Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Mt. Pleasant Action Committee Group

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.

Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting Update

I attended the Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting last night. The pews in First Baptist Church were full . . . Mt. Pleasant residents and real estate investors, township supervisors and staff, including township manager, public works, zoning and police along with interested community members. This was the third town hall meeting to be scheduled (the first two were cancelled due to snow). Donna Shipman of Mt. Pleasant was the organizer and worked with the police department, township representatives and church to set-up the meeting. Barbara Byrd presented a wonderful written history of Mt. Pleasant; I am going to request a copy which I will post. Christine Johnson provided a very moving overview of the neighborhood’s issues and concerns from a residents standpoint. I have contacted Christine and asked her to provide a copy of her remarks which I will provide on Community Matters . . . her words not only shed light on the issues but beg all of us to get involved to help this neighborhood.

It was obvious from the start of the meeting that the problems in Mt. Pleasant are long-standing and have become layered over time. One of the major talking points of the evening was between the residents and the real estate investors who are leasing their properties to college students. At this time, Tredyffrin does not have a specific ordinance that addresses student housing in the township. Since last fall, township staff has been reviewing neighboring municipalities ordinances for student rental properties with the intention of creating an ordinance in Tredyffrin. Radnor Township has specific ordinances and guidelines concerning student renters. In their ordinance, Radnor has established oversight and enforcement policy for landlords and students. It would be interesting to know if Radnor has seen a difference in policing requirements as a result of stricter penalties for landlord/student offenses. When questioned about a proposed college rental ordinance for Tredyffrin, township manager Mimi Gleason explained to the audience the significant cost of an ordinance (especially with current township budget constraints) and also the delay of an ordinance due to required notification and public meeting. Mimi suggested that the process would take approximately 3 months.

Mt. Pleasant residents are troubled by the many changes that they are witnessing in their neighborhood. Many who spoke have lived in the community their entire lives and have deep family roots. College student rentals and development in Mt. Pleasant were high on their list of concerns. Conversely, many of the real estate investors spoke that they thought the community was improving through the development. Change is difficult for many of us, . . . and the evolution in Mt. Pleasant has not always been thoughtful to its residents.

There were some positive moments at the meeting. Troubled by the slowness to create an student rental ordinance that might evoke positive change with the behavior of college student residents (underage drinking, loud music, speeding cars, etc), I was impressed by several of the real estate investors. There was an offer from the investors to the residents to add particular verbage in the college student leases to address noise, drinking, etc. This was an encouraging development . . . I think before last night the residents were on one side and the investors on the other side with the college students somewhere in the middle. Talking about the issues openly was a real start for the two sides; I was encouraged that last night’s dialogue may lead to a further understanding between the parties.

Public Works director Steve Norcini offered to address the signage on the Mt. Pleasant roads. He said that he could review and update speed limit signs and add ‘caution children’ signs as early as next week. Although the signs are a good start, there appears a need for better enforcement of township rules in Mt. Pleasant. There was a complaint by many that when police are called, they do not cite the students but rather just give warnings.

Much discussion was on a vacant lot located at 958 Mt. Pleasant Road. This lot has become very overgrown with weeds, trash and rodents. Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson offered that she had contacted Mike Pilotti, Tredyffrin’s zoning enforcement officer and Mike explained that he is working on the problem. Homeowners that live on either side of the vacant lot complained that have previously contacted the township but that nothing has been done. Now that this specific problem has been aired in a public meeting, I am hopeful that there will be the required township follow-up to address the issue.

I left the two hour meeting with mixed feelings. On one level, I was pleased that the Mt. Pleasant residents were given the appropriate forum to present their concerns to those in the position to help. But on another level, I did not leave the meeting thinking that was clear direction or a timeline for future meetings, township involvement, etc. However, I am committed to continue to shine light on the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and their ongoing concerns and issues.

Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting and TESD School Board Meeting Tonight!

The much anticipated Mt. Pleasant Town Hall meeting is tonight. This meeting has been a long time in the works; previously cancelled twice due to snow. The community meeting will be held at the First Baptist Church on Upper Gulph in Mt. Pleasant, 7 – 9 PM. Many of us have heard Christine Johnson at Board of Supervisors meeting speak passionately about issues facing her Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Tonight should present an opportunity for residents of this panhandle community to voice their opinions and concerns.

Tredyffrin Township Police Officer Larry Meoli has help to organize this meeting with Mt. Pleasant residents. Attending the meeting will be members of the Board of Supervisors and representatives from the township staff, zoning and police departments. Liaisons from the Board of Supervisors will be supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Richter. Having just recently written about the Sunshine Law, I now understand that if more than three supervisors attended tonight’s town hall meeting, that would be viewed as a violation. I will be attending the Mt. Pleasant meeting and look forward to the exchange of information. I will provide an update tomorrow on Community Matters.

Tonight is also the Tredyffrin Easttown School District monthly school board meeting. Here is the TESD agenda.The agenda is very detailed (117 pages). In reviewing the agenda, I did note the resolution from the school district in regards to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). Much has been written about PSERS and the escalating associated costs; I am pleased to see that TESD is supporting pension reform in the state! (I am hopeful that my friend Ray Clarke will be attend tonight’s TESD meeting and will provide his remarks.)

Update . . . Tonight's Supervisors Meeting

My primary reason for attending the Board of Supervisors meeting tonight was for the announcement of the Sidewalks Subcommittee members. Three members were chosen from the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and Sidewalks, Trails and Paths (STAP) Committee. Supervisors Kichline, Donohue and Richter; Planning Commissioners Bob Whalen, Trip Lukens and Vicki Snyder; and STAP members Sean Moir, Jim Donegan and Molly Duffy are the 9 members of the Sidewalks Subcommittee. Township Manager Mimi Gleason will serve as the facilitator of the committee.

After the announcement of the Sidewalks Subcommittee, I expected an outline of the committee with a stated process; but none was offered. What was the meeting schedule – how often would the committee meet? Would the meetings be open to the public? What was the timeline for the committee? Will the community be given regular updates at future supervisors meetings? In other words, I was looking for specifics on the subcommittee and the process.

In a review of the February 22 Board of Supervisors meeting minutes, I found the following:

” . . . He [Lamina] said the plan is to have the new subcommittee begin work in March with the goal to conclude the process by the end of this year. . . “

So during the next 9 months, I guess the Sidewalks Subcommittee will begin a process to re-examine where the community wants and needs sidewalks. I believe that the end-goal is for the Board to adopt formal policies and procedures to provide guidelines for the development and construction of sidewalks in the township. Although not mentioned tonight, I am assuming that the subcommittee will set a goal to include the residents through area focus groups. Transparency and openness of the Sidewalks Committee is going to be important if the community is to trust this process.

I have publically stated, and remained concerned, that during this re-examining process by the Sidewalks Subcommittee there are liability issues to the township from developers/contractors doing work in Tredyffrin. As long as the formal policy on sidewalks remains a ‘open issue’, this liability will exist. Here’s hoping that the Sidewalks Committee is able to get underway quickly, remain focused and meet their goals and objectives by the end of the year.

Another item of personal interest to me tonight was the Mt. Pleasant town hall meeting. Scheduled twice before and cancelled each time due to snow, I am pleased that the meeting is re-scheduled for next Monday, March 22 at the First Baptist Church on Upper Gulph in Mt. Pleasant. Today I had received an invitation to attend the meeting from Officer Larry Meoli and was glad to hear the town hall meeting mentioned tonight. Supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Richter will be the liaisons from the Board of Supervisors at this Mt. Pleasant community meeting. Also in attendance will be representatives from the township staff, police and zoning.

Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting Update

A few days ago I sent an email to the members of the Board of Supervisors and copied Township Manager Mimi Gleason, Asst. Township Manager Tom Scott and Zoning Officer Emmy Balderssarre in regards to the re-scheduling of the Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting.

I kindly heard back from Mimi and also Police Chief Andy Chambers. Officer Larry Meoli has been coordinating the Town Hall Meeting re-schedule date with Donna Shipman, the representative from the Mt. Pleasant community. I am pleased to report that details are in the works and it looks like March 22 may be the next scheduled date for the meeting. Hopefully (fingers crossed) the snow is behind us and this much-anticipated Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting can take place.

Thanks Chief Chambers and Officer Meoli for your follow-up; I know that you share the concerns of the Mt. Pleasant residents. It’s great to see movement on the Mt. Pleasant front!

We are Standing With the Volunteer Firefighters, Can We Show Support for the Mt. Pleasant Community?

In much the same way that many of our community members have supported our volunteer firefighters in recent weeks, there is another township issue that needs our attention and focus — Mt. Pleasant. For those that do not know, Mt. Pleasant is located in the Panhandle section, off of Upper Gulph Road, in the shadows of the St. Davids Golf Club. Back on November 19, I wrote of the many issues plaguing Mt. Pleasant and their residents, student housing and rental issues, excessive late night noise, drinking, etc.

There seemed to be movement from the township in helping this neighborhood and I was pleased to report that there had been a meeting between residents and Supervisors DiFilippo and DiBuonaventuro. It was agreed that the situation required further discussion and a town hall meeting was scheduled by the Mt. Pleasant Action Group for Saturday, December 19 at the First Baptist Church in Wayne. The meeting was to include Tredyffrin Township representatives including members of the Board of Supervisors, Police, and Zoning Enforcement. However, if you recall our December blizzard hit that weekend and the meeting was cancelled.

Fast forward and we need to get back on track to help this community. Beyond the student housing issues, there has also been subdivision and special exception requests to the Planning Commission for Mt. Pleasant. A subdivision request for an Upper Gulph Rd. property was denied by the Planning Commission in November, suggesting that the Planning Commissioners are now understanding some of the ongoing problems with residential properties converting to student housing. The Planning Commissioners recent ruling to deny the Upper Gulph Road subdivision application was applauded by the residents.

However, there now appears to be a serious environmental situation in the Black Bottom area of Mt. Pleasant. I wrote that Mazie Hall’s house was part of this redevelopment area; apparently scheduled for 9 new homes built by F & H Mainline (This project requires the teardown of houses, including Mazie Hall’s home). As part of the preparation of the site, I have just learned bulldozers arrived on Sunday, December 29 for immediate stabilization of steep slopes that have been wrongfully cleared of vegetation. The developers were told to leave specimen trees in the clearing of the property, however that was ignored and the trees were removed. In their places, trenches were dug to help correct the situation!

Christine Johnson, Mt. Pleasant resident and community activist extraordinaire has been leading this battle (along with other neighborhood issues) for the community. Christine graphically details the environmental situation on her Mt. Pleasant Action Group website and includes photos of the razing of Mazie Hall’s home and the problems now being created by the developers. Christine has been in contact with township engineer Steve Burgo and he agrees that the developer’s on site tree service did go beyond the limit of disturbance, is in violation and will be cited. In regards to the latest development problem, Christine writes, “Is it worth destroying the environment as well as people’s spirits?” Wow . . . can we please help this community?

Township supervisors are you listening? Christine and her neighbors are struggling, they can not fight the battle on all fronts.

Can we re-schedule that cancelled Mt. Pleasant Town Hall meeting as soon as possible? This community needs the attention of the township. Can we show these residents that we care about them and want to help . . . ?

On December 29, Christine wrote the following entry on her website:

Main Entry: gen·tri·fi·ca·tion
Pronunciation: \ˌjen-trə-fə-ˈkâ-shən\
Function: noun
Date: 1964

gentrification: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents

or a more appropriate definition:

“gentrification: the process by which higher income households displace lower income residents of a neighborhood, changing the essential character and flavor of that neighborhood”

“Gentrification isn’t just obnoxious yuppies bouncing from cocktail lounges to sushi bars. It also involves the systematic removal of working-class people from their homes.”

The issue of gentrification has historically included a strong racial component—lower income African-American residents are replaced by higher income white residents.

Residential segregation occurs with the tacit support of public and private sector institutions and traditions. As a result, an influx of higher income households inevitably will put pressure primarily on historically minority communities.

Town Hall Meeting for Mt. Pleasant Residents

I am pleased to report that the Mt. Pleasant community (Panhandle area of the township) is going to have its Town Hall meeting with township representatives. This Saturday, residents will have an opportunity to voice their concerns and seek answers from members of Tredyffrin’s police, public works, code enforcement and Board of Supervisors. Zoning and land development issues in addition to college student rentals have been a source of ongoing concern for the Mt. Pleasant residents. Students may have a right to live in Mt. Pleasant (assuming no zoning ordinances are being broken) but the residents also have rights. The quality of life of the residents also needs to be protected.

Township Supervisors Judy DiFilippo and John DiBuonaventuro have met with some of the residents and this upcoming forum will allow for greater participation. The Mt. Pleasant Action Committee Group has helped to organize the meeting and I have been invited to attend. I am looking forward to the meeting and to hope to share favorable updates. Last month I had several postings about the Mt. Pleasant community and their struggles, to read further, click here.

If you are unsure of where Mt. Pleasant is located, it is in the shadow of the St. Davids Golf Club.

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