Pattye Benson

Community Matters


UPDATE: Digital Billboard Battle Not Over – Zoning Hearing Board Mtg on April 25, 7 PM! Your Voice Matters!

Some residents may think that the digital billboard problem has gone away —  The BAN the Digital Billboard campaign may have lost over 100 yard signs to theft but the battle is far from over!  Now is the time for your voice to be heard — the future of Paoli depends on it!

You may recall that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising filed two applications in December with Tredyffrin Township – (1) a demolition permit application for the Clockworks building and (2) an application to switch the face of the small billboard (located next to the Clockworks building) to a digital one. Tredyffrin Township denied both of these applications. The demolition permit was denied citing an “incomplete application” – the application was missing the signature of Dale Nelson, the property owner.

The other application submitted by Catalyst was for an “electric lamp changeable copy face” for the existing small free standing advertising sign next to the Clockworks building. There is an existing 30-year lease on the small sign between Catalyst and Dale Nelson.

In January, Matt Baumann, Tredyffrin’s Zoning Officer sent Thaddeus Bartkowski a letter denying Catalyst’s application to digitize the current sign on the Clockworks site. On February 22, Bartkowski filed an appeal to appear in front of the Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board. Catalyst paid $2,000 to appeal the decision of the Zoning Officer and $10,000 to challenge the validity of the township’s zoning ordinance.

On Thursday, April 25, 7 PM at the Tredyffrin Township building, Catalyst will appear in front of the township’s Zoning Hearing Board. 

For months, residents have asked me what they can do about the proposed digital billboard – now is the time to help! Keene Hall at the township building must be standing room only on April 25. Folks, if Catalyst wins this appeal, it will forever change the intersection of Lancaster Ave and Rt. 252.

Important:  Digitizing the current sign on the Clockworks property is a precursor to Catalyst’s next step, which is to demolish the Clockworks building and erect two large 20-ft. digital billboards with a reflecting pool in the middle of Paoli.

Important:  If Catalyst wins their appeal on April 25, the other two billboards in Tredyffrin Township (Rt. 252/Bear Hill Road and Lancaster Ave across from the BMW dealership) are at imminent risk for digitizing.

Please put Thursday, April 25, 7 PM on your calendar and plan to attend this critical meeting! Tell Your Friends, Tell Your Neighbors!

Your Voice Matters Now — the Future of Paoli Depends on it!

How many assisted living facilities does Tredyffrin Township need/want? Is the idea “build it and they will come”?

Another proposal for an assisted living facility in Tredyffrin Township is on the Planning Commission agenda for Thursday, December 20 – this time its Russell Road in Paoli.

My first thought is how many assisted living facilities is enough? For many years, the township only had one – Highgate at Paoli Point with 80 apartments.

Then came the community battle over the long-abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, a 3-story assisted living facility by Sage Senior Living which opened August 2015 with 93 apartments.

The approval for the Daylesford Crossing project was a long, drawn out process in 2012 which required a text amendment to zoning to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning. It was argued at the time that the zoning change to C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project. Others, including myself, questioned what this change would mean for future C-1 development in the township.

Meeting with success with the development of Daylesford Crossing, Sage Senior Living is building Echo Lake at Atwater in the western part of Tredyffrin Township. Echo Lake’s senior living is a massive 3-story, 250-apartment property with 160 independent living apartments and 90 assisted living and memory care apartments, set to open in January 2019.

And then we have under construction in Devon (close to Whole Foods) Brightview Senior Living, the gigantic 450+ ft. long, five-story, 55-ft high building totally 181,000 sq. ft. on E. Conestoga. (As a reference point, Daylesford Crossing on Lancaster Ave. is approx. 80,000 sq. ft.). When completed Brightview Senior Living will have 196 beds.

During the last six years, the township has grown from one assisted living facility (Highgate at Paoli Pointe) to four – Daylesford Crossing, Echo Lake and under construction Brightview. Developers are flocking to the township with their assisted living proposals. Earlier this year, the township Planning Commissioners reviewed an assisted living facility proposal for the Aquilante Catering property on Cassatt Road. The 300 bed project was met with an organized effort of neighbor opposition and the plans appear to have been withdrawn.

Now, this coming week finds another proposed assisted living facility in front of the Planning Commission. Solera Senior Living has submitted a preliminary land development project for Russell Road in Paoli. Zoned C-1, the applicant wishes to demolish two existing office buildings (Synthes), consolidate three separate parcels and construct a 3-story, 116 bed assisted living facility. For those that may not know – Russell Road connects to Maple and Old Lancaster Avenues. Another developer seeking to build an assisted living facility in the township as a ‘by-right’ use in C-1 zoning.

Unlike the location of Daylesford Crossing on 4-lane Lancaster Avenue, Russell Road is a narrow residential street in Paoli. The proposed 3-story assisted living facility on Russell Road would be at higher elevation than the residential homes which sit in the valley below the planned construction.

Russell Road has no curbing and its resident’s battle major stormwater issues every time its rains – I cannot imagine how a large assisted living building and the associated additional stormwater runoff could possibly be managed. In addition to stormwater problems, placing a massive assisted living facility in the middle of this community is going to threaten the quality of life for the neighborhood, change its character and increase traffic.

There are many reasons that I do not support an assisted living facility at the Russell Road location but an obvious question should also be asked – does the township really need another one of these facilities? Daylesford Crossing is not fully occupied and it opened over 3 years ago – plus Echo Lake opens next month and presumably Brightview sometime in 2019. When is enough – enough? Or is it a case of “build it, and they will come”?

Another factor that needs to be considered with these proposed redevelopment projects (and sadly one that is often overlooked) is our local volunteer fire companies and emergency responders. Already burdened with staffing and funding needs, how are they supposed to keep up the increased demands of these assisted living facilities? Is Paoli Fire Company and Berwyn Fire Company notified when these types of land development proposals are under consideration?

Here’s the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, December 20, 7 PM at the township building.

BAN Digital Billboard in Paoli!

Digital billboards, electronic billboards, changeable variable message centers – whatever you call them they are the same thing: a huge safety hazard, motorist distraction and an aesthetic catastrophe.

For many of us, the notion of putting a digital billboard anywhere in the township is ridiculous let alone at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli! But our Tredyffrin Township supervisors are seriously entertaining a proposal by Catalyst Outdoor to install a large 20 ft. high “TV in the sky” electronic billboard at arguably one of the most congested intersections in the township.

I rewatched the Board of Supervisor meeting from Monday, October 1, paying particular attention to the opening remarks by solicitor Vince Donohue regarding the electronic billboard. We learned Catalyst Outdoor first approached the township 1-1/2 years ago about constructing a digital “welcome” monument sign at the Clockworks location in Paoli. According to Donohue, Catalyst CEO Thaddeus Bartkowski stated that Tredyffrin’s “zoning ordinance for outdoor advertising was illegally restrictive” and that as a result, the company was prepared to commence litigation.

The basis for Catalyst’s claim that the township’s outdoor advertising ordinance is illegal is that the “size, height and number of faces” is not consistent on the three township billboards and that restrictions are not enforceable. The three township billboards are located on Bear Hill Road/Rt. 252, Lancaster Avenue across from the BMW dealership and at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli.

After Catalyst came to the township with its position regarding the illegalities of the outdoor advertising ordinance (as stated by Donohue) the township entered into “certain settlement negotiations” to consider the proposed digital billboard in Paoli. The solicitor further stated that in the upcoming weeks or months, the township may be entertaining a settlement agreement with Catalyst regarding this matter.

My first thought was just “wow”, how is it possible that all this discussion had been going for so long and the community had no idea. I understand that as residents, we do not need to be kept in the loop on every aspect of township business but it appears wholly unfair that something so important — that will forever change the landscape of Paoli, affect safety, demolish a historic Okie house, etc. — was not mentioned in public until the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting.

A thirty year lease arrangement was signed in January 2016 between the property owner (Dale E. Nelson) and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising; no large transfer tax windfall coming to the township. (My guess is that the discussion with the township was well underway before the lease was signed!)

To be clear, the township and its residents do not benefit financially from this proposed digital billboard although the community will be ‘gifted’ with occasional free electronic notices. In my opinion, there is little gain for the township and its residents should this digital billboard be approved by the Board of Supervisors but a lot to be lost.

A disappointing and discouraging situation; as it now appears that the township/Catalyst discussion has been long ongoing. The supervisor discussion is no longer about the appropriateness of a digital sign but rather has advanced to the design features of the “welcome to the township” monument. If this digital billboard is eventually approved, it’s a legacy that that each supervisor will carry forward.

Since writing my last Community Matters blog post, I have received emails and phone calls from residents all opposing the proposed digital billboard. They oppose the billboard for a multitude of reasons, ranging from safety concerns to the possible demolition of an original Okie house. Contrary to what some of the supervisors may want you to believe, I have heard from NO ONE who thinks a digital sign in the middle of Paoli is a good idea. My guess is those 3 or 4 people who expressed support at the last supervisors meeting (including the Del Chevrolet owner), may just be the only township residents in favor of this proposal.

Many have asked what can they do – I have suggested writing to the township supervisors. Here’s the link to the online form:

For those that know their elected officials, send a personal email or make a phone call. Sadly, several people have reported receiving emails from supervisors with remarks such as “the township is afraid of being sued” or “if we don’t agree to the electronic billboard, it could be worse”. Worse, how? Seems to me a 20 ft. high flashing screen is pretty bad!

As for the threat of a lawsuit? My response is are the residents of Tredyffrin Township supposed to be held hostage by a sign company? Why should we be forced to live with a dangerous blinking sign that no one wants?

Because there is not yet a signed agreement between the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising is there time for the community to loudly ‘Say No to Digital Billboard in Paoli” and have their elected officials listen?

Would a social media campaign opposing the digital billboard have any chance of succeeding? At this point, it is uncertain but I’m willing to try. I had a logo designed, set up a Facebook page, “Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli” and a petition. Here are the links:

Facebook Page Link: Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli Petition Link: Ban Digital Billboard in Paoli

If we are to stand a chance, all those opposing the proposed digital billboard need to send a loud message to our elected officials.

Contact township supervisors, leave comments on Community Matters, like and follow the Facebook page, sign the petition and then send the links to everyone you know and ask them to do the same thing!

Contact me at or by phone 610-644-6759 if you have suggestions or questions.

Scenic America, the only national organization that stands up to the powerful multi-billion dollar outdoor advertising industry, can you help us?!

It takes a community to stop a digital billboard!

Paoli’s Station Square Redevelopment Project Proposes Apartment, Office & Retail Complex

Paoli Station aerial view

In early 2014, Home Properties, a Philadelphia-based developer proposed a 250+-unit multifamily building with structured parking plan for Station Square, the 7.475 acre commercial site at the corner of Central and North Valley Roads in Paoli, owned by the Palmer Group Properties. Although the current Town Center District zoning allows for 135 apartments on the property by right, the developer sought approval for greater density.

The proposed 4-story apartment complex was viewed as a radical change for the immediate community and concerns were raised as to whether this high density project was a good fit for the neighborhood. Major issues surrounded the proposed project, including increased traffic, density, height, change to the character of the neighborhood, impact on school district, public safety, etc. Ultimately, faced with many unanswered questions from the Planning Commission and major pushback from the local residents, the proposed 2014 redevelopment plan quietly disappeared.

The Station Square office building complex remained for sale with a $9 million listing price and the tenants on month-to-month leases. On April 21, 2016, Linden Lane Capital Partners appeared before the Planning Commission to present a new redevelopment plan for the Station Square complex. Following a lengthy discussion and public comment period, no action was taken by the Planning Commissioners and the application received an extension until the May meeting.

On Thursday, May 19, Linden Lane Capital Partners will present its conditional use application for the redevelopment of Station Square to the Planning Commission. The proposal is to construct three new mixed-used buildings, with structured and surface parking. Uses include apartments and rental space for office, retail and/or personal services. Linden Lane is seeking a recommendation from the Planning Commission for approval by the Board of Supervisors. Upon recommendation (for approval or denial), Linden Lane will appear before the supervisors for a Conditional Use Hearing.

In 2014, residential neighbors of Station Square were successful in their efforts opposing the proposed multi-story apartment complex. Knowing that increased traffic in their neighborhood was a major concern for Paoli residents, the 2016 redevelopment plan seeks to address those concerns. According to the conditional use application, the developer will work with the township and the PA Department of Transportation to mitigate the traffic issues although no specifics are given. With respect to the parking, the applicant intends to provide for a minimum of 75% of the required parking with a structured parking facility.

Fantastic News!! PA State Senator Andy Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million Award to Paoli Transportation Project!

I just received the following press release from State Senator Andy Dinniman’s office — what wonderful, unbelievable news!!

Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million for Paoli Transportation Center Project

WEST CHESTER (November 25) – State Senator Andrew Dinniman today announced that $14.5 million in funding has been awarded toward the Paoli Transportation Project.

“This announcement represents my determination to take one the most significant steps forward in the 30-year history of the Paoli Regional Transportation Center,” said Dinniman. “Paoli and the Great Valley Corporate Center have long served as an economic engine for Chester County. The proposed transportation center and train station at Paoli will ensure that our regional infrastructure continues to provide incentives for entrepreneurs from local small-business owners to international corporations, to call Chester County home.”

Funding for the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center is a vital component of the proposal to relocate and expand the current station to a new site near the existing facility. Specifically, state funding will be directed toward roadway realignment and widening to accommodate the new and expanded regional transportation center. The proposed modern transportation hub in Paoli will improve access for buses, shuttles, and taxis; significantly increase commuter parking to meet both current demand and provide for future ridership; and improve vehicular traffic and reduce congestion for surrounding roadways.

“In light of recent transportation funding legislation in Harrisburg, I worked to ensure Chester County benefited directly from this funding package,” Dinniman continued. “Despite the efforts by some local officials in the House of Representatives to block this vital funding, I am pleased to announce that significant support will be directed for improvement projects such as the Paoli Regional Transportation Center.”

In addition to securing funding for the Paoli Transportation Center, Dinniman announced that more than $123 million in transportation funding will be directed to improvement projects throughout his current legislative district. These projects include $36 million for the repair and replacement of bridges, $17 million for regional roadway and pedestrian-use safety improvements, almost $69 million for roadway repaving, expansion improvement, and other traffic congestion mitigation project throughout Chester County.

“The key to the continuation and growth of our regional economy is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure,” said Dinniman, noting the 76,000 new jobs estimated to come to Chester County between now and 2040. “With this in mind, I will continue to fight for support of Chester County and will work to ensure that important projects, such as the Paoli Transportation Center, are fully funded and completed.”

Report from Tredyffrin’s Business Development Advisory Committee … I was hoping for ‘New’ news!

Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and public hearing for the Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance was another marathon 4-hour meeting, ending at nearly midnight. An overflow crowd along with Channel 6 ABC news crew attended the early part of the meeting, specifically for the swearing-in ceremony of the police promotions of Lt. Leon Jaskuta, Lt. Taro Landis, Sgt. Ryan Scott, Sgt. Michelle Major and Sgt. Tom Bereda. Congratulations to these members of Tredyffrin’s police department.

The meeting featured the long-awaited presentation from the Business Development Advisory Committee. The Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the committee in April 2011 and the committee of six volunteers has worked together for 6 months to create a list of suggestions and recommendations.

According to the township website, the mission of the Business Development Advisory Committee was to … “provide recommendations to the Township Supervisors to enhance the economic vitality of Tredyffrin Township through business retention and attraction in a manner consistent with the character of the Township. The end result of this ad hoc council will be the development of a series of strategies along with suggested tactics, budgets, resources, and timing required to accomplish the Township’s business development goals.”

As a small business owner in the township, I wanted the committee to thoroughly review the business climate of our community, talk to small business owners, community members, real estate developers and corporate representatives. To what degree this was this accomplished … I am unclear. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the named community liaisons to the advisory committee was Donna Shipman and she was not contacted. Beyond a meeting early in the process with Judy Huey and her brother Rob DiSerafino, owners of Paoli Village Shoppes, what other small business owners were contacted by the committee? As follow-up to her meeting with members of the Business Development Advisory Committee, Judy provided the group with a list of township contacts with phone numbers and email addresses. I don’t know how many (or if any) on the list were contacted. I know at least 3 people (including myself) who were not.

Beyond their financial and corporate backgrounds, another reason that the six volunteers were seemingly chosen for this advisory committee was that these individuals were not already involved in the township – they did not sit on commissions or boards in the township. And as I have stated, it was disappointing that no one chosen was a small business owner. My guess is that by choosing these volunteers they would bring fresh, new ideas and recommendations for improving the economic business climate of the township.

Stanford Nishikawa presented the report from the Business Development Advisory Committee. Through a power point slide presentation, the report identified the following advantages for doing business in Tredyffrin Township:

• Low and stables taxes
• Diversity of employer
• Transportation/location
• Excellent school system
• Existing township efficiencies

Disadvantages for business in Tredyffrin:

• Land constrained/redevelopment dependent
• Paoli traffic/parking/walkability
• Danger of outdated office product

Nishikawa explained there is a real and existing danger in the outdated office space inventory in the township. The majority of the corporate office space was constructed in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Now 30 years old, the buildings are no longer able to attract the larger employers. If there is not an investment in office buildings, the higher quality employers will leave. If investment dollars do not keep up the office space, these buildings will continue to disintegrate. According to Nishikawa the only lever to pull – dropping rent – will only result in a continued drop in value of the office space, which will drive down the real estate assessment and thus create a longer term problem.

As explained by Nishikawa, there were lots of ideas and they were challenged to vet them. Under the recommendation context, the following themes were mentioned:

• Probability of success versus potential benefit versus cost
• Suggestion to take a holistic approach
• Create an environment that is business and user friendly
• Suggest a proactive approach

The report recommended that the township (supervisors?) do the following:

• Name a senior leadership business liaison
• Personal touch
• Promote advantages
• Modernize zoning codes
• Create website for commercial users
• Offer online permitting
• Education/interaction programs
• Support the Paoli Transportation project
• Residential appeal

Here’s where this report failed to inspire or suggest anything that has not already been said before. Although Nishikawa states a “personal touch” is needed to encourage business development and that the township should promote the advantages of doing business in the township, how is this accomplished? The welcome wagon, cheerleader approach to attract business is subjective … more like a PR/marketing campaign than something easily accomplished by staff or elected officials.

Nishikawa returned often to the need for elected officials to support the Paoli Transportation project. He stated that the project has been sitting around for 30 years and that the township needs to do everything it can to move it forward. An extremely expensive plan, state and federal dollars are needed and the township must help. This is old news – plus, under their ‘disadvantages’ of doing business in Tredyffrin, the report names traffic, parking and walkability as negative issues in Paoli. Although the report states that there is community support for the train station project, it is also suggests there is concern for its future and the need for elected officials to help move it forward.

Following the presentation from the Business Development Advisory Committee, the question was where do we go from here? What’s the next step? A motion was made by the supervisors to put together a plan and add the discussion for the supervisors August meeting to implement the recommendations.

I wanted this advisory committee to do more … I wanted concrete steps for economic development. One suggestion listed in the report — to create ‘education/interaction programs’ – What? How? Another suggestion, develop a ‘holistic’ approach to business development … What? The report states that the township needs to take a ‘proactive’ approach… How? Where are the specifics? What are the suggested steps?

I have a friend who always tells me, that just because I ‘want something’ to be a certain way, doesn’t mean that it ‘will be’. The volunteer advisory committee probably believes that their report accomplishes what was requested and that they met the mission’s goals and objectives, but did they? I restate from the township website, “…The end result of this ad hoc council will be the development of a series of strategies along with suggested tactics, budgets, resources, and timing required to accomplish the Township’s business development goals.” I expected, and wanted more, in the way of specifics from this Business Development Advisory Committee.


I hope to provide other updates from last night’s meeting later today.

Kampf’s Proposed Prevailing Wage Reform Legislation Brings Union Pickets to Paoli

Anyone that follows Community Matters knows that I am a Wegmans fan but after my experience yesterday, I may find myself shopping at the Acme in Paoli more often.

Around 3 PM on Wednesday, as I left Acme there was a large organized group of men in the parking lot changing into identical white t-shirts, many with signs and American flags. As I got closer, I could see several pick-up trucks with signage with anti-Warren Kampf messages – ‘Working Families Against Kampf’, ‘Kampf Works Against Workers’, etc. Clueless as to whom these people were and what they were doing, I asked and was told that they were members of Pennsylvania’s Carpenter’s Union and they were ‘taking their message’ to State Rep Warren Kampf’s office in Paoli.

I was far from clear on exactly what the union members ‘message’ was, but … frankly, I had the distinct impression that these people had a mission and that they were not particularly interested in engaging in conversation. It is not everyday that there is a long line of union picketers walking along Lancaster Avenue, and I decided that if I followed them, that I would eventually figure it out.

By the time the large group of 85-100 arrived at the door to Warren Kampf’s office,Lancaster Avenue and Darby Road was filled with honking motorists showing their support. Slowly circling the Paoli streets, each of the accompanying pick-up trucks had amplifiers loudly broadcasting pro-union, anti-Kampf commentary.

OK, I finally figured out the mission of these union representatives and the purpose of their afternoon rally in Paoli — PA House Bill 709. Rep Kampf sponsored HB 709, which eliminates school districts from the coverage of the Prevailing Wage Act. The passage of the bill would allow an individual school district to vote to pay its contractors a prevailing wage if a school board wishes to do so.

In early 2011, Kampf introduced “School Construction Cost Reduction Act” (HB 709) to reduce costs for school districts by exempting them from the state’s prevailing wage requirements. Kampf explained his proposed reform legislation in his 2011 summer newsletter, in an article titled “My Prevailing WAGE reform” stating,

“Forcing them [school districts] to pay an inflated rate for public contracts is both fiscally unwise and burdensome to taxpayers, particularly to those on fixed incomes who face annual increases in property taxes. Prevailing wage rules require public agencies to pay contractors a wage set by bureaucrats, which usually equals the local union rate. In some cases, that inflates wages well above what that contractor’s work is worth in a particular location.

My bill would exempt school districts as a public entity required by state law to pay prevailing wages. It allows individual school districts to vote to pay their contractors a prevailing wage if they wish to. Requiring our public agencies to pay higher wages makes no sense, especially at a time of financial hardship. School districts are struggling to balance their budgets. Forcing them to pay wages to contractors well above what the private sector pays places an excessive burden on schools and taxpayers. This must change.”

Although tabled last fall, according to the PA State House calendar, the proposed HB 709 legislation is coming off the table and is scheduled for discussion by state legislators on Monday, March 26.

Understanding the financial crisis that school districts across the state are now in, it is certainly plausible that the proposed HB 709 legislation that could help by saving district’s money. On the other hand, is there a risk that this prevailing wage reform bill could result in work performed by undertrained, non-union contractors that could potentially result in higher long-term costs to the school districts? The opposing views on this issue do not appear to be as simple as a ‘pro versus anti-union’ argument.

From what I surmised by the picketing Carpenter Union workers, they are of the mind that changing the prevailing wages laws does nothing more than increase the challenge and burden for union workers and their families. But how does that argument weigh against the possible savings to school districts (taxpayers) … and could one additionally argue that prevailing wage reform could create more jobs because school districts would be able to stretch their money further and spend money on more projects would have gone to wages?

I can see both sides of this argument – possible cost-savings to school districts in an economic climate of great need versus the hardship that could be placed on union workers and their families in a time when jobs are difficult to find.


For a 45 second YouTube video, click hereCarpenter’s Union Protest in Paoli .

Click here to read PA House Bill 709.


Boy Scout’s video of Paoli … Hometown challenges as seen by our children!

Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You can see them long trains run
And you watch them disappear
Without love
Where would you be now
Without love . . .

~ “Long Train Running”, Doobie Brothers

“Long Train Running” is a song written by musician Tom Johnston and recorded by The Doobie Brothers in 1973. Four decades later, the song provides the background music for a special video produced by a talented 12-year old township resident. A seventh grader at Valley Forge Middle School, Michael Pacca is the son of Bob and Tara Pacca and lives in Paoli.

Michael is a Boy Scout and a member of Paoli Troop 1; one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in the United States and the oldest continuously active troop. Originally founded in 1911, out of the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, the troop has since moved to 20 acres in Wayne.

As one of the steps to becoming an Eagle Scout, Michael worked on his Citizen in the Community merit badge. The final of eight requirements for this merit badge, Michael needed to:

“Develop a public presentation (such as a video, slide show, speech, digital presentation, or photo exhibit) about important and unique aspects of your community. Include information about the history, cultures, and ethnic groups of your community; its best features and popular places where people gather; and the challenges it faces. Stage your presentation in front of your merit badge counselor or a group, such as your patrol or a class at school.”

Boy Scout merit badges give scouts the opportunity to investigate around 120 different areas of knowledge and skills. The merit badge program plays a major role in the scouting advancement program and participation can begin as soon as a scout registers with a troop. Each scout can explore topics from American Business to Woodworking as he has interest. To reach Eagle rank, a scout must complete at least 21 Boy Scout merit badges listing them in his handbook, 12 of which come from the Eagle-required badge list – the Citizen in the Community merit badge is on the required list.

To fulfill the Citizen in the Community merit badge requirement, Michael created a video about his hometown – Paoli. Michael spent several hours taking photos of Paoli and the surrounding area, and then created a video with the music ‘Long Train Running’ as the backdrop. After watching the video several times, it is clear that Michael not only accomplished the assignment but also far exceeded the requirements in level of quality and creativity.

Michael’s video is important on a number of levels; it highlights the talents of a creative young mind and fulfills a requirement for a wonderful organization, Boy Scouts of America. However, beyond that, this is a video that I encourage everyone to watch. It may be only four minutes long but as the music fades out, there is such poignancy to the photos as seen through the lens of young man’s camera.

The condition of the train station and the vacant storefronts do not escape the eyes of our children . . . this is their hometown.

I was struck how Michael accurately captured the “challenges that the community faces” in his video. When asked what he thought was the ‘greatest’ challenge facing Paoli, his response, the “train station”. What businesses would Michael like to see filling the empty storefronts along Paoli’s Lancaster Avenue – a movie theater and an ice cream store! A 12-year old response but an answer that many of us could agree with.

A budding movie maker and a talented musician, Michael chose the Doobie Brothers background music himself, thinking that the ‘Long Train Coming’ song just suited Paoli and its train station.

I was overwhelmed by Michael’s photography skills … the depth in the images and a gift for composition and perspective that truly belies his young age. In fact, I was so impressed by his talents that I signed him up as one of the official Paoli Blues Fest photographers – he then tells me that he can create a blues fest video from the photos! What a great kid!

Michael plans to continue making movies – he and his friends have future ideas for making other videos, including scripts, costumes, props, and sound effects. Based on this and other videos that I have seen by Michael, all I can say is Steven Spielberg had better watch out!

Michael Pacca of Paoli, PA – video click here.

Previewing a Lifetime of Memories . . .

Last week, I mentioned that there was an estate auction scheduled for a house and its contents in Tredyffrin Township — 788 N. Valley Road, Paoli for Saturday, July 16. I stopped by the Open House over the weekend. Although advertised as a ‘fix-me-upper’, the statement is inaccurate; this house is a complete teardown. The auctioneer George Wilson and his wife were removing the remaining items from the house and suggested that if I went in the house, I probably would not stay long. They were right.

Probably built in the 1960’s, the brick house is a one-story style, typical of the period. It was obvious that in the past, the courtyard and gardens would have been beautiful, but now completely overgrown with weeds and vines. I was interested in the back-story of the house and its owners. I was told that a 92-yr. old woman had owned the home before her passing (her husband had predeceased her) and that her family was selling the house and its contents. As I wandered through the house, I could not help but wonder if this woman spent her last days in this house, and was she alone. If so, how very sad.

The ceiling is falling in, floorboards in disrepair, damage and holes in the walls . . . complete devastation. However, the house had a story of the grand life the owners had lived. Amidst all the wreckage of the house, were old black and white photos in antique frames from the 1930s and 40s of the owners taken with famous people. An upright Steinway piano with sheet music at the ready sat in the empty living room, a Staffordshire china tea set discarded on the floor and elegant vintage clothing left on their hangers . . . a lifetime of memories.

I asked the auctioneer who these people were that lived in this house and why was no family here to remove the many beautiful things. Apparently, the family had removed what they wanted and all that remained was for auction. I was told that this is the way families often times settle estates. The auctioneer did offer interesting trivia – the owners of the house were the ones responsible for bringing the Chihuahuas breed of dogs from Mexico to the United States many years ago.

Two very large Pods sit outside the house and are filled with antique furniture from the house; a lifetime of collections waiting to be sold. On Saturday, July 16, the antique auction will preview at 9:30 AM with a start time of 10:30 AM. The real estate (house and 3.2 acres) is to be auctioned at 1 PM. The property on N. Valley Road is located parallel to Rt. 202, although this is a section of Rt. 202 that is scheduled for sound walls. As I said, the house is a complete tear down along with the garage and other outbuildings – nothing can be saved.

In the kitchen, the dishwasher door is ajar with dishes waiting to be removed, the auctioneer explained that this was the way they found the house . . . it was as if the house stopped in time with the passing of its owner.

I left the N. Valley Road house on Saturday with such an overwhelming sense of sadness. Where was this woman’s family . . . did she die alone in the house . . . why didn’t someone care?

T/E School District (Paoli) House & Contents Goes to Auction July 16

I received a notice from an antique auction site that caught my attention. Although fairly common in some parts of the country, I don’t recall the last time I saw a house and its contents on the auction block in Tredyffrin Township.

On July 16, a ranch style house at 788 N. Valley Road in Paoli is going to be auctioned (open house is this weekend) — details are in the advertisement below. The property includes 3.2 acres and is a fixer-upper. This is a lovely area of the township and my guess is someone may buy it and rather than fixing the house, will knock it down for the property. I’m sure that there is story behind this auction as I am on this road almost every day and there was not a ‘for sale’ sign, so appears that it is going directly to auction. Is this auction an isolated situation, sign of the economic times or foreshadowing of what’s to come.

Auction Listing

AuctionZip Auctioneer ID# 9683

OPEN HOUSE JULY 8th, 9th & 12TH FROM 2-5 PM


SATURDAY JULY 16, 2011 AT 1:00 PM










610-955-9417 OR 610-283-8469

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