I preface the following post by saying that there are very few times in my life that I have been left speechless but tonight was one of them. For me, tonight’s Board of Supervisor Meeting represented community injustice of the worse kind. If there was ever a subject for Community Matters, this is it!
Tonight I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisor Meeting. Over the last few days, there had been scuttlebutt that Supervisor Paul Olson would once again bring up St. Davids Golf Club and the sidewalks. Although the agenda for tonight’s meeting did not include St. Davids Golf Club, my understanding was that Supervisor Olson intended to make a motion to return the $25,000 escrow to the country club. As part of St. Davids contractual land development agreement with the township, the country club was to build sidewalks. Since July 2008, the country club has been in default for failure to build the sidewalks.
If you recall, at the December 1 Board of Supervisor Meeting I questioned the supervisors concerning the $50,000 cash offer from St. Davids Golf Club which appeared in the pages of the BAWG report. This ‘offer’ (of which there was no written evidence) became widely discussed on Community Matters and in the Main Line Suburban and Daily Local newspapers. There was an outcry from many in the community about this ‘offer’ from St. Davids and the message its acceptance would say to contractors and builders doing business in Tredyffrin Township.
Tonight under the category of ‘new’ supervisor matters, Supervisor Olson made a motion which Supervisor Lamina seconded to ‘return the $25,000 escrow money’ to St. Davids Golf Club. Supervisor Lamina started to call for a vote as Supervisor Kichline asked to offer her opinion. Supervisor Lamina cut off Supervisor Kichline and went to the audience for comment.
Bob Whalen, chair of the Planning Commission spoke and explained that the sidewalks were part of the contractual agreement with St. Davids GC for their land development project. Representatives from the country club had returned to the Planning Commission asking for forgiveness on the sidewalks but the Planning Commission fearing that precedent would be set, voted against the club. Mr. Whalen explained that there are at least six other projects in the township with escrow money that has not been returned because of unfinished projects. Allowing escrow money to return to St. Davids GC will now allow the other contractors to be off the hook, for completing those projects. He adamantly opposed the motion. Next I asked the supervisors if St. Davids GC had come to the Township and asked for their $25,000 escrow money to be returned. Although Supervisor Olson said that he had ‘talked to some people at St. Davids’, the other supervisors confirmed that there was nothing written from St. Davids, in other words the country club never asked for the return of their escrow money!
Other audience members spoke passionately that you cannot make a motion on a matter that was not on the agenda . . . that procedurally you must advertise the matter to the public . . . that you cannot just give a country club a ‘gift’ of $80,000 (the estimated cost to build the sidewalks). Several audience members suggested that Supervisor Olson orchestrated the motion to coincide with the fact that many members of the public would be at the TESD meeting and unable to attend the Supervisor meeting. Remember St. Davids Golf Club was not on the agenda so it was believed that very few residents would attend (making it that much easier to push the motion through). It was obvious that Supervisor Olson had notified local St. Davids residents so they came prepared with written statements that agreed with his motion. Rather than full disclosure to the public by advertising the St. Davids sidewalks discussion, Supervisor Olson (+ Kampf, Lamina and Richter) preferred to tell only a select few residents.
Following resident comments, Supervisor Kichline, an attorney and an ex-member of the Zoning Board spoke passionately about procedural law and the inappropriateness of the proposed motion, stating further discussion was needed with the township solicitor. Supervisor DiBuonaventuro likewise argued against the motion, suggesting for many reasons why the Board of Supervisors should not pass the motion. Township Manager Gleason added, when asked, that the passing of this motion would set precedent for all future township projects.
Hearing the comments from the residents and objections from Supervisors Kichline and DiBuonaventuro, Supervisor Lamina called for a vote – Supervisors Donohue, DiBuonaventuro, Kichline voted against the motion, and Supervisors Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter voted for the motion. The motion carried 4-3 in favor.
Tonight was a rude awakening for me . . . I learned that in Tredyffrin Township it is OK for 4 individuals (Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter) to make up the rules as they go along. At one point, when Supervisor Kichline offered that in Tredyffrin Township, the Planning Commission actually had the ‘last say’ on the land development process rather than the Board of Supervisors – Supervisor Lamina declared that he thinks that the Board of Supervisors will take back their control. I discovered tonight that the government procedures do not apply if you are Supervisors Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter.
This is a sad reality . . . but if you are the ‘Block of 4’ (Olson, Lamina, Kampf, Richter), you rule the township. Your other fellow supervisors do not matter, the public does not matter, the Planning Commissioners do not matter, the township solicitor does not matter, and the township manager does not matter. These 4 will get to make the rules (or break the rules) as they see fit.
What does tonight’s actions say for the future of our township? What does it say for the residents or all the many volunteers who serve on our township boards and committees? If tonight is any evidence, transparency of our local government, full disclosure of information, public communication . . . all gone.