Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Senator Dinniman Holds Neighborhood Meeting to Provide PA Turnpike Stormwater Updates . . . Great Valley resident Kathleen Keohane attends meeting and shares her notes

Senator Andy Dinniman held a small meeting last night to focus on the PA Turnpike stormwater management issues. He brought together turnpike representatives as well as elected officials and individuals representing various homeowner and associated groups in the area. Kathleen Keohane, a resident of the Yellow Springs/Great Valley section of the township attended and graciously provided the following update notes from the meeting. Thank you Kathleen!

Notes from Great Valley Resident Kathleen Keohane

July 27, 2020

It was State Senator Andy Dinniman’s idea to bring decision-makers from the Turnpike Commission together with representatives of the Township and Tredyffrin‘s civic, neighborhood and environmental groups to discuss the Turnpike’s revised stormwater management plan. This is one part of the overall 6-mile-long road widening design plan that will also include sound walls along most of the roadway.

Major discussion points:

-Stormwater runoff from the turnpike will be controlled at near 100%, even with the now planned 26 foot median. This represents a significant improvement in volume control since the original stormwater plan was presented; Control rates exceed DEP standards and in almost all cases, meet Tredyffrin Township’s more stringent criteria.

– Only 18 properties in Tredyffrin will be affected under the revised plan– with 15 partial ‘takes” and 3 complete acquisitions. Among those three, no homeowner has been forced to sell. This also is a far cry from the original design plan which called for the partial taking of almost 90 properties and the acquisition of 8 homes.

The meeting, held in Keene Hall on Tuesday evening, drew about 50 people. As Senator Dinniman pointed out, “The decision-makers are all here” – including PTC’s head, Joe Brimmeier, Head Engineer Frank Kempf and Project Manager, Kevin Scheurich. State Rep. Paul Drucker attended, as did Supervisors Di Buonaventuro, Donahue and Richter. Representatives from civic, neighborhood and environmental groups were there, as well as several residents whose properties are being acquired by the Turnpike.

Most of the evening’s discussion focused on stormwater problems in the Glenhardie area. This eastern-most section of the 6-mile-long expansion project has proved to be the most challenging given the confluence of roadways, the large amount of impervious cover and the extent of local flooding in heavy rains and damage to Trout Creek.

The Township acknowledged that Turnpike runoff is not the only source of the neighborhood’s stormwater problems, and that a “regional” approach will be necessary – one that will involve the Township, PennDOT, commercial property owners as well as the turnpike.

While Tredyffrin stormwater expert and engineer Steve Burgo readily agreed that the Turnpike’s stormwater plan had evolved to include greater volume and rate control, he felt there was more that could be done at off-site locations.

The acquisition of a small parcel from the Richter property located at the confluence of Old Eagle School, Glenhardie and Walker Roads) was mentioned as was the use of a small piece of land (6.-1 acre in size) at Teegarden Park, near the top of the Trout Creek watershed.

Turnpike Engineer Kempf was firm in the limits of the Turnpike’s involvement. “We do not want to commit to something we cannot control,” he said. Since off-site property is privately held, there is the problem of eminent domain, which “could hold up the Turnpike’s project and add to the cost.”

Though the Turnpike is willing to listen to alternatives, in their view, they have proposed a viable solution that handles 100% of the turnpike’s runoff in the Glenhardie area. Despite some differences regarding what constitutes adequate stormwater mitigation in this area, a spirit of cooperation seemed genuine and all remaining issues appeared solvable as the meeting wound down.

Engineer Pete Goodman, past president of Trout Unlimited and a long-time advocate for maintaining the “exceptional value” of Valley Creek, brought up two areas of concern: that discharges from several of the Turnpike’s proposed detention basins would flow directly into Valley Creek or Wilson’s Run (a tributary) with no volume control. TP Project Manage Scheurich countered that the discharges were not direct in his view and met over 100% of the volume criteria. Both agreed to follow-up with more detailed discussions.

Near the end of the meeting, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro questioned the Turnpike’s decision to build a 26 foot median instead of the 16 foot size previously favored. From his perspective as an EMT – and echoing Police Chief Chambers’ position, a wider left-hand shoulder would encourage drivers to use it for emergencies. DiBuonaventuro believed it posed a danger to emergency vehicles coming to a driver’s aid as well as to drivers merging back into the fastest lane of traffic. Engineer Kempf defended the wider shoulder as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Bureau.

DiBuonaventuro also raised the issue of additional tree buffer having to be cut down to accommodate the extra 5 feet of roadway needed on each side for a 26- foot median. Kempf acknowledged that some additional trees would need to be cut down but promised to work on a property-by-property basis to determine what had to be cut. He pointed out that residents should be pleased that the Turnpike planned to build retaining walls instead of taking additional private property. He also committed to continue monthly Roundtable meetings throughout the entire construction phase so that residents could express their concerns.

Still, as one environmentalist pointed out, building a 26 foot median will require the elimination of 8.2 acres of woods over the length of the expansion in Tredyffrin That’s a lot of trees…..

Another meeting was scheduled for the end of August to continue what proved to be a very informative and useful discussion.

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  1. I note Warren Kampf did not attend. As a candidate for the state house, he should be up on these issues.

    1. Note entirely accurate. People often claim that, but any number of people could be there to receive information. Just no deliberations among them. That’s where the Sunshine Law applies.

  2. So you did… one in a row.

    And a good explanation for those of us not as familiar with the sunshine law.

  3. Why do people think that because someone doesn’t go to a meeting they can’t be “up on the issues.”

    I think — as John pointed out — with three other Supervisors there, the chances are high Kampf will get the information needed to be up on the issue.

    Even if those Supervisors weren’t there, that information would be available through other sources.

    This Kampf-Drucker race eating into almost every post on Pattye’s informative blog is getting silly.

  4. I’m new at this site relatively speaking, but my comments about the Sunshine law were NOT about you Mr. Petersen. They hardly were challenging you. I simply clarified what many do not understand about the Sunshine law. Any number are welcome to attend anything and receive information.
    The Mt. Pleasant event would have been a different “feel” because ultimately that group would be seeking direction from the BOS…and thus it was probably prudent.
    I don’t suggest that anyone’s absence from an event is “blowing it off” — but the Sunshine Law does not apply to anything but deliberations — otherwise the executive sessions in advance of public meetings would be a violation — but as briefings, any information exchange is not exempt, but rather is not relevant.

  5. That was too brief a response: The Sunshine Act is about the public’s right to know….the fear of violating is typically about notice….deliberations and perceptions etc. This is nit-picking to be sure, but I don’t want to leave the impression that quorums of members are ever about violating the act UNLESS public access is denied . Roll whatever tape you choose — it’s only about apperances that anyone decline participation. The act is quite clear.

    Statement of purpose
    The statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states, “The General Assembly finds that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decisionmaking of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society. The General Assembly finds that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.”

    Which government meetings are open to the public?
    The law states that a meeting is any prearranged gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body to discuss public matters.[1]

    Notable exemptions to this definition include:

    -Working sessions of the boards of auditors
    -Conferences where a quorum of an agency is in attendance and no deliberation concerning agency business occurs

    In addition to guaranteeing this right, the Sunshine Act also requires the advertising and public notice of agency meetings and provides for reasonable public comment during board, council, or authority meetings. It also provides for limited exceptions and establishes penalties for violations of the act.

    Section 13. Business transacted at unauthorized meeting void
    A legal challenge under this act shall be filed within 30 days from the date of a meeting which is open, or within 30 days from the discovery of any action that occurred at a meeting which was not open at which the act was violated, provided that, in the case of a meeting which was not open, no legal challenge may be commenced more than one year from the date of said meeting. The court may enjoin any challenged action until a judicial determination of the legality of the meeting at which the action was adopted is reached. Should the court determine that the meeting did not meet the requirements of this act, it may in its discretion find that any or all official action taken at the meeting shall be invalid. Should the court determine that the meeting met the requirements of this act, all official action taken at the meeting shall be fully effective. The court may impose attorney fees for legal challenges commenced in bad faith.

    1. Thanks Mr. Petersen. I do get your point. I never intended to challenge it to begin with. Just wanted to point out that often people do skip things claiming it would be a sunshine violation — and that’s simply not the case. Thanks.

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