Tredyffrin Township

$1.5 Million Designated for Tredyffrin’s Wilson Farm Park Updating – Who’s making the Decisions and Where’s the Input from the Township Park & Rec Board?

In the last few days, I have received emails, texts and phone calls from concerned township residents regarding the plans underway for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan.  It turns out that the more I learned about the situation, the more troubled I have become – hence the need for today’s post.

For many residents in Tredyffrin Township, the opening of the award-winning Wilson Farm Park in 2004 was a very special time.  Located in Chesterbrook,  the 90-acre recreational facility quickly became the jewel of the township, offering sports fields,  picnic areas, pavilion, putting green, amphitheater, tot lot, etc.  The Fourth of July fireworks, Community Day and the Summer Concert Series are all held at Wilson Farm Park and enjoy tremendous support from the community.

Last fall township supervisors approved a $7M municipal bond initiative. With a three year window to use the funds, the bond money was to go to a variety of needs, including township building improvements, road and street repairs and our community parks.  With the aging infrastructure of Wilson Farm Park showing a need for general maintenance and updating it was good news that $1.5 million of the bond money was earmarked for township parks.

Over several supervisor meetings, discussion evolved about the use of the bond money, including Wilson Farm Park. I noted in a review of the November and December supervisor meetings, that a subcommittee (Jack Trimmer, Troy Logan and Meg Hamilton) of the Parks & Rec Board was approved to work on the bond funding usage for the parks. Understanding that the Parks & Rec Board is integral in determining how the $1.5 million would be spent in the township parks, their voices would be critical in the process.

At the November 18 meeting, the supervisors approve a proposal for Simone Collins Landscape Architects for $21,750 for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. There was no mention in supervisor meeting minutes about a request for proposal (RFP) so the specific scope of work is unclear. However, it is noted that Simone Collins is well respected and is who designed the original plans for Wilson Farm Park in 2003/4.

Fast forward and the next thing we know there is an Open House this past Monday, Jan 13 in Keene Hall, 7 PM to discuss the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. Posted earlier on the same day on the township website is a ‘Wilson Farm Park Master Plan Survey’.  Several residents whom contacted me complained about the lack of notification of the meeting and therefore poor attendance.

At the meeting, Simone Collins delivers a complete presentation for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. As detailed in the PowerPoint, the team includes Simone Collins personnel as well as Spotts, Stevens & McCoy engineers. The Simone Collins plan includes many needed updates and routine maintenance in addition to some “new” features including the transformation of the putting green into four pickleball courts.

All of this brings me to the point of this post – many questions and few answers.

Where is the input from the township’s Parks & Rec Board on the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan, specifically the subcommittee that was established to work with the consultant?

This appears to be a much-evolved master plan for Wilson Farm Park, when exactly did this work begin? In addition, since the members of the township’s Park & Recreation Board have not had a seat at the table, who exactly is leading the charge for the township?

It was my understanding that the $1.5 million was to be spent on updating existing park infrastructure so where did the idea to transform the putting green in to four pickleball courts come from?  Not saying that pickleball courts are not a good idea; but if the Parks & Rec Board did not recommend it and the community has not yet weighed in, where did the idea come from? Not to mention, that the chosen location of the “new pickleball courts” is right next to the folks who live in Newport townhouses. It is no surprise that a number of the residents living next to Wilson Farm Park are very upset about the proposed plan and have contacted me!

It appears that this is a “cart before the horse” situation – the township now has a new Wilson Farm Park Master Plan proposal without any input from the members of the Parks & Rec Board and without the results of the citizen survey.  According to the Simone Collins timeline contained in the presentation, the Wilson Farm Park survey is to be available until approximately Feb. 29 yet it lists the date of March 1 as “Plan Complete”. It is important that the community is involved in the process of spending funds for park development/improvement, but is that really happening here.

According to the Legislative Code of Tredyffrin Township, § 138-5  Powers and duties of the Park and Recreation Board, “The Township Park and Recreation Board shall have general supervision of all Township parks, and all maintenance thereof, including replacements of property and equipment therein. ..”  so why are they not involved in this process?

How is it possible that the township can spend $1.5M in the township parks without input from the Parks & Recreation Board?  If memory serves me correctly, the $1.5M bond money was earmarked for “parks” and not just for Wilson Farm Park. There are 12 parks in Tredyffrin Township, yet there is no mention of money going anywhere but to Wilson Farm Park. Is Simone Collins working on the other parks too?  Or is the complete $1.5M going to Wilson Farm Park?

On the Board of Supervisor agenda for Tuesday, Jan 21 is a “motion to approve proposal from Simone Collins for Wilson Farm Park Master Plan”.  Is this “proposal” the PowerPoint presentation that Simone Collins presented on Monday, Jan 13? Are the supervisors approving a plan without input from Parks & Rec members? In addition, what about results from the citizen survey which does not end until Feb. 29, how does that factor into the “proposal”?

If the township has three years to use the $7M bond money, why is there a rush to push through $1.5M spending on Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. Wouldn’t it make more sense to slow the process, involve the Park & Rec Board, review the results of the Wilson Farm Park Citizen Survey, hold a public forum for community discussion and THEN take the next step on approving a Wilson Farm Park Master Plan.

It is important that the community is involved in the process of spending funds for park development/improvement. Our voices matter and it is imperative that government be transparent and honest with the public, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved.

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Do You Live in Tredyffrin Township and Struggle with Stormwater Issues? Plan to Attend: Public Forum of the Resident Stormwater Task Force on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 7 PM

If you are a Tredyffrin Township resident dealing with stormwater issues (and aren’t we all?), please plan to attend the first public form of the Stormwater Task Force on Tuesday, January 7,  7 PM at Tredyffrin Township building. Tredyffrin supervisors authorized the citizens’ Stormwater Advisory Task Force to assist the township in characterizing stormwater problems and recommending solutions. At the meeting on Tuesday, the Task Force will provide some background to stormwater in the township and lay out its goals and approach and ask for resident input.

The Task Force is primarily collecting data about stormwater problems through an on-line survey. Residents can go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TredyffrinStormwater to enter information into the comprehensive Township wide database. If you have general questions, you can email the Task Force at: stormwatertaskforce@gmail.com.

Given that many of our neighborhoods regularly deal with major stormwater issues, a citizen-led township Stormwater Task Force is needed and much-appreciated. Nobody knows a community better than its residents.

A recent example is the proposed parking lot on Irish Road which is part of the Conestoga High School expansion project.  The parking lot plan requires the removal of many trees from its wooded lot.  We know that rainwater does not percolate into impervious surfaces but runs off instead. Impervious surface is the primary contributor to stormwater runoff and is a major contributor to flooding.

Residents in the high school area (particularly Irish Road, Lizbeth Lane and Oak Lane) have suffered with major stormwater and flooding issues for years – if you know the area, many homes in the neighborhood sit downhill from the proposed high school expansion project and parking lot. Such a large land development project, which includes the removal of many trees, is certain to impact a community already impacted by stormwater runoff problems and stormwater issues.

Residents township wide are experiencing severe stormwater issues – from Glenhardie, Deepdale and Strafford Park areas to the Pennsylvania Turnpike neighbors in the Great Valley and anyone in the township living close to the Trout and Valley Creek watersheds. If you are experiencing stormwater issues, you are encouraged to attend the meeting on Tuesday and make your concerns known.  Neighbors cannot afford further damage and possible devaluation of property as a result of severe runoff issues.

Let’s work together with the citizens’ Stormwater Task Force to help mitigate and prevent flooding and erosion of our properties!

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Oh No! Catalyst Appeals Digital Billboard Decision to Chester County Court of Common Pleas!

With fingers-crossed I had hoped that Catalyst Outdoor would just accept the denial by Tredyffrin Township and its Zoning Hearing Board for a digital sign in Paoli and just walk away … sadly they did not!

With a thirty day window to appeal the township’s decision, Catalyst Outdoor has just done that – and late this past Friday submitted their appeal application to the Chester County Court of Common Appeals! Now it is no longer in the hands of Tredyffrin Township — it moves to the Common Pleas judges and we wait.  This is so wrong!

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Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Question #4: Why Should You Be Elected or Re-Elected?

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #4 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

____________________________________________________________

  1. What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members? Why should you be elected or re-elected?

K. S. Bhaskar Response:

I will bring the perspective of an engineer and computer scientist, different from that of lawyers and real estate developers. I will review storm-water management holistically rather than piecemeal. Frequent flooding and erosion create a mutually-reinforcing spiral. Insufficiently planned development triggers the problems, and the former quarry, now a lake, at Atwater raises a water table which does not respect township borders. Also, I will use my background in mission-critical software used in banking and healthcare to review and strengthen the township’s cyber-defenses because towns in America are being hit with ransomware attacks. Also, while the Internet of Things – such as smart light bulbs that signal when they need replacement, or remote monitors on water and sewage pumps – reduces our costs and makes it easier to provide municipal services, it also increases our potential attack surface, which must be reviewed and protected.

Peter DiLullo Response:

There are three primary reasons that I would make a great addition to the Board of Supervisors.  First and foremost I have three young children utilizing all the services of Tredyffrin – schools, parks, libraries, fields, etc.  With that, I have a very vested interest in keeping Tredyffrin a great place to live.  Second, I spent the first part of my career as a CPA with KPMG and PWC.  I understand budgets and the responsible use of our residents hard earned tax dollars.  The third reason that I would make a great supervisor is that I currently work in commercial real estate giving me a deep understanding of responsible land use, smart growth, and the impact of storm water on our neighborhoods, businesses, and natural resources.

Mark Freed Response:

Experience, responsiveness and transparency. I am in my fifth year as a Township Supervisor, and believe that I have a solid grasp of the operations, finances and priorities of the Township.  My experience as a municipal solicitor and environmental lawyer also helps inform my decisions. I try to be responsive to the questions and concerns of our residents. And, I try to keep interested residents apprised of what the Township is doing and why. Whether dealing with the issues of electronic billboards, commercial or residential development, assisted living facilities, police department and fire company staffing and funding, bond issues, neighborhood noise and nuisance complaints, infrastructure repair and maintenance, stormwater, historic preservation, environmental stewardship or the many other matters that come before the Board, I try to apply my experience and knowledge for the benefit of our residents.

Julie Gosse Response:

I am a scientist, small business owner, and mother. Together, these give me unmatched capabilities and perspective that will benefit Tredyffrin. My scientific background involves breaking down complex systems, thinking hard about cause-effect, and determining actions from a fact-based perspective. Through my science communications firm, I balance client requests with fiscal discipline, and manage growth with sustainability. As a team, much like the Board of Supervisors, we work together to tackle tough problems. I enjoy science because data are dispassionate, and can take the emotion out of arguments. I enjoy client business and being a parent because both reward soft skills and communication. As a Supervisor, I bring these strengths to the Board and better serve our community as a result. Finally, having grown up in Tredyffrin, I have a deep understanding and love of the township and work to represent all residents – children, young adults, working parents, and seniors.

Sharon Humble Response:

I have extensive legal, business, executive, and charitable-board experience. I’m attorney who has spent almost 25 years in private practice as outside legal counsel representing local governments to help them improve their fiscal positions and solve other legal and practical problems. I served as the Managing Partner of my firm’s Philadelphia office. In that role, I handled all the business matters of the office, including client relationships, contracts, budgeting, B2B purchases, insurance, taxes, charitable and promotional participation, governmental affairs, HR matters, etc. I also served on my firm’s national Management Committee for 12 years until my retirement from the firm on January 1, 2018. The national Management Committee oversees and votes on all of the business matters of the firm’s 40+ offices in the U.S. I’d love to bring my years of very successful and high-level business experience to serving on the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

Well, one differentiator is I am not a lawyer. My educational background is rooted in the social sciences and education and my professional background is executive development, organizational behavior, marketing and communications. My recent “extracurricular” activity is in the area of non-profit management. This background serves as a foundation for leadership built on observation of individual and group dynamics, facilitation of ideas and dialogue, integration of people and processes, and critical thinking and reasoning.

My work on the United Way community impact team has greatly influenced my readiness for the role of Supervisor and informed my framework for decision-making in the role. This includes: How many constituents are affected by the action or decision? What are the positive and negative implications? What are the consequences if we don’t act now? What is the impact on other services and stakeholders? and What are the implications for long-term (financial) sustainability?

Liz Mercogliano Response:

I am different from all the current Supervisors and running candidates. I am a behavioral health RN with hospital and forensic experience. I can run a code and save a life. I know the importance of helping families with addicted love ones. I sponsored the first Tredyffrin Backyard Opioid Event.  I survived breast cancer at age 38.

I was the Chair of Diversity for the T/E Schools because I grew up in a diverse family. I married an immigrant. I was an older student when I attended the Delaware University Law School. I am not in it to climb the political ladder or play party politics. I believe Township issues are bipartisan issues. The citizens of Tredyffrin deserve better and deserve more than red tape and minimal information (after the fact). I bring a willingness to listen and treat others with dignity and respect.

Raffi Terzian Response:

I believe in public service and my focus is on community first and how best to address the needs of our community. I take a collaborative approach in bringing people together and I am a good listener who consistently acts with integrity, accountability and transparency. I am actively involved in the community through a number of activities including my service on the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, as a member of the Township Parks and Recreation Board and through my involvement in my church. I bring a unique skillset to the Board of Supervisors as an Emergency Physician with a background in public health and I have strong leadership, organizational and decision-making skills. I presently work in health advocacy with executive experience and budget responsibility. I am prepared to serve and believe that we, as neighbors, should serve each other with a common interest in seeing our community thrive.  Thank you.

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Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #3: Funding Township Infrastructure Improvements

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #3 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

___________________________________________________________

  1. Tredyffrin Township has a substantial fund balance yet the infrastructure is deteriorating. How do you propose balancing compensation-driven cost pressure and the need to deliver infrastructure improvements while avoiding or limiting a tax increase?

 K. S. Bhaskar Response:

“Compensation-driven cost pressure” is presumably a euphemism for salaries and benefits for township employees. While we need not be overly generous, if we want our employees to put their best foot forward for the township every day, we need to compensate them appropriately and competitively for our part of the country. As the township also needs rainy-day reserves to deal with emergencies as well as fund capital projects, not all fund balances are available to be tapped for needed infrastructure maintenance resulting from kicking the can down the road for years in the name of low taxes. There comes a time to pay the Piper. While some cost increase is inevitable, I will use an impact-cost-risk analysis to prioritize projects and mitigate and manage costs. There is no magic, and these are techniques I have routinely used in managing a product business at a global Fortune 500 company.

Peter DiLullo Response:

Aging infrastructure is a topic that cannot be ignored.  Assisted by 3rd party engineering reports, projects need to be budgeted, planned and prioritized in an effort to avoid tax increases.  Furthermore, state and federal grant programs need to be researched as a funding source.

Mark Freed Response:

The Township does have a substantial fund balance.  I commend prior Boards for leaving the Township on a sound financial footing.  However, this has come at the cost of significant deferred maintenance on such things as bridges, parks and other Township property.  To address these much-needed repairs without resorting to depleting the reserves or excessive tax increases, the Township has proposed to prudently use reserves along with the issuance of historically low interest bonds.  As we move forward, we must continue to insure that the Township’s expenses are in line with its revenues.  This requires assuring that we properly prioritize needed work and other expenses.  Although excess reserves can be used to help pay for infrastructure, we must assure that they do not become so depleted that they are not available for their intended purposes: downturns in revenue and unanticipated expenses.

Julie Gosse Response:

We can no longer shy away from the critical maintenance of our infrastructure or minimize fixes on our major problems. Our fund balance is strong. We can use a portion of this in a fiscally responsible bond strategy to help meet today’s infrastructure challenges while retaining sufficient reserves to meet our future contingencies. With interest rates at record lows, now is a good time for us to issue bonds to raise money to meet our capital needs. Using this approach gives us an opportunity to fund our long-overdue infrastructure projects – bridges, deteriorating stormwater infrastructure, deferred park and building upgrades – without a significant impact on taxes.

Sharon Humble Response:

Costs for Township personnel compensation are unlikely to go down as Township personnel gain experience, expertise, and tenure with the Township. Personnel costs are typically paid from anticipated revenue as part of any government annual budget. They’re not paid from reserves or special funds created from special taxes or fees. In my opinion, capital improvements in the township should be funded from a bond issue or special funds created to address the particular infrastructure issues.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

The most honest answer I can give is “I don’t know”. I don’t know details of the mandated or contractual obligations of the township (like police pension funding, employee benefits, etc.), I don’t know the scope of needed infrastructure improvements, nor do I know the details of the township’s investment strategy or reserves allocation to make a sound proposal.

I would ask questions like, Can we pool with other municipalities to get better health care rates? Can we increase the employee share of premium costs? Can we renegotiate the terms of (new hire) police contracts away from defined benefit pensions to a 401K model? What are the risks and opportunity costs if we don’t fix infrastructure now? What are the potential consequences of waiting? Do we have the necessary expertise and broad community input to make these decisions?

What I do know is I will make decisions that prioritize resident safety, security and well-being.

Liz Mercogliano Response:

First, the Tredyffrin infrastructure updates are done with the cooperation of Chester County, Pennsylvania, local businesses, local developers and PECO. For example, Chester County does help fund our Mill Road bridges. I suggest infrastructure should be funded by bonds and the capitol project funds. The fund balance should be the last resort. The fact is no one likes tax increases. And no one wants services cut back. However, a minimal tax increase to beautify and renew may be necessary to replace roads and bridges for public safety. As a former School Board Director, I know that once the fund balance is spent down, it is very difficult to replace. The Supervisors should seek professional outside advice to strategize the various ways to fund infrastructure. I also suggest a citizen advisory board.

Raffi Terzian Response:

Addressing gaps in infrastructure should be a key priority for the Board of Supervisors but must be balanced with fiscal responsibility. The fund balance is a by-product of sound fiscal management and has allowed our township to maintain a strong bond rating. Rational and prudent spending must be preserved. It is important to establish priorities for infrastructure improvements in consultation with the township manager, engineer and others in the context of a broader comprehensive plan for the Township. In terms of infrastructure, the issue of stormwater management and development of a strategic plan should be a top priority as it continues to be a significant concern to our community. The recent establishment of the Stormwater Citizen’s Advisory Task Force is a step in the right direction, as it will leverage the collective expertise and guidance of members of our community who recognize this issue as complex and multifaceted.

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Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #1: Zoning

Starting today for the next four days, is a daily question which was presented to the Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates. All eight supervisor candidates responded and their responses will follow the question in alphabetical order according to last name. Here is the reminder of the candidates running for the Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

_________________________________________

Question #1:  If you could change one thing in the Tredyffrin Township zoning code or township ordinances, what would it be and why?

K. S. Bhaskar Response:

I would change the regulations to reduce the maximum permissible housing density. While multi-family residential structures like apartment buildings are appropriate, and we want Tredyffrin to be a welcoming community to one and all, excessive housing density adversely affects our quality of life in ways such as exacerbating traffic (which in turn adversely impacts the timeliness of emergency services) and adding to overcrowding in our schools. In our transition from villages to suburbs, change is inevitable. But change must be managed rather than allowed to run roughshod over us.

Peter DiLullo Response:

The first thing that comes to mind is that the Board of Supervisors should have final approval of any land development plans.  This responsibility should not be relegated to an appointed volunteer planning commission.

Mark Freed Response:

It is difficult to pick a single issue, as I am regularly considering changes to many provisions of the Township Code (e.g., sign requirements, assisted living facilities, development, stormwater, historic preservation).  If required to pick just one, I would choose stormwater.  We are in a period of sustained increased rainfall.  These events have exposed gaps in stormwater management throughout the Township and the region.  The solution to many of these problems are capital improvements, which the Township has and will continue to undertake.  However, the Township is also evaluating ways that the ordinance can be improved to address these issues.  This is why I supported the creation of a Citizens Stormwater Advisory Task Force to review the Township’s stormwater management requirements and to make recommendations on how to improve these requirements.

Julie Gosse Response:

The current zoning code is tilted toward growth over sustainability, and I am in favor of amending it to limit negative impact on our strained shared resources. A reasonable starting point is to address the construction of new assisted living facilities that would encroach on our residential neighborhoods. We can do this by: (1) removing assisted living facilities from C-1 zoning districts altogether or (2) only allowing them in specific C-1 areas (e.g., on a major arterial highway). In addition to changing the character of a neighborhood, assisted living facilities create increased call volume for our already-strained fire companies. Beyond adjusting our C-1 zoning, we could consider requiring conditional use approval for assisted living facilities, adding the additional step of review and approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Sharon Humble Response:

The first “thing” on my list for change is to revoke the Planning Commission’s final decision-making authority on development plans and requests for waivers and variances. On October 7, 2019, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Township Solicitor to review methods by which the Board of Supervisors may obtain final land development approval authority, which I fully support.

Tredyffrin has seen a surge of oversized development projects before the Planning Commission seeking waivers from the restrictions designed to protect the rest of us. Too often, the developers’ requests are granted, to the great detriment of the surrounding homeowners and the environment. Responsible development, however, fits within Township ordinances that exist to protect the Township’s infrastructure, property values, safety, and quality of life. Township residents are not willing to have their safety, quality of life, home property values, and regional environment stability sacrificed for the sake of a developer’s greater profit.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

I support efforts to return final approval authority for land development concerns to the Board of Supervisors. Zoning and land development concerns, I believe, have the broadest and deepest impact across the spectrum of services the township is responsible for, including emergency services, roads and traffic, stormwater, open space and population density, and of course, taxes – affecting both resident stakeholders and the physical infrastructure of the township.

As a Supervisor my duty is to represent the interests of, be a voice for, and be accountable to the residents and voters I serve, balanced with due consideration for the interests of the township as a whole entity.  Recognizing the complexities and legalities of zoning and land development, I also support mandatory education for Supervisors, Planning Commission and Zoning Officer and Hearing Board through programs such as the Chester County Planning Commission’s Master Planning Program for (new) municipal officials.

Liz Mercogliano Response:

The most important zoning ordinance update should be in the area of the planning and development including storm water management. The Supervisors should take back the final decision role in the final approvals of building plans.  The Supervisors are elected and must respond to the constituents. Currently, the township allows the planning commission, (a group of Supervisor appointed volunteers), the privilege of the final decisions on the development plans. I suggest the Supervisors take back the final approval. In addition, the supervisors should give the residents in the immediate community a stronger voice.

Our citizens should not have to attend Supervisor meetings begging for help. Our taxpayers should not have to scream, beg or read dissertations for the Supervisors to acknowledge their views. I plan to listen and help in any way I can in a polite civil manner. A simple response of thank you, I am glad you came to our meeting would suffice.

Raffi Terzian Response:

I am honored to serve as a Board member of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust whose mission is to preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in our Township. The Board of Supervisors must enact a historic ordinance which is meaningful and which firmly recognizes the importance of these resources for the benefit of our community and ensures their preservation for future generations. Progress is being made with the creation of a draft ordinance, which is winding its way through the approval process, but this process must advance swiftly and with transparency. The recent controversy over the installation of a digital billboard, which many of us oppose, illustrates the need for open dialogue, community engagement and greater visibility in the creation, review and application of our Township ordinances.

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Eight Candidates for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors and Ten Candidates for T/E School Board – Where do they stand on important community issues? Know before you VOTE – Responses to Community Matters questions

In two weeks, local voters we will go to the polls to select four supervisors for Tredyffrin Township and five T/E School Board directors. People bring different backgrounds and qualifications to the job of supervisor and school board director and as voters; we need to make the right choices on Election Day.

To assist voters in the decision-making process, it is important for the public to know the candidates and where they stand on important community issues. To aid in the process, last Thursday I sent four questions to the eight supervisor candidates and four questions to the ten school board candidates. The questions were not shared in advance and all candidates received the questions at the same time. Completely voluntary, the eighteen candidates were given the following direction when responding:

Questions were chosen based on what I believe are important issues and included zoning/ordinance changes, fire and EMS funding, public accountability, fiscal responsibility and resident involvement. Candidates were invited to respond to the four questions with the following directions:

Your responses should NOT be a political campaign plug and no campaign websites are to be included. Your response (word doc format) should NOT exceed 150 words per questions and is due no later than Sunday, October 20. Your responses will not be edited and will be provided to the public via Community Matters.

Candidate participation was completely voluntary and all responses will appear on Community Matters in alphabetical order (by last name) beginning the week of October 21.  I sincerely appreciate the candidates taking the time from their busy campaign schedules to respond; it looks like all supervisor and school board candidates are participating. On a personal note, I admit that the management of eighteen candidates and their individual responses to four questions has been challenging but believe that this is an important exercise!

The process for the candidate questions and their responses is as follows – starting tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 22) with the supervisor candidates, I will post one question daily on Community Matters with the eight candidate responses. Once the four supervisor questions and responses are posted in four days, I will post one question daily with responses from the ten school board candidates.

In preparation of the supervisor questions (starting on Tuesday, Oct. 22), here is a list of the candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors (listed in alphabetical order).

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D) *
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D) *
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

* Currently serving on the Board of Supervisors, Mark Freed is an incumbent seeking re-election. Julie Gosse was appointed as interim supervisor in August to fill the unexpired term of Paul Olson and is seeking election to a regular 4-year term.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board Rules on Digital Billboard Appeal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising – Thursday, Oct. 24, 7 PM

The Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board will rule on the digital billboard issue on Thursday, October 24, 7 PM at Tredyffrin Township building.

Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first appeared at a Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting in August 2018 with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks Building and install two large 20 ft. digital billboards with a reflecting pool as the “welcome” to our 300-year old township.

For the last fourteen months, the public has remained committed in their opposition to ‘BAN the Digital Billboard’.  Residents filled the seats of Keene Hall for three Zoning Hearing Board meetings and eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli. My words at the last Zoning Hearing Board meeting were simple, “We are not a community divided” – the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want a digital billboard. Period.

The final decision rests with the Zoning Hearing Board – the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to the ZHB to uphold and support. As I understand it, there are two ways this can go on Thursday – either the ZHB upholds Tredyffrin Township’s previous denial of the Catalyst application for a digital billboard and rules against their appeal or … the ZHB rules in favor of Catalyst on their appeal.

If Catalyst loses its appeal on Thursday, they have the right to appeal the decision to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. If the ZHB rules in favor of Catalyst, the township has the right to appeal the decision.

The digital billboard decision will be first up at the Zoning Hearing Board meeting – 7 PM on Thursday. Residents who sought party status in the digital billboard matter will also learn whether or not it was granted.

The proposed digital billboard is probably one of the most important issues to face our community in recent years – please plan to join me on Thursday at 7 PM, Tredyffrin Township building for the Zoning Hearing Board decision.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

No Planning Commission Approval for $40 Million Conestoga High School Expansion Project … Proposed Parking Lot Major Stumbling Block … Residents Voice Objections

I attended the Planning Commission meeting last night specifically for high school expansion plan — T/E School District was seeking preliminary/final land development approval for the project. The District tried to sell their proposed high school expansion plan, which includes the removal of 200 trees from a wooded lot for a 128 space parking lot on Irish Road. The District came armed with their experts – consultant, architect, stormwater, traffic, attorney and the business manager Art McDonnell.

The neighbors to the proposed project did their homework were organized and prepared to battle back – including two transportation engineers from the neighborhood! The majority of the residents supported the high school expansion project itself; it was the proposed parking lot that was their focus – and the associated stormwater, traffic, safety, environmental, etc. issues. Once again, I was impressed by our community members!

Throughout the to and fro of the three hours of debate, certain facts became clear – (1) the lack of notification to the neighbors of meetings, specifically the Zoning Hearing Board meeting; (2) unclear information about the retaining wall, no specifics and height range of 3 ft. to 10 ft.; (3) a debate of actual need/use of parking lot, whether for staff or students; (4) opposing traffic study information between District and residents; and (5) outdated CHS expansion plans on District website. Many residents complained bitterly that the District and School Board had rushed to approve the expansion plan without adequate input from the community.

I stayed until 10 PM but the discussion continued until 11 PM. I have since learned that the Planning Commission did NOT grant preliminary/final land development approval on the project; several of the planning commissioners voicing personal concern about the parking lot, associated issues and unanswered questions. As I understand it the upshot was that the District needed to re-design the parking lot, specifically reducing the number of parking spaces and perhaps moving the lot closer to the school – this would lessen the number of trees to be removed.

The change to the number of parking spaces will require the District to go back to the Zoning Hearing Board (Wednesday, Nov. 20) and back to the Planning Commission (Thursday, Nov. 21). For those who attended the Planning Commission last night, I encourage you to add to the commentary.

Although the vast majority of residents in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting support the high school expansion project (just not the parking lot), as I mentioned there are some in the community who feel that proposed plan was push through too quickly and without sufficient community input.

One community member who feels the value (and associated costs) of the high school project needs scrutiny is Neal Colligan, a resident and commercial real estate expert. Neal attended the District’s Facility meeting earlier this week and offers the following op-ed:

I was at the Facilities Committee the other night and wanted to share some of my thoughts on the proposed budget for the High School expansion renovation.  As a “real estate” guy; I’m trying to put this into the context of commercial real estate costs/values.  We’re lucky to have something to compare this to in the local community as the Woodlynde School is doing a similar expansion at this time and they’ve shared some information on their website.  Let’s look at these two projects:

Woodlynde – Their expansion project will deliver: a new glass-enclosed atrium; a dining hall/program/performance space (168 people expandable to 256); 6 classrooms; a music studio; an emerging technology space; 4 new flex offices; 3 learning centers; a faculty lounge and 70 new parking spots with re-designed traffic flows.  That’s 17 new spaces for learning and that project is underway today.  Total costs $10.8 MM.

Conestoga – This expansion includes a glass-enclosed atrium; 11 new classrooms; 3 Special Education classrooms; 4 science labs; 1 FCS room; 1 art room; 7 flex rooms and 128 parking spaces.  That’s 27 new learning spaces.  The cost for this project is $39.6 MM.

While never truly “Apples to Apples”-this is pretty close as both projects are being built in Tredyffrin on land already owned by the institution. To be fair in comparison, the Conestoga project includes $6 MM in upgrades to other parts of the High School so we should look at total costs of $33.6 MM.  I don’t know how many square feet Woodlynde is adding so I can’t really compare on a SF basis.  We can compare in other ways.  Per learning space:  Woodlynde – $635,294/space; Conestoga – $1,244,444/space.  On an absolute cost basis, the Conestoga project is 3X the cost of the Woodlynde project.  Conestoga will end up with 1.6 X new learning spaces and 1.8 X the number of parking spaces.

The question is: are we getting VALUE?  At a cost of $33.6 MM for 64,446 SF of new space: the per SF cost is $521/SF.  This is an eye-catching number in commercial real estate.  A project at 7 Tower Bridge was recently announced in Conshohocken.  At $112 MM for 260,000 SF of Class A office or $431/SF- this will be one of (if not THE) most expensive projects in the Philadelphia suburbs ever. But, there’s good reason, the largest Philadelphia investment bank has agreed to lease half of the building at, likely, the highest rental rate in the region.  That’s economics driving the cost of the project.

What’s driving the costs of the Conestoga High School project and IS this the right amount to spend?  It’s easy to get numb to the numbers … $30 million, $35 million, $40 million … they’re just numbers BUT they’re BIG numbers.  Who’s in charge of being the governor on these costs?  The architect/engineer is normally paid on a percentage of total cost … they’re not the governor. The Administration? What’s their responsibility to control costs; they want NICE stuff?  The Board?  Their conversations have focused on needs and design and additions to the plan.  So … who’s looking at the all-in costs?  Who’s comparing this to what “Real Estate” should cost?

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Final Land Development Approval Sought at Planning Commission Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17 for High School Expansion Plan + Proposed Parking Lot on Irish Road — Will Stormwater Runoff be Adequately Managed for the Neighborhood?

On the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission agenda for Thursday, Oct. 17, 7 PM is the preliminary/final land development application for the Conestoga High School expansion. The proposal expands the existing high school (216,000 sq. ft.) with a two story addition (approx. 40,500 sq. ft.)

For those that live in the area of the high school, this is an important meeting to attend — as another component of the T/E School District’s expansion plan includes a new parking lot (with 128 spaces) on Irish Road plus a bus pull-off.

We know that rainwater does not percolate into impervious surfaces but runs off instead. The proposed parking lot requires the removal of many trees from its wooded lot. Imperious surface is the primary contributor to stormwater runoff and is a major contributor to flooding … what stormwater impact can neighbors expect as a result of the proposed parking lot? Will the stormwater runoff from the parking lot be adequately managed? And going forward, who has oversight of the stormwater situation once the parking lot is completed – the school district or the township?

Residents in the high school area (particularly Irish Road, Lizbeth Lane and Oak Lane) have suffered with major stormwater and flooding issues for years – if you know the area, many homes in the neighborhood sit downhill from the proposed high school expansion project and parking lot. Such a large land development project, which includes the removal of many trees, is certain to impact a community already impacted by stormwater runoff problems and stormwater issues.

Residents are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission and make their concerns known. Mitigating and preventing flooding and erosion of their properties must include stormwater runoff as a critical part of the approval of the high school expansion project, particularly the parking lot component. Neighbors cannot afford further damage and possible devaluation of property as a result of severe stormwater runoff issues.

In addition to increased stormwater runoff issues related to the proposed parking lot on Irish Road – residents need to bring their safety, traffic, lighting, etc. concerns to the Planning Commission meeting. The proposed expansion plan and parking lot needs to be fully vetted by the planning commissioners before granting final land development approval.

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