Planning Commission

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

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:


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?


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.

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, 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 . 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.

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.

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?

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. 

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.

Community Matters – in and around Tredyffrin

Community Matters . . . in and around Tredyffrin

In one of the biggest property deals since the start of the global financial crisis, the Australian company Centro Properties Groups has agreed to sell its 588 US shopping malls to private equity giant Blackstone Group for $9.4 billion.

The local connection – Centro owns Chesterbrook Shopping Center and Valley Fair Shopping Center! I assume the existing retail leases in these shopping centers will pass with the transfer of sale.  Many folks are looking forward to McKenzies Brew House restaurant plans for the old Charlie Brown location at Valley Fair Shopping Center.  Here’s hoping that Blackstone will breathe new life into Chesterbrook Shopping Center and find a tenant for the empty Genuardi’s grocery store.  And let’s not forget that this corporate sale could mean significant transfer tax revenue to the school district and the township!

In case you missed this one . . . in order to make shelf room for new products, the Pennsylvania State liquor stores is having special discount sale, starting today.  Approximately 400 items have been marked down to clearance prices until they are gone.

Last night was the Board of Supervisors Meeting. Notes of the evening included Mike Heaberg’s swearing in as new supervisor by Judge Jeremy Blackburn; recognition of the 300th anniversary of the historic Baptist Church in the Great Valley and certificates of appreciation for volunteer service to Grace Keffer, Bob Haver and Molly Duffy.

By Board of Supervisors appointment, a Sidewalk Subcommittee was formed in March 2010 to look at resident’s wants and needs of sidewalks in the community.  The process included public meetings, resident sidewalk survey, observations and discussion and Sidewalks Subcommittee chair Tory Snyder presented the findings and recommendations last night at the Board of Supervisors Meeting. (Here is a link to the recommendations). Surprising some of us in the audience, supervisor Phil Donahue made a motion for the board to accept the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations and move it to the Planning Commission to create a draft ordinance.  Michelle Kichline seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Hat’s off to the supervisors for this progressive, proactive show of support for the community!   (As an aside, the Sidewalk Subcommittee Green Routes Network recommendation includes St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk in the plan.)

In addition to crafting a draft ordinance in regards to the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations, the Planning Commissioners is drafting an amendment to the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance to give the Board of Supervisors final land development authority.  Although there is a Public Hearing on land development authority scheduled for March 21, it was agreed there would be no final decision on that matter until after the sidewalk ordinance is resolved.

I was notified of a an updated ‘Best High School in Pennsylvania’ list and am pleased to report that Conestoga High School continues to receive high marks.  Each year, “Newsweek” magazine ranks the nation’s top 1,600 high schools–that’s only six percent of all public high schools in the country. This ranking helps parents and educators set standards for themselves. In 2010, 33 high schools from Pennsylvania, including Conestoga High School, made the list. These schools received high marks from both “Newsweek” and “U.S. News & World Report.”

According to the 2011 update, “Conestoga High School is ranked as the No. 502 high school in the nation by “Newsweek” and as No. 79 by “U.S. News & World Report.” It offers more Advanced Placement courses than any other high school, public or private, in Pennsylvania, and had 37 National Merit semifinalists in 2010. . . “   Congratulations Conestoga High School and Tredyffrin-Easttown School District!

Speaking of Conestoga High School . . . the curtains go up tonight on the student production of Phantom of the Opera.  The show will run March 1 – 6, click here for ticket information. Phantom is one of my all-time favorite musicals –  best wishes to the cast & break a leg!

That is it for now.  I look forward to your thoughtful comments and please email me at if you have news or thoughts to share.

Are Tredyffrin Supervisors Politically-Motivated over Land Development Authority . . . Is it all about St. Davids Golf Club?

I attended Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission meeting last night. The last agenda item was “Draft Amendment to the Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance”.

As one who understands the importance of community volunteers, it saddened me to listen to the discussion on changing final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors.  The Planning Commissioners are experienced, skilled and committed residents who spend countless hours in this volunteer position. They are dedicated to working together, collaborating with developers, architects, builders, etc. and making nonpartisan decisions.  These volunteers are now discouraged and confused by the motive of the Board of Supervisors to take away their final land development authority. Regrettably, many believe that the desire by some supervisors to take back land development authority is politically motivated and personal.

One commissioner reported that there has only been one unhappy applicant in his many years of service on the Planning Commission. Unfortunately, the one unhappy applicant is St. Davids Golf Club.  Three times this applicant came to the Planning Commission and each time the commissioners voted in favor of the land development plan, including the sidewalk. 

The Planning Commissioners are not necessarily opposed to the Board of Supervisors taking final land development authority; but all seemingly question the ‘timing’ and the political motives behind the need to change the ordinance now.  Although there is a liaison assigned to the Planning Commission, it was reported they have rarely seen their supervisor-assigned liaison attend a meeting.  Which begs the question, if there is no interest in attending the Planning Commission meetings, why do they want to take on the entire job of land development review?

Do the supervisors have any idea the length of time that land development reviews will consume?  Although Mimi Gleason pointed out that the township is about built out, as the economy improves there will be an increase in commercial redevelopment plus the significant Paoli Transportation Center land development project on the horizon.  The Planning Commission has experienced professionals volunteering their time – planners, real estate developers, attorneys, etc.  Our Planning Commissioners are volunteers with the specific skill set and willingness to commit the necessary time to the process . . . do we have supervisors with similar profiles?

Planning Commissioner Bob O’Leary has concern that changing the land development authority to the Board of Supervisors is going to increase staff time and the staff is already understaffed.  If the ordinance is changed, an applicant will first go to the Planning Commission for review and then the applicant will have a second review by the Board of Supervisors.  This double review procedure would be for both preliminary and final land development approval; doubling the work and expense of township staff.  In addition, doubling the efforts of all land development applicants.

Tory Snyder, Planning Commissioner and a member of the Sidewalk Subcommittee will be making the Sidewalk Subcommittee’s presentation on Monday to the Board of Supervisors.  The supervisors know that the sidewalk at St. Davids Golf Club is on the subcommittee’s map as a recommended site — part of the Green Routes Network.  Three supervisors, Phil Donahue, Michele Kichline and EJ Richter were members of the Sidewalks Subcommittee.  All three supervisors attended the last meeting of the subcommittee and voted in favor of the committee’s recommendations, including St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks.

Planning Commissioners believe that the Board of Supervisor’s desire to change the land development authority is directly related to their St. Davids Golf Club decision.  As Bob Whalen, chair of the Planning Commission said, ‘We voted on the issue three times unanimously; we didn’t vote on what was political, but voted on what was right”.  Whalen said that he does not intend to waste any more time on the ordinance.  He views the proposed ordinance change as a “Slap in the face to the Planning Commission.  I know the difference between right and wrong.”

I hate the thought that the Sidewalks Committee and the time and efforts of the volunteers was nothing more than a charade . . . all leading up to the St. Davids Golf Club decision and Board of Supervisors change to the land development authority.  No doubt, some supervisors expected the Sidewalks Committee recommendations would echo their desires; making it easier for these supervisors to deliver good news to the country club. These supervisors probably thought that by handpicking the members of the Sidewalks Committee would somehow guarantee the appropriate outcome.

I salute the members of the Sidewalks Committee who engaged community members through public meetings, accepted input from interested citizens, created maps and conducted a township-wide survey to get a consensus on sidewalks, bike trails and paths needs throughout the township.  However, their thorough, thoughtful and independent analysis did not deliver the outcome desired by some supervisors.

 Another group of volunteers ‘on hold’ is the Sidewalks, Trail, and Path (STAP) committee.  If there is sufficient support from some members of the Board of Supervisors, the time and talents of these volunteers may also no longer be needed.

There is a curious element to the land development authority discussion that cannot yet be calculated.  I was told by several sources that the current vote is 3-3 among the supervisors on the question of land development authority.  Three supervisors want the authority to remain with the Planning Commission and three supervisors want the final authority to shift to the Board of Supervisors.

However, here’s the interesting twist . . . The Board of Supervisors will appoint a supervisor to fill the supervisor vacancy prior to the March public hearing on the land development authority.  With the current supervisor vote count at 3-3, that new supervisor could be the tiebreaker! Wonder what supervisor candidates John Bravacos, Kristen Mayock, Eamon Brazunas and Mike Heaberg have to say about the land development authority?  I think that would make for a very interesting question at next week’s candidate interviews.

In summary, the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, January 24, 7:30 PM is important.  Please plan to either attend or watch from home.

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