Pattye Benson

Community Matters

What does historic preservation, an assisted living facility and a high school parking lot have in common? Answer: Tredyffrin Twp Planning Commission Meeting, Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 PM

There should be a standing room only audience for the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission meeting (Click here for agenda) on Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 PM at 1100 Duportail Road, Berwyn. For those that do not typically attend these meetings, I suggest that you come prepared to “stay awhile”!

First up on the agenda is the historic resource amendment. The township has over 800 historic buildings and this ordinance is to protect (from demolition) the 70 most critical historic structures. The 70 township structures on the list are either on the National Historic Register or are deemed eligible. Putting my historic preservation “hat” on as president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, chair of the annual historic house tour and owner of one of the 70 historic properties on the list, this ordinance has been a long time coming. Members of the township’s Historic Commission and the Trust are in full support of this ordinance and look forward to a recommendation from the Planning Commission. The proposed historic preservation ordinance will next go to the December Board of Supervisors meeting.

Next on the agenda is the final land development application for Solera Senior Living, the proposed assisted living facility on Russell Road in Paoli. You may recall a few years back; C-1 zoning in the township was updated to include multi-family and assisted living facilities. As a result, the Daylesford Crossing assisted living facility was built as a permitted use in C-1, with many neighbors opposing. However, Daylesford Crossing is located on Lancaster Avenue, not on a narrow residential street like Russell Road. The Russell Road applicant plans to demolish two office buildings, consolidate three separate parcels and construct a 3-story 116 unit assisted living facility.

There is increased discussion about reviewing the permitted uses of C-1 zoning. However, it should be noted that any future zoning changes to C-1 will not impact the Solera project, already in progress. In addition, there are some in the community who feel that the Board of Supervisors should retain final land development approval not the Planning Commissioners who are appointed, not elected. At this time the planning commissioners will have final approval on the proposed Russell Road assisted living project.

TE School District’s $40 million high school expansion and parking lot plan is back in front of the Planning Commission. At the Zoning Hearing Board meeting tonight (Wednesday, 7 PM at township building) the District will seek an amendment to its appeal to reduce the number of proposed parking spaces from 128 to 94 (270 parking spaces are required).

The District is seeking preliminary/final land development approval to build a 40,500 sq. ft. two-story addition to the existing 215,900 sq. ft. high school. In addition, a new surface parking lot with 94 spaces (presuming it is granted by the Zoning Hearing Board). It is the proposed parking lot on Irish Road and the possible unintended consequences that are of concern to many of the neighbors. In addition to the removal of many mature trees, questions/concerns about the parking facility range are wide-ranging including storm water, increased traffic, safety, lighting, etc. etc.

Adding to another layer of complication to the proposed project, is the very recent decision by the school board to take the 13 acre Doyle-McDonnell nursery site by eminent domain. There are some in the community (including myself) who feel that the pause button should be put on the proposed $40 million high school expansion plan and parking lot. I understand the demographics and increasing student enrollment plus the perceived additional cost (?) to slow down and review but still … there could be additional opportunities for the high school expansion plan with the purchase of the adjacent nursery property (and this is a $40 million taxpayer-funded project!)

I am of the opinion that to push forward with the parking lot and the high school expansion without a thorough review of alternatives (in light of the eminent domain purchase of 13 adjacent acres) is short-sighted. This planned parking lot on Irish Road is going to have a detrimental impact to the neighbors – in an area already greatly affected by stormwater issues.

All residents should be encouraged to attend the Planning Commission meeting – find out firsthand what is planned for the community – this is your tax dollars. All Voices Matter!

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  1. Is there any way to separate the proposed and very needed expansion to Conestoga building (fab labs and flex seating space to relieve overcrowding) from the parking project? As a parent of 3 kids in the district, I greatly see an immediate need to expand the instruction and other space in the high school. The issues about the current proposed parking are real and very much do need further consideration.
    Totally agree that an elected body, not an appointed one, should have final say on what gets built.
    Also, that historical preservation and preservation of open space and trees are vital, as well as keeping our roads from being overcrowded.
    This current (spring) building expansion at the high school is necessary, now, to keep our schools current with technology opportunities and not overcrowded.

    1. The parking lot cannot be separated from the high school expansion plan — there is a requirement that the expansion include ‘x’ number of additional parking spaces. To approve the high school expansion plan w/o the parking space component is not an option. However, there is no requirement to put the parking lot on Irish Road. In addition, the high school expansion project requires storm water management and it is my understanding (someone correct me if I’m wrong), the District needs the parking lot on Irish Road so that the storm water management can go under the parking lot.

  2. Friends and Neighbors –
    Please attend the Nov 21 Planning Commission Meeting
    Your voice matters!

    As Pattye states, the “pause button” is needed.
    If you learn the facts and read the School Board financial forecasts, you will see that if the district spends $40M now, funding for the development of the nursery land within the next 5 years will be significant challenge, which means more taxes for all of us.

    This district is known for hasty decision making. It’s time to change the process.

  3. I was late to the party so did not hear the Historical resource amendment.
    The other two major issues saw both decisions go against the popular opinion in the room but they came about in clearly different ways.

    The Russel Road site had essentially no opposition from the board. They were all good with everything. The solicitors opinion that something being “harmonious” with the neighborhood was noted as having no legal standing. Curious as to why then it is in “the Code” as a potential requirement of a development.

    The parking lot was met with strong questioning from the board. Didn’t seem like any of them really liked the idea.
    In an opening statement from the Superintendent that made no sense he focused on the McDonnell property. Although it makes sense to many to consider it before finishing this expansion that wasn’t an issue that legally the planning commission was able to consider. Why the superintendent focused on it was odd. Both sides pleaded their case but really it was predetermined as the “township” had already cleared all the obstacles the SD had.
    I haven’t been to a SB meeting for a long time but I was disappointed to see the behaviors of the superintendent and at least a couple of the SB members who spoke. Mr Dorsey yelling at the board from the back of the room was inappropriate. Ms Berger must have said “that’s a fact” or “it’s a fact” one hundred times in her speech. It was silly.

    One thing the SD did have going for them was they were well represented by council. I did not hear his name but he was attentive to everyone speaking, cordial and effective.
    OTOH the council for the ALf was aloof and obnoxious.

    2:30am it ended – that’s gotta be some kind of record.

  4. Rl4life,

    You say:

    “”””””Why the superintendent focused on it was odd. Both sides pleaded their case but really it was predetermined as the “township” had already cleared all the obstacles the SD had.””””””””

    As you say, “it was predetermined” Rich knew it was “predetermined” the whole thing was orchestrated.

    That’s why.

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