Pattye Benson

Community Matters


Another Tredyffrin Supervisor Candidate Drops Out . . . and then there were 3!

On January 13, I wrote the following on Community Matters:

The appointment of an interim supervisor is a serious duty of our elected officials (even if only for a few months) and I do not want to see the process manipulated by politics.

What do I mean manipulated . . . ? Only one of the four supervisor candidates, John Bravacos, has stated that he will not be on the ballot for the Special Election in May. Presumably, the other three candidates, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock, all intend to participate in the Special Election required to fill the vacancy.

To be clear, I am not questioning the credentials of these three candidates but the only non-political appointment for this interim supervisor position is John Bravacos. Additionally, John Bravacos is a former township supervisor and former chair. To appoint one of the other three candidates would be politically motivated and give an advantage to that individual in May’s Special Election. For the record, a Republican (Warren Kampf) held the vacated seat and John Bravacos is a Republican.

I was so convinced that the Board of Supervisors would make the ‘right’ choice . . . the non-political appointment of John Bravacos, that I made a bet with a close friend. I lost that one-dollar bet! Yesterday, John Bravacos decided to withdraw his application for consideration to fill the interim supervisor vacancy. In John’s confirmation to me of his withdrawal, he offered that a recent change in his work travel schedule precipitated his decision. Bravacos served on the Board of Supervisors, two as chair, and the only candidate to state that he would not be on the Special Election ballot in May.

A few weeks ago, there were five candidates and then we learned that candidate Joe Muir withdrew his application. Now two days before the Personnel Committee interviews the candidates, John Bravacos decides that he too will leave the supervisor appointment process. Three candidates remain for consideration, Republicans Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock, and Democrat Eamon Brazunas.

What I had hoped the appointment of John Bravacos to the Board of Supervisors would achieve is no longer possible. Sadly, with Bravacos out of consideration, it now appears obvious that there is political party influence in the selection process. Coincidentally the change in the Sidewalks Subcommittee presentation to February 7 corresponds with the appointment of the interim supervisor. The new interim supervisor is to be announced on February 7. Once appointed, the interim supervisor will be in a position as the possible ‘swing vote’ on the land development authority ordinance.

Trust’s Historic House Tour – Saturday, September 25th – Please Support Historic Preservation

Saturdays are always busy, especially during September and October. But if you are looking for something to do . . . why not the Trust’s 6th Annual Historic House Tour.

Always a community favorite for the Trust, this year’s tour will not disappoint – there’s something for everyone! Eights houses are featured on the tour, including 5 homes in Tredyffrin and 3 in Easttown Township. If you are a follower of Community Matters and enjoy the posts and interaction, I ask you to help me with ticket sales. Here’s a ticket order form for the house tour, please pass it on to neighbors and co-workers. A special thank you to Tom Murray and Blair Meadowcroft for supporting the house tour – Blair’s article on the house tour in this week’s edition of Main Line Suburban newspaper is below.

Explore your community’s history by supporting historic preservation . . .

Stage is Set for House Tour in Tredyffrin

By Blair Meadowcroft

Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s sixth annual Historic House Tour set for Sept. 25 will feature eight homes in Tredyffrin Township. The theme for this year’s tour is a focus on Berwyn and Strafford, giving tour participants a chance to view the similarities and differences of houses that in some cases were built around the same time.

The tour, which is rain-or-shine, costs $35 and you must buy tickets in advance. Proceeds from the event have always gone towards the Jones Log Barn project, which was one of the reasons why the House Tour was started.

“I organized the first historic House Tour for several reasons,” said Pattye Benson, president of the Trust. “The Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust needed to raise money for the rebuilding of the Jones Log Barn; all proceeds from the annual tour continue to go toward that project. Additionally there was never a dedicated Historic House Tour for Tredyffrin and Easttown townships, and I wanted to share my passion for old houses with the community. Those of us that live in Tredyffrin and Easttown townships are fortunate to live in one of the most historic areas of the country.”

Benson’s love for historic houses can be seen in her own home, the Great Valley House, circa 1690. This house owned by Benson and her husband is the township’s oldest.

“Our house was on the Devon House Tour 15 years ago and subsequently I was on Devon’s House Tour board for a few years,” said Benson. “I learned a lot about house tours from both the homeowner side as a house-tour participant and from the committee side. I thought I could take what I had learned, create the Trust’s House Tour and share the beautiful historic homes. Six years later the Trust’s House Tour is one of our most anticipated yearly events.”

In the tour’s six years there have been 48 different houses exhibited, plus the Wharton Esherick Museum; the Baptist Church in the Great Valley; two schoolhouses, Diamond Rock Octagonal and Old Eagle School; and eight Revolutionary War general’s headquarters. Also, no house has been shown twice.

“The Historic House Tour has had a wide range of interest throughout the years,” said Benson. “There are old-house owners who like seeing what others have done with their houses. There are people who love history or architecture and enjoy learning all about the house’s past. We have people on the tour who have always dreamed of being an old-house owner but think that they are museums and not possibly for a family.”

According to Benson, another reason behind the House Tour is to show people that old houses can accommodate today’s families.

“Through the Historic House Tour I hope to change people’s minds and encourage old-house ownership, even for those with young families,” said Benson. “In fact six of the eight houses featured on this year’s House Tour have owners with young children.”

It is with the help of willing homeowners that the House Tour can take place each year, and it is to these homeowners that the Trust and all involved are extremely grateful, according to Benson.

“The homeowners have been wonderfully receptive to the House Tour over the years,” said Benson. “I’m so grateful that they are opening their doors to the public.”

On House Tour day, participants pick up their guest badges, maps and brochure, which gives a detailed history of each of the houses, at DuPortail House in Chesterbrook between 11 a.m. and noon. The tour, which goes from noon to 5 p.m., is self-guided and there’s no set order to see the houses.

“Each of the houses on the tour is staffed by a board member of the Trust who acts as the official docent,” said Benson. “In addition to the designated board member, the house is staffed with sufficient volunteers to make sure that guests enjoy the tour experience and are available to answer questions.”

To buy tickets visit

“The Trust is challenged to raise the remaining $200K needed for the Jones Log Barn project by the end of the year, so I want to encourage more people to attend this year’s tour than ever before,” said Benson. “This early log barn will join DuPortail House and the Federal Barn as a living-history museum where people can visit, learn and appreciate how agricultural life was 250-plus years ago. The rebuilding of the barn should serve as a testament that this community cares about their history and wants to preserve it.”

Proposed College Student Housing Ordinances – Public Meeting on Monday, August 16

On July 15, I attended the very long Planning Commission meeting regarding the two proposed township student housing ordinances. The proposed ordinances were reviewed by the Planning Commission at their public meeting and will be the subject of a hearing at the Board of Supervisors public meeting on Monday, August 16. If the proposed ordinances are passed, they will be instituted township-wide.

However, the focus of the attention has been on the Mt. Pleasant community and their ongoing struggles with student housing. Many Mt. Pleasant residents attended the Planning Commission and expressed their concerns in regards to student housing and the need for ordinances that can be enforced. The Planning Commissioners listened and came up with very strict guidelines for the proposed ordinances.

To review the draft zoning ordinance amendment, click here.

To review the draft registration ordinance, click here.

In advance of the public meeting on Monday, I received the following email from Donna Shipman, a resident of Mt. Pleasant encouraging her neighbors to attend. As Donna reminds us, the student housing rentals is not just a Mt. Pleasant issue but rather it is a township-wide issue. I support Donna and the Mt. Pleasant community as they face the challenges of student rentals in their neighborhood.

I just wanted to remind everyone that on Monday Aug 16, 2010 at BOS Public meeting the College ordinance along with the Registration ordinance will be debated and voting on. I am asking that you please send out a reminder to your neighbors and friends encouraging them to attend the 7:30 PM meeting.
We still have issues with the 2 pending ordinances and we need for the BOS to see that this is NOT A MT PLEASANT ONLY ISSUE but a Tredyffrin Township issue. You did such a wonderful job at the Planning Commission hearing I am hoping for a repeat.
Please pass the word about the meeting and let me know if you require further information on the matter. Please note that the pending amendment ordinances are out on the Township’s website.
Thank you in advance for your continued support!
Donna B. Shipman
Block Captain – Mt Pleasant Ave.

Stormwater ‘Bump-outs’ on Old Lancaster Road . . . a Burden for the Residents

I am confident that the people who designed the sidewalks and stormwater management systems on Old Lancaster Road did so with the best of intentions. However, either the design of the bump-outs is flawed and/or the required maintenance by the homeowners is flawed.

I think most residents living along Conestoga and Old Lancaster Roads have been favorable about their new sidewalks. There have been some rumblings about loss of trees, shrubs, etc. but with the understanding that the township will replace their landscaping losses in the fall, I think most have been positive about the sidewalks. Old Lancaster Road has been closed lately, except to local traffic so until yesterday I had not been down this road.

Following the public Sidewalk Committee meeting last Thursday, a couple who live on Old Lancaster Road, in Berwyn between the cemetary and Daylesford Train station spoke about their new sidewalks. They were very positive about the sidewalks and commented that more and more people were using the sidewalks. They had not come to the meeting to complain but rather to inform about a specific aspect of the sidewalk project that most people would probably not be aware. (I certainly was not).

To give a bit of background . . . Old Lancaster Road did not have curbing or appropriate stormwater management system in place. As part of the sidewalk project and stormwater management design on Old Lancaster, 2 foot wide concrete bump outs were installed next to the sidewalks in the road. According to information I found on the township website, the design of the curbed underground seepage/infiltration beds was to control runoff from impervious sidewalks, as well as a portion of the existing roadway runoff on Old Lancaster Rd. which had been uncontrolled. The bump outs were thought to have an additional benefit of traffic-calming.

All of this sounds like a good idea, right? Well, here is some of the problems with the concrete bump outs. First off, the residents on Old Lancaster Road knew that they were responsible for keeping their section of the sidewalks maintained, shoveled in the winter, etc. but were not informed that they would be responsible for the maintenance of the bump outs. (I have now been told that homeowners were informed that the bump outs would be their responsibility.}

There was some concern from some of the elderly homeowners that live along Old Lancaster Rd in regards to sidewalk maintenance; but somehow these residents would get the necessary help to keep the sidewalks cleared and maintained. Clearing sidewalks is one thing but these long concrete curbed areas are in the road are an entirely different matter. How does one manage the maintenance on the bump outs? Here’s a problem . . . there’s curbing on all sides so you would have to pick up your lawnmower and put it in the bump out. But even if you tried that, you would discover the area is too narrow for a lawn mower! So you either have to use hand clippers or a string hedge trimmer on the bump outs.

It is my understanding that township staff planted grass seed in the bump outs but the heat killed the grass seed and apparently there has been mention of wildflowers to be planted in the fall. No grass . . . no wildflowers . . . but even in this summer heat, what does grow — weeds, and lots of them! The weeds in some of the bump outs are 3 ft. high and still growing. As was explained by the couple who attended the Sidewalk Committee meeting, they have elderly neighbors on either side who have to have their grown sons come from Downington and Phoenixville to maintain their bump outs.

Another difficulty – the bump outs are in the road and therefore do not align to property lines so . . . if you and your neighbors are not particularly good friends, you may maintain your section of the bump out but your neighbors decide to leave his/her section of the bump out overgrown!

One of the overgrown bump outs is next to a side road and could create a visibility issue for drivers entering or exiting Old Lancaster. Interestingly, visibility was one of PennDot’s concerns about the bump out design concept. The Old Lancaster Rd. couple stated that they have attempted to have PennDot help with the bump out problems but were referred to the township staff. The township staff says that Old Lancaster is a state road and therefore the problem has to be taken up with PennDot. Homeowners on Old Lancaster are just going around and around in circles over these bump outs. And how must the residents on the other side of Old Lancaster feel who must look at the overgrown bump outs from their front yards?

Solution? In my opinion it’s simple . . . no way should the ‘care and feeding’ of these bump outs be the responsibility of the residents. Period. My suggestion is that public works staff remove the weeds from the bump outs and then fill these long concrete areas with layers of small river rock. River rocks are very inexpensive, will still permit appropriate stormwater runoff and there is no further maintenance required by homeowners, township staff or PennDot!

One other suggestion – if these bump outs are part of any future sidewalk/stormwater design plan, they should not be the responsibility of township residents.

Below is a photo which shows a bump out that is maintained so that you can see the concrete curbing design and the narrowness of the area. Interestingly, this particular bump out is not a shared bump out but is located directly in front of a resident’s home.

The following 2 photos show overgrown bump outs on Old Lancaster Road – one of the bump outs is now affecting visibility from the side road. It appears that this bump out may be a ‘shared bump out’ – where it crosses the property line of two homeowners.

Community Issues Regarding Artificial Turf Field at Delaware Valley Friends School . . . Will meeting on Wednesday help to resolve?

Since I began Community Matters, I have had several Valley Hills neighborhood members write to me about the new artificial turf field at Delaware Valley Friends School, and associated community issues as a result of the field’s construction. This Paoli neighborhood is located in the East Central Avenue area in close proximity to the Friends School and some of the residents have had specific issues since the installation of the turf field, including lighting, generator noise, increased traffic, buffer intrusion, etc.

At last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, under the ‘new matters from citizens’ section, the issue of the turf field resurfaced along with specific questions. There was also an announcement of an upcoming meeting at Delaware Valley Friends School (DVS) this Wednesday at 7 PM between DVS representatives and the neighbors.

I have tried to piece together some of the background on the turf field project and the open issues and ongoing concerns of the neighbors. At the supervisors meeting, Steve Ross, a Valley Hills resident, asked the board why an $800,000 turf field did not require a building permit. Mimi Gleason explained that because the school was changing an existing field in to turf field (rather than creating a new field) the project was not a land development project, regardless of the cost. However, the project did require a grading permit; Mr. Ross has asked to see a copy of that permit.

Here is some of the history of the project as I understand it. The early discussion on the turf field began in the late summer of 2008. I should mention that up until this point, the local neighbors had enjoyed an open and friendly relationship with DVS and the residents and their children were welcome to use the existing school playing fields if they were not being used. (Now there are large, rather unwelcoming signs indicating the field is for use by DVS and Tredyffrin Easttown Youth Soccer Association (TEYSA) only). In late summer, TEYSA in a partnership agreement with DVS developed the project. Although it appears that DVS still owns the field, TEYSA has a ‘sports easement’ to use it (I am not entirely clear about the meaning of this term). It is my understanding that TEYSA paid for the turf field through fundraising efforts. I am unclear whether TEYSA fully funded the project or if there was financial contribution from DVS.

Many of the Valley Hills neighbors feel that the problems began at DVS (with the turf field) as a result of not being included in the process and discussion. Having previously shared a good relationship with the school and its administrators, I think that the neighbors feel they were a bit blind-sighted and not kept in the loop. It is interesting to note that the township has maintained because the usage of the field was not changed, a building permit was not required. Without a building permit, there would not be a legal requirement to notify the neighbors. However, neighbors claim that the blueprints are very clear about building in water containment tanks since water does not perk the same into turf as it does into soil But without a building permit, there were not inspections – therefore leaving the local residents to accept the word of DVS that the turf field was indeed constructed as planned. The turf field was built into the buffer and no variance was filed with the township. Was a variance required and if so, was it the responsibility of DVS or TEYSA?

The strained relationship with DVS and its neighbors started when the buffer of mature trees were taken down. Although DVS apparently claims that there were not aware that the contractor would remove so many trees, the blueprints actually tell a different story. The neighbors witnessed the aftermath of the tree removal vs. being advised and included in the process prior to the removal of the trees. I maintain that you can never give the community ‘too much information’; rather it’s when they are left questioning that the problems occur.

Fast forward to May 2010 and how does Delaware Valley Friends School’s artificial turf field continue to impact the neighbors in and around East Central Ave? The once passive recreational area, that the school and neighbors enjoyed, has dramatically changed. The character of the neighborhood and the open space has transformed in to a very commercial, noisy setting with the construction of the turf field, its lighting, increased traffic and noise issues. Specifically, the lights and the artificial turf have increased the use of the field from very occasional evening and Saturday use to every evening and all day Saturday and Sunday use. The neighbors have no relief from the increased traffic on East Central Avenue. Cars start coming in at 5 PM weekdays, 8 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings and stay until well after dark. With or without the lights on the field, people stay until after dark using car headlights to extend their time on the field. This is certainly a problem and one that needs further discussion between DFS, TEYSA and the residents.

Although one can not go back and plant mature trees that were removed for the project, can the neighbors negotiate the re-planting of some trees and vegetation to help create a new buffer zone around the field? This might improve the open sound and lighting issues. The new turf field was built in to the buffer zone so it will require some creative landscaping ideas. Working together with the community, perhaps a solution could be found.

Is TEYSA required to conform to the township’s standard at this site as in other township fields? Or, because the field is privately owned by DVS, are they exempt from any restrictions? I would encourage neighbors to attend Wednesday night’s meeting at DVS. The turf field is now a reality, but there needs to be a way for the field and its users to peacefully exist in the community. It is hoped that this meeting may bring thoughtful discussion and compromise from both sides. The field lighting and usage, in addition to the impact of the field on the Valley Hills community, needs to be fully understood. This situation begs for resolution for the affected local residents.

Need for College Student Rental Ordinance not Just a Mt. Pleasant Issue . . . this is a township issue!

Several neighborhood issues surfaced at the Mt. Pleasant’s Town Hall Meeting . . . some may be easier to resolve than others. It is recognized that there is currently no township ordinance for college student rentals in the township and unfortunately, I did not leave the meeting feeling that there was specific direction or a timeline for the creation of such an ordinance. It is my understanding that Radnor Township’s student housing ordinance is a good model that could be used for Tredyffrin. I have posted Radnor’s ordinance several times but here is it is again.

How do we get the Board of Supervisors to listen to the Mt. Pleasant residents in their request for such an ordinance? The need for an ordinance is not just a Mt. Pleasant issue; there are other areas of the township that have student housing issues. Now that real estate investors have discovered that Tredyffrin Township does not share neighboring municipalities regulations of college student rentals, it would seem that we are going to continue to see an influx of student housing in to the township.

Maybe it is OK that Tredyffrin homeowners have college students as their neighbors. Maybe our attitude should be if an investor wants to come in to the township, purchase properties and then turn the investment properties in to college housing, we say so what? After all, the college students are adding to the local economy. My guess is that it might be OK by many of the residents, until it was their neighborhood, their street. As long as the problem is in Mt. Pleasant, than why should the rest of us care? Frankly, I don’t think the problem is that college students are renting the properties . . . I met several of the students in Mt. Pleasant and they were friendly, polite, nice kids. The real problem is that without any rules and regulations (such as number of non-related occupants, noise, drinking, etc.) there is no real governance or enforcement if problems or issues arise between homeowners and college students. At the Mt. Pleasant Town Hall meeting, one of the investors stated he was willing to add verbage in his student lease that would cover some of the residents issues. Although the offer from the landlord is appreciated, there is no requirement for them to add the wording and the residents are left without an avenue for enforcement.

Mt. Pleasant does have distinct issues that may not be obvious in other areas of the township. Mt. Pleasant is a family community whose properties may not be as pricey as found in other parts of Tredyffrin. (I noticed yesterday that there are 2 houses currently for sale on Mt. Pleasant Road.) My guess is that real estate investors are able to purchase houses in Mt. Pleasant at a lower price than other areas such as Strafford, Devon, Great Valley. They purchase the houses, update the houses (some create multiple apartments within the single family homes) and then they are ready to rent.

I don’t know what the average rental price a family would pay to live in Mt. Pleasant but clearly the rental rates that the investors are able to command from the college students (and their parents) is far higher than would be typical of the neighborhood. Mt. Pleasant rentals end up on Craigslist with rates from $1800/mo upward to nearly $3000/mo. Certainly out of the reach of many prospective Mt. Pleasant families, . . . however this monthly rental rate is achievable if the landlord has multiple college students living together. Take 6 students living in one of these houses and the monthly rate may actually only be $300/mo for each of the students. I am not suggesting that we can (or should) regulate the rents that investors are able to receive from the students.

Bottom line: The redevelopment trend of township properties in to college rentals will probably continue . . . progress and change in neighborhoods should be accepted . . . but would you agree than a township ordinance to guide the movement would be helpful to all of us?

A couple of other issues that surfaced at the town hall meeting was a Mt. Pleasant Road vacant lot and also the Henry Road development project of 8 townhouses and a single family house. I visited Mt. Pleasant yesterday and took photos of these areas and will post them shortly.

Local Nonprofit Organization has Apartment For Rent in Historic Revolutionary General's House

General DuPortail House

Do you know someone who would enjoy the unique experience of living in a Revolutionary War General’s headquarters? I serve on the Board of Directors for historic DuPortail House in Chesterbrook and the home’s 2-BR apartment is now available for rent. I’m sure that most people don’t realize that there is a rental apartment, located on the 2nd floor of the 270-yr. old stone farmhouse. The DuPortail House property also contains a rental cottage on the grounds (the cottage is currently leased). Up until a few weeks ago, the house apartment was rented by a lovely young professional but unfortunately Rachel’s company went through an acquistion, she lost her job and was forced in to moving to her parents home.

The DuPortail House board is now trying to find a new tenant; below is the Craigslist posting for this wonderful historic apartment. For information or to see the apartment, please contact me at .

Apartment has two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen and living room on second floor of historic DuPortail House in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. Includes a room A/C and washer and dryer in basement. Rent is $1100 per month, including untilities. Close to shopping and Route 202. Located in lovely park setting in Chesterbrook. Quiet small pet permitted with additional security deposit.

DuPortail House and the Federal Barn in Chesterbrook are both on the National Register of Historic Places. DuPortail House is available to rent for weddings, receptions, corporate meetings, etc. There are ongoing maintenance costs in the preservation of this historic landmark property and our nonprofit board struggles to meet these financial demands. The rental of the house, the cottage and the apartment are required just to meet the monthly costs of the house and grounds. We can not afford to have the apartment vacant – please, if you know someone who may be interested, I ask you to pass the information along. If you want details of renting the house for a meeting or special event, contact Event Cordinator Kate Frey, 610.644.4840 or visit the website.

Celebrating Earth Day 2009 today – How Can We Each Make a Difference?

Individually we may not be able to reduce global warming, end pollution or save an endangered species, but there are simple ways we can help protect the environment and save Planet Earth. As a citizen, we can make wise choices about how we live, and the amount of energy and natural resources we consume. It is important that our local government and its leaders continue to look for ways to improve and protect our environment. Each of us living in Tredyffrin Township can make some simple changes that can make a difference. As a Board of Supervisor candidate, I support protecting our local natural resources and preserving our open space. I would like to see a community recycle program put in to place and would encourage Tredyffrin’s participation in ‘Recycle Bank’, This program would take local government support and participation but all the township residents would benefit through reward programs (as an additional incentive) to recycle. Here are some of my suggestions and ways that my husband and I have made simple changes in our home:
1. Drive less. By leaving our car at home we reduce air pollution, improve our health and save money. Walk or ride a bicycle for short trips, or try using public transportation more often.
2. Use reusable shopping bags. It takes a lot of natural resources to produce plastic bags and these bags end up as litter that clogs waterways, adds negatively to the landscape and may be harmful to marine mammals. Reusable bags are made of materials that don’t harm the environment, and do not need to be discarded after each use.
3. Change our light bulbs. We have found that compact florescent bulbs are more energy efficient and less expensive to use than the traditional bulbs. They are safer to operate and can reduce energy costs. The initial cost may be higher but the return on investment is quickly recovered.
4. Pay bills online. By paying our bills online, we can save time and money, lower the administrative costs of companies that you do business with and reduce global warming by saving trees. Online billing also cuts down on the amount of paper that gets delivered to the mailbox each day.

Lifelong Independent to run for At-Large Board of Supervisor Seat

As a lifelong Independent, who truly believes that people should vote for the best person not the party, I am also a realist.

Tredyffrin Township has long been governed by the local GOP with two noteable exceptions, Paul Drucker and Mark DiFeliciantonio. Having won the highly contested State House 157 election in 2008, Paul took office this past January. Mark has decided not to seek re-election for his At-Large Board of Supervisor seat. With Paul serving at the State House level and Mark not seeking re-election, there will once again be only one party in place in Tredyffrin Township. This brings us up to the present and my decision.

I believe that all voices of this community need to be heard. For the local government to represent the community, we need more than one political party voice. Recognizing that the Tredyffrin Democrats share my vision for a new beginning in Tredyffrin Township, I have enthusiastically agreed to represent them in this campaign.
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