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. 

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.

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.

Are Fair Housing Rules being Broken in the Mt. Pleasant Community of Tredyffrin? How Can we Help these Residents?

If you have been following the St. Davids Golf Club and the ongoing sidewalk saga, you have probably seen Christine Johnson, who has attended and spoke out at recent Board of Supervisors meetings.  A passionate Mt. Pleasant resident, Christine has been very vocal in her support of sidewalks and of her Panhandle community.  I have written several posts concerning the struggles of Christine and her neighbors re college housing and associated planning and zoning issues; and police enforcement (primarily noise and speeding concerns in the community). 

Back in the fall at a Board of Supervisors meeting there was agreement to conduct meetings between Mt. Pleasant neighbood members and township representatives including the police, zoning officer, township engineer and supervisors.  Informal discussions were held and a town hall meeting was planned with the residents in mid-December.  Unfortunately, that meeting was cancelled due to snow.  Another town hall meeting date was chosen for early 2010 but again that meeting needed to be cancelled due to snow. 

As far as I know, a third date has not been chosen for the town hall meeting. This ongoing situation is frustrating for Christine and her Mt. Pleasant neighbors . . . as the problems with college rentals and zoning issues remains unsolved. I am committed to providing updates and to continue to shine light on Mt. Pleasant’s challenges until we can reach a resolution on their problems.

Christine in her quest to research and better understand her rights as a resident of Mt. Pleasant community has reached out to the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia.  Based on the information that Christine is providing below, there has been some stretching of the fair housing laws by some of the landlords in the advertising of college housing in Mt. Pleasant. 

I know that Tredyffrin Township does not have specific zoning regulations that deal with college rentals as do some of the neighboring municipalities.  As a first step, I think we need to get the town hall meeting back on the schedule and then start working on helping the Mt. Pleasant folks.  I think Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline are onboard to represent the Board of Supervisors; can I appeal to help find a new date for the town hall meeting?

     Violating Fair Housing Laws

According the the Fair Housing Act,  you cannot discriminate against families.  Shouldn’t famillies have the chance to  live in Mt. Pleasant?  I’m sick of seeing our houses advertised as “Rental – Student Approved”  “Student Approved House” “Villanova Student Rental” “College Rental” “Great for College Students” etc, etc, etc.

When describing your rental, please be aware the misuse of a phrase can, however innocently used, be in violation of federal fair housing laws. The list below is fromHousing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) www.homeny.org:

The following list of words and phrases are considered to be in violation of the federal fair housing laws when used in advertising of the sale or rental of housing because they may indicate a preference, limitation or discrimination to the ordinary reader. This list is not all-inclusive but should be used as a guide and example of unacceptable language.

  1. Max 2 people, 3rd extra charge
  2. Great for one
  3. 1 Person pref.
  4. ideal for couple
  5. ideal for working couple
  6. ideal for adults
  7. Suitable for couple
  8. In quiet adult community
  9. perfect for working single
  10. adults pref.
  11. ideal for 2 adults
  12. professional & students only
  13. looking for professional
  14. mature adults
  15. professional couple pref.
  16. 1 person pref.
  17. employed couple or single
  18. ideal for a single
  19. employed male/student
  20. ideal for students
  21. ideal for single person /couple
  22. perfect for students
  23. suits 1-2 employed adult/student
  24. Ideal for male/female
  25. great for students
  26. no pets or children
  27. max 2 people
  28. ideal for single female
  29. working single
  30. male/female suitable for one
  31. 2 bedroom maximum/2 person occupancy

Township Lawsuit . . . Where Does it Stand?

I received the following from John Petersen this morning in regards to the township lawsuit.  There has been much discussion and debate concerning the lawsuit; I think it is important that the facts be presented in John’s own words.

Just so everyone is clear about the [law]suit – I did speak with Tom Hogan at length on Tuesday. I have decided, for the time being, to stand down on the suit so that the subcommittee can go forward.

However….

I have made it clear that the new subcommittee cannot suffer the same fate as the BAWG. I, along with many of the people here, will pay close attention to happens with that process. I note with interest, the stimulus funds that have been received on behalf of sidewalks. I do wonder what this new process means for those funds….

I want to leave you with Bruce Parkinson’s comments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8aILCXIcLQ

When he looked to his left, he was looking at me: re his comments about this matter being a “political football”. If there is a political football, it is because Kampf, Lamina, and especially Olson, have made it so. My issue is about following the rules. Parkinson on the the other hand, apparently believes that as a member of the club and the club itself, is subject to a different set of rules. And to that end, the government can break its own rules for the benefit of the club and its members. At least, I think that is what he was saying. When it comes to political footballs, I take Parkinson’s comments to be nothing short of a political threat.

in other words, they were instrumental in getting people like Olson back on the board…they could be instrumental in getting people removed. In other words, Parkinson was telling the BOS to “play ball.” There is simply no other way to take his comments.

For the record, Parkinson is a local committee for the GOP and is also a member of the county GOP executive committee. Further, he was chairman of the building committee in 2005 when the development was approved.

Parkinson was the one, along with the club president, to agree to the sidewalks. You didn’t hear him talk about that on Monday….did you????

I simply do not have any more time to waste on folks that are so intellectually weak that they could be placed in a position to break the rules (Kampf, Lamina, Olson and Richter). And for sure, I don’t have any more time and patience to deal with the country club set and that faction of the GOP that believes it is OK to corrupt the government so long as it suits their needs.

I believe that if I went to court, I would prevail. However, that victory would not result in a thorough review of the sidewalks, trails and paths. That is what the subcommittee is supposed to do.

If it turns out to be a ruse, there will a stiff price to pay for that.

Political committee seats folks..that is where the path to taking our government and community back begins. That is what I’ll be concentrating on now.

United in their Resolve, Tredyffrin Residents Speak Out Against Actions of Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter

Last night’s Board of Supervisor meeting represented a victory for the people. 

‘New Matters from Board members’ of the meeting kicked off with Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Richter making apologies to the community in regards to the St. Davids Golf Club motion and vote to return escrow which occurred at the last Board of Supervisors meeting. They took responsibility for their actions, admitted that procedure had not been followed and stated that they would try to ‘do better’ in the future. Mention was made that everyone makes mistakes and that they had learned from theirs.

As I listened to the apologies, I thought to myself . . . OK, they made a mistake, admitted their mistake and now they will just ‘fix it’.  But no, there was no offer of correction, no suggestion to ‘reverse the decision’, nothing.  Were they thinking that the community would just accept their apology, move on and act like the ‘mistake’ never happened?  I don’t think that they were prepared for what was to come next . . . it was the residents turn to speak.

I cannot remember the last time I was so proud of this community.  Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democratic life.  And one after another, residents took to the floor.  People came from all over the township . . . Chesterbrook, Malvern, Berwyn, Strafford, Mt. Pleasant, Wayne.  It did not matter if the speakers were Democrats, Republicans or Independents, there was no political party agenda.  They were firefighters, lawyers, retired citizens, members of township boards, one after another, each passionately saying the same thing over and over.  Separately, the residents spoke, but united their message. Each person in his or her own way sought justice from the Board of Supervisors, appealing for the ‘wrong’ to be made ‘right’.

The ‘sidewalk’ became a symbol for something much larger . . . it represented how four individuals (Lamina, Olson, Kampf, Richter) thought they could be allowed to just make the rules and break the rules, without consequence or intervention for their actions.  What I heard loud and clear  was the powerful voice in this community of intolerance to their actions; residents are standing together.  Were the supervisors listening?

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  Speaking out, many in the audience eloquently spoke of their distrust in our elected officials.  We elect these people because we believe that they will serve our best interests.  We entrust them to govern according to the rules . . . to follow the policies and procedures as set forth by the Home Rule Charter.  We rely on them to make the best decisions in our interests.

In the end, there was no resolution to ‘righting the wrong’ of the vote to return the escrow to St. Davids.  Not last night, but I believe that this matter is far from over.  I believe that between now and the next Board of Supervisors meeting, a way must be found to resolve this matter.

Trust in our elected officials must be restored.

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.