St. Davids Golf Club

Still undecided on TE School Board & Tredyffrin Twp candidates? ‘Meet & Greet’ at St. Davids Golf Club on Wednesday, Oct. 28

meet-the-candidates

Still undecided?  Here’s another opportunity to meet the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisor and TE School Board candidates before Election Day on Tuesday, November 3.  The Panhandle Civic Association is sponsoring a “meet & greet” on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7-8:30 PM.  See information below:

CANDIDATES MEET AND GREET

OCTOBER 28, 2015

The Panhandle Civic Association is sponsoring a Candidates Meet and Greet on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.  The gathering will be held at the St. Davids Golf Club, 845 Radnor Street Road, Radnor, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  This will be an informal affair providing you the opportunity to speak one on one with the candidates of both parties, to ask questions and to share thoughts and concerns.  Please come prepared to ask our candidates where they stand on issues that matter to you.

Candidates for Region 1 School Board and attending the Meet and Greet:

Neal Colligan (R)

Roberta Hotinski (D)

Todd Kantorczyk (D)

Neill Kling (R)

Candidates for District 1 Board of Supervisors and attending the Meet and Greet:

Paul Olson (R)

Tory Snyder (D)

Candidates for At Large Board of Supervisors and attending the Meet and Greet:

Elva Bankins (D)

Lou Horvath (D)

Trip Lukens (R)

Sean Moir (R)

Although not required for attendance, we would like to have reasonable sense of how many people will be coming to this meeting.  Please let your Block Captain know if you plan to be at the event, or send an email to: j.k.lindberg@att.net.  Please indicate if you are a resident of the Panhandle.

There is no charge for anyone to attend this gathering.  Light appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages will be available from the Club.  If non-Panhandle residents want to take advantage of this service, they will be charged $10.00.

For questions about this event, please email Christine Wright at wright502@verizon.net.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Sidewalk Construction Underway at St. Davids Golf Club!

I received a voice mail from Steve Burgo, Tredyffrin Twp Engineer on Thursday to let me know that the sidewalk construction was underway at St. Davids Golf Club.  Not that I didn’t believe him, but I had to drive over to see for myself. Sure enough,the construction project is underway on Upper Gulph Road, on either side of Fletcher Road, next to the St. Davids Golf Club.  My impression was that the sidewalk was to be more like a path but based on what I saw, this is much more involved than I expected.  Besides the digging for the sidewalk, looks like there is  also a retention wall.

The construction of the sidewalks will satisfy the signed land development contract between the township and the golf club.  Thanks Steve for the heads-up!

Construction of sidewalk at S. Davids

Construction of sidewalk at S. Davids Golf Club

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What do the sidewalks at St. Davids and Former Police Chief Andy Chambers have in common?

What do the St. Davids sidewalks and former Police Chief Andy Chambers have in common? There is an eerie similarity between a vote of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors on January 25, 2010 and a recent T/E School Board vote of January 7.

January 25, 2010 BOS Meeting:  Even though there was a signed land development agreement between Tredyffrin Township and St. Davids Golf Club requiring sidewalks, the Tredyffrin’s supervisors approved the return of $25K escrow money to the country club; removing the sidewalk agreement. Besides suggested Home Rule Charter violations surrounding the return of the escrow money, there was the procedural problem that the proposal had not appeared on the BOS meeting’agenda.  Against the objections of many residents and some of the supervisors, the motion carried 4-3.  For the record, Bob Lamina, Paul Olson, Warren Kampf and EJ Richter voted in favor of the motion and Michelle Kichline, Phil Donohue and John DiBuonaventuro voted against the motion.

After much media publicity, many letters to the editor, accusations of Home Rule Charter and Sunshine Act violations, claims of deal-making and general resident outrage, the supervisors reversed and rescinded their decision at the following Board of Supervisors meeting in March 2010.  Public comment is guaranteed by the Sunshine Act and the public’s rights were violated by the St. Davids sidewalk vote of January 25, 2010.

Fast forward to January 7, 2013:  Instead of the township failing to notify the public of an intended motion on its meeting agenda, it was the T/E School Board who failed to notify the public.  On January 7, the Board held a special meeting for the primary purpose to consider the 2013-14 preliminary budget proposal.  At the meeting, the School Board voted to apply for Act 1 exceptions beyond the 1.7% allowable tax cap.

A consent agenda listed on the January 7 meeting agenda included the approval of December 3 meeting minutes, monthly financial reports, routine personnel actions, etc. but made no mention of anything safety-related such as enhancements or the hiring of a District safety consultant. However, as we later learned, the hiring of former police chief Andy Chambers as the District Security Consultant (hourly rate – $125) was approved …  as it was ‘last-minute’ included along with the other items in the consent agenda. The agenda did not notify the public that the School Board would discuss anything safety-related at the special meeting, let alone the hiring of a ‘security consultant’.

Someone needs to explain to me how the actions of the School Board on January 7 are any different from the actions of the Board of Supervisors of January 25, 2010.  Both of these examples speak to the process of our government. The fact is that the Board of Supervisors vote of two years ago was not about sidewalks in the same way that the School Board’s vote of January 7 is not about the hiring of Andy Chambers as the District’s security consultant.  Rather, it is about transparency and open meetings; the basis for positive discussions between citizens and their elected officials.  Government decisions should not be made in secret.

The Sunshine Act defines when government bodies must conduct official business in public and private, when they should allow public comment, and how and when to advertise meetings. Executive closed meetings can only be called for the following six reasons:

  • Discussions of matters involving employment or performance of officers or employees of the agency, provided that any affected individual is given the opportunity to request, in writing, that the meeting be held in public.
  • Meetings involving collective bargaining, labor relations, and arbitration.
  • To consider the purchase or lease of real property.
  • matters falling under the attorney-client privilege regarding litigation or issues where an identifiable complaint is expected to be filed.
  • To discuss agency business which, if discussed in public, would lead to the disclosure of information protected by law, including ongoing investigations and information exempt under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know
  • To discuss matters of academic standing or admission at state schools

Responding to follow-up comments on the topic of the Sunshine Act, Keith Knauss, school board member of the Unionville Chadds Ford School District (UCF) offered this comment on Community Matters —

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act requires all public agencies to take all official actions and conduct all deliberations leading up to official actions at public meetings. If the board met in executive session and deliberated on hiring Mr. Chambers, then they probably violated the Sunshine Act even though the official vote was taken in open session. It doesn’t matter if it is a contract or not. We’re conjecturing that the board deliberated (illegally) in executive session and based on that deliberation, took an official action to disburse funds to Mr. Chambers. We, of course, can only conjecture since the meeting was closed to the public.
.
The current Sunshine Act took effect on January 3, 1987. This law replaces the old Open Meetings Laws of 1957 and 1974, Under the old law, public agencies were required to hold open meetings only if votes were taken or official policy adopted. This led to the frequent abuse of discussing and deciding issues in so-called “workshop” sessions, with the official public meetings being relegated to conducting formal votes on issues already decided in advance. The current Act requires that any deliberations leading up to official actions also take place at public meetings. Municipal governing bodies have no authority, either under the municipal codes or the Sunshine Act, to conduct “workshop” sessions.’

Question … At the upcoming January 28 School Board meeting, will the Board take responsibility for their January 7 action and reverse their decision to hire Andy Chambers as the District Security Consultant?

If the Board understands the Sunshine Act, and supports the importance of open meetings, the choice they make on January 28 will be simple.  The Board accepts responsibility for the situation and takes the necessary steps to correct the situation; reversing the decision and then appropriately advertising the matter for public discussion.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Community Matters … A Year in Review (Part 2)

It was interesting to read through my Community Matters posts of 2011 and the hundreds of comments but choosing which ones to include in my ‘Year in Review’ was difficult.

Certain topics, including the school district and the primary and general election, were much discussed.  For a second year in a row, the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club saw much attention on Community Matters. Land development and the struggles between the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for ‘control’ over future projects will be interesting to watch in 2012.

Absent a crystal ball, my guess is that the T/E School District’s upcoming teacher contract negotiations and the State House 157 race will lead discussions in 2012.  I am hopeful that our local economy will move forward in a positive way — maybe the new year will see a tenant for Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook.  I have heard that a high-end gym may be in the offering.  And Nudy’s will soon be filling the empty Jake’s space in Paoli Village Shoppes.

Below are my picks for the most interesting Community Matters posts of 2011, in chronological order. Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2012 … may we all enjoy good health and happiness in the new year!

1. Should Teachers Be Consulted in School Budget Discussion?  January 14, 2011

Do School Board, administration, parents and taxpayers give adequate attention to the opinions of the teachers during budget discussions. As TESD teacher negotiations are to begin shortly, this Community Matters post and its comments are timely to read again.

2. Another Store Closing in Tredyffrin . . . A Suggestion for a Business Task Force February 3, 2011

Eleven months ago, I proposed a “township business task force … a volunteer group of local retired executives, small business owners, and corporate representatives.  The group would meet monthly with a mission to spearhead ways to improve existing relationships and provide assistance and a resource for township businesses.  This important support group for the business community could provide regular updates and suggestions to the Board of Supervisors.”  We know that my suggestion was approved by the BOS, an advisory group set up but . . . nearly a year later, where does it stand?  There have been a few stores and restaurants open (Big Lots, Mealey’s, McKenzie’s) but closings and empty stores are everywhere … Genuardi’s, Syms, Jake’s).

3. Looking at Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, is the ‘Handwriting on the Wall’ for T/E? February 22, 2011

A comparative analysis between Unionville-Chadds Ford and T/E School Districts  encouraged 62 comments. Both of these school districts are top performing and enjoy similar academic performances.   The teacher contract negotiation process in UCF was lengthy and time-consuming – teachers worked for over a year without a contract as both sides battled over the benefit package (specifically health care).  Even an independent arbitrator was challenged over the UCF teacher contract process.  Is this the handwriting on the wall for T/E?

4. Labor Dispute Between TEEA Teacher Union & T/E School District . . . Claiming Unfair Labor Practices re Online Course Programming  March 11, 2011

Another very heated school district debate on Community Matters was the dispute over online E-learning in T/E.  The teacher’s union took the stance that the school district was offering courses online to students that could be taught by teachers.  They claimed that the work of instruction and assessing students taking online courses is no different from work performed by teachers in the classroom.  The school district argued that the E-learning courses fall outside the scope of teacher bargaining.

5. Berwyn Banter . . . Ray Hoffman’s Remarks on Homosexuality Evoke Strong Response from Local Residents  April 2, 2011

Ray Hoffman’s Banter column in the Main Line Media news of March 24, 2011 evoked strong response from many residents.  In his column, he had referenced his moral outrage over the Catholic Church and priests involved in the child sex scandal. In my opinion, Hoffman stepped ‘over the line’ when he suggested in his column that pedophilia and homosexuality are synonymous; and “the work of evil incarnate and therefore unforgivable”.  Although one can describe pedophiles that prey on innocent children as evil and their behavior unforgivable, how could Hoffman impose that same standard in his description of homosexuals?  To grow up gay in America, faced with intolerance and persecution can prove an enormous challenge for today’s youth, which made Hoffman’s words all the more painful to read.

6. The Use of Community Matters on Campaign Ad without Permission . . . Illegal or just Disrespectful?  May 11, 2011

The use of anonymous comments from Community Matters on political campaign literature without my permission was a very difficult time for me – and in hindsight, I came very close to closing down Community Matters as a result.  I had discussions with several attorneys over the matter and quickly arrived at the conclusion that the use of Community Matters by the TTDEMS (without my permission) was not illegal.  However, were their actions unethical and disrespectful?   These same people had supported me the year before as “one of their own” supervisor candidates – I just could not understand how  some of them could disrespect and hurt me in this way.  What’s the saying … all’s fair in politics?

7. Unofficial Results from Chester County Indicate Duffy Won by 40 Votes in Tredyffrin’s Special Election . . . Reports of Malfunctioning Voting Machines Add a Twist May 18, 2011

This was one for the history books.  Molly Duffy was declared the winner in the special election by 40 votes.  Reports of malfunctioning voting machines turned out to be correct.  A hand-count of the election ballots a week later found 61 uncounted ballots; as a result Mike Heaberg was named supervisor to fill the vacancy left by Warren Kampf.

8. What’s the meaning of ‘Good Government’? Does it Mean Something Different in Tredyffrin?  June 21, 2011

The Board of Supervisors continues delay tactics over the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk land development project. The supervisors decided that rather than honoring their vote of a few months earlier to leave the land development authority in the hands of the Planning Commission, they presented a new township land development process giving the supervisors more oversight.  The issue should not be about sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club but rather a 6-year old signed land development contract between the club and the township and why it is not enforced.

9. America’s Best High Schools But Where is Conestoga High School?  July 23, 2011

It was very surprising to learn that Conestoga High School was missing from Newsweek’s list of best high schools in America.  Regardless of whether you give any credence to school rankings, what did it say that every other public high school in the area was on the list but not Conestoga.  We learned subsequently that someone in the TESD administration had ‘dropped the ball’ and somehow the paperwork was not returned by the deadline.  Although I am still not clear exactly what happened, I am fairly confident that this same mistake will not occur again.

10. Tea Party Agenda by State Rep Warren Kampf; so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker August 27, 2011

In an op-ed article in Main Line Media News, former State Rep Paul Drucker had some harsh words for some of the choices made by current State Rep Warren Kampf.  Drucker accused Kampf of following a ‘tea party agenda’ and pointed out the state’s education cuts, the lack of taxing on Marcellus Shale drilling and the state’s decreased funding of social services.  I questioned the timing of the editorial and  asked Drucker if he was considering a  re-match against Kampf for the 157 district in 2012.  At the time I did not receive a definitive answer … wonder if the idea remains a possibility?

11. Light Bulbs . . . Who’s Responsible? Township staff or PECO? October 12, 2011

This was became the starting point for light bulbs in Tredyffrin.  I discovered the problem with light bulbs in Chesterbrook has existed for 27 years since the light poles were installed.  I did a more ‘scientific’ count and found that there were 37 lights out between Duportail Rd.and Chesterbrook Blvd.  I know that the township staff, supervisors and PECO have now held meetings over the matter.  I regularly receive emails from residents who report that they are seeing ‘cherry-picker’ trucks with light bulbs being replaced.  I am hopeful that supervisor Richter will give a light bulb update at the next BOS meeting – plus here’s hoping for an update on the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks too.

12. Why Must the Campaign Season be ‘Politics as Usual’ . . . Please, Can it be the Truth? October 26, 2011

One of the most highly commented posts (100+ comments) this was a discussion about the negative ads of election season.  Republican and Democratic parties both lowered their bars to slinging mud against each other.  The line became so blurred; it was hard to tell the truths from the lies.  False and misleading information about school board and supervisor candidates was delivered regularly and had many of us questioning the disappearance of honesty and decency in politics.

13. Election Day 2011 is over . . . Looks like much will remain the same!  November 9, 2011

The General Election results showed that all incumbents in the supervisor and school board races won.  It should be noted that in the east, it was a very close race between incumbent Paul Olson (R) and Tory Snyder (D).  In a nail-biter, Tory lost the race by only 13 votes, returning Olson to the Board of Supervisors for another term.  I am not sure but he may have the distinction of having being the longest-serving supervisor.  Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors will continue as an all-Republican board. Kristen Mayock’s election to the Board adds a third woman and it has been a while since we had that dynamic.  In an upset. Jeremy Blackburn (R) was unseated by Analisa Sondergaard (D) as District Judge.  Unlike Judge Blackburn, Sondergaard is an attorney who will now fill the seat as District Judge.

14. Police Chief Andy Chambers Tenders Resignation While on Suspension  December 20, 2011

The township has a cloak of mystery and drama as the year ends.  We learned of an anonymous letter sent to the township supervisors which contained two allegations against Police Chief Andy Chambers.  The first allegation, which the Chief admitted was true, involved him allowing his 16-year old son to drive a township police car.  While driving the car, the kid was involved in an accident but Chambers took full responsibility for costs of its repair.  The supervisors suspended Chambers for (1) allowing his son to drive the police cruiser and (2) his failure to tell the supervisors.  While on suspension, the Chief decided to retire on December 30 after 30 years of service.  The second allegation contained in the anonymous letter suggested that Chambers had used township time to work on personal business.  There was no mention of this allegation by the supervisors so it is not clear whether or not it was investigated or whether or not the allegation is true.  The public was not told the reasons for Police Chief Harkness’ departure from the Police Department, so my guess is there will be no further information on Police Chief Chambers.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

St. Davids Golf Club, Burned-out Light Bulbs & TE School District Finances!

I attended last night’ Board of Supervisors meeting and my friend, Ray Clarke attended the T/E School District’s Finance Meeting.  Following my update on the supervisors meeting, please read Ray’s comments.

The agenda for last night’s supervisors meeting went quickly and there was no ‘new matters’ from board members.  I was prepared for ‘new matters’ from citizens with two topics.  Based on the supervisors meeting of October 3, I asked Supervisor Olson (Bob Lamina and EJ Richter were absent) if St. Davids Golf Club had been contacted.  Olson deferred to Mimi Gleason who said yes, the club was contacted and said it was a positive conversation.  I asked about the timeline for response from the club re the sidewalks and her response was that there was no time limit.  In other words, I said the issue remains ‘open ended’ to which she responded yes.  Bottom line, it may have taken us 21 months to get to this point in time with St. Davids Golf Club, but apparently nothing is going to move forward anytime soon, in the way of enforcement, etc..  Was the only way to receive an update (status) on the sidewalks at St. Davids was to ask the same question at every Board of Supervisors meeting? I guess that is correct.

Second citizen matter from me last night was the burned out light bulb situation in the township.  Although I have focused on Chesterbrook and Duportail on Community Matters, I have noticed other area lights out (Old Eagle School Rd. as an example).  My questions produced some interesting facts:

  1. The township (residents) pays PECO per light post, regardless if there are electrical issues or if the lights are working or not.
  2. The township has a yearly maintenance contract with Lenni Electrical to change light bulbs.  Some have suggested that perhaps the township was trying to save money and maybe wasn’t calling the company for maintenance as a way to avoid service call expenses.  Well, I discovered that the township (residents) pays a flat fee regardless of how many (or how few) times they come out to change the light bulbs!
  3. The pink ribbons are placed by township staff to indicate to Lenni Electrical where light bulbs need replacement.  I noticed driving to the township building that there are pink ribbons on street lights that have working light bulbs and questioned why weren’t the ribbons removed when the light bulbs were changed?  Obvious, I would think.  According to Steve Burgo, township engineer, they know that this is a problem and are working with the contractor to get them to remove the pink ribbons.

Mimi cited ongoing electrical problems on Chesterbrook Boulevard as the cause for the non-working light bulbs. I suggested that the electrical problem with some of the Chesterbrook lights has existed for 27+ years.  The response from Mimi Gleason, was that they were working with PECO and that State Rep Warren Kampf had been called for assistance.

After leaving the township building, I decided to do a more scientific study of counting the burned-out light bulbs on Chesterbrook and Duportail Rds.  I drove down one side of Chesterbrook Blvd. to Valley Forge Road, turned around and drove back, counting as many of the burned-out light bulbs as I could find.  This 2-mile (or less) stretch of roads doesn’t have 19 burned-out light bulbs, there are 37 non-working street lights.

Am I the only one who has a problem with this? We are all taxpayers and our money is paying PECO for these lights and our money is paying Lenni Electrical change the light bulbs.  Where’s the accountability on this issue? I remain hopeful that at least one of our supervisors will take up the cause of township light bulbs.

Moving on to last night’s TE School District Finance Committee meeting.  While I was busy sorting through the burned-out light bulb situation, Ray Clarke was at the Finance Committee meeting.  He offers the following comments with his own editorial remarks.  As always, I am appreciative that Ray not only attends the school board meetings, but takes the time to detail his thoughts for Community Matters.  Thanks Ray!

The TESD Finance Committee meeting turned up a few points of interest on Monday night.

  1. The district’s 2010/11 financials got a nice boost from the decision to self-insure healthcare benefits coupled with better than projected claims experience. That turned out to be a $1.3 million favorable variance, which in turn generated a $0.9 million surplus for the year. So our Fund Balance, combined with an additional $0.5 million which under previous accounting rules was separate (I think), is (6/30/2011) now up to a munificent $31 million. (Note, I came in slightly late to this discussion, and there was no handout on this, so my numbers may not be precise)
  2. Also on the plus side, the Committee discussed what to do with the restoration of Corbett’s proposed cut to the state reimbursement of 50% of social security taxes, worth $1.3 million this year, which came in after TE’s 2011/12 budget was passed. The administration proposed ~$200K for postponed text-book buys and ~$300K mostly for technology spending. This generated a lot of debate, essentially asking the question: what is going to be the impact of, say, $60,000 for piloting applications for iPads, versus the current technology environment. To my mind this is the tip of a much bigger iceberg: how will we use technology spending to improve the analytic or creative skills of our students? If we need a pilot to answer that question, fine, but should we spend $60,000 for a pilot? It was agreed that this would be subject for future Board discussion.
  3. Important upcoming dates: November 3rd for the Tax Study Group’s presentation of the pros and cons of and EIT, and November 14thfor a special School Board meeting to consider notification of the intent to request a referendum on the April 24th ballot. Some important things (from my perspective) to bear in mind here:The official financial projection model is being modified to remove the assumption of a Act 1 index 1.7% property tax increase for 2012/13, so the base case is not both a property and an income tax. The base case gap for 2012/13 is currently $5.5 million. (It’s not clear that the model has been updated yet for the actual healthcare cost and fund balance outcomes.)
    1. The TSG’s approach is to present the features of an EIT independent of the alternatives; the Board (and potentially voters) will have to decide the merits of those pros and cons relative to its own assessment of the pros and cons of alternatives like cutting educational programs, raising property taxes or – for a few years – using some of that Fund Balance.
    2. Unknown actions of the townships, which would be entitled to claim up to 50% of the revenues from a voter-approved residential EIT, loom large. How highly would the BOS weigh education versus the township’s own needs?
    3. Of course, totally moot unless the School Board votes to ask the question, and the voters approve it, since there is no sign that the townships are mulling and EIT of their own.
    4. Of course, the Republican candidates for the School Board have already decided the EIT question for themselves without waiting for the TSG analysis. Presumably they are part of the minority in TE that a) does not pay the tax already, and b) has an income greater than 40% of the assessed value of their house, so would rather see any gap (after using some of that fund balance) made up from cuts in the education program or property tax increases.

On the TEEA contract: the district is required by the state to begin negotiations for the next contract in January. The way this all gets going is for the union to send a letter to the district at that time.

How creative can the parties be? Is there a way to trade-off much lower healthcare premiums/benefits (that encourage personal accountability) for maybe allowing step increases, keeping the total compensation cost within at the very least the increase modeled in the district’s current projection?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

No Need for Written Request to St. Davids Golf Club to Build Sidewalks . . . Just a phone call! What happens if you get the answering machine!

I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting last night; primarily to see if the chapter on sidewalks (St. Davids) would finally be closed.  Each time I think that we have turned that corner; there is a new twist that slows the process.

Whether in the audience or watching from home, the ‘Resolution to adopt the Green Routes Pedestrian Network map’ was not without debate. Chairman Bob Lamina stated that they would divide the township into 3 parts for discussion – essentially the east, middle and the western areas.  A torturous process, discussion began with a ‘street by street’ review of the map, starting with the middle section and moving next to the western areas of the township.

The idea behind this resolution was to add a map to the new sidewalk ordinance passed at last month’s BOS meeting.  However, the difficulty and confusion among the supervisors was whether the map was to ‘only’ include roads that would be affected by the newly passed sidewalk ordinance, which in essence were areas of the township where possible commercial development could occur.  Or was the map to contain all suggested sidewalks, trails, etc. that were part of the green routes network as recommended by the special sidewalk subcommittee.

The debate on which sidewalks to include on the map heightened as the discussion moved to the eastern part of the township, specifically Conestoga and Upper Gulph Roads. Supervisor (Supervisor Olson suggested that sidewalks on Conestoga and Upper Gulph Roads be totally removed from the map.)  By the time the supervisors were at the point of voting on the resolution, I am certain many of us were confused as to what exactly was to be included on this ‘Green Routes Pedestrian Network’ map.  I believe that in the end, the supervisors voted 4-3 in favor of the map as presented by the sidewalk subcommittee.  (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong). With much fanfare, Supervisors Richter, Olson and Lamina voted against the resolution.  Richter used ‘storm water issues’ and ‘empty storefronts’ to explain her vote of opposition.

At this point in the meeting, with the map issue resolved, I expected that we would finally move past the sidewalk topic.  However, no, much to the surprise of  audience members (and some of the supervisors) Lamina made a new motion — for broader notification to the public when sidewalks were contained in future land development plans.  There was concern from some audience members that this discussion was not on the agenda and needed further discussion.  Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro questioned Lamina about the timing of the motion, suggesting that because the motion was formally written, that Lamina had sought legal counsel from the township solicitor in advance of the BOS meeting.  Lamina explained that the idea had come to him at lunch, while “eating his bologna sandwich”! Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Donahue voted against this motion, both believing further discussion was required.  However, the motion did pass 5-2.

Surely, there could be nothing further to say on the topic of sidewalks in Tredyffrin Township.  Not so fast.   Stating that there was some ‘housecleaning’ needed, DiBuonaventuro offered a motion to remove the moratorium on the building of sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The ‘hold’ dated back to the February 22, 2010 supervisors meeting.  Now at this point, I was completely confused.

If you have been following Community Matters, you will note that after last month’s supervisors meeting, I sent a couple of emails to Mimi Gleason, our township manager (copied the BOS and Tom Hogan, township solicitor).  I wanted to understand the next step in the St. Davids sidewalk saga and assumed that since the sidewalk ordinance had passed, the township staff now had the green light to move on enforcement of the sidewalks contained in any open land development agreements (including St. Davids).  I had received the following response from Gleason, which I posted last week on Community Matters,

Before sending letters, the Township now will contact any of the property owners with approved plans that inquired about the need to install sidewalks. They will be informed that they no changes were made to the ordinance that changes anything for their plans. Enforcement proceedings will commence only if they refuse to install the sidewalks.

Based on Gleason’s email response to me, I was completely confused as to why DiBuonaventuro’s motion was necessary but OK; let’s tie up any loose ends.

However, the vote to move St. Davids Gold Club sidewalks along in the process did not come easily.  Again, much discussion, primarily from Olson, who claimed that the township should take the $50,000 that St. Davids Golf Club, had offered not to build the sidewalks . . . further suggesting that St. Davids would instead give the $50K to the fire companies.

There was no way that I was going to let his remarks stand as anywhere close to accurate.  For the public record last night, I stated that (1) St. Davids Golf Club had not offered to give $50K to the fire company and (2) there was never any written offer from St. Davids. The $50K ‘offer’ from St. Davids Golf Club not to build the sidewalks was contained in the 2009 BAWG report but was never substantiated!  To perpetuate misinformation is simply wrong – bringing up the $50K offer from St. Davids was as if the township clock was turned back 20 months! Eventually DiBuonaventuro’s motion passed 6-1 (Olson the sole dissenting vote).

I then asked Gleason about the staff notification process to St. Davids re the sidewalks.  Based on her earlier email to me, I was concerned and was of the opinion, that such a request to St. Davids Golf Club should be ‘in writing’.  No, she explained, the staff would call St. Davids Golf Club and ask them to build the sidewalks.  I said should not there be a paper trail of the notification – how does one track a phone call?  Although she insisted that this was township procedure, I asked how was the public to know if the call was made.  I suggested that no one could ever make a ‘right to know’ request over a telephone call.  Bottom line . . . short of asking the question, “Did you phone St. Davids?” at every supervisors meeting, the public will not know.  I asked what the timeline was for the phone call – I believe her response was, in the next 30 days.

It strikes me odd that after 20 months of St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk debate, the request for St. Davids to complete their 6-year-old land development agreement is not done in writing but with a phone call.

Wonder what happens if the township person calling St. Davids gets their answering machine . . . leave a message and assume that the right person gets it?  Wow . . . is this really how local government works?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Walkability in Tredyffrin Twp or. . . How to Keep a Private County Club from Building Sidewalks?

Is Tredyffrin’s sidewalk ordinance really about supporting walkability of Tredyffrin or is it about stall tactics to keep St. Davids Golf Club from building their required sidewalks?

Whether you were in the audience or watching from home, I hope residents have had an opportunity to watch Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Prior to the BOS meeting, I attended last week’s Planning Commission meeting; one of only 2 audience members (BOS member Mike Heaberg the other) who remained for 4 hours and 20 min. of the meeting.  My purpose in attending the Planning Commission meeting was to ask about the enforcement of the 8 open land development agreements.  These land development agreements had been placed ‘on hold’ since December 2009, 21 months ago pending the results from the special sidewalk subcommittee.  Although the sidewalk subcommittee presented their results months ago, the 8 existing land development agreements continued to remain open issues.  During a public hearing discussing the proposed sidewalk ordinance, the supervisors voted unanimously to ‘separate’ the 8 open land development agreements from any new sidewalk ordinance.  In other words, the 8 signed land development agreements would not be affected by any township ordinance change. It is the belief by many that legally the existing land development agreements could never have been changed based on any new ordinance.  To be clear, one of these 8 open land development agreements is the sidewalks required at St. Davids Golf Club.

Once the supervisors voted to exclude the existing land development agreements from the proposed sidewalk ordinance, I assumed that there was no impediment for enforcing the contracts (which was why I attended the Planning Commission meeting).  Much to my surprise (and to the surprise of some Planning Commissioners) in response to my enforcement question, I was told by the township manager that those agreements were still ‘on hold’ by the BOS.  I followed up with — what do we do to move forward. . . what’s the process. Ms. Gleason informed me that the BOS would have to instruct her to move forward or that a resident could ask the supervisors at a regular BOS meeting to move the process forward for enforcement.

Not really understanding ‘why’ the process continued to have delays, I took up my quest for resolution at Monday’s BOS meeting (prior to the public hearing).  There was no decision, no vote on the enforcement issue, but Bob Lamina said that he understood I wanted closure and perhaps it would happen as a result of the sidewalk ordinance.  I argued that the proposed sidewalk ordinance had no bearing (they had voted to exclude the existing land development agreements!) but I got no where.

We then get to the infamous public hearing on the proposed sidewalk ordinance.  With Lamina and Paul Olson fiercely opposed to sidewalks, there was endless rhetoric, it went on and on . . . the long and winding road. One could conclude Lamina’s behavior was nothing more than filibustering.

fil·i·bus·ter: The use of obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speech-making, for the purpose of delaying legislative action.

A letter to the editor by Bill Bellew of Devon appears in this week’s edition of the Main Line Media News. (click here).

An accurate analysis of the BOS meeting, Bill writes, ” . . .  Some time ago I went to a BOS meeting and asked the board to “knock it off” when it came to these Washington-style debates. We the voters elect the board to run our township now and for the future. As a registered Independent, I couldn’t care less what party you are affiliated with –  just do the job we elected you to do. . . ”

So where are we with the sidewalk issue? I sent an email 3 days ago to Mimi Gleason, copying the BOS, asking when the enforcement letters would go to those 8 projects that have existing open land development agreements (including the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club).  So far, there has been no acknowledgement of the email nor any response from our township manager (or the BOS).  With a vote of 5-2 (Lamina and Olson opposed) the proposed sidewalk ordinance was passed by the supervisors.  However, the ordinance passed without a map attached to it.  Without a map, it is my understanding there is no sidewalk requirement.  Until a map is approved to accompany the sidewalk ordinance, the Planning Commissions cannot require sidewalks as part of a land development agreement.  But even without a map, the signed land development agreements (including the one with St. Davids Golf Club) are legal and binding.  In other words, ‘where’ sidewalks are required may be temporarily ‘up in the air’ until a map is approved, there is NO impediment for the sidewalk requirement in existing land development agreements!

Tredyffrin’s sidewalk discussion has traveled beyond the borders of our local community.  In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the following article appears.  To the Philadelphia Inquirer writer, Anthony Campisi who attended the BOS meeting, the story appeared to be simply sidewalks . . . some for them and other against them.  However, for many of us, we know it’s about a specific sidewalk in a specific location!

Tredyffrin sidewalk ordinance aims for a walkable community

By Anthony Campisi

Inquirer Staff Writer

To understand why Tredyffrin Township wants to build more sidewalks, look no further than Harold Scott.

The 69-year-old Pottstown resident was on his way to a church meeting in the township but wanted to stop first for coffee at a Saxby’s down the road on Route 30.

Rather than walking from the Church of the Good Samaritan, he ended up driving the 100 yards to the shop. The sidewalks “stop and start” too much to walk safely, he said, gesturing toward the road, with its islands of unconnected sidewalks and cars rushing by.

If the sidewalk ordinance adopted Monday does what it’s supposed to, people like Scott will be able to get around more easily on foot.

The ordinance will require new residential and commercial developments along roads yet to be designated to have sidewalks. Eight are currently planned in the township but it is unclear how they would be affected.

The result, proponents say, would provide longer stretches of sidewalk and a more livable community. Resident Hans van Naerssen told supervisors before the vote the ordinance would ensure that pedestrians have “equal opportunity” with motorists.

But the move to add sidewalks encountered some opposition from the supervisors chairman and vice chairman, who argued that the ordinance would raise costs and scare away development. They said the question should be put before voters in a referendum.

Tredyffrin, a mostly residential section of Chester County that encompasses parts of Wayne, Paoli, and Berwyn, has had a sidewalk ordinance for almost 25 years, requiring sidewalks to be installed as part of any large-scale project.

The problem, according to Township Manager Mimi Gleason, was that the requirement “used to be waived routinely” because the ordinance was vaguely worded.

The result is that much of the township’s 150 miles of roads lack sidewalks – including parts of major commercial corridors, such as Route 30.

The new ordinance – passed after almost two years of debate – is meant to change that by providing a more strategic approach that will result in fewer waivers, according to Supervisor Michelle H. Kichline.

But that argument didn’t persuade Supervisors Chairman Robert W. Lamina, who worried that the ordinance was “highly prescriptive.”

Because most of Tredyffrin’s neighborhoods are built out, the ordinance will affect mostly commercial redevelopment projects.

Sean N. McCauley, a developer and planning commissioner, disputed Lamina’s claim, saying “the cost of sidewalks is insignificant.”

With Tredyffrin competing with others to attract jobs, he argued that creating a more walkable community was essential.

Joseph Hacker, a top transportation planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, agreed, saying in an interview that sidewalk requirements make an “enormous amount of sense” if, as in Tredyffrin, they’re meant to connect residents to things like train stations.

Not everyone in Tredyffrin wants a walkable community.

“I don’t believe this township is a walking township,” resident Bob Robie told supervisors, adding that he’s happy driving.

Tory Snyder, a Planning Commission member, said a survey found that about two-thirds of residents supported more sidewalks.

Snyder, who chaired a sidewalk committee that helped develop the ordinance, said in an interview that it took a balanced approach.

But don’t expect walkability issues in Tredyffrin to go away soon. The Board of Supervisors has only begun working to figure out where new sidewalks would be required.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Twp Sidewalk Saga Continues Tonight . . . Are we moving one step closer to sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club (or not)?

Tonight is Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting and a public hearing on sidewalks will follow the meeting. Continuing from July’s public hearing, the discussion continues the review of the proposed sidewalk amendment change to the township’s land development ordinance.

Supervisors John DiBuonaventuro, Michelle Kichline and Mike Heaberg agreed at last month’s public hearing that the proposed ordinance change should only affect prospective land development agreements, not pre-existing land development agreements. The sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club are in the ‘pre-existing land development agreement’ category and therefore would be exempt from the proposed amendment change, at least according to DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Heaberg. Supervisors Paul Olson and EJ Richter appear to be committed to the notion that sidewalks are not needed (or desired) at the St. Davids location. Supervisors Bob Lamina and Phil Donahue were absent at the last meeting, so I look forward to learning whether they support excluding pre-existing land development agreements from the proposed sidewalk ordinance change.

Regardless of the determination on the proposed sidewalk ordinance change, here’s hoping that we can look forward to resolution on all eight outstanding land development agreements which contain sidewalks (including St. Davids!).

On August 2, I wrote “Tredyffrin Township Needs an Economic ‘Call for Action’ from its Elected Officials”. The post discussed the township’s economic climate, closing of local businesses and empty storefronts. As follow-up to the post, I emailed the Board of Supervisors requesting an official public update on the Paoli Transportation Center and also on the Economic Development Committee which was approved at the April 4th Board of Supervisors meeting. I can report that I received a response from township manager Mimi Gleason – and we can look forward to a status report on these two important topics at tonight’s BOS meeting.

In reviewing the agenda for the BOS meeting, I’m curious about a couple of items:

Approval for Transportation and Community Development Initiative grant for zoning ordinance update

Review and comments for Willistown Township’s official map

I wonder if both of these items are related to the Paoli Transportation Center — I’m not sure why Tredyffrin Twp should be reviewing Willistown Twp’s map?  Unless there is some confusion as to township lines as it relates to the Paoli Transportation Center? 

One other township note – next Monday, August 22 the Board will begin the 2012 budget process with a public workshop, 7 PM in Keene Hall.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Community Matters © 2017 Frontier Theme