Pattye Benson

Community Matters

End of VFMS tennis court saga – Zoning Hearing Board approves variance

The tennis courts at Valley Forge Middle School received their reprieve at last night’s Zoning Hearing Board. After 4+ hours of listening to various appeals, finally at 11 PM, the TE School District presented its case for a variance that would permit the additional parking spaces and keep the tennis courts. The combined impervious coverage of the additional parking spaces and the tennis courts is slightly more than the township stormwater permits. The District’s application to the ZHB sought a variance for the additional impervious coverage.

The fate of the District’s tennis courts was contingent on the ZHB ruling. Had the ZHB denied the variance to the District, the VFES tennis courts would have been demolished. After testimony from the School District attorney and architect plus members of the community, including impassioned remarks from VFMS neighbor Don. Detweiler, the ZHB members rendered their decision in favor of the variance. With a 2-1 vote (chair Dan McLaughlin dissented), the tennis courts appear to have been saved. Previously the Facilities chair Pete Motel voiced concern that to save the tennis would cost the District $14K to the contractor not to demolish the tennis courts. The Board of Supervisors waived the ZHB filing fee of $2K to the District. With the approval of the ZHB variance, presumably the School Board will approve the ‘saving of the tennis courts’ and the District will move ahead with the summer parking lot expansion at VFMS.

The audience was told that the decisions of the Zoning Hearing Board are not precedential to other appeals, so … does that mean that others seeking relief from stormwater requirements will not be able to cite the tennis court decision? Just asking the question …

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  1. The decision to save the courts was a correct one in terms of saving a recreational asset. It also saves the district money in terms of the $24,000 demolition.

    The cost of upkeep has been nothing in the last 17 years due to the effort of Don Detwiler who has sewn the nets, replaced boards on the benches and patched any cracks.

    If the courts were demolished the lawn in their place would be minimally better for stormwater retention according to experts in the field – gardens, shrubs and trees are better.

    The stormwater ordinance did not include the preexisting tennis and basketball courts. They were grandfathered in.

    All neighbors should be encouraged to put in a rain garden. Doesn’t have to be big. A raingarden at the bottom of any slope will slow down water drainage. The GlenHardie garden club at the library recently sponsored a Power Point lecture on rain gardens It was overflowing with attendees. (no pun intended) So folks are interested, just have to keep pushing that issue.

    Would love to see some of the asphalt replaced with pervious pavers, too. Rain barrels are a must; why use pure drinking water for plants?

    These my be small steps, but cumulatively they matter.

  2. BG —

    It might have saved the District $24K in demolition costs but isn’t the cost $14K to the vendor for breaking the contract. Guess that is still a $10K savings plus the tennis players get to keep their courts.

  3. Considering that the tennis courts are not used by the school and have no educational value, I hope the school now sees this as a revenue generating opportunities. Considering this is so overwhelmingly used by the community, it could generate some nice revenue for rental time.

    How long before the first basement that doesn’t normally flood starts flooding? I am very surprised at the ZHB decision. Do none of these people see what happens to this area when it gets flash rain and legit storms? Considering there are something like 10 or more public tennis courts in Tredyffrin, I find it odd to approve a variance as though these courts are not equally available in the community.

    1. “Do none of these people see what happens to this area when it gets flash rain and legit storms?”

      Apparently not. More runoff into Trout Run – thanks neighbors!

  4. Some good points in some of the comments above.

    Laying sod over compacted ground underneath the demolished tennis courts may indeed have been only minimally better than the courts themselves at absorbing storm water. The longer the roots and the greater the canopy, the better vegetation is at minimizing run-off.

    However, you’d think that every safeguard against one of the township’s greatest issues would be carefully preserved. And now surely every appeal seeking impervious coverage relief (and the ZHB gets many) will have an another argument to cite.

    If the District charges students a $50 Activity Fee to participate in sports, how much will it charge users of the tennis courts?

  5. Why don’t variances include requirements to absorb the damage they do? In this case, why can’t the parking lot include some water run-off collection system which directs water to an underground basin? GIven all the issues with storm water, this variance should also require this property to absorb additional water. We all should be assisting those “downstream”.

    1. If I recall the school board meeting from a few months ago when this was discussed, they said the new lot would have stormwater management being built with it. I was not at the zoning meeting and that’s not televised, so I’m not sure what was discussed there.

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