Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Planning Commission

Community Matters – in and around Tredyffrin

Community Matters . . . in and around Tredyffrin

In one of the biggest property deals since the start of the global financial crisis, the Australian company Centro Properties Groups has agreed to sell its 588 US shopping malls to private equity giant Blackstone Group for $9.4 billion.

The local connection – Centro owns Chesterbrook Shopping Center and Valley Fair Shopping Center! I assume the existing retail leases in these shopping centers will pass with the transfer of sale. Many folks are looking forward to McKenzies Brew House restaurant plans for the old Charlie Brown location at Valley Fair Shopping Center. Here’s hoping that Blackstone will breathe new life into Chesterbrook Shopping Center and find a tenant for the empty Genuardi’s grocery store. And let’s not forget that this corporate sale could mean significant transfer tax revenue to the school district and the township!

In case you missed this one . . . in order to make shelf room for new products, the Pennsylvania State liquor stores is having special discount sale, starting today. Approximately 400 items have been marked down to clearance prices until they are gone.

Last night was the Board of Supervisors Meeting. Notes of the evening included Mike Heaberg’s swearing in as new supervisor by Judge Jeremy Blackburn; recognition of the 300th anniversary of the historic Baptist Church in the Great Valley and certificates of appreciation for volunteer service to Grace Keffer, Bob Haver and Molly Duffy.

By Board of Supervisors appointment, a Sidewalk Subcommittee was formed in March 2010 to look at resident’s wants and needs of sidewalks in the community. The process included public meetings, resident sidewalk survey, observations and discussion and Sidewalks Subcommittee chair Tory Snyder presented the findings and recommendations last night at the Board of Supervisors Meeting. (Here is a link to the recommendations). Surprising some of us in the audience, supervisor Phil Donahue made a motion for the board to accept the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations and move it to the Planning Commission to create a draft ordinance. Michelle Kichline seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Hat’s off to the supervisors for this progressive, proactive show of support for the community! (As an aside, the Sidewalk Subcommittee Green Routes Network recommendation includes St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk in the plan.)

In addition to crafting a draft ordinance in regards to the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations, the Planning Commissioners is drafting an amendment to the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance to give the Board of Supervisors final land development authority. Although there is a Public Hearing on land development authority scheduled for March 21, it was agreed there would be no final decision on that matter until after the sidewalk ordinance is resolved.

I was notified of a an updated ‘Best High School in Pennsylvania’ list and am pleased to report that Conestoga High School continues to receive high marks. Each year, “Newsweek” magazine ranks the nation’s top 1,600 high schools–that’s only six percent of all public high schools in the country. This ranking helps parents and educators set standards for themselves. In 2010, 33 high schools from Pennsylvania, including Conestoga High School, made the list. These schools received high marks from both “Newsweek” and “U.S. News & World Report.”

According to the eHow.com 2011 update, “Conestoga High School is ranked as the No. 502 high school in the nation by “Newsweek” and as No. 79 by “U.S. News & World Report.” It offers more Advanced Placement courses than any other high school, public or private, in Pennsylvania, and had 37 National Merit semifinalists in 2010. . . “ Congratulations Conestoga High School and Tredyffrin-Easttown School District!

Speaking of Conestoga High School . . . the curtains go up tonight on the student production of Phantom of the Opera. The show will run March 1 – 6, click here for ticket information. Phantom is one of my all-time favorite musicals – best wishes to the cast & break a leg!

That is it for now. I look forward to your thoughtful comments and please email me at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com if you have news or thoughts to share.

Are Tredyffrin Supervisors Politically-Motivated over Land Development Authority . . . Is it all about St. Davids Golf Club?

I attended Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission meeting last night. The last agenda item was “Draft Amendment to the Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance”.

As one who understands the importance of community volunteers, it saddened me to listen to the discussion on changing final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commissioners are experienced, skilled and committed residents who spend countless hours in this volunteer position. They are dedicated to working together, collaborating with developers, architects, builders, etc. and making nonpartisan decisions. These volunteers are now discouraged and confused by the motive of the Board of Supervisors to take away their final land development authority. Regrettably, many believe that the desire by some supervisors to take back land development authority is politically motivated and personal.

One commissioner reported that there has only been one unhappy applicant in his many years of service on the Planning Commission. Unfortunately, the one unhappy applicant is St. Davids Golf Club. Three times this applicant came to the Planning Commission and each time the commissioners voted in favor of the land development plan, including the sidewalk.

The Planning Commissioners are not necessarily opposed to the Board of Supervisors taking final land development authority; but all seemingly question the ‘timing’ and the political motives behind the need to change the ordinance now. Although there is a liaison assigned to the Planning Commission, it was reported they have rarely seen their supervisor-assigned liaison attend a meeting. Which begs the question, if there is no interest in attending the Planning Commission meetings, why do they want to take on the entire job of land development review?

Do the supervisors have any idea the length of time that land development reviews will consume? Although Mimi Gleason pointed out that the township is about built out, as the economy improves there will be an increase in commercial redevelopment plus the significant Paoli Transportation Center land development project on the horizon. The Planning Commission has experienced professionals volunteering their time – planners, real estate developers, attorneys, etc. Our Planning Commissioners are volunteers with the specific skill set and willingness to commit the necessary time to the process . . . do we have supervisors with similar profiles?

Planning Commissioner Bob O’Leary has concern that changing the land development authority to the Board of Supervisors is going to increase staff time and the staff is already understaffed. If the ordinance is changed, an applicant will first go to the Planning Commission for review and then the applicant will have a second review by the Board of Supervisors. This double review procedure would be for both preliminary and final land development approval; doubling the work and expense of township staff. In addition, doubling the efforts of all land development applicants.

Tory Snyder, Planning Commissioner and a member of the Sidewalk Subcommittee will be making the Sidewalk Subcommittee’s presentation on Monday to the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors know that the sidewalk at St. Davids Golf Club is on the subcommittee’s map as a recommended site — part of the Green Routes Network. Three supervisors, Phil Donahue, Michele Kichline and EJ Richter were members of the Sidewalks Subcommittee. All three supervisors attended the last meeting of the subcommittee and voted in favor of the committee’s recommendations, including St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks.

Planning Commissioners believe that the Board of Supervisor’s desire to change the land development authority is directly related to their St. Davids Golf Club decision. As Bob Whalen, chair of the Planning Commission said, ‘We voted on the issue three times unanimously; we didn’t vote on what was political, but voted on what was right”. Whalen said that he does not intend to waste any more time on the ordinance. He views the proposed ordinance change as a “Slap in the face to the Planning Commission. I know the difference between right and wrong.”

I hate the thought that the Sidewalks Committee and the time and efforts of the volunteers was nothing more than a charade . . . all leading up to the St. Davids Golf Club decision and Board of Supervisors change to the land development authority. No doubt, some supervisors expected the Sidewalks Committee recommendations would echo their desires; making it easier for these supervisors to deliver good news to the country club. These supervisors probably thought that by handpicking the members of the Sidewalks Committee would somehow guarantee the appropriate outcome.

I salute the members of the Sidewalks Committee who engaged community members through public meetings, accepted input from interested citizens, created maps and conducted a township-wide survey to get a consensus on sidewalks, bike trails and paths needs throughout the township. However, their thorough, thoughtful and independent analysis did not deliver the outcome desired by some supervisors.

Another group of volunteers ‘on hold’ is the Sidewalks, Trail, and Path (STAP) committee. If there is sufficient support from some members of the Board of Supervisors, the time and talents of these volunteers may also no longer be needed.

There is a curious element to the land development authority discussion that cannot yet be calculated. I was told by several sources that the current vote is 3-3 among the supervisors on the question of land development authority. Three supervisors want the authority to remain with the Planning Commission and three supervisors want the final authority to shift to the Board of Supervisors.

However, here’s the interesting twist . . . The Board of Supervisors will appoint a supervisor to fill the supervisor vacancy prior to the March public hearing on the land development authority. With the current supervisor vote count at 3-3, that new supervisor could be the tiebreaker! Wonder what supervisor candidates John Bravacos, Kristen Mayock, Eamon Brazunas and Mike Heaberg have to say about the land development authority? I think that would make for a very interesting question at next week’s candidate interviews.

In summary, the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, January 24, 7:30 PM is important. Please plan to either attend or watch from home.

What do these things have in common . . . St. Davids Golf Club, Planning Commission, BAWG, Sidewalk Subcommittee, land development authority, STAP, Board of Supervisors?

What do these things have in common . . . St. Davids Golf Club, Planning Commission, BAWG, Sidewalk Subcommittee, land development authority, STAP, Board of Supervisors?

In looking at Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission agenda for tonight’s meeting, I discovered an interesting item listed under ‘new’ business — “Draft Amendment to the Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance”.

To understand the Planning Commission agenda item, you will need to recall a Board of Supervisors motion from this past December. At that meeting, Supervisor Bob Lamina questioned whether the Planning Commission should continue to have land development authority in the township . . . he thought that authority over land development should revert to the supervisors (as was the case many years ago). However, to make an ordinance change requires a public hearing, which is scheduled for February 28.

Here’s the significance of the Planning Commission agenda item . . . the Planning Commissioners are expected to draft the amendment that will relieve them of their land development authority and give that authority to the Board of Supervisors.

There are more connections. How many of you remember the community discontent and hostility over St. Davids Golf Club and the recommendation contained in the BAWG report suggesting the township accept $50K in lieu of building sidewalks. Even though there was a signed contract between the township and St. Davids requiring the sidewalks, the Board of Supervisors pushed through a motion to return the $25K escrow money to the country club; removing the sidewalk requirement. After much media publicity, many letters to the editor, accusations of Home Rule Charter violations, claims of deal-making and resident outrage, the Board of Supervisors reversed their earlier decision.

The reversal of the Board of Supervisors decision to return the escrow money had an interesting caveat attached. St. Davids escrow money and the decision to require the construction of sidewalks was put ‘on hold’ pending the outcome of the Sidewalks Subcommittee recommendations. At the same time the supervisors reversed their decision, they created a Sidewalks Subcommittee whose goal was to adopt a formal sidewalk policy to recommend to the Board of Supervisors. Members appointed to the joint subcommittee were supervisors (Phil Donahue, EJ Richter, Michele Kichline), Planning Commissioners (Tory Snyder, Bob Whalen, Trip Lukens) and representatives from Sidewalks, Trails and Paths ‘STAP’ (Sean Moir, Beth Brake, Jim Donegan).

If you are interested in the St. Davids Golf Club-BAWG report background, go to the top right of Community Matters and enter the words, St. Davids in search. Or for a particularly passionate post, read St. Davids Golf Club Decision Reversed but, . . . Was There Full Disclosure, Transparency, Deal-Making and the corresponding 68 comments. (click here for that specific post).

The Sidewalks Subcommittee began meeting last spring. I attended most of the meetings and was impressed by their efforts. The committee engaged community members through public meetings and accepted input from interested citizens. They created maps and conducted a township-wide survey to get a consensus on sidewalks, bike trails and paths needs throughout the township. Their analysis was thorough and thoughtful.

At their last meeting (which I attended), the Sidewalk Subcommittee summarized their findings in preparation for a presentation at the upcoming Monday, January 24 Board of Supervisors meeting. Chair of the Sidewalk Subcommittee and a Planning Commissioner, Tory Synder will make the presentation and deliver the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

Are the supervisors going to take the recommendations of the Sidewalk Subcommittee or will their efforts be ignored? Will the St. Davids sidewalk requirement currently ‘on hold’ affect the supervisor’s decision to accept the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations? Will the signed contract between the country club and the township remain intact?

Supervisor Michele Kichline is an attorney and served on the Sidewalks Subcommittee . . . Michele knows contract law; how will she guide her fellow supervisors?

Here’s the million-dollar question – Does the proposed ordinance change to remove land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors have any relationship with the St. Davids sidewalk issue? Remember, the Planning Commissioners required the sidewalks as part of country club’s land development project.

Do some of the supervisors think that if they take back land development authority, they can override the Planning Commissioners decision to require St. Davids to build the sidewalk?

Why change the land development ordinance now? Just coincidental timing or is the ultimate goal to release the country club from their contractual agreement with the township.

The St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk business was a very hostile time in our local government’s history. When elected officials go behind a closed-door and make decisions, the perception can be as bad as the fact. Let’s keep the door open! Here is one resident who does not want to see another similar watershed moment . . . the citizens of Tredyffrin deserve better.

_______________________________________________________

Important Dates:

  • Planning Commission Meeting, Thursday, January 20, 7 PM
  • Board of Supervisors Meeting, Monday, January 24, 7:30 PM
  • Land Development Ordinance, Public Hearing, Monday, February 28, 7:30 PM

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.

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.

Board of Supervisors Meeting on Monday, March 15 to Include Announcement of Sidewalk Subcommittee Members

The February 22 Board of Supervisors motion to reverse the St. Davids Golf Club decision included the creation of a joint sidewalk subcommittee; members to come from the Board, Planning Commission and Sidewalks, Trails and Paths (STAP) Committee. This subcommittee is to re-examine where the residents want sidewalks in the township and then create a formal process and procedure to design, develop and construct sidewalks and paths in Tredyffrin. The agenda for the Monday, March 15 Board of Supervisors meeting includes an announcement of the sidewalk subcommittee members. I am curious which members of the 3 organizations will be on the sidewalk subcommittee. Personally, I would have liked the sidewalk subcommittee to include a couple of residents (non-Tredyffrin board/committee members) to bring a different perspective. Just a thought.

Tredyffrin's Sidewalk Project Gets Underway . . . Work to Start Monday!

The start of Tredyffrin’s sidewalk project around T-E Middle School and Conestoga High School was originally scheduled for last month, but due to the wintry weather was delayed. But beginning on Monday, March 8 the construction will begin on the sidewalk construction project. The series of pedestrian sidewalks were made possible by various grant funds, including $2.8 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus funds). To read further about the sidewalk plan, budget, and other specifics, click here.

Marino Corp. of Skippack, Montgomery County will be working on the sidewalk construction for the next 7 months, with completion expected by early October. Sidewalks will be installed along Old Lancaster Road, Conestoga Road, Howellville Road and Irish Road and will provide safe walking routes for students to and from school The thought is that these sidewalk routes will also link to the local train stations and business areas.

A word of warning to all who travel in these areas . . . motorists can expect delays and possible lane closures on each of these 4 roads while the crews are working, 8 AM – 4 PM, Monday – Friday. The first step in the sidewalk project will be the removal of trees and the installation of drainage pipes in the sidewalk areas.

In the Philadelphia five-county area, PennDot is investing $257.7 million in federal stimulus funds on 30 transportation projects; including road and bridge improvements, multi-use trails, traffic signal upgrades, etc. SEPTA received $12.5 million in stimulus money which they will use for improvements/upgrades at their Malvern train station. Work at Malvern’s station will include 46 additional parking spaces, upgraded more efficient lighting and better storm water management. The Malvern train station work is expected to be completed by June 2011.

Speaking of sidewalks, according to the township website, the sidewalk subcommittee will be on the March 15th agenda of the Board of Supervisors, and the members will be announced at that time. If you recall the sidewalk subcommittee (members of the Planning Commission; Sidewalks, Trails & Paths Committee; and supervisors) was announced as part of the St. Davids Golf Club motion of February 22. I am looking forward to the announcement of the members of this new subcommittee at the next supervisors meeting. I think in the best interest of all, it would probably be a good idea that members of St. Davids Golf Club be excluded from membership in this newly designed Sidewalk Subcommittee. I think the last thing the township needs is accusations of a ‘conflict of interest’.

Attorney Offers Legal Opinion on February 22 Board of Supervisors Vote

A follower of Community Matters, a local attorney (most likely a municipal attorney) has offered his legal opinion on various township topics, including St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk issue. Overnight I received his legal opinion on the February 22 vote by the Board of Supervisors to reverse their earlier vote and decision to set up a sidewalk and trails review subcommittee (Board of Supervisors 2/22/10 Meeting . . . St. Davids Golf Club Motion.) As indicated in the post of St. Davids Golf Club Decision Reversed but, . . . Was There Full Disclosure, Transparency, Deal-Making? the supervisors vote of February 22 created much dialogue from the community. Understanding the supervisors decision from a legal perspective is important; I ask you to reflect on the following:

JudgeNJury, March 3, 2010 at 12:36 AM Said:

Other matters kept me from focusing on the February 22 vote before, but now that I have looked at it (and at the risk of beating a dead horse), I wanted to add my two cents. In short, it seems to me that the BOS once again failed to follow appropriate procedures when it passed the second part of the February 22 motion.

Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”) authorizes townships to establish planning commissions. Tredyffrin Township did so, and Section 43-6 of the Township Code specifically states that the Planning Commission “shall have all other powers and duties provided by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.” (http://www.ecode360.com/?custId=TR1485).

Section 303(a) of the MPC states that:

“Whenever the governing body, pursuant to the procedures provided in section 302, has adopted a comprehensive plan or any part thereof, any subsequent proposed action of the governing body, its departments, agencies and appointed authorities shall be submitted to the planning agency for its recommendations when the proposed action relates to . . . the location, opening, vacation, extension, widening, narrowing or enlargement of any street, public ground, pierhead or watercourse.” (http://mpc.landuselawinpa.com/MPCode.pdf).

Section 107(a) of the MPC contains the following definitions:

1) “Governing body” includes “the board of supervisors in townships of the second class.” Tredyffrin Township is a township of the second class, and it has adopted a comprehensive plan (http://www.tredyffrin.org/departments/community/comprehensive.aspx).

2) “Planning agency” includes planning commissions.

3) “Public ground” includes “parks, playgrounds, trails, paths and other recreational areas and other public areas.” Under this definition, it seems clear that sidewalks qualify as a “public ground.”

The second half of the February 22 motion did two things: it (1) “form[ed] a Subcommittee . . . to begin a process to reexamine where the community wants and needs sidewalks;” and (2) relieved St. David’s from its obligation “to build the path, until the new policies are adopted or the Township has put in place designs and funding for sidewalks or paths that would connect to the proposed St. David’s pathway.” It seems to me, then, that the motion was a “proposed action of the governing body [the BOS]” that “relates to . . . the location [and] opening . . . of any . . . public ground.”

Therefore, the BOS was required to submit the motion “to the Planning Commission for its recommendations” before it could vote on the motion. The Planning Commission then would have had 45 days to make a recommendation. See MPC Section 303(b). As far as I know, the BOS did not submit its proposal to the Planning Commission before it voted on it.

As a practical matter, compliance with these procedures probably would not have made much difference. The BOS could have submitted the proposal to the Planning Commission for a recommendation and then, regardless of what the Planning Commission recommended, voted to approve the motion. That reality does not, however, change the fact that the BOS appears to have ignored procedures once again.

St. Davids Golf Club Decision Reversed but, . . . Was There Full Disclosure, Transparency, Deal-Making?

I went to last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting convinced that the residents of this community had been heard by our elected officials. I was certain that the supervisors were listening to us when we spoke out at previous Board meetings, wrote passionate letters to the editor, emails to the supervisors and left thoughtful comments on this blog. Last night I entered Keene Hall confident that the energy from so many would pay off, that justice would prevail, and good government would be restored in Tredyffrin Township.

I had heard scuttlebutt about some ‘deal-making’ before the supervisors meeting began but I was not prepared for what was to come. Chairman Lamina read his very lengthy prepared St. Davids Golf Club motion. The motion started out well, stating that its passage would reverse the supervisors’ decision of January 25 and restore the St. Davids Golf Club escrow. That should have been the end of the motion. Was that not the intended purpose of the motion . . . was that not what the public had asked . . . to restore the escrow? But no, Lamina took a breath and launched in to the other part of the motion; this motion would additionally include the formation of a subcommittee to look at sidewalks and trails township-wide; this ‘sidewalk’ subcommittee would include members from the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and STAP (Sidewalks, Trails and Paths); and there would be focus groups formed to discuss the location of sidewalks in the township, starting with the St. Davids area.

After Lamina completed his long-winded ‘motion’ and it was offered for discussion to audience members, I think we all struggled to ‘take in’ what we had heard. What kind of motion was this? . . . Was this just another way to protect St. Davids Golf Club from honoring their land development contract? . . . What about the rights of the Planning Commission who had consistently voted to enforce St. Davids land development commitment? . . . What would this motion do for the precedent for developer/contractors not to comply with their contractual commitments? . . . Would this ‘sidewalk’ committee be part of the existing approved Comprehensive Plan? Many, many questions, no answers offered.

Audience members spoke up, thanking the supervisors for reversing the escrow vote but many asked for Lamina’s motion to be split in to two motions. They suggested the first motion should be for the return of the St. Davids Golf Club escrow, followed by a second motion to create the ‘sidewalks’ subcommittee. The supervisors were not listening; their decision preordained. When several people asked Lamina ‘why’ not separate the motion in to two motions? His response was consistently no; that he wrote it that way. Period. Interesting to note that Kampf offered his commentary on government and making compromise. Perhaps what Kampf should have explained was that the compromise was a behind the closed-door agreement with the other supervisors, there certainly was no compromise with the citizenry. In advance of the vote, both supervisors Kichline and DiBuonaventuro offered that they would be supporting this motion. I guess that was supposed to make the residents ‘feel better’ since these two supervisors, along with Supervisor Donohue cast the 3 votes against the original motion on January 25.

A constant thread among the supervisors comments last night on St. Davids Golf Club was their desire to ‘move on’. The supervisors wanted this motion delivered, a vote taken and the ability to put St. Davids Golf Club behind them. And a vote the supervisors took; it was unanimous, 7-0 to support Lamina’s motion.

Why did I leave the meeting with the feeling that we (the public) had been manipulated and that our government had let us down? I should have felt that justice was served and our government policy and procedure restored . . . after all, the motion did include the reversal of the St. Davids decision. But no, I went home, drank 3 glasses of Pinot Grigio and reviewed what had just happened. The St. Davids discussion and motion was completely orchestrated . . . an obvious deal made in advance. Where was the transparency of the supervisor’s actions? For me transparency in government means that the citizens must be able to “see through” its workings, and to fully understand what goes on when public officials transact public business.

Transparency is the new buzz word in American politics. You hear politicians say it all the time when referring to ways of providing constituents with access to more information and mobilizing people to get more involved in government processes. Transparency is a way of protecting fairness and ensuring common good. When we know what our government is up to, we have a better chance of ensuring that decisions treat everyone equally and protect the common conditions that are important to everyone’s welfare. It was obvious that the supervisors had already debated and settled the issue of a subcommittee, prior to the Board of Supervisors meeting, outside the view of constituents. Am I the only one who is concerned over possible violations of the state’s Sunshine Act? The open meeting law bars four or more of the Board’s seven supervisors from deliberating township business or taking official action behind closed doors, with few exceptions. Why do we have to fight to keep the door open? Is it that the supervisors want the appearance of unanimity, to aim for as little contention as possible in public? When you go behind a closed-door and make decisions, the perception can be as bad as the fact.

As far as they are concerned, the Board of Supervisors may feel that with their vote last night, that St. Davids Golf Club is now past history. But for me, the issue is far from over; no they just created a whole host of new problems with their latest decision.

I can hardly wait to see this new ‘sidewalks’ subcommittee . . . knowing what the desired outcome for St. Davids Golf Club must be, the supervisors will want to make sure that Paul Olson is their representative on the committee. From the STAP committee the supervisors need to make sure that Bruce Parkinson is included on the sidewalks subcommittee; as a member of St. Davids Golf Club he would be an invaluable choice. From the Planning Commission, I am not sure who would be the politically correct choice; are any of planning commissioners also members of St. Davids? If so, make sure and let the supervisors know as that is an important selection criteria. When the Board of Supervisors is forming the public focus group for St. Davids area, they need to make sure that no one from the Mt. Pleasant community is included. As we know, Christine Johnson and her non-country club Mt. Pleasant neighbors live where that proposed St. Davids sidewalk to nowhere would have ended.

Was last night about full disclosure, transparency, deal-making? . . . you be the judge.

Tredyffrin Township's St. Davids Golf Club Decision Now on YouTube

To make sure that more people are able to see the January 25 Board of Supervisors meeting, my husband Jeff has uploaded the relevant part of the meeting to YouTube. Due to time restrictions on YouTube, the St. Davids Golf Club portion of the meeting is provided in 3 sections – Supervisor Kichline’s remarks, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s remarks, and the final board comments and vote of the supervisors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2Ngs60RjuQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GV1K9nuxMmw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydOzfvGFuMQ

We all make choices in life, some are better than others. This line in my article, ‘ . . . A moment of choice is a moment of trust and it is a testing point of character and competence . . .’ sums up how I feel about the recent St. Davids Golf Club decision of our Board of Supervisors.

I absolutely encourage everyone who reads this post, to forward it to your friends, neighbors and co-workers. Watch each of these video links . . . this is important for all residents of Tredyffrin Township. Our local government is based on policy and procedure. What happens when a few people are allowed to make the rules (or break the rules) as they see fit. You be the judge.

Community Matters © 2021 Frontier Theme