Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Township: What Price Economic Growth?

What price economic growth …

  • What is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?
  • Is it OK to green light a land development project even when it doesn’t meet current zoning regulations?
  • Is it right for a developer and his attorney to create a zoning ordinance amendment to Tredyffrin Zoning Code to suit their needs for a particular project?
  • As a community, do we want zoning amendment changes in Tredyffrin Township without restrictions, requirements or conditional uses?
  • If you are a developer considering a project in Tredyffrin but cannot find suitable zoning, that may not be an obstacle to your plans. All you need to do is write a new ordinance, call it economic development and then watch as the plan moves forward.

This post is an update on the old Duffy catering site on Lancaster Ave. and the proposed assisted living facility. The vacant Duffy property contains approximately 2 acres, with a 1 acre parcel zoned C-1 and a 1 acre parcel zoned R-1. Current zoning does not permit an assisted living facility in C-1 or R-1 in Tredyffrin Township.

With an idea to build a 93-bed/79-unit multi-story assisted living facility on the C-1 parcel, the developer Ed Morris through his attorney Denise Yarnoff of Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco, submitted a zoning ordinance amendment change to the township to permit assisted living as a C-1 usage.

Tredyffrin Zoning Code currently addresses assisted living facilities in IO (Institutional Overlay) zoning and includes four pages of restrictions and regulations, including residential density, bed density, buffers, setbacks, etc. in addition to a 10-acre minimum acreage requirement. Yarnoff skillfully, and in the best interests of her client, reduced the four pages of regulations to a one sentence zoning ordinance amendment change. She offers no restrictions, regulations or conditional uses … just a C-1 amendment that would allow assisted living in C-1 zoning. I give Yarnoff credit – as the attorney for Ed Morris, she is certainly maximizing the land development needs of her client. Assuming Yarnoff gets this C-1 zoning amendment change, then it should be full-steam ahead for Morris to build his assisted living facility — 93 beds/79 units on 1 acre.

Members of the public do not dare call this proposed action ‘spot zoning’. Supervisors, Planning Commissioners and township staff cringe when residents refer to this proposed change as spot zoning – telling us that it can’t be spot zoning if the change affects all C-1 zoning in the township. On the flip-side, some of these same people tell us there are no plans for assisted living facilities in any other township C-1 locations. As I see it, they cannot have it both ways.

A quick real estate Google search indicates a Tornetta Realty Corp. listing of 6.1 acres of ‘Prime Development’ C-1 land available for $3.5 million at 1057 Howellville Road, Berwyn. Now here’s a thought — if Yarnoff’s proposed zoning amendment change can permit 93 beds/79 units on 1 acre in Daylesford, then by my calculations, there would be room for 560 beds on Tornetta’s 6.1 acres in Berwyn. (Click here to see Tornetta’s Howellville Rd. listing)

I don’t know why certain supervisors and planning commissioners would have us believe that assisted living facilities are not planned for any other C-1 locations. Seems to me that the C-1 land on Howellville Road for sale would present an excellent opportunity for Morris, Yarnoff et al to build a sister location to their Daylesford assisted living facility! And remember folks, no official land development plan has been submitted to the township for this project; this is about changing zoning in anticipation of a plan! Yarnoff’s proposed amendment change for C-1 zoning is being considered without the submission of a land development plan. What’s the saying about the “cart before the horse”?

But aside from any concerns about putting 93 beds/79 units on a 1-acre site, I take an exception to the township’s handling of this land development plan and making changes to zoning to suit a particular developer. Where is the voice of the residents? When elected or appointed officials characterize citizen activism as politics, they’re attempting to marginalize the citizens’ concerns. The most-affected neighbors to this proposed project, the Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA) with Trisha Larkin as president, have banded together hoping to have their collective voice heard. Their green and white ‘No C-1 Zoning Change’ signs are populating township lawns and the support is building beyond the immediate neighborhood. Much like George Lucas’ storm troopers in Star Wars, the DNA and their supporters are organizing and preparing for battle but … will it be enough to turn the tides?

Although no land development plan has been officially filed with the township, some seemingly already have the facility built. Let’s disregard the required process in favor of what some officials believe should be the desired outcome. The proposed C-1 zoning ordinance change is on the agenda for Thursday, July 19 Planning Commission meeting — concerned township citizens plan to attend. Right now, I am not certain that their voices will make a difference. According to tonight’s Board of Supervisors agenda, the supervisors will “Schedule Public Hearing to be held on August 20, 2012, to consider amending the Zoning Ordinance, Article XVII §208-65, C-1 Commercial District, Use Regulations to permit a new use: “residential care facility for older persons providing permanent residential accommodations and/or assisted living facilities/services (and supplemental services)”.

Additionally, I have learned that on July 5 the township sent a letter, formally requesting that the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC) review and provide a formal recommendation on Ed Morris’ proposal to change C-1 zoning. The C-1 zoning amendment change as sent to CCPC is the version written by Morris and Yarnoff, with no restrictions, requirements or conditional use. The deadline for CCPC comment is by August 5 … no accident that the deadline is prior to the proposed August 20 public hearing date.

From my vantage point, the scheduling of the public hearing on the proposed C-1 zoning change and the review request by Chester County Planning Commission in advance of the upcoming Planning Commission meeting is preemptive of the process and citizen input. To move this process along before hearing the concerns of the community is to marginalize the voices of the citizens. Balancing public concerns requires public input and is crucial in determining the pros and cons of development and possible zoning ordinance changes. Residents deserve respect and an opportunity to receive answers from those elected to represent us.

Why the rush to push this zoning ordinance change through? Why no bed density restrictions or regulations? Why no conditional use?

And let’s not forget that Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors hired a consulting team in April to conduct an 18-month, $100,000 analysis of the township’s commercial zoning ordinances. This proposal to change the township’s C-1 zoning ordinance is preemptive of the consultant’s analysis which begs a question — why is this township spending $100K for a consultant to analyze the township zoning and make recommendations?

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  1. Pattye,

    If I’m not mistaken, the Howellville Road property has been on the market for some time (years?). I drive past at least once a week and can’t remember a time there hasn’t been a “For Sale” sign on the site.

    1. Yes, at least some of the Howellville Rd property has been for sale for sometime (they may have added an additional parcel – the old meat packing building). It looks like the Tornetta Real Estate listing has been recently updated with current information, township statistics, etc.

      However, I did not know until I did my Google search that the Howellville Rd property was zoned C-1. My point is that there are additional C-1 properties that could be used for assisted living facilities in the township should the scope of this zoning be expanded to include this usage. Changing the C-1 zoning to accommodate the Ed Morris project at Daylesford will change C-1 zoning for the entire township including the possibility of an assisted living facility on the 6.1 acre site on Howellville Rd. Who knows, perhaps if the C-1 zoning is changed to include assisted living facilities, there may be a buyer for the 6.1 acres on Howellville Rd, particularly if there are no restrictions or requirements for conditional use attached to the proposed zoning change.

  2. I am confused so please be patient with me. Is anyone on the BOS officially supporting this? If this is going to happen, what are the steps that will ensure it? Which steps are on the critical path? Who will make decisions in what context if there is nothing filed officially on this parcel? Under what premise is the township hearing this? Who or why is it on the agenda, and who sent the concept to CCPC?
    It does seem like a lot of meeting time is being planned for a project that is still not filed?

    1. The letter to CCPC was sent from the township, Kate Jones signed it and Matt Bauman, the zoning director is copied on the request. It is a formal request for the county planning commission to review the C-1 zoning change and offer their recommendation. I should point out, that it really does not make a difference in the end what the recommendation is (either positive or negative) as the Board of Supervisors have final approval. I assume that either Mimi or the supervisors directed Kate to send the request. There is a link to the letter on CM … I did a double-take at first when I saw the township letterhead which shows Lamina as chairman of the board. Lamina has been off the board 7 months.

      The agenda for the BOS meeting comes from the supervisors and is signed off by the chair before it is public. I don’t ever recall seeing the process preemptively altered as this — without comment from the public at the planning commission meeting, the zoning change proposal has already gone to the county and a public hearing has been scheduled. All of this being done and Morris hasn’t even filed a land development plan! Somebody really wants this project to go forward … I just can’t figure what is driving this zoning change. And a zoning ordinance change without any restrictions or requirements, amazing. With the Richter property the BOS have taken the time to listen to the citizens, even sanctioned a citizens working group and have held at least 4 public hearings to thoroughly vet the situation. But when I look at what is happening in Daylesford, it doesn’t seem that the residents are extended the same level of courtesy. I must be missing something, I just don’t get it.

  3. Pattye, thank you for continuing to shed light on this issue. As a resident of Daylesford, I can assure you that we are NOT being extended the same level of courtesy or access to the Supervisors that others residents have had over past zoning changes/development projects. It’s really scary how this process is being fast tracked with no resident input! To have a hearing already scheduled without official recommendations from either the Chester County Planning Commission or the Tredyffrin’s PC speaks volumes. Resident input is not needed or wanted.

    It’s clearly open season for developers to draft the vision and zoning for all future projects. They can just plug in specifics AFTER they get their zoning changes! Land Development Plan? Nah – just give a greenlight, we’ll “work it in later”. I’ve been opposed to this zoning change from the start…and I’m even more concerned what happens if/when this gets approved. This sets a truly dangerous precedent — NOT good for our Township, the residents or our future.

    1. Trish, if this is railroaded through, sounds like the township will be spending more money to defend itself in court.

      Like Mr. Bellue(SP) said, it appears this board is more transparent than previous boards.. Maybe he was referring to the police “study”, but I have to be suspicious about the Duffy property.. Maybe they see dollar signs I don’t know.

    2. Am I confused or shouldn’t this fight be in front of the PC right now rather than the BOS? On planning issues the PC (unlike any other municipality) had final say. Yes, the BOS has say on a t-wide zoning change but I highly doubt they will push anything through before their study is complete. The PC is where to fight now though.

  4. the documents restricting usage have not been updated in a very long time. Our township has changed. Where will you find 10 acres available anymore?

    This will create jobs, bring revenues to our local businesses and eventually tax money once an EIT is enacted.

  5. maybe 10 acres is too much to ask for.. But there must be guidlines in place. Maybe too, the morris development needs to be somewhere else. Some things are just not meant to be.

    With your logic, this really will become the wild west of ad hoc development.

  6. What a contrast.

    Today’s Inquirer reported on strategies in Phoenixville Borough, where property assessments have increased 25% in the last 8 years. These include “work intensively with potential developers to get them answers as quickly as possible about what can and can’t work within the borough’s master plan and zoning code. All too often developers get caught up seeking a variance for this and a variance for that. We work on the difficult pieces first”.

    Then look at last night’s Tredyffrin BOS meeting, where Tom Colman called on everyone to “look out for their own back yard”.** The result: a parade of objections to neighborhood changes and no decisions on development issues, merely more delays because, for example, statements such as “50% of Daylesford Association residents are on vacation in August”. I wonder what the margin of error on that number is?

    It seems to be time to accept the fact that residents like Tredyffrin just exactly the way it is, and change is inherently bad. No matter, for example, that Assisted Living facilities are commonly built on sites as small as an acre; or that $3 million of resident money in paid as an EIT to other townships. We’re just happy that we spend two-thirds of the Township budget, $8 million a year, on polikce service, with no quantifiable benchmarks of call volume, service levels and costs. At least we should give kudos to the BOS Finance Committee for the courage to take steps to improve our understanding.

    [From above] **He also called on residents to contribute in response to the recent Police Association mailer; I note that one of the worthy causes is the police golf tournament.

    1. Ray:

      The vast majority of concerned residents are on vacation in August. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not a “stall tactic”. It’s just reality. Many have had their vacations planned for months. Since you’re a regular reader/poster on CM – one would think you’d understand that this will be the DNA’s FIRST and ONLY opportunity to be heard in a public forum. Forgive us if we’d like our ONE chance! What’s at stake here is a Township Wide zoning change that will potentially last for decades. I’m quite sure that Mr. Morris and the BOS can wait 30 more days so we can FINALLY have our chance to be heard. Mr. Morris and Ms. Yarnoff have had carte blanche access to the BOS/PC/Township officials….the Daylesford residents have not!

      I’m no body language expert, but it certainly looked like a few Supervisors were caught off guard when they discovered that this zoning change was already submitted to the Chester County Planning Commission. Some were clearly were NOT aware that this “fast-tracking” had occurred. Perhaps a 30 day delay will also allow the Tredyffrin Planning Commission an opportunity to do their jobs. Seems prudent to have these appointed residents hear all sides, weigh in with facts, and ponder the potentially disastrous outcomes of recommending a zoning change that HAS NO RESTRICTIONS or CONDITIONAL USES ATTACHED.

      I’m not sure if you’re lumping me into your comment that “all change is inherently bad”. Quite the opposite. I’m actually one to embrace change when it’s thoughtful, purposeful and serves the greater good.

      You reference that Assisted Living Facilities are commonly built on an acre. Where? In C-1? In Chester County? With 93 residents (79 units) on 1 acre? Please let me know your case studies. I’ve done the research with Paul Farkas at the Chester County Planning Commission. It does NOT exist in Chester County in C-1.

      Yep, guilty as charged. I’m looking at for my backyard. And yours. You’re welcome.

      1. Here’s a couple of problems with taking this seriously.

        “the DNA’s FIRST and ONLY opportunity to be heard in a public forum”
        Well, as two examples to the contrary, there was a town hall meeting and the issue is on the Planning Commission agenda for Thursday.

        “You reference that Assisted Living Facilities are commonly built on an acre. Where?”
        Examples have been discussed on CM before. Here’s a link to the community at the end of the street I used to live on, very similarly situated to the Duffy site:
        I don’t have the exact acreage, but measuring the perimeter on Google Earth suggests just about exactly 1 acre. Should we restrict our thinking to the Chester County “box”?

        1. Ray: I was curious, so I called Sunrise/Arlington. The Receptionist provided the following for me: The Maximum # of beds in the facility is 50. It has a total of 3 floors. They have 2 units. One is an Assisted Living unit that currently houses 26 residents. The other unit is a Memory Unit and houses 12 residents. They are at 76% occupancy right now. So, their 38 residents (potentially 50 residents when full) is A FAR CRY from Morris’ proposal of 93 residents, 4 floors, on ONE acre in C1! Sunrise/Arlington sits on 3 acres! I think it’s fair to say, you just can’t compare apples to apples with what Morris is proposing. I asked if she knew if the zoning was C1, institutional, or residential in Arlington – she wasn’t sure. I’ll see if I can speak to the Director tomorrow for confirmation. I am willing to bet that it’s not in C1. Stay tuned. Hope to confirm if possible.

        2. To comment on both the 7/22 and 7/18 replies.

          First, having lived in both places, I think it’s perfectly valid to compare Arlington to Berwyn. What is your basis to dispute that? Both are suburbs to big East Coast cities, connected with commuter rail lines. Both have a mix of commercial and residential properties. The residential properties range from rental apartments to multi-million dollar single family homes. The specific sites are both between a busy four lane highway and a residential street. Perhaps the problem is that Glebe Road runs north/south, not east/west like Lancaster Avenue? Again a failure to acknowledge even straightforward facts weakens your arguments.

          As to the size of the site. My Conservancy work gives me a pretty good sense for acreage, so I was surprised at your claim that the Sunrise sits on 3 acres. I looked up the site on ARC GIS and traced the perimeter, right up to the houses on two sides and the roads on the other two sides, including the sidewalks. The area is 47,826.5 square feet, or 1.098 acres. 50 beds would give just about the same ratio as the proposed Duffy development, considering the whole site. (And consistent with my earlier Google Earth measurement). Perhaps the receptionist is not a reliable source for area?

          I’m not sure that there’s any reason to expect that Arlington has the same zoning classifications as Tredyffrin. I do know that just down the street past our house was an elementary school and then single family homes, a church, a hotel and an office district, and up the street was a shopping center, with a bank, restaurants, stores.

          But that’s immaterial if I read correctly the idea of a “pocket park”, reported on Main Line Media. It’s wonderful that DNA would propose to acquire, develop, maintain, provide employment for 25 and reimburse Township for the tax abatement. Now there’s a public/private partnership!

  7. Assisted living facilities — they exist at what used to be known as the Cathcart Home on Valley Forge Road. What kind of utilization is there? What kind of traffic? Ambulances in and out? How many beds?

    Likewise Devon Manor. Similar questions?
    I would expect that these kinds of questions are addressed and answered in any presentation, since our community does in fact have these kinds of facilities (Sunrise in Paoli).

    1. Completely concur. In this case, I think the old adage “follow the money” is in order. I have had conversations personally with 3 supervisors and none of them have this on their radar. So someone is driving this and no one is claiming it or able to identify who the proponent is.
      Cathcart is over 100 years old and evolves once a decade. Highgate at Paoli Point is 80 beds I believe–senior living. I assume it is 10 plus acres. perhaps Berwyn could provide some ambulance statistics.

  8. Devon Manor is a prime example of poor planning ,,it has the WORST parking lot ever …One driveway that splits into 2 sections BARELY enough room for 2 vehicles to pass each other Token sidewalks to RT 30 . Constant traffic with ambulances assistited living ,hospital & surgical plus rehab.patients ,. Between the residents, staff, visitors and deliveries parking is hopeless.

  9. Devon Manor was once well planned…and was all that was on the site. There was a lovely duck pond with benches and a large tree that was decorated every christmas season. It was a rural setting. The steady carving up of the site has created the issues. There are 131 beds with 75% occupancy. The way the parcels all over that side of the road have been developed is rather an obvious example of why planning is as important as zoning.

    After watching the supervisor reactions last night, and listening to Ms. Kichline, I really think this zoning change is DOA and we’d learn far more from watching the PC, because while this may have some non-quorum BOS support, someone on the PC has obviously decided they want this to happen.

    Is there any chance this had moved through Tredyffrin by crossing Mimi’s desk without much attention from BOS…and they didn’t appreciate it?

    1. Great question Township Reader. Not sure…it certainly looked like several supervisors had NO idea that this already went to the Chester County Planning Office without having been reviewed before Tredyffrin’s PC. Not sure how often that sort of thing happens?? But like Pattye referenced above, when Paul Farkas (from Chester County Planning) faxed me the official document that was filed from the Tredyffrin BOS – it’s REALLY Strange that it was on outdated letterhead from the old Board??? Kinda strange no? Several Supervisors clearly looked uncomfortable and then Mimi said it had in fact been sent out on July 5th. At that point, it was agreed to postpone the hearing until the Sept BOS meeting. Seems like we ALL need to just slow down, get the facts, have some transparency, and present all of this tomorrow night at the PC and have an open discussion. Stay tuned.

      CVH: if you think Devon Manor is a prime example of poor planning – wait until you see the “sketch” for this Duffy site! NO PARKING, tons of easements, overlooks a Dog Incinerator, etc, etc. Devon Manor will look gorgeous by comparison.

      Ray: Sorry, looked at your Sunrise facility. I just don’t see how we can compare Arlington Virginia to Berwyn. When other neighboring municipalities in Chester County permit 93 beds on 1 acre of C-1 then we’ll talk. Keep in mind, this facility would back right up to residential single family homes, and sit on top of BUSY ROUTE 30. Thanks to limited buffering restrictions those elderly residents can walk/wander right out the front door onto Lancaster ave. Again, not great planning and puts safety into question.

      John: Thanks for weighing in!! Very interesting.

  10. Follow the money is not a hit at the GOP…and only your needing everything to be about bad government would lead there. I mean someone really sees a benefit to this project, and I’d like to understand what it is. WHO benefits from this development? That’s where I’d look.

    As to the 3 I have spoken with: why would anyone make a motion if this is not yet on their radar? I didn’t ask for a pledge to not move forward. The person at the meetings on this project is your buddy JD from what I have observed. Why don’t you ask him? Though it’s located in Daylesford, is this an effort to keep the “Paoli Redevelopment” initiative alive?

  11. The BOS isnt on a side. This issue is before the Planning Commission and, as you well know, in Tredyffrin they are wholly independent entities. Maybe the reason the BOS isnt concerned about this C1 change is becuse they know they arent going to take it up prior to the overall study being completed. As for the daylesford neughbors, they are currently NIMBYs mad at the old in my mind. They need to go to the PC and rise their hell, yes. But to lay blame or this at feet of BOS now is wrong. And, I may be in the minority but I could easily have seen Mimi Gleason submitting this to the county on her own. I, for one, believe it was time for her to leave.

  12. Now that the meeting is over, I’ll defer to Pattye’s to report on it, but I think we saw that the PC wants to support this project at some level because they genuinely believe this is a project that would improve the appearance and the utilization of this parcel.
    The objection to achieving this through an ordinance amendment is clearly “spot on” and I came away even more curious about why this is the approach that is being advocated. Mr. colagreco said this wwas about whether we wanted people living on C-1 land. I would say that the only thing it should be about is whether this is a good use for THIS C-1 parcel, and can only wonder what other C-1 parcel in the township is the likely next shoe to drop.
    FTW–I do agree that the neighbors are overly focused on NIMBY and I would hope that the developer would work with them to gain their approval, as he appears to represent a higher end option to the use of the site. Something will be built there…perhaps the reality of 55 storage units (as an investor in that option identified) as an alternative (when the bank drops the price) should be objectively compared to the applicant’s offer. Storage units are 24 hours,,,and certainly come with very little aesthetic value.

    1. Thanks to all the residents and DNA members that attended the meeting last night! It was impressive to see respect coming from both sides. Kudos and thanks to the PC for delaying their vote and requiring the Applicant to add exceptions/restrictions the ordinance amendment. The DNA saw this as major progress – Hooray!

      Township Reader: Now that we have a little more transparency, I guess it’s up to the PC/BOS to determine if THIS parcel, for THIS developer for THIS particular project is “spot on”. Not sure where we’ll end up with the Applicant? Not sure if he wants to “work” with us? Guess we will see what he comes up with on August 16th. If he’s still at 93 beds on 1 acre of C1, I don’t hold out too much hope. But I’m sure Mr. Colagreco/Ms. Yarnoff get the point that our expectations are MUCH higher than that. Just for the record, BOTH a storage unit facility AND an Assisted Living Facility have 24 hours a day use. THAT’s the point…an ALF is a HIGH INTENSE use (contrary to what Mimi and Ed Morris think)!! Not quite sure why ambulances, 24/7, visitors, round the clock employees keeps getting lost in the mix. Apples to apples – ALF use IS a higher intense use than one may think. Several DNA members stated that point last night (not just me).

      If the PC wants ALF use somewhere other than in IO, they need to really think WHY it’s better or an acceptable use in C1. Tredyffrin gets ONE chance to “get it right”. If not in Institutional Overlay, then WHERE? Is C1 really the right “spot”??

  13. Trisha
    I understand the DNA problems and appreciate the effort and organization you have lead. 25 years ago I did the same thing, with a series of developers, in an effort to protect my property. We had energy–the developers had lawyers. I appreciate your issues with assisted living, and I know this parcel is your priority. For the residents of Tredyffrin, however, this is a more complex situation. IF the PC and/or BOS conclude that senior care is the right outcome for this site, I do not believe the language should be applied township-wide to all C-1 parcels. If the decision is restricted to the Duffy parcel, then we get far more than one chance to get it right. That, after all, is the job of Planners.

    There are all kinds of model ordinances on these topics, including density requirements with bonus density options if the developer meets certain community needs. I think 93 beds is very obviously overuse of the site. As a matter of practicality, I would assume township engineers and possibly even the sewer authority would weigh in on the advisability of that kind of density on the infrastructure of the system. I found the comment by one of the PC members who seemed assured the rest of the code would guarantee an appropriate development to be a very limited vision.

    What I hope for you and the DNA is that you consider the very real alternatives (not a Super Wawa) and develop realistic expectations of what you all can accept because you cannot rely on the strategy of just opposing a project in perpetuity. Pick your poison. The price will drop to become an appealing purchase, and you all need to consider who best will suit the title of “the devil you know.”. I think the PC very clearly is looking for a way to encourage this sort of facility in the township, and I heard their disapproval of the acreage of the IO or the notion that it belongs in an industrial area. The Hutchison Center (Cathcart Home) abuts homes in our township. Highgate basically shares parking with multi-family units/apartments. Otherwise, you all need to find your own buyer who can help your community to acquire and possibly even develop the site the way you envision it.

    Good luck!

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