Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Mt. Pleasant Action Committee Group

Save Ardmore Coalition Blogger Weighs in on Tredyffrin’s Student Housing Issues

Over at Save Ardmore Coalition, Carla has been following the ongoing problems of the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and the student housing situation. Reciprocal links are exchanged between SAC and Community Matters and thanks to social media, there are immediate notifications as the sites are updated. I wrote of Tredyffrin’s upcoming public meeting re proposed college housing ordinances and Carla responded with the following on her website:


ALERT!!! Dead of Summer Meeting on Student Housing in Tredyffrin MONDAY AUGUST 16th!

For almost a year now thanks to a blog/website I found and nice woman named Christine I met, I have been following the issue of off campus student housing in Tredyffrin.

This off campus student housing issue in Tredyffrin is quite serious because in my opinion Tredyffrin Township is all F*****d up with no place to go on the issue.

The issue is horrific in Mt. Pleasant, a historic African American community in the panhandle or Wayne section of Tredyffrin. But I also know a dear friend’s sister and her husband (and she is an old school chum of mine as well) who are in another very nice neighborhood in Tredyffrin off Old Eagle School who also put up with what often amounts to party city.

For years, while other municipalities like Radnor, Lower Merion, and Haverford Townships were creating rules (because you can only say creating zoning in Haverford and Lower Merion, because in Radnor Township, student housing is dumbly NOT in zoning I believe) surrounding off campus student housing and the number of people wh can live in group housing situations, Tredyffrin pretty much ignored it. So in Tredyffrin for the past however many years, off campus student houses all year round have resembled over-crowded shore houses in many cases.

I first became interested in this when I heard the plight of a mom in Tredyffrin who would awaken to things like a drunken college student peeing on her child’s toys in her fenced in yard. Then I heard stories of lack of action on almost mob mentality by Tredyffrin Police and the problems she had calling the police and getting them to respond. This was followed by reports of properties being gobbled up by developers, slum lords who wanted to turn a single family home into twins, etc and how Miss Mazie’s house had fared in Mt. Pleasant.

I have sat on the sidelines and watched as all these Tredyffrin residents have gotten jerked around by Tredyffrin Township officials and I think it is still happening because Tredyffrin has scheduled the crucial public meeting to decide on this student housing ordinance and how good it will be or how much it will suck for the DEAD, DEAD, DEAD of summer when all ther municipalities around aren’t even scheduling meetings. To me that is very telling on how important they think this is.

So I am posting this and hoping others out there who blog will cross post this and twitter it and Facebook it and tell whomever they know in the media to consider covering it so these people in Tredyffrin get a break from slum lords who just want to shove as many bodies as possible into rental properties – which if course in the event of fires and whatnot is also not safe for the students – and you know darn well these landlords are also probably charging these students a fortune too.

My fear as residents just try to get some rules in place is that Tredyffrin will grandfather so many of the places and not have proper seperation requirements that the zoning, etc will be worthless. And we all know when a local government wants to blow something by the residents and taxpayers the best time to do that is to schedule meetings when a lot of people aren’t around. Oldest trick in the book.

Many thanks to Pattye Benson over at Tredyffrin…Community Matters for notifying us of this crucial public meeting. . .

958 Mt. Pleasant Road . . . vacant lot remains haven for dumping and . . . much more!

Back on March 22, there was a town hall meeting in Mt. Pleasant. Residents of the community, representatives from the township staff including Mimi Gleason, Mike Pilotti, Steve Norcini and members of the police department and board of supervisors met for public discussion. The meeting allowed an opportunity for the residents to voice their concerns on a variety of issues, including the long-abandoned vacant lot located at 958 Mt. Pleasant Road.

You can tell by the old cement steps, that there was once a house on the property but what remains on the lot is a mound of crumbled concrete and ever-increasing trash (broken bottles, tin cans, car tires, etc.). According to one of the neighbors, the overgrown lot has now become a haven for rodents and she now has to deal with the rodent problem in her own home.

Knowing that the Board of Supervisors were adding discussion of a student housing ordinance to their upcoming agenda, I decided to visit Mt. Pleasant for an update and I am including photos with this post. I will say that the vacant lot looks much better in the springtime; not because it has been cleaned up or that dumping has stopped but because the overgrown lot is now green rather than the deserted, abandoned look in the winter. Nevertheless, the problem remains at 958 Mt. Pleasant Rd.

I have confirmed that the absentee owners of the vacant lot live in King of Prussia. Apparently they bought the lot (with house) a few years ago, immediately took down the house which was in disrepair and intended to sell the lot and make a profit. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out of the economy and the couple has subsequently separated, leaving the lot to become a community dumping area. I have been told that the owners have not been entirely responsive to township outreach although there was some discussion from one of the owners about erecting a 6-ft. chain length fence across the front of the property. This situation on Mt. Pleasant Road is an enforcement issue; I suggest a letter from Tom Hogan, township solicitor might encourage some movement on the part of the owner to clean-up the property, get a fence up and signs to indicate ‘private property – no dumping’ under penalty of law.

Something else interesting about the vacant lot — it’s located directly across from 961 Mt. Pleasant Rd. which is clearly a college house rental for quite a number of students. This house has a driveway that goes around back of the house with a large parking lot and a commercial trash dumpster. At 2 o-clock on a Thursday afternoon (not Friday or Saturday night!), I found it extremely interesting that there were 7 cars parked in the parking lot behind this house. From the back of the house, there are several exterior doors indicating multiple apartments in this house. Two college girls were on the front lawn in bathing suits enjoying the summer weather. I asked them if they ever saw any dumping across the street and although they had not, it wasn’t a stretch to think that as parties at this college house spill over on to the front yard and in to the street – that vacant lot directly across from this house makes a great disposal for empty beer and soda cans. Here was a direct case where a sign posted for ‘no dumping’ might make a difference.

As long as there will be discussion re the student housing rental ordinance, could we expect to hear about the status of the vacant lot? Also, remind me – is the Panhandle area, (including Mt. Pleasant) covered by Supervisor Paul Olson?

Board of Supervisors Meeting – Monday, May 24 . . . A few interesting topics of discussion

This Monday, May 24 is the Board of Supervisors Meeting which was moved from last week due to the Primary Election (and the township building needing to be set-up as a polling place). In reviewing the agenda for the meeting, a couple of items are of interest under ‘Township Business”:

Resolution authorizing East Whiteland Township, Malvern Borough, and Tredyffrin Township to work jointly to oversee planning, design and construction of the proposed Patriots Path trail. If you recall, there was a lively debate between residents that were ‘for’ the trail and those that were ‘against’ the trail. Ultimately a consensus was reached for the trail to move forward and permit a joint agreement with E. Whiteland and Malvern. My guess is that this resolution creates that working relationship.

Award contract for design of renovations and improvements at the Tredyffrin Public Library. After talking to a couple of people, my understanding is that there were a few items that were not part of the original library construction plans, including windows and air conditioning improvements. This additional library contract must pertain to those items — although I assume any of these additional library improvements will need to be in the 2011 township budget. (Another reason that the work and discussion on the 2011 budget needs to begin sooner, rather than later.)

Discussion about regulating student housing. A student housing rental ordinance for the township has been in discussion for some time, originating with complaints from the Mt. Pleasant community. Several months ago a community town hall meeting was held in Mt. Pleasant which I attended. Without a township ordinance for student rentals, many of the properties in Mt. Pleasant are being sold to investors and converted to student housing. It’s not so much the idea of college students living in the community, it is more about the associated issues, such as increased traffic, noise, trash, etc. Other municipalities (including Radnor) have strict student housing ordinances and Mt. Pleasant residents would like Tredyffrin to consider a similar ordinance. I will be curious to see where the supervisors stand on this issue — I was in Mt. Pleasant yesterday taking photos of the vacant lot (which I will post later) and spoke with a couple of the college students. I would encourage Mt. Pleasant residents to attend Monday night’s supervisors meeting and offer their personal insight on the situation in to the public record.

Here’s an item not appearing on the agenda under ‘Township Business’. I was disappointed that there was no mention of the newly created sidewalks subcommittee on the agenda. Perhaps that update will occur under the liaison report by the supervisors. If you recall back on March 15 Board of Supervisors meeting, the sidewalks subcommittee was formed as a result of the St. Davids sidewalk issue. If I remember correctly, the sidewalks committee was to meet separately has a group and to also hold public focus meetings throughout the township to receive community input. It’s been over 2 months, has the subcommittee held a meeting?

According to Lamina when announcing the sidewalk subcommittee members in March, there was to be a resolution of the sidewalk matter by the end of the year. I voiced a concern from the start that this unresolved sidewalk issue was leaving the township in a tenuous situation with developers/contractors doing work in the township. As long as the issue of sidewalks was ‘on hold’ and without clear direction from the township, enforcement of certain outstanding land development elements could be difficult (including sidewalks, lighting, etc.) I would encourage the supervisors and the sidewalk subcommittee to keep the residents in the loop by providing updates on an ongoing basis so that the timeline of December 2010 can be met.

The Board of Supervisors meeting will be at 7:30 PM at the township building this Monday, May 23. It is important for all of us to stay involved in the governing of our township – plan to attend the meeting or watch from home.

Update from Board of Supervisors Meeting

Last night’s Board of Supervisor meeting went very quickly. A few updates — The newly formed Sidewalk Committee and the Stormwater Committee are both going to meet this month. On the subject of the Sidewalk Committee, there were a couple of residents who live on Upper Gulph Road (close to N. Wayne Ave.) who spoke about sidewalks on Upper Gulph Rd. Neither were fans of sidewalks on their street; explaining that their houses are very close to the road, and in one case a sidewalk could come so close as to effect the foundation of their historic house. The gentleman with the historic home told the supervisors that a sidewalk would come within 5 ft. of his house and that if a sidewalk was planned for his section of Upper Gulph Rd. he would expect that the township purchase his house. He distributed photos of his house to the supervisors to make his point. He also mentioned some email circulating in his neighborhood about sidewalks on Upper Gulph and Paul Olson, . . . I didn’t understand that comment or its significance. Perhaps someone can offer clarification.

Mt. Pleasant was discussed under new business by the supervisors. In Mimi Gleason’s absence, Assistant Twp Mgr Tom Scott updated on Mt. Pleasant. He explained that the demolition had started for the Henry Ave. townhouse development. It was obvious that Mr. Scott had not visited Mt. Pleasant because as I have previously indicated on Community Matters all 4 vacant, abandoned houses are now down and rubble removed at the future townhouse site. Discussion continues on the Mt. Pleasant Ave. vacant lot; Mr. Scott mentioned that the Chester County Health Department has been notified and there will be follow-up with that organization. On the subject of the student housing ordinance, discussion is ongoing. Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline both spoke about the ordinance and encouraged the residents to get involved in that process and to review neighboring municipality ordinances. Mt. Pleasant residents Donna Shipman and Christine Johnson both presented personal comments on their neighborhood; and thanked those involved for attending the town hall meeting. There are positive changes in Mt. Pleasant and I am encouraged. As an aside, following the meeting, Bob Lamina thanked me for posting the photos of Mt. Pleasant; confirming my belief that pictures do speak a 1,000 words.

Another topic of discussion last night . . . everyone should be aware of the upcoming clean-up Tredyffrin days on April 17 and 18, 9 AM – 3 PM. I encourage everyone to get involved in your community. We all know that is was a very long, hard winter and major clean-up is required to get our neighborhoods back in order. Even if you only have an hour or so to spare, please consider helping with this worthwhile community event . . . Tidy Up Tredyffrin Day!

One of the highlights of the Board of Supervisors meeting was brought up by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. On behalf of the Parks Board (he serves as the Board liaison) DiBuonaventuro asked Chairman Lamina about furthering the process to have the gazebo at Wilson Farm Park officially named for former supervisor Judy DiFilippo. Some of you may recall, that upon the opening of Wilson Farm Park, the Parks Board had asked that the Board of Supervisors officially name the gazebo after Judy for her hard work and dedication in making the park a reality. At the time, the decision was made not to move forward on the dedication because Judy was a serving supervisor; rather they made the decision to postpone further discussion until the time Judy was no longer a supervisor. I’m excited to report that the time has come . . . there will be a ceremony to dedicate the gazebo in Judy’s name. Biased as I am, I am hoping that we can make the dedication in to a very special celebration!

Evidence of Positive Change in Mt. Pleasant

I decided to drive over to Mt. Pleasant yesterday to check on the progress of the demolition at the Henry Ave. development. A week ago, Maizie Hall’s house was taken down but there remained a pile of debris along with 3 other vacant, abandoned houses. I posted photos of the remaining houses and the trash so I was anxious to see what (if any) progress had been made.

Final Abandoned House Coming Down! As I drove down Henry Ave. was I ever surprised! The 2 abandoned houses on the corner of Fairview and Henry Avenues were already down and all debris cleared from those houses in addition to complete clean-up of Maizie Hall’s house. And the demolition crew were about 75% finished with the demolition on the remaining house. Such an improvement to what had been there a week ago!
I talked to the two members of the demolition crew who looked to be in charge; I was amazed that neither asked me who I was or why I was taking photos. They were only too happy to answer my questions and could not have been nicer. I was told that all demo and clean-up work would be completed today. On Monday, they will start the land development part of the construction which includes levelling of the land and laying underground utilities.
I told them that I had heard that there might be financial issues with the developer — I asked if that information was true; and if so would finances slow down the development schedule. I was told that information is inaccurate. Not only is the development project moving ahead, I was told that 2 of the townhouses have already been sold (pre-construction sale) and house sales will push the project more quickly. Although they were not completely sure of the pricing on the townhouses; they agreed that my suggested price tag of $300K was probably about right and in the ballpark.
I’m thrilled that in 1-1/2 weeks Mt. Pleasant went from 4 abandoned, empty houses, that were causing me safety concerns for the neighborhood kids, to complete demolition and clean-up. Maybe pictures do speak louder than words! The demolition guys also told me they heard that someone in the township was driving the clean-up. Hmm. . . ? I love it when the system works! The vacant lot is next on my agenda for clean-up in Mt. Pleasant.

Community Matters Mainstreams into Main Line Suburban Life Newspaper

Community Matters mainstreamed into Ray Hoffman’s column in this weeks’ Main Line Suburban Life. I thanked Ray for his mention and left a comment that Community Matters is now independently hosted with a new web address, . Through the paper, I’m hoping that more readers will join our discussion.

” . . . 2) Mt. Pleasant meeting: Pattye Benson, author of the popular Community Matters blog (, attended a town meeting in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood last week, as did a church full of local residents and a few local government officials. If you haven’t already, visit Pattye’s blog and read about a couple of rather deplorable conditions directly across the road from, heaven forbid, St. Davids Golf Club, one of the Main Line’s most prestigious addresses. St. Davids has nothing to do with the problems at the Mt. Pleasant miasmic panhandle, but it seems ironic that the township supervisor representing this district was very visible in the recent matter of “the sidewalk” at St. Davids but was notably absent from the Mt. Pleasant meeting.

Simply stated, the meeting was about problems with rental residents (students) who have become concerns to the full-time residents of the area, and a vacant lot that is a mound of crumbled concrete and ever-increasing trash (broken bottles, tin cans, car tires, etc.). According to a neighbor, the overgrown lot is an eyesore and a haven for rodents that have also infiltrated her home. Township Manager Mimi Gleason has taken action about the vacant lot, as have both the Chester County Board of Health and the state Department of Environmental Protection. A resolution should be forthcoming within days. The township also hopes to resolve the concerns about noise and other behavior of the students living in the rental properties. . . .”

A reminder that Monday, April 5 is the Board of Supervisors Meeting, 7:30 PM, Keene Hall, Township Building. There’s some supervisor housekeeping issues that should be addressed — what is the status on the newly formed Sidewalks Committee (have they met, worked out a mission and schedule); public update on the ‘cardboard check’ to the fire companies and official update on the Mt. Pleasant community. I am going to suggest to some of the Mt. Pleasant residents that I know that they should attend the meeting; their neighborhood is a ‘talking point’ and we need residents there to help clarify the update.

Board of Supervisors Meeting Agenda to Include Mt. Pleasant Update

Just to update . . . I had sent an email to the Board of Supervisors this week requesting that a Mt. Pleasant update be added to next week’s supervisors meeting. I requested that the Mt. Pleasant update include (1) Town Hall Meeting summary; (2) college student housing ordinance; (3) status of vacant lot on Mt. Pleasant Ave; and (4) vacant houses on future site of Henry Ave. townhouse development. I’m pleased to report that I received a response from Mimi Gleason that an official update would be given at Board of Supervisors Meeting as part of the supervisor liaison reporting. The next Board of Supervisors Meeting is Monday, April 5, 7:30 PM.

Now that supervisors and township staff are aware of the issues at Mt. Pleasant, I am confident that there has been movement on many fronts.

Mt. Pleasant Update . . . 1 house demolished, 3 still standing

Here’s an update on the vacant houses on Henry and Fairview Avenues in Mt. Pleasant, the site of the new townhouse development. Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson notified me that Maizie Hall’s house on Henry Ave was demolished yesterday. I’m not sure exactly what motivated the developer yesterday to start the demolishing process (could it have been the wide circulation of my photos?) but I’m impressed!

Not knowing the status on the other 3 houses (2 are on Henry Ave. and the house is around the corner on Fairview Ave.) I drove over to Mt. Pleasant this afternoon. I found quite the pile of rubble where Maizie Hall’s house stood a couple of days ago. In addition to the rubble, 3 other houses remain on the property that are slated for demolition. Three large pieces of equipment are on site, so I am assuming that these houses will be coming down in the next few days. If you would like to see photos of the other houses that remain on site, click here for a slideshow. To see the individual photos in Mt. Pleasant, click here.

All that remains of Maizie Hall's childhood home.

These crumbling steps are located at 985 Fairview Avenue . . . they lead to an abandoned, vacant house on the site of the new townhouse community coming to Mt. Pleasant. Maizie Hall’s house was demolished yesterday and I am assuming that the big heavy equipment that is on site will be removing the other 3 houses, including the Fairview Ave. house.

While I was at Mt. Pleasant today, I met the next-door neighbor of the planned townhouse development. He was glad to see the abandoned houses coming down but pointed out that 2 of the houses that are still standing, have actually been vacant and abandoned for at least 5 years . . . apparently the developer purchased those 2 houses at a foreclosure bank sale. To leave his house for the last 5 years, this Mt. Pleasant neighbor has had to go past these rundown, abandoned houses. I guess he is glad to see some movement on their demolition.

Safety Issues at Henry Avenue, Mt. Pleasant . . . Is Developer Responsible for Securing Construction Site?

At the Town Hall Meeting this week, Mt. Pleasant residents had several concerns in addition to the college student-landlord issues. I addressed the vacant lot at 958 Mt. Pleasant Road in yesterday’s post and sent a related email to the Board of Supervisors and Township Manager Mimi Gleason (with link to the post on Community Matters). I am pleased to report that I received a response from Mimi with the following information:

(1) Township staff is following up with the complaints about 958 Mount Pleasant Avenue. So far, we have not gotten a response from the property owner, but are continuing to work on it.

(2) Staff from the Chester County Health Department also was at the site this week. As far as we know, they have not issued any kind of decision yet.

(3) Staff from the PA Department of Environmental Protection are supposed to inspect the property next week.

(4) Now that the complaints about 958 Mount Pleasant Avenue have been brought to the Township’s attention, we will do everything we can to address the situation.

Thank you to our Township Manager for her follow-up with the Mt. Pleasant Ave. vacant lot; I am sure that we will begin to see a clean-up in that area.

One of the other concerns that surfaced at the Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting was the vacant houses at the end of Henry Ave., the future site development to include 8 townhouses & 1 family home. Developer F & H Main Line has an approved land development plan. Much to the chagrin of neighboring Mt. Pleasant Road residents, whose homes back up to the construction site, the property was completely clear-cut and specimen trees were not saved. According to these neighbors, specimen trees were to be saved and unfortunately that did not occur.

Community members are concerned about the vacant houses that have been left accessible by the developer. Although the vacant houses are slated for demolition, there does not seem to be a timeline. In the meantime, the houses have not been boarded up — the windows and doors are open and are encouraging the local kids to run in and out. There are no posted ‘keep out’ signs nor is there any fencing surrounding the construction site.

Note: I created a set of photos that I feel highlight the Henry Ave. development site — the clear-cutting of the property and the safety issues surrounding the vacant buildings.

Click here to review the photos with comments on Flickr. If you prefer a slideshow presentation, click here.

Please review the photos and then offer your comment. Do you think that the vacant buildings post a safety concern to the community? Does the developer bear a responsibility to secure the site from the public? Do you think that the township is responsible to make sure that the developer secures the site? In my opinion, accessibility to these vacant houses is a serious accident waiting to happen, would you agree?

958 Mt. Pleasant Road . . . Vacant lot now overgrown with weeds and rodents . . . what recourse for neighbors?

There is a long abandoned lot located at 958 Mt. Pleasant Road, in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. This vacant lot is not at the end of the road, or on a corner but is located right between two existing homes. At the town hall meeting, Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson stated that she had contacted Mike Pilotti in regards to the vacant lot and he said he would look in to finding the owners. One of the neighbors to the vacant lot stated that she had contacted the township several times over the lot and that the township already knew who owned the lot.

You can tell by the old cement steps, that there was once a house on the property but what remains on the lot is a mound of crumbled concrete and ever-increasing trash (broken bottles, tin cans, car tires, etc.). According to the neighbor, the overgrown lot has now become a haven for rodents and she now has to deal with the rodent problem in her own home. My understanding is that the township will have difficulty enforcing a clean-up by the owner of the vacant lot . . . apparently due to property rights there is no mechanism in place to force the owner to clean up his/her property. But what about the public health, safety and property rights of the neighbors to this vacant lot? What recourse do these neighbors have?

The following photo was taken from the driveway of the next-door neighbor to the vacant lot. Can you imagine looking at this mess every time you come and go out of our house!?

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