Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Final Land Development Approval Sought at Planning Commission Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17 for High School Expansion Plan + Proposed Parking Lot on Irish Road — Will Stormwater Runoff be Adequately Managed for the Neighborhood?

On the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission agenda for Thursday, Oct. 17, 7 PM is the preliminary/final land development application for the Conestoga High School expansion. The proposal expands the existing high school (216,000 sq. ft.) with a two story addition (approx. 40,500 sq. ft.)

For those that live in the area of the high school, this is an important meeting to attend — as another component of the T/E School District’s expansion plan includes a new parking lot (with 128 spaces) on Irish Road plus a bus pull-off.

We know that rainwater does not percolate into impervious surfaces but runs off instead. The proposed parking lot requires the removal of many trees from its wooded lot. Imperious surface is the primary contributor to stormwater runoff and is a major contributor to flooding … what stormwater impact can neighbors expect as a result of the proposed parking lot? Will the stormwater runoff from the parking lot be adequately managed? And going forward, who has oversight of the stormwater situation once the parking lot is completed – the school district or the township?

Residents in the high school area (particularly Irish Road, Lizbeth Lane and Oak Lane) have suffered with major stormwater and flooding issues for years – if you know the area, many homes in the neighborhood sit downhill from the proposed high school expansion project and parking lot. Such a large land development project, which includes the removal of many trees, is certain to impact a community already impacted by stormwater runoff problems and stormwater issues.

Residents are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission and make their concerns known. Mitigating and preventing flooding and erosion of their properties must include stormwater runoff as a critical part of the approval of the high school expansion project, particularly the parking lot component. Neighbors cannot afford further damage and possible devaluation of property as a result of severe stormwater runoff issues.

In addition to increased stormwater runoff issues related to the proposed parking lot on Irish Road – residents need to bring their safety, traffic, lighting, etc. concerns to the Planning Commission meeting. The proposed expansion plan and parking lot needs to be fully vetted by the planning commissioners before granting final land development approval.

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  1. Thanks for this post. The School Board Facilities Committee is holding a meeting on Tuesday the 15th at the School Board Administration Building at 7pm. At the meeting the School Board will disclose for the first time what the estimated cost will be for the new parking lot. The reason——=they never knew the cost before. It was rolled up ion the expansion cost.

    The new addition to the school is OUTSTANDING!!! The parking lot is unneeded in my estimation. The proposed 128 spaces will cost approximately $7,800.00 each per $1m dollars in cost.

    If you can, go to the Facilities Meeting on the 15th; the Planning Commission Meeting on the 17th at the Township building at 7pm; as well as the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting on Monday Oct 21st at 7 PM. Listen and learn what is happening and/or voice your opinion.

  2. From what I can tell, the School District seeks to build the new lot to address a Township zoning requirement for parking. However, it seems that there’s enough parking for the new staff in the current lots – even if fewer students would be able to park there.
    I’m not an engineer, and I welcome clarification, but after viewing documents on file with the Township, it’s my understanding that the District seeks waivers to: have more building coverage (22%) on the land than is permitted (10%); to cover the land with more impervious surface (52%) than is permitted (25%), to have less front and side buffers than required; and to disturb woodlands more than is allowed (67% vs. 50%).
    The only silver lining here is that the District plans to provide less parking than is required – not sure how much though.
    Not only would this very nice woodlot be ruined, but I fear greater storm run-off and increased traffic, which is already bad in the Lizbeth/Irish/Oak Lane neighborhood.

    Rather than ask the Township for waivers to do a bad thing, I believe it’d be far better to ask for a waiver from the parking spot requirement.

  3. Bill, I agree – let’s not add more parking. If the township is serious about reducing carbon pollution (and the Board of Supervisors did pass a Clean Energy Resolution in September), we should discourage single-passenger cars and encourage other means of transportation. Mike, I agree – let’s ask for a waiver from the parking spot requirement, and possibly even get the parking spot requirement changed.

  4. I think that the parking space need comes from the School District, not really the Township ordinances. Last year, the demand for senior student spaces was such that students were rationed to four days out of five. Somehow the students figured out how to deal with that (take the bus? car pool?). Which makes you wonder if commentators here have it exactly right: can we change the paradigm rather than add more parking so seniors can park every day?

    So the TESD Facilities Meeting is perhaps the most important forum to review the demand side of the equation.

    On the stormwater front in the event the parking lot is constructed, the township ordinance offers some protection to the downhill residents, but assurances are required:
    Many trees are to be taken down – how/where will they be replaced?
    Much impervious is to be added – what active measures will be taken to confirm that the stormwater devices work as designed, that stormwater can not bypass the inlets and flow into Irish Road, that the devices are maintained (by whom?), and that the failure mode in the event the devices are overwhelmed does not lead to residential damage? And so on.

    1. Agree with Ray Clarke,

      The students pay $180.00 for parking privileges. Student parking is designated to the very back of the lot. My child’s friend parked in a parking spot on the teacher/ student border, one spot into the teacher designated area. This child received detention and was made to sit in the VP office every day at lunch and lost parking privileges for a week. 1st Time violation.

      I didnt hear one student complain about the 4 day parking rule. Not one. They were fine with it.

      This is about teacher comfort and providing the absolute best and most convenient and comfortable circumstances for them.

      Hazing, sexual assault, teacher bullying……go unnoticed….no one saw a thing……they know nothing……heaven forbid a student park in a teachers designated spot.

      They keep a close eye on that!

      1. The parking at the high school is really a joke. Kids part in the visitor parking spots all the time, particularly those who come in late. Kids also make arrangements to park in neighborhood driveways (e.g. capitalism at its best). Cars cut through back roads, cut in line…and then when they drop their child off at the front door, start a conversation with the child while the line is literally out the driveway and down the street.

        I don’t think the answer is to restrict student driving/parking. Quite frankly, in addition to the fee the district charges, I doubt there is enough space on buses for all the students if everyone had to use the bus to get to the school.

        Additional parking would be great, but I don’t think it solves the problem. If anything, it would encourage more students to drive.

        The issue to me – and perhaps I am getting off topic – is the mayhem and congestion which occurs daily.

        I agree the school (and District) is/are quite selective in what they believe to be important.

        1. Only seniors have parking privileges. Juniors do not. Some juniors and some seniors who can’t/won’t pay the $180.00 park in the neighborhood which has caused residents to complain in the past.

          The class of 2019 was the first class where demand for parking spaces was greater than supply among senior students.

          I think the District is highly motivated for additional parking because it would allow them to issue as many student parking passes at $180.00 a pop as possible. The school district is a business. Taxpayers get fleeced, parents get shamelessly squeezed and pressured for every dollar possible while they give the community the impression the budget is tight when Administrators take in $200,000+ and half of teachers rake in over $93,000 per year. Absurd.

  5. Does anyone know how many student parking passes are issued? Must be quite a few. At $180.00 per pass it must generate a nice revenue stream for the District. Where does this money go? Why can’t it go to pay for things that directly benefit students?

  6. The District has tried for years to add parking that was proven not to be needed through the efforts of a few parents who would count empty spaces several times a day over many months. So there’s an ongoing drive for new parking, again possibly without a real basis. Is it really such a tremendous burden on the students if parking for students would be more restrictive, as opposed to some type of social stigma? Referring back to the yearly tax increases and budget projection fiasco, it’s critical for there to be high scrutiny for luxurious, unneeded expenses.

  7. The proposed parking lot on Irish Road will result in the destruction of 200+ large trees and will cost $1.5 – $1.6M tax dollars to fund the 128 space faculty parking spaces. I understand the desire for more parking, but is there truly a need? And at such a cost? Let the Planning Commission know what you think.
    Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission Meeting
    Thursday October 17, 2019
    7:00 PM
    Tredyffrin Township Municipal Building
    1100 DuPortail Road
    Berwyn, PA 19312
    Keene Hall
    Link to agenda below

    1. Mike — thanks for the update from the District’s Facilities Meeting. Maybe you can help me understand — is the parking lot a township “requirement” for the high school expansion plan. I seem to be hearing conflicting reports – I thought that the public was told that the lot was needed for staff parking? But then I hear that the high school does not have adequate student parking.

      Beyond the cost to build the parking lot, there is the lost of 200 trees! And yes, that it is a wooded lot and these trees are large and full grown. I remain very concerned about the impact to the neighbors — the stormwater runoff and flooding issues! Who will these be adequately maintained?

      Bottom line — must the high school expansion plan include the parking lot? Is it a requirement?

  8. Pattye, In one of the documents on file with the Township I read the following “Section 208-102.C.1 – Schools require at least 10 off-street parking spaces for each classroom, plus one (1) space for each three (3) seats in the auditorium or gymnasium, plus off-street loading space for at least seven (7) school buses. Relief was granted to permit 128 parking spaces to be installed as part of this application although this does not meet the minimum parking requirements. It is noted that 1,540 parking spaces are required and 723 are proposed overall.”

    I didn’t have any luck finding the actual ordinance on-line.

    At the School Board’s Facilities Meeting last night, we learned that the estimated cost of the new lot would be around $1.5 million. I think that includes cutting down all the trees.


      1. Everything is always about the staff. Everything. They’ll blame kids, blame parents, blame tax payers. Don’t be fooled……..ever. No matter what they say, it’s always about the staff.

  9. 315 student parking permits issued..using the 4 day plan. Total parking revenue always listed in the school board meeting packet .

    1. CHV,

      Thank-you. Student paid parking generates $56,700. I’m assuming that money goes straight into the general fund. Every penny goes straight into the general fund and is under control of Art. (All roads lead to Art)

      Why can’t the student generated money go to $200.00 plus Booster club fees, (yes, over $200.00) or sports uniforms or old, outdated gym equipment, or Art supplies? Art Supplies? Yes, students pay for art supplies. Especially when “staff” rakes in what they rake in, while telling us how “tight” the budget is, but they fight hard to keep increasing what they rake in, it’s beyond insulting.

  10. I would like to see the conversation concerning a parking deck to be reopened. At the facilities meeting last night, Michelle Burger said that other alternatives to the currently proposed lot had been discussed and dismissed in a single meeting (that I assume was early on in the process before there was any public interest).

    I found the reasons they ruled out a parking deck to be flawed. She said that it was because the Board wants to be “good neighbors” and they didn’t want people to have to look out their windows into a parking deck. Without taking issue with the “good neighbor” claim (which we could), the location of the current North Lot is high in elevation compared to all surrounding homes so no one would have a view of the parking deck. The woodland they propose obliterating would protect the view of the parking from nearly everyone, and the home on the southern corner of Irish and Lizbeth is staggered down the hill enough that they don’t have sight lines to it either. So, the “good neighbor” excuse is bogus.

    The second reason Michelle Burger gave for rejecting the parking deck was the construction timeline. They say that it wouldn’t be able to be completed in time for back to school. Yes, that may be a headache, but it is only temporary and of a relatively short duration. So I rate that excuse as 40% valid. The student & staff/construction overlap is temporary and the destruction of the woodland is permanent.

    At no point did she mention cost. Only later was it mentioned tangentially that the cost of a parking deck would be around $6 million. That is a lot of money and a much more reasonable objection (despite not being enumerated when she spoke of their decision to not pursue it). However, we did just “find” a $4 million surplus, didn’t we?

    While I find all the numbers to be mind-bogglingly astronomical, it seems to me that avoiding the negatives involved with removing all those trees (stormwater, environmental impact on the wildlife, disgruntled neighborhood) is worth, at the very least, more of a discussion about the difference in price. There was far more discussion about the new security cameras and the telephone system than this parking lot. I don’t believe this should be decided upon by the Planning Commission tomorrow night, but rather delayed for more consideration.

    1. Thank-you Karen.

      I agree with everything you say. They spent $4 to $6 million dollars on a single maintenance building that tax payers did not want and benefits no one or nothing but themselves. Let’s start demanding that our tax dollars are spent on ideas, structures and programs that directly benefit and are best for students, taxpayers, neighbors and families. It’s our money. They are our schools. Let’s reclaim our rights as stake holders.

  11. Whatever happened to the traffic study that was commissioned a few years back? My understanding was that that study was supposed to help the district find ways to alleviate the traffic congestion around all the schools. Adding additional parking spaces at the high school certainly seems contradictory to the purpose of that study. Also, if seniors are only allowed parking for 4 days of the week, how does that impact the “opt-in/opt-out” busing plans? Seems to me that would be creating even more confusion to the schedules and routes….”I only need the bus for one day each week so make a stop for me only on Monday”.

  12. My daughter, and many other students, have a 5-day parking pass. There is a sub-set of students that are only at the school for a fraction of the day. They spend part of their day in the classroom and the mornings or afternoons in external/alternative learning programs (Allied Health, Teacher Academy, Service Learning, Vocational etc). As the population of the high school grows, so does the number of students in this sub-set so more 5-day parking will be needed.
    The 4-day pass is a mess and a joke. I had opted into busing last year when asked to fill out the form in the spring. I did so because my daughter wasn’t accepted into her current program yet. So basically I opted into busing for 1 day not knowing what that one day was going to be until the end of August, one week before school started, when the seniors were asked to come in to get a parking pass. Well by that time she was accepted into her external program and needed a 5 day pass. So did they count her into busing still?
    More parking will be needed eventually, fact. The lot now is a mess. Has anyone recently tried to park there. When they repaved it years ago I swear they made the spaces narrower so they could fit more cars in. It’s dangerous especially with a bunch of “new” drivers in and out all day.
    I’m so glad my daughter is my third and final student graduating in the spring…

    1. Tina,

      Thank-you for your comment. My child graduated last year. There were no 5 day passes issued due to demand for parking passes exceeding supply. The fact that 5 day passes were issued this year says demand was down this year. The 4 day pass was not “a joke” last year. I don’t know what you and another mean when you say the 4 day issued pass is “a joke.” If parking in the lot is “a joke”, I don’t think it has anything to do with 4 or 5 day passes.

      When your daughter got excepted into the external program and needed a 5 day pass, she got one, right? And was it a big deal that you didn’t need the bus for the one day you signed up for it? What does it matter that you don’t know if she was counted into busing or not? I don’t get it.

      I agree with you that there are always new drivers in and out of the lot but that has nothing to do with 4 to 5 day passes and that will always be the case because students at the HS will always be new drivers because their ages will always be 16 and 17 years old.

      I was in and out of that lot for 9 years. I never had a problem finding a place to park no matter what time of day I was there. I drove my kids to school. I used back and side roads and didn’t drive them to the door for drop off but I never had a problem and traffic was never an issue for me.

      If you are dropping your child off 5 minutes before start time, using the main roads and dropping off at the front door, I suppose it might be a 5 minute wait. But it’s not a big deal.

      None of this has anything to do with 4 or 5 day passes and all of these issues will be there whether there’s a new lot or not.

  13. Actually, I beg to differ, there were 5-day passes last year, how else did students in, for example, Allied Health get back and forth to the hospital they had to go to everyday. Not every student has a parent at home able to pick them up and drop the off through out the day.

    I meant that the “4-day pass is a joke” in relation to the opt-in busing due to the fact that they conducted the opt-in for busing back in the spring when they didn’t even know how many students would put in an application as those applications are made available the week before school starts. Some students, and parents, don’t decide whether their child will be a “senior driver” until the weeks leading up to school. How then does the school know to make a 5 day pass available the first day applications are accepted when they are passed out.
    Looking at the projected demographics in past presentations from the district, there will be a significant growth over the next several years, hence the expansion of the school and needed parking for staff, students and parents who are in and out of there at all hours of the day.
    To the comment about new drivers having nothing to do with the 4-5 day pass, you missed my point. I meant to convey that the spots are very narrow and lanes are narrow for everyone, especially new driver. They can’t fit anymore slots in there. More spots are needed somewhere.
    I’ve been in and out of Stoga for 11 years spanning 3 kids. My experience has been different from yours. The traffic is horrendous during drop off, and not just 5 minutes before start time, I used to drop one of my kids off at 6:50 – 6:55 on my way to work! I’ve noticed it getting worse and worse over the years. Parents stopping on back and side streets and busy streets to let their kids hop out dangerously. Something has got to give.
    I don’t know all the answers. Maybe the late start will help and more students are taking the bus in the morning to ease the traffic issues. Maybe more kids will carpool like my older kids did with neighborhood kids paying one senior to drive them all. But more students means more staff, visitors and student drivers. I would hate to see the privilege of Senior parking to go away or be diminished further. It’s a great help to working parents as well. I have empathy for the neighbors butting up to the high school and more specifically the new addition and the possible parking lot, however, when you purchase a home next to or in the vicinity of a school or any other commercial location you always run the risk of expansion, construction etc.
    As I stated, I am so glad my last one is graduating.

  14. Agree with much of what you say. The difference is I don’t think it’s a big deal and you do. The Allied Health kids carpooled last year. Most kids who didn’t take the bus or get dropped off by their parents carpooled. When the Administration made the decision to issue 4 day passes instead of restricting the number of passes, the kids were fine with it. Their questions were, “What are the rules and how do we follow them. CHS kids are great. They don’t complain and they follow the rules.

    I dropped my kids off on side streets. Lots of kids get dropped off on side streets…..and have for years. No one has ever been hurt. A new parking lot for staff won’t change that.

    As a matter of fact, a new parking lot for staff will allow the Administrstion to issue way more passes. If you think congestion is bad now, it will triple with a multi million dollar parking lot for staff.

    A new parking lot for staff will change nothing, except add to traffic congestion for neighbors.

  15. Not a big deal, but my daughter was a senior last year and also in Allied Health. She tells me that Allied Health students purchased 5 day passes and most/everyone else got the 4 day. Also, she didn’t have her own vehicle, but carpooled with 3 friends so she drove one week a month. I believe most kids carpooled to some extent so perhaps the school doesn’t have to sell ($180 I think) a pass to every Allied Health participant. Better yet would be for the school to provide transportation.
    We learned recently that the proposed lot is expected to cost $1.5 million, and that about 50 new staff will be added once the expansion is complete. For that much money and for that little staff I object to spending tax dollars on any new parking. The new staff can park in the main lot and 50 less kids get to drive. Seems reasonable and prudent – oh, and we save 200 trees.

    1. I agree with Proud Stoga Mom:

      “””””Better yet would be for the school to provide transportation.””””””

      The school should provide transportation for students who are accepted to external programs.

      We spend our tax dollars on adding $2M to the budget every 1 1/2 to 3 years on salary increases for staff who already rake in way over top market salaries and we spend our tax dollars on $4M to $6M Maintenance Buildings for the convenience of staff, fencing (no one benefits and many think is a security risk) and multi million dollar parking for staff that kids, parents tax payers and community members will not benefit from.

      There is a story about the bus issue in this weeks latest issue of SavvyMain line. The writer reports that a Middle School Parent was told “your entitled children don’t get to choose where they want to be dropped off” after the father reported to the Transportation Director that his child’s drop off and pick up stop is a very dangerous place for children to be dropped off and picked up.

      Children are entitled because their parents want safe bus pick up and drop off locations?

      I ask you, what segment(s) in this District are “entitled?”
      Tax payers? Don’t think so. Students? Don’t think so. Staff? You be the judge.

  16. 315 permits are issued to mostly seniors every year, and this will continue through 2024 per the Conestoga website. The passes are only good for four (4) out the fives days per week. Therefore, only 252 passes can be used each day. There are 268 spaces available in the student parking area.

    A recent two week study proved that 30 student spaces are EMPTY at two different times a day. The students are smart (98% go onto higher education), and they can figure out how to get around any system the school puts in place. Go visit Martins Lane and other local streets when school is in session.

    I have no idea where the money goes. Art McDonnell (school district Business Mgr) may have the answer.

    Just as an aside, 100 staff parking spaces are not used every day.

    1. For those that may not have been at the Planning Commission meeting, Bill went to CHS at various times and actually hand counted the empty parking space. He presented each planning commissioner with detailed data regarding the parking. Having sat through the PC meeting, I remained confused WHY this parking lot is needed. And considering all the issues surrounding the parking lot — potential stormwater issues in an already problematic area, safety/traffic, removal of many full size trees, the $$$, I don’t get it. This parking lot needs to be completely vetted and the neighbors most impacted need to be part of the process, not on the outside begging for details! Thank you Bill!!

    2. Question about “The passes are only good for four (4) out the fives days per week. Therefore, only 252 passes can be used each day.”. Where is the count of the 5-day passes that are issued every year for allied health, service learning, teacher academy, vocational school, students with chronic illnesses (yes I know someone who had a pass to leave frequently for doctor visits as a junior)?

      I know there are spots open during the day because I have parked in them myself. Of course there are spots available at different times. The students that leave the school for these extended learning experiences are only in the lot for part of the day, hence anywhere from 15 – 30 spaces available at any given time. How about students drivers that are sick? Their cars won’t be there as well.

      All I’m saying is that if the district is only going to issue 315 4-day passes per year through 2024 even though the population of students is growing, something has to give. Students seeking, and receiving, a 5-day pass will grow proportionately to the population growth (more seniors leaving for multiple periods a day for external learning, I can’t understand why this subset of students is not included) plus additional staff.

      I would hate to see more blacktop around the school for parking. They can cut down the number of 4-day senior passes when the population grows and as the 5-day and staff expand but I fear you will see more students parking on side streets as Bill mentioned above. How are the neighbors going to feel then, they may want an additional parking lot. No one has mentioned an alternative area for a lot or spaces. How about on the new Atrium side of the building?

      The math just doesn’t add up to me. If they are going to limit parking down the road then be honest and say we are staying with the current lot BUT students will be limited to a 3-day pass or lottery system (some schools do this) until the peak in student population sub-sides. Just trying to look at this long term.

      Thank you for letting me express my viewpoint.

      1. Tina,

        Thanks for posting your view point. It’s important that you and others feel comfortable expressing your opinion.

        As myself and others have stated, lots of kids carpool. Kids don’t mind the 4 day pass and make plans accordingly.

        We can’t predict the future. Doomsday scenarios about what might happen in the future is no way to make decisions. I could just as easily predict that not so many parents will allow their kids to drive in the years to come. And If 3 day passes do need to be issued, so what? Kids work it out. It’s not a big deal.

        To your previous point about kids being dropped off on side streets and how “dangerous” that is….. I was thinking, TE Middle School and CHS are located next to each other in a neighborhood. Many kids who attend both schools walk to the two schools every day. Is it dangerous for them to walk on the side streets along with kids who are being dropped off on side streets? Should their parents drive them the block or two to school to keep them safe from walking on side streets? Again, I don’t get it.

        A multi million dollar parking lot constructed for staff will triple the congestion in an already congested neighborhood because I predict (as long as we’re predicting) that the Administration will issue as many parking passes as needed (to Juniors, Seniors etc.) because our School District has been turned into a business by an Administration that squeezes every dime they can
        out of their “customers.” (Kids and parents, it’s shameful)

  17. At the Planning Commission meeting last Thursday, the School District architect said the parking lot really couldn’t be deferred, or separated from the expansion because spoil from expansion excavation would be used for the parking lot. I’ve heard that spoil is expensive to transport offsite. Could it be that finding a place for the spoil is the whole reason for the parking lot?

  18. I would love to know where the $180 per student goes? This was implemented when the district was in financial chaos several years ago.

  19. Murphy.

    It is my understanding that all dollars go directly to the general fund which is 100% under the purview of Art McDonnel who makes $206,000, not including gold standard benefits and retirement adding tens of thousands of dollars to his total package. He’s hardly the only one.

    Art tells parents buses can’t turn onto safe side streets off of busy dangerous Old Eagle School Road to pick up and drop off children because “ we have a tight budget” that won’t allow it. But the tight budget allows for outlandish raises on outlandish salaries for Art and employees who label kids and parents:

    Low functioning

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