Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Christmas in January for St. Davids Golf Club . . . Thank you Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter

The community’s outrage over Monday night Board of Supervisors decision to return $25,000 escrow money to St. Davids Golf Club continues . . . Tredyffrin resident Dariel Jamieson provides the following Letter to the Editor in today’s Main Line Suburban Life.

Supervisors’ gift to country club

To the Editor:

What happened at Monday’s Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors meeting gives new meaning to the term “country-club Republicans.” In a stealth move that set a new standard for chutzpah, four members of the Board of Supervisors – Kampf, Lamina, Olson and Richter – voted to return $25,000 in escrow funds to St. Davids Country Club. There had been no public notice, the item was not on the agenda, and Mr. Olson, who made the motion, admitted the township had received no formal request from St. Davids to return the escrow funds.

After all the hoopla associated with St. Davids’ 18-month breach of contract, Monday night’s decision by four supervisors effectively absolves the golf club of its obligation to build a sidewalk along its property on Upper Gulph Road – an agreement reached with the Planning Commission in 2005 as part of an approval to expand its clubhouse.

But this is not about sidewalks. It is about the supervisors’ total lack of transparency, the appearance of impropriety, the complete disregard for the Planning Commission’s decisions, and the setting of bad precedent.

It became obvious during public comment that some members of the community had advance notice of the topic – some referring to typed notes as they spoke. That advance notice begs the question of why the item was not on the agenda. One supervisor said after the meeting that she “had been phoning people the whole latter half of the week.” People who clearly had not been made aware of the topic were residents of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood and members of the Sidewalks, Trails and Paths Committee.

I was also told after the meeting that the supervisors had asked for legal advice before the meeting and a representative of the township solicitor had assured them they were within their rights to take such a vote. Clearly there was time to get a legal opinion but no time to add the topic to the agenda. The stealth move was also scheduled on the same night as the Board of Education budget meeting, which was expected to have a “standing room only” crowd since it was covering the possibility of a significant tax increase.

Supervisor Michelle Kichline tried to initiate discussion opposing the motion but was silenced by Chairman Bob Lamina, who had announced that he would hear comments from the public before board members could speak. Ms. Kichline moved to table the motion in favor of St. Davids until serious legal and procedural questions could be answered but Mr. Lamina did not allow her motion to come to a vote.

Planning Commission Chair Bob Whelan stepped forward to rebut Mr. Olson’s claim that all immediate neighbors were opposed to the sidewalks and questioned why the board would want to completely negate the decision made by the Planning Commission. Later in the meeting Mr. Lamina suggested Tredyffrin should re-examine the role of the Planning Commission because the “Board of Supervisors are the ones elected directly by the voters and hence the ones accountable.”

One has to wonder why these four board members thought it was imperative to slip through a sweet deal for St. Davids. When the Board of Supervisors is willing to cut funding to the fire companies, libraries, public works and services to seniors, why was such effort expended to effectively make a gift to a country club?

Dariel Jamieson, Tredyffrin

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  1. Yikes. Way to go Dariel. You pretty much covered it all — so now what? If this decision goes unchallenged, will the FOLK and R learn any lesson.
    Perhaps letters to the editor questioning why Saint Davids would want to be treated better than their neighbors in Mount Pleasant would bring forth leadership from the Golf Club to turn it down. They are residents here too.
    Their website says this about St. Davids:
    Welcome to St. Davids Golf Club. A private golf club considered to be one of the premier clubs on the Main Line that offers dining in a casual atmosphere and an 18 hole golf course with a driving range. We also offer banquet facilities for weddings, parties, corporate events and golf outings.

    A public request that people not use it for corporate events, golf outings, weddings etc. until they become responsible community participants might do the trick? Right across the street from Mt. Pleasant — wonder how many members have ever been there.

  2. Tredyffrin certainly has a problem with 4 of its supervisors — block of 4 indeed! I say take them to the woodshed! Better yet, why don’t you demand their resignations from the board. I don’t want to see Tredyffrin become the joke of the main line, residents you need to fight for your community and show your outrage!

  3. It’s great to hear a word from Easttown, which the old boys in Tredyffrin refer to as the “dead Siamese twin” — inferring that Easttown spends no money and gets all the benefits of Tredyffrin. Tredyffrin gets 1% transfer tax on all properties sold here — Easttown gets 1/2% on properties sold there. The school district gets 1/2% from both sides….but only Coatesville gets 1% in Chester County besides Tredyffrin — so their bragging rights of low taxes is a result of a higher “ante-up” to come into this community. Do people move to Tredyffrin for the parks? No — they move to “T-E”. The arrogance behind that slur on Easttown is clearly on display now with the arrogance of a BLOCK of 4 who plan to do as they please.

  4. OK, I did some digging…

    1. It doesn’t look like the township is giving cash back to the club because the township never held cash. This isn’t costing taxpayers a dime — and even if it was cash, it wasn’t the governments.

    2. I don’t know how anyone can be surprised by this occuring. St. Davids had been working with the township for over a year on this issue. It seems that the township planning commission didn’t want to compromise so St. Davids went to the ultimate authority — the Supervisors elected by the people

    3. I’m for sidewalks like anyone else. Don’t love paying for them, but sometimes they make sense. This walk, path or whatever you want to call it didn’t make sense. There is NO other sidewalk for it to connect to and there doesn’t seem to be one for miles on either side of Upper Gulph Road (I drove by) other than the one from the library parking lot to the library park. Why spend money on something that makes no sense and why force a township taxpayer (yes, st. davids is a taxpayer) to fund something that makes no sense.

    The entire point is that the planning commission has a role — oversight, guidance, etc. to keep Tredyffrin a nice place. They also have a responsibility to be fair and use some common sense when making decisions (while following the law.) They didn’t do it in this case and the Supervisors did.

  5. John,
    You are incorrect on a number of levels. The main point being, the money is there as SECURITY for the township. Therefore, when the money is released the township loses its security to insure the project is completed according to the submitted plan.

    Furthermore, simply because an official is elected does not give that official or officials the right to disregard its own code. That’s a very similar argument made by former President Nixon following Watergate – basically asserting that the law is what the highest official says it is. Not true and this leads to tyranny.

  6. I am not a member of the club (I wish).

    I understand that the money is a security, just wanted to make the point that too many are talking about this as if $25k is coming out of township coffers; it is not.

    Re: the deal, I saw mention of such in the BAWG and on blogs, but no one can show me an actual signed and sealed deal (and, yes, I am taking the original escrow agreement from the club’s improvements out of that statement.)

    Re: their performance, I understand that as well. However variances, etc., are provided everyday in every municipality so there is nothing to say they were ever going to have to build this sidewalk and it seems as if there was not agreement on that issue on both the Planning Commission and the BoS.

    Finally, it is still a sidewalk that makes no sense…it attaches to no others, doesn’t connect the church to other parking, etc. Why are we forcing citizens (corporate or residential) to pay for unnecessary items?

    I am not happy about the way this was handled. But, I think too many are flogging an issue that made little sense in the first place — other than a small contingent of “put sidewalks everywhere” community members.

    Finally, do we all realize that Tredyffrin is one of the few municipalities in which the Planning Commission doesn’t just report its recommendations to the BoS? What has been created, in essence, are two governments for land use purposes…and that is an inherently bad format for reasons just such as this case.

  7. I think the larger issue is how a political body, elected by Tredyffrin residents, can simply disregard its own mandate. Governing documents are there for a reason. Politicians should take tremendous political heat when they choose to divert from these documents.

    In regards to the point about variances. You are completely correct. However, this is not a variance. A variance would come into play during the planning phase. Such as if St. David’s sought a variance from some zoning regulation prior to any construction. This is a completely different scenario – this is at the back end. The plan was agreed upon and a majority of the work completed. The time to contest a sidewalk issue has long since passed.

    The issue of land use issues and the governance of such in Tredyffrin is a valid point. However, this can be rectified through the legislative process by making alterations to the Code. The way to effect change is not simply disregard the law as it stands.

    1. Thank you Roger for your comment! You get it . . . it’s not about sidewalks, it’s about government policy and procedures. The land development contract between St. Davids Golf Club and Tredyffrin Township included sidewalks. The time for discussion on the project was before the contract was signed . . . not after the project was completed. You are right, ‘The way to effect change is not simply disregard the law as it stands.’

  8. And what of all the other organizations/land owners who were forced to put sidewalks in under the same obligation?? And those who are currently in the process??

    Maybe the return of the St. davids escrow won’t cost the taxpayers money, but the lawsuits will.

    What judge won’t award them $ after the vote on public record was made for st. david’s?

  9. CJ —

    I, too, have had concern over possible lawsuits and their costs, but I don’t believe what they did was illegal. Maybe wrong, yes, but not illegal. Even a fill-in solicitor would have stopped that. Of course, in today’s society doing something legally still may not prevent a lawsuit

    1. John,
      I couldn’t tell you one way or another if it was legal or not… HOWEVER. if I was forced to put sidewalks in under the same obligation that st. davids did; I would be suing for my $ back.

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