Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Lower Merion

Poplar House Has Become Radnor’s La Ronda!

I just received notice that Poplar House, at 600 Maplewood Ave. in Radnor Township was demolished. Dating to 1902, the house contained 10 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, 11,433 sq. ft and sat on 36 acres. The house was demolished to make way for a new housing development.

Although Radnor Township has a HARB (Historic and Architectural Review Board) in place to advise the Township on matters related to three historic neighborhoods, they do not have the authority to stop the demolition of any historic resources in Radnor. (Radnor does not have a Historical Commission). Lower Merion and Haverford Townships have Historical Commissions and regulations to prevent the loss of their most valuable and significant buildings.

Tredyffrin Township has a HARB (I’m one of the members) and we have been working for over a year toward the creation of a Historical Commission. Going back and forth between the HARB and the Planning Commission, we finally all reached an agreement back in August and the plan moved to the township solicitor for review. At the October Board of Supervisors meeting it was announced that the proposed Historical Commission would be presented at a public hearing on December 6. Then at the supervisors meeting following the November election, the Historical Commission was abruptly removed from public hearing status; we were told because the legal work had not been completed. No new date was given to the HARB members and it could be months (if at all) before there is a new public meeting scheduled.

It is so discouraging to read these stories of beautiful and notable buildings destroyed in the name of progress. One does not have to live in a historic property to understand and appreciate their value. Hopefully, our supervisors will support the establishment of the Historic Commission so that Tredyffrin’s historic properties don’t suffer the same fate as historic properties in Radnor Township.

First there was La Rhonda in Lower Merion and now Radnor Township has allowed Poplar house to be destroyed. What’s next? Here are some photos of Poplar House:

Radnor’s Proposed Budget Calls for 17% Real Estate Tax Increase; Phoenixville Talks of Cutting Police Force & Lower Merion Residents Collecting Signatures in Opposition of Their Tax Increase

Lower Merion’s proposed 2011 budget indicates a 14.7% real estate tax increase . . . Phoenixville is working with a 24.7% proposed increase . . . Easttown Township announced their proposed budget includes a 5.3% real estate tax increase and on Friday, Radnor Township released their 2011 operating budget which indicates a 17 percent real estate tax increase! Radnor residents will be facing this 17 percent real estate tax increase for 2011 on the heels of 2010’s 11 percent increase.

Radnor’s administration points to similar problems as other neighboring municipalities due to the economy and that the municipality is struggling to recover from the recession. With revenue growth slowed, Radnor is looking at various ways to reduce operating expenditures. Included with Radnor’s budgetary information, is a memorandum from the assistant township manager, William Martin which details some suggestions for increased revenue. Some of these suggestions are interesting – I wonder if any of these revenue recommendations or expenditure reductions are suggestions that Tredyffrin should consider. I have highlighted some of Martin’s suggestions below:

Revenue Recommendations

  • Sell Selected Parcels of Township-owned Land
  • Negotiate Payment in Lieu of Tax with Universities and Colleges
  • Lease Office Space in Township Building
  • Perform audit of Cable TV Franchise License and permit fees
  • Increase Youth Sports Program Field Maintenance Fee for non-resident participants to $25 per participant
  • Consider corporate naming rights for select Township assets

Expenditure Reductions Suggestions

  • Reduce total employee expenses by 8% in 2011
  • Implement a moratorium on acquisition of land or open space
  • Reduce Township facility costs to maximize the value
  • Reduce Legal Expenses
  • Mandate within legal limits that employees use accrued vacation
  • Explore share services agreements with neighboring townships
  • Evaluate Parks and Recreation Programs that do not met expenses
  • Review status of government and public access television channels
  • Perform energy audit
  • Reduce usage of Township vehicles
  • Rely on Citizen groups instead of hiring consultants
  • Perform audit of purchases to insure sales taxes are not paid

In looking at various ways to increase charges for services in Radnor, the administration is proposing to amend the local inspection laws to include mandatory inspection of all rental units in Radnor Township (to include colleges/universities) and to increase the fee to better align it with the cost of providing these inspections (rather than having a general tax). I am imagining all kinds of problems with this mandatory inspection . . . cost of inspection and scheduling issues, privacy concerns, etc. It would appear that managing a mandatory inspection idea would not be easy. Owning a rental property myself in Tredyffrin, I am not sure how I feel about this idea.

Still grappling with the 24.7% proposed real estate tax increase in Phoenixville, there is some discussion about cutting two police officers from the budget to help lower the $600K+ deficit. It is my understanding that Phoenixville is already understaffed with their current police force. With the economic downturn and unemployment rising, it would seem that crime could also be on the increase (particularly with the holidays coming) . . . so I’m not sure that cutting back the police force is the correct approach. Apparently all departments have reduced costs by 10% and that all that is left is to look at reducing the police force.

The recently announced proposed 12.7% proposed real estate tax increase in Lower Merion has residents rightfully upset. To counter the proposed 2011 budget, residents are getting their voices heard through an online petition (1400+ signatures to date). Wonder if the Lower Merion’s Commissioners are likely to give any credence to the petition?

To: The Commissions of Lower Merion Township

Petition – 2011 Lower Merion Township Proposed Budget

Economic indicators demonstrate that our Country is still struggling to recover from recession.

Since 2002, Lower Merion Township has raised the real estate tax millage rate by a total of 44.3% and has doubled its indebtedness (from $56 million to $112 million).

Lower Merion Township has raised the real estate tax millage rate in seven (7) of the last eight (8) years.

In 2010, Lower Merion Township raised trash collection fees between 10% – 41% for most residents.

Now, the Township Manager of Lower Merion Township has proposed a 12.7% increase in the real estate tax millage rate for 2011 which, if passed, would mean a cumulative increase of 62.6% since 2002, the year in which the current Township Manager was appointed.

The Lower Merion Township Manager proposes to increase 2011 spending by 5.5% over 2010 spending, which adds to past additional spending and represents a cumulative increase in spending of 45% since 2002.

By contrast, since 2002, inflation has increased 20.44% (through September 30), and overall national wages have grown just 22% (through 2009).

Further, the Township Manager has targeted a 17% General Fund Reserve Balance. The Township’s reserve policy has a goal of maintaining the General Fund Reserve Balance in the range of 15% – 18% of the Township’s prior year general fund expenditures.

While it is the Township Manager’s role to propose a budget each year, it is the responsibility of elected Township Commissioners to determine the amount of spending to authorize and to approve a final budget.

We believe that a 12.7% real estate tax increase is an unaffordable, unsustainable and unacceptable outcome and implore the Township Commissioners to significantly reduce proposed 2011 general fund expenditures, to draw down the General Fund Reserve Balance to 15%, and to avoid much or all of the proposed real estate tax increase at this difficult economic time.


The Undersigned

Thank you to Save Ardmore Coalition

Save Ardmore Coalition, “working together for Lower Merion’s future” is a grassroots community organization that is dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Ardmore business district. However, many of the blog contributors including Carla, are interested in communities beyond their own backyard, including Tredyffrin Township. Carla has been following Mt. Pleasant’s neighborhood struggles and recently conducted a field trip to Mt. Pleasant to document the community. Her posting titled Visiting Mt. Pleasant: Another Small Neighborhood at Risk tells it all. Carla’s Mt. Pleasant photos.

I am excited that the Save Ardmore Coalition has announced my Community Matters in Tredyffrin Township blog to their audience; click here for the announcement. Communities helping communities is how we are going to make a difference! Thank you Save Ardmore Coalition for doing your part!

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