Covered Wagon Inn featured big name bands and performing artists such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington and their orchestras.

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Last fall, I had a discussion with a township planning commissioner about this property and the possible redevelopment project.  At the time, I stated that I could support the redevelopment (At that point, I did not know the specifics of a CVS drive-through plan) of the property with if the historic building was saved and incorporated into the project.

I stopped by Thos. Moser, showroom for the handmade American furniture company and current tenant of the historic building. The building is beautifully restored and maintained, making it the perfect backdrop for Thos. Moser furniture!

The landlord has told the staff that the property is in the process of redevelopment and that they should look to relocate. Their lease is up in September. The interesting part of the conversation was that the Thos. Moser staff told that because the building was ‘historic, it was protected’. Unfortunately, in Tredyffrin Township, we know that our historic buildings are not protected.  Although I explained that a demolition application for the building was in front of the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioners tonight, it was clear that that they didn’t think it possible!

AmblerBoilerHouse (1)

                         Adaptive Reuse of 19th c. Ambler Boiler House

In a review of the Summit Realty Advisors website, there are many, many CVS Pharmacy development projects, including a similar current project in Media. However, in the midst of their drug store building portfolio, I discovered a very special project by John Zaharchuk, owner/developer with Summit Realty Advisors.  Zaharchuk oversaw the redevelopment of Ambler Boiler House, the 19th century power plant of an abandoned asbestos factory. Working with historic architectural firm, Heckendorn-Shiles (a former historic house tour sponsor) of Wayne, the project redesigned the circa 1897 brick building, preserving its architectural integrity and recycled it into a clean-and-green office development.

Mr. Zarachuk, your adaptive reuse of a landmark industrial building as a unique and distinctive office space was a stunning achievement for historic redevelopment in the Ambler community!  As you did with Ambler Boiler House, could you use your vision to save the 250 year-old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford.  Please say no to its demolition.

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Sidewalks coming (finally) to St. Davids Golf Club!

Mark your calendars!

The “long and winding” sidewalk saga at St. Davids Golf Club is finally coming to an end.  After more years than I care to remember, the infamous ‘sidewalk to nowhere’, as coined by some, is finally going to happen.  At the end of tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  Tredyffrin Township engineer Steve Burgo, announced that as of this afternoon, the project is moving forward.  According to Burgo, St. Davids has hired a contractor and  the sidewalk (path)  installation work will start next week, on Wednesday, February 20th.

A process has a beginning, middle and an end. This path was included in a land development agreement between St. Davids and Tredyffrin Township signed many years ago.  I did a search on Community Matters to see how long ago I wrote my first post on the St. Davids sidewalks topic — for the record, my first post written on this subject was November 15, 2009.

The St. Davids sidewalk saga actually got its start 8+ years ago, in November 2004, when representatives for the country club made a presentation to the township’s Planning Commission that included a sketch plan of their proposed new country club addition.  Ultimately the sidewalks became a Planning Commission requirement in that land development agreement. During the intervening years since 2004, St. Davids completed their addition and in August, 2005, $25K was escrowed for the sidewalk component of the project. In July 2006, St. Davids was given a 2-year construction timeline to build the 4-ft. wide asphalt ‘path’ and until recently, the project never advanced past that point.

I recently learned from a former St. Davids board member, that the club had the cost of building the sidewalk in their budget all along, and was committed to building the sidewalk — simply stated, they were waiting for the township to tell them to build it. Wow.  At this point, I don’t care who is responsible for the lengthy delay; I’m just thrilled that the ‘end’ of this process is finally coming next week.

Of course, the only caveat to the ‘shovel going in the ground’ next week, on February 20th is possible interference from Old Man Winter. But always the optimist,  I’m counting on Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction earlier this month,indicating an early Spring, which will allow St. Davids to complete their land development agreement with Tredyffrin Township

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What is the Price Tag for Economic Development in Tredyffrin Township?

What is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?  Is it economic development at any cost; or is the answer to the question … whatever it takes.

Is it OK to ‘green light’ a land development project in Tredyffrin Township even if it doesn’t meet current zoning regulations?  Is it OK to change zoning usage to suit a particular developer (and his plan) simply for the sake of economic development?  Is it OK to change zoning to accommodate a specific project and developer … and by so doing, change zoning for the entire township? Is it OK to have developers and their attorneys create zoning ordinance amendment changes to Tredyffrin Zoning Code … to suit their particular needs?

I’m talking about the old Duffy Catering site on Lancaster Ave. and the proposed assisted living facility. No land development plan has been ‘officially’ filed with the township, yet there are some appointed and elected officials who seemingly already have the facility built! Facts and the required process seemed to have been discarded in favor of what ‘some’ officials believe should be the desired outcome. In this case, that means change zoning to allow a developer to construct a multi-story assisted living facility on barely 1 acre of commercial property when current zoning only permits such use on 10 acres as an institutional overlay.

At first blush, a resident might think that building an assisted living facility on the old Duffy property on Route 30 is a good idea. Before knowing all the facts, I probably would have agreed that this sounds like a good use for the property.   I’m not opposed to an assisted living facility in Tredyffrin Township and …, as long as an open and transparent process is followed, all questions are answered and no rules are changed or broken, such a project could have my complete support.

But unfortunately, that is not looking like the path that is being taken for this project.  The Duffy property is a 2-acre site, with approximately 1-acre C-1 zoning and 1-acre R-1 zoning.  (The R-1 parcel of the property was used by Duffy’s for parking).  Current zoning does not permit an assisted living facility in C-1 or R-1 in Tredyffrin Township.  Rather than taking the traditional path seeking either a variance or conditional use, the developer Ed Morris, through his attorney Denise Yarnoff have submitted a C-1 zoning ordinance amendment change, to allow assisted living as usage. (As I have previously stated on Community Matters, Planning Commission meeting minutes indicate that Yarnoff thought that seeking a variance would be too costly and too time-consuming for her client.)

The Tredyffrin Zoning Code addresses assisted living facilities in Institutional Overlay (IO) Zoning and includes 4 pages of restrictions and regulations, including residential density, bed density, acre requirements, buffers, setbacks, etc. Ms. Yarnoff reduces the pages of assisted living facility regulations in Tredyffrin Zoning Code to 1 sentence in her requested zoning ordinance amendment as follows:

“A residential care facility for older persons providing permanent residential accommodations and/or assisted living facilities/services (and supplemental services) as defined in the applicable Pennsylvania state statues, rules and regulations along with support services, which may include, but not limited to: personal health care and health care services, medical services, skilled nursing, community facilities, and congregate dining facilities”

I need to be very clear … this requested zoning ordinance amendment change is for all C-1 zoned property in Tredyffrin Township.  The developer and some of our local officials would like to have it both ways.  On one side, they refuse to admit that this requested zoning amendment change permitting assisted living facilities as a usage in C-1 zoning is ‘spot zoning’.  But on the other hand, they would have us believe that there would be no plans for assisted living facilities in any other C-1 locations.  Sorry, but I don’t think they can have it both ways.

For the record, ‘spot zoning’ as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

: the illegal singling out of a small parcel of land within the limits of an area zoned for particular uses and permitting other uses for that parcel for the special benefit of its owners and to the detriment of the other owners in the area and not as a part of a scheme to benefit the entire area.

I would love for someone to explain to me how changing zoning to suit a specific developer and his plan is not ‘spot zoning’ … looks to me like the Duffy assisted living project fits Webster’s definition!

The draft plan for this assisted living facility indicates a bed density of 93 beds on 1 acre.  It is my understanding that this level of proposed 1-acre residential density for the Duffy property does not exist anywhere else in all of Chester County!  It is also interesting to note, that changing C-1 to permit an assisted living facility usage also has not occurred in Chester County.   Commercial zoning is for the regulations of goods and services not people; which is why assisted living facilities would typically be found in residential zoning code not in commercial zoning code.

Here’s something else — when Duffy’s was an operational catering business, the R-1 parking (non-conforming use of land for parking) was utilized.  The developer’s plan for an assisted living facility on this site assumes the continued use of R-1 parking; a belief that this non-conforming parking use would be grandfathered in and therefore available for use in the proposed assisted living facility.  A review of the Tredyffrin Zoning Code would indicate otherwise – see below:

ARTICLE XXIV

General Provisions

§208-99. Nonconforming buildings or uses.

Zoning, Chapter 208, page 108

D. Restoration. Building reconstruction to restore a building containing a nonconforming use shall commence within one year of the date the building was destroyed or condemned and shall be carried on without interruption.

[Amended 9-10-2007 by Ord. No. HR-360]

E. Discontinuance. If a nonconforming use of land or of a building ceases or is discontinued for a continuous period of one (1) year or more, subsequent use of such building or land shall be in conformity with the provisions of this chapter.

The Duffy property has sat vacant (and for sale) for at least 4 years, which means (according to Tredyffrin Zoning Code above) that the developer for this proposed assisted living facility cannot use the R-1 parcel for parking in his plan. Clearly exceeding the discontinued use of 1 year per the Tredyffrin Zoning Code, no grandfathering on the R-1 parking is permitted.  We can add this to the list that makes this proposed assisted living facility at this particular location problematic.  Or, is it possible that our elected officials may just ignore the township’s Zoning Code to accommodate the project?

We should not forget that two months ago, our supervisors voted to spend $100,000 for consultants to review the township’s existing commercial zoning and make recommendations.  If the township is spending $100K for professional zoning advice, it would seem that there should be a moratorium on any zoning changes until the zoning expert has an opportunity review and weigh in.  My guess is that setting precedent by changing C-1 zoning to include assisted living facilities without any regulations or restrictions would not be something that most zoning experts would think is a good idea.  If an assisted living facility as a usage in C-1 zoning is so important, why wasn’t it included in the update of the township’s comprehensive plan completed just 3 years ago, in 2009?

Why is there such a sense of fait accompli among some of the appointed and elected officials in this township in regards to this project?   The proposed assisted living project may have started out as a ‘not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) zoning battle between a Daylesford homeowner and a developer but now has many of us in the community asking questions.  Perhaps originally only concerned for her backyard, Trisha Larkin, the Daylesford Neighborhood Association president is now taking a stand for her neighborhood and for the township.

Voicing strong opposition for the requested C-1 zoning change and the proposed assisted living facility, Trish states, “The DNA favors economic development where solid process is followed, and when it serves for the greater good of its residents.  This proposal favors the developer and NOT our community or Tredyffrin Twp.!”

An online ipetition has been created to “Oppose Ordinance Amendment adding Assisted Living Facility use in Commercial (C-1) Zoning in Tredyffrin Township”.   Changing C-1 zoning to include assisted living is not just a Daylesford neighborhood issue; it is a township wide change.  If you would like to add your name to the petition, click here.

For some of the appointed and elected officials in this township, the requested C-1 zoning change to permit assisted living facilities may be a fait accompli, but for some residents, that decision may be far from over.

Again, I ask … what is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?

 

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It’s Official — St. Davids Golf Club to Build Sidewalks

It is hard to believe but it looks like the St. Davids sidewalk saga that has plagued the township for years is about to end.  The open land development agreement with St. Davids Golf Club for their new clubhouse goes back at least 6 years.  As part of St. Davids contract with the township, the project was to include sidewalks.  Although the clubhouse was completed several years ago, the sidewalk remained outstanding.

As anyone knows who has lived in the township for the last couple of years, the sidewalks at St. Davids has been a seemingly endless tale including the threat of a lawsuit by a resident, a special Sidewalk Subcommittee, a new sidewalks ordinance, and on and on.  Last night at the Board of Supervisors meeting came the announcement from supervisor Mike Heaberg that St. Davids Golf Club has officially notified the township that they will build the sidewalks, thus completing their land development agreement.  The start date was given as March-April.

Regardless of whether you believe the sidewalks at St. Davids are the ‘sidewalk to nowhere’ a catch phrase coined by some, or you think that sidewalks are an important part of the Green Route Network, I think that we can all be grateful that this open township issue will finally be put to rest.

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Township Board & Commission Vacancies . . . Appointments Without Partisan Politics

Last night was the first meeting of the township’s new Historical Commission.  The seven members of the HARB (Historical Architecture Review Board) were appointed to the Historical Commission.  The new commission was established with nine members.

A Community Matters reader reminded me that I should advertise the two vacancies on the Historical Commission.  We need one of the positions to be filled by a certified architect and the other would be for someone with a background/interest in historic preservation, history or archeology. I and three other Historical Commission members are working on a Chester County historic resource mapping project which has been fun – we’re locating and identifying all properties that are 75 years or older in the township, that were not included in the historic resource survey the HARB did 6 years ago.  Unfortunately, we have discovered a number of the historic resources no longer exist.

If I am going to name the vacancies on the Historical Commission, I thought it would be good to review all the boards and commissions in the township . . . and see where there are other vacancies.  Municipal boards, commissions and advisory committees exist to further the township’s success through the volunteer participation of citizens in the daily business of community government. 

The following vacancies currently exist in the township.  If you visit the township website, www.tredyffrin.org you can read the requirements and mission of each of these boards.

  • Cable TV Advisory Committee (CATV) – 1 vacancy
  • Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) – 1 vacancy
  • Historical Commission – 2 vacancies, (one position is for certified architect)
  • Municipal Authority – 2 vacancies

How does the process work for board appointments?  I assume that my appointment to HARB (and now the Historical Commission) is similar to other boards/commissions.  If you are interested in serving and have the background, experience or skill requirement you send a resume and letter of interest to the township at tredyffrin@tredyffrin.org . The supervisors are notified of your interest and an interview time is scheduled.  It has been awhile ago, but I think there were 4 supervisors at my interview.

I want to believe that all board appointments are made for the right reason.  Appointments on boards and commissions should go to those that are best qualified to serve in that position.  In the past, there has been talk of partisan appointments to some of the township boards.  In response to this kind of discussion, I have deferred to the HARB (now Historical Commission) and its members.  Historic preservation is very specific and those that serve are passionate about the history of the community and its historic resources.  As an example, our group has always been without the bias of partisan politics.

However, is the policy of nonpartisan appointments the same if you want to volunteer for other township boards, such as the Zoning Hearing Board or the Planning Commission?  In my world, I would hope that the Board of Supervisors would treat applicants equally and choose the best qualified candidate, regardless of their political party affiliation.  There should be a sense of fairness to the board and commission appointments.  Citizens should apply and feel they have an equal opportunity to serve on any board or commission, regardless of their political affiliation. 

If they are the most qualified and have a willingness to serve, all citizens should be welcomed.  If any of these vacancies appeal to you, I would encourage you to submit your resumes.  It is a wonderful way to volunteer and help your community.

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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 meaning of ‘Good Government’? Does it Mean Something Different in Tredyffrin?

“The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government.”

                        ~ Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Republicans, 1809

According to Wikipedia, “Good Government is a normative description of how government is supposed to be constituted.” Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting left me shaking my head and wondering about ‘good government’ in Tredyffrin.  Wanting to believe in our elected officials and hoping that their decisions are in the best interest of our community, there were times during the meeting that I questioned the supervisors intentions.

The Board of Supervisors decided to delay the public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance for another month.  Why?  Eighteen months ago, dark clouds hung over this township as the St. Davids Golf Club land development agreement with Tredyffrin was put ‘on hold’ pending the results of a special sidewalk subcommittee.  Township officials came under public scrutiny . . . with the newspaper headlines questioning the intentions of the BAWG report and the motives of some supervisors. It was a particularly dark time in our local history.

The land development contract between St. Davids Golf Club and the township is 6 years old.  Four times representatives from the country club appeared before the township’s Planning Commission seeking relief from constructing the required walkway – and each time the planning commissioners choose to deny their request and uphold the terms of the land development contract.

After a yearlong special sidewalk subcommittee process, their report included sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The supervisors voted to accept the sidewalk subcommittee report and instructed the planning commissioners to draft an amendment to the sidewalk ordinance which included an ‘in lieu of’ sidewalk fund.  The Planning Commission members complied with the request and presented the draft ordinance, which was scheduled for public hearing last night.  The supervisors decided to cancel that public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance and move it to the July meeting.  Why?

We learned last night at the Board of Supervisors meeting that rather than honoring their vote of a few months ago to leave the land development authority in the hands of the Planning Commission, a new township land development process was presented.  As discussed last night, the supervisors will now review the multiple phases of a land development plan, rather than simply the end product.  Although it was suggested that the supervisors would only review the ‘larger’ projects or plans that required legislative authority, aside from the additional time and cost to developers for an additional review process, I could not help but think that this was just another way to once again delay the St. Davids walkway discussion.

Why is every decision related to the sidewalk ordinance amendment predicated on the best interests of this private country club? 

A June township public hearing for the sidewalk ordinance is scheduled and advertised at a cost to taxpayers and then that hearing is cancelled, and rescheduled at additional cost.  Why?

The supervisors state that they need more time to review the sidewalk ordinance. Why?  So as to have more time to come up with additional ways not to uphold the contract with St. Davids Golf Club.  Why don’t the supervisors just state that they have no intention of enforcing the land development contract with St. Davids?  Wouldn’t that be more honest?

I have said repeatedly, this issue is not about sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  This is about a signed land development contract with the township; and the reasons why a wealthy country club isn’t required to comply with the conditions of the contract.  I would bet if the township land development contract was with a private individual or another developer – they would be forced to comply with the conditions of the contract.  Six years – and the country club continues to get a pass . . . why?

Is this ‘Good Government’ in Tredyffrin Township?

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What Does the EIT Tax Study Group and Sidewalks at St. Davids Have in Common?

Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors meeting is tonight, 7:30 PM at the township building.  The T/E School Board’s Finance Committee meeting is also tonight, 7:30 PM at the school administration building.  Looking at the agendas for both meetings, there are topics of interest.

According to the agenda for the Finance Committee meeting, the nine members of the EIT Tax Study Group are to be named at tonight’s meeting.  There were at least 150 applications received from residents by the June 15 deadline.  The selection criteria for members of the tax study group was agreed upon by school board members attending last week’s Public Information committee meeting.  It is the intention of the school board that those residents chosen to serve on the tax study group will represent a cross-section of Easttown and Tredyffrin residents.

In addition to the EIT Tax Study Group on tonight’s agenda, I noted with interested that the Finance Committee will present the custodial outsourcing bid results. It is understood that the recently passed 2011-12 school budget includes continued custodial service provided by the non-instructional union, TENIG.  For public information, it is important that the school district release the results of the custodial outsourcing bid process.  Going forward, it may not be economically possible for TESD to continue to retain TENIG for custodial services and the bid results will offer a starting point for future contract considerations.  I am glad that the school board decided to release the outsourcing bid results.

The long-awaited public hearing on the proposed sidewalk amendment and sidewalk fund ordinance was scheduled for tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  The homepage of the township’s website still lists the sidewalk public hearing; however, the public hearing is off tonight’s agenda and has been postponed until July 18.  I am not sure why the public hearing has been postponed . . .  the 2010 sidewalk subcommittee presented their results to the supervisors several months ago, the planning commissioners have completed their proposed sidewalk ordinance, and the supervisors have received the Planning Commission’s sidewalk ordinance recommendations.  So why postpone the public hearing? 

Any discussion of sidewalks in Tredyffrin brings up the elephant in the room . . . and that would be the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club (actually it’s not a sidewalk, but a walkway!).  How many years ago was the original land development agreement signed between Tredyffrin Township and St. Davids signed?  Answer:  6 years; the agreement was signed in 2005.  How many times did St. Davids Golf Club go the Planning Commission seeking relief from building the sidewalks and how many times was their request denied?  I think the answer is 4 requests and 4 times denied.

In December 2009, the Board of Supervisors voted to name a yearlong sidewalk subcommittee to review the sidewalks, trails and paths throughout the township and to make recommendations for where they should be in the township.  After a year of meetings, the subcommittee presented their report earlier this year; and the sidewalk at St. Davids Golf Club was included on their list.  Next, the supervisors instructed the planning commissioners to review the sidewalk ordinance and make a recommendation for an amendment to include a ‘Sidewalk Fund.’  The Planning Commission complied – the work is now completed and their recommended ordinance amendment now rests with the supervisors.

This takes us down ‘Memory Lane’ but brings us back to the starting point, which is where do we stand on the sidewalk at St. Davids Golf Club?  To be clear, the existing land development agreement between the township and St. Davids is separate and apart from any proposed township sidewalk amendment ordinance.  For the last eighteen months, the St. Davids sidewalk has remained an open issue and I believe that the time has come for the township to enforce their land development agreement with St. Davids. 

Here’s hoping that the Board of Supervisors agree and that the St. Davids sidewalk issue can be put to rest, once and for all . . . at tonight’s meeting.  The township’s elected officials need to enforce the 6-year old land development agreement with St. Davids and require the construction of the walkway. 

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Sidewalks on Tredyffrin’s Supervisors Meeting Agenda: Translation . . . Does St. Davids Golf Club Build its Sidewalks?

The agenda for tonight’s supervisors meeting in Tredyffrin will include a presentation by PennDOT and the PA Turnpike regarding the start of 202 construction and the Rt. 29 slip ramp construction. The slip ramp construction got underway last week so I look forward to a review of the time for that project and for 202.

The agenda lists the scheduling of two public hearings, (1) an ordinance to create new regulations for historic preservation and (2) to consider amendments to sidewalk requirements in subdivision and land development plans.

Members of the township HARB and Planning Commission have worked on creating an ordinance to protect historic properties in the township for two years.  In reviewing my HARB minutes, there was discussion as early as March 2009 recognizing the need.  Much discussion and many joint meetings has taken place between HARB, Planning Commission and township staff.  I am thrilled to see the work of many community volunteers now move forward.

Scheduling of the other public hearing – amendments to sidewalk ordinance.  It’s fascinating that 16 months post-BAWG report and St. Davids Golf Club, the mention of sidewalks in Tredyffrin reminds us of the open St. Davids sidewalk issue.  Recalling the history, the land development agreement between St. Davids Golf Club and the township requires the building of sidewalks.  Rather than enforce the land development requirement, the supervisors decided last year to create a sidewalk subcommittee to examine the needs and interest in sidewalks in Tredyffrin. 

Fast forward to April 2011 and where does the township stand on sidewalks and the open issues surrounding the land development agreement with St. Davids Golf Club to build sidewalks?  Last month, the sidewalk subcommittee presented their results, which included an overwhelming resident interest in sidewalks, trails and bike paths in the township.  The sidewalks subcommittee confirmed the Green Routes Network plan included sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The results of last month’s public hearing to consider changing final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors included a supervisors vote for the Planning Commission to retain this authority.  So where does the township stand on St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk requirement?  What really has changed in the last 16 months?  

This morning, I was copied on a public email from John Petersen to township solicitor Tom Hogan (which also copied the Board of Supervisors and Mimi Gleason) inquiring on the “status of St. Davids”.  Petersen’s email included the following:

“ . . . St. David’s has always had the obligation to build the sidewalks. At best, over the past year, there has been a forbearance on that obligation. It would appear that the status quo is firmly in place. By that, I mean that the sidewalk plan as promulgated in the master plan is still in effect. Second, the PC [Planning Commission] has retained full land development authority. That said, the St. David’s obligation was always in place. i.e., it was pre-existing contract. Therefore, no matter what was done on a prospective basis, it would have no effect on the St. David’s obligation. The same conclusion would have applied a year ago. . . St. David’s has two choices. 1 – build the sidewalks per their land development obligation. 2 – pay the township the full cost to build the sidewalks as per the land development obligation . . . So again I ask, what is the BOS going to do?”

I am curious to see if the elephant in the room (St. Davids land development agreement) is discussed at the supervisors meeting tonight.  As much as some people would like the sidewalk issue at St. Davids Golf to just ‘go away’, unless there is a decision, the issue remains open.  Will our elected officials enforce the land development agreement with St. Davids and require the sidewalks to be built . . . ?   As Petersen says, “. . . What is the BOS going to do?” 

The community needs closure on the St. Davids sidewalk issue; will that happen at tonight’s supervisors meeting? Stay tuned.

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