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. 

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’.

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

Board of Supervisors 2/22/10 Meeting . . . St. Davids Golf Club Motion

BOS Meeting 2–22-10 Part I: St. Davids Golf Club Motion.  Here is the YouTube video clip of Monday’s St. Davids motion made by Lamina, seconded by Olson.

Below is the motion made at Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting, February 22, 2010 in regards to the St. Davids Golf Club escrow and the development of the subcommittee.  The exact wording of the St. Davids motion was taken from the Tredyffrin Township website, www.tredyffrin.org; the motion is as follows:

I hereby move that the Board’s motion of January 25 regarding St. David’s be reversed and rescinded; and do hereby further resolve that the Board of Supervisor’s form a joint Subcommittee with the Planning Commission and the STAP to begin a process to reexamine where the community wants and needs sidewalks, with a goal that this Board may adopt more formal policies and procedures to provide additional guidelines relative to design, development and construction of the sidewalks and paths in the Township atlarge. At a minimum, this re-assessment should address both the timing, prioritization, funding sources, the conditions upon which the planning commission may from time-totime grant relief from our land development ordinance, and recommend any other changes the prospective new policy might require. While the subcommittee process take place, neither the Board or the Township will be formally moving to compel St. David’s 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. The Subcommittee in carrying out its re-assessment will seek input and participation from the Public and the Committee’s involved which necessarily will include the Planning Commission and the STAP.

Motion made by Lamina; Second by Olson

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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.

Reminder: Board of Supervisors Meeting Tonight . . . St. Davids Golf Club on the Agenda, Public Hearing Continuance for Patriots Path Plan

Reminder:

Tonight is Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors Meeting, 7:30 PM at the Township Building, Keene Hall.  The St. Davids Golf Club issue is on tonight’s agenda.  I am looking forward to the continuing, thoughtful discussion from the residents  and to an appropriate resolution of this matter. If you are unable to attend the meeting, it will be shown on cable TV.  Check township website for details, www.tredyffrin.org

Following the regular BOS meeting, there will be a continuance of a Public Hearing for the ” . . .  consideration and possible adoption, via resolution, of the ‘Patriots Path Plan’, as an amendment to Tredyffrin Township’s Comprehensive Plan”.

St. Davids Golf Club on Agenda for Board of Supervisors Meeting . . . Lawsuit on Hold Pending Outcome of Meeting

Late yesterday, the township posted the agenda for Monday night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting, which includes St. Davids Golf Club.  Or, rather under Township Business, the agenda item actually reads, ‘St. Davids path’.  I think that this is a good first step and shows a degree of willingness on the part of the supervisors to continue the dialogue with the residents. Although I am pleased that our supervisors have agreed to add St. Davids to the agenda, for me the true test will come Monday night.  I am hopeful that the voices of this community have been heard and that the supervisors will make the right decision about St. Davids.

Along the same lines, John Petersen’s complaint against the township and Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter is now on hold; it will not be filed today.  With the addition of  St. Davids to the agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting, John has decided to hold off filing the lawsuit until after Monday night’s meeting.  Right now we are all in the ‘wait and see’ mode until Monday night; but depending on the outcome of the Supervisors Meeting maybe a lawsuit will no longer be needed.

Community does Matter. I am excited that our voices are being heard . . . Come Monday night we will see if the supervisors are listening.  This will be an important meeting and I encourage you to attend or watch the meeting from home.

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Post Update:

Since this morning’s post, John Petersen has done an interview with Blair Meadowcroft of Main Line Suburban Life.   John reiterates his decision to put the lawsuit ‘on hold’ pending the outcome of Monday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting. To read the article, here is a link.

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We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone . . . and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.

– Sandra Day O’Connor

Breaking News — Lawsuit Set to be Filed Against Tredyffrin Township and Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter

Breaking News

The decision by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter to return St. Davds Golf Club escrow is now headed down the legal road to the court of law. 

In regards to the St. Davids Golf Club escrow return, I am in receipt of a draft complaint naming John Petersen as the ‘Plaintiff’.  This complaint will be filed by noon tomorrow in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, West Chester. 

Listed as ‘Defendants’ in the complaint is Tredyffrin Township and Robert Lamina, Chairman Board of Supervisors, Paul Olson, Vice Chairman Board of Supervisors, Warren Kampf Member Board of Supervisors and Evelyn Richter, Member Board of Supervisors, Individually and as members of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

The complaint seeks Declaratory Judgment and Equitable Relief for the following violations:

COUNT ONE – Sunshine Act

COUNT TWO – Home Rule Charter and Administrative Code

COUNT THREE –Arbitrary and Capricious Action

John provided me with a copy of the draft complaint and asked me to make his intention to file public on Community Matters.  The complaint seeks no monetary damages but seeks to turn the clock back to before the Board of Supervisors vote of January 25.  In other words, the basis of the complaint is to return the St. Davids Golf Club escrow to the township (as if the vote never took place). Once the complaint is filed at the court house, John has given me permission to make the document public on Community Matters. 

Like so many of us in this community, John was disappointed and frustrated by the actions of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter with their January 25 decision to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club.  When given the opportunity at the February 8 meeting to correct their mistake, these supervisors instead offered an apology and the suggestion that they would try to ‘do better’ in the future. Rather than continuing to hope that these elected officials would at some point ‘see the light’ and correct their mistake, John is taking the matter to the court of law with an official complaint.  I support John’s decision to take legal action and applaud his courage to take it to the next level! 

The next Board of Supervisors Meeting on Monday, February 22 just got more interesting!  This is an important meeting for all Tredyffrin residents to attend. 

Tredyffrin Township Then and Now . . . What a Difference 8 Years Makes for Chairman Lamina and Supervisor Olson (or Does It?)

What a difference 8 years can make or does it? 

Many of us continue to be disturbed by the fact that St. Davids Golf Club was not on the January 25 Board of Supervisors Agenda yet that did not stop Supervisor Olson from making a motion, Chairman Lamina seconding the motion and with the additional votes of Supervisors Kampf and Richter, approving the motion 4-3 to return the escrow to St. Davids.  

‘Roger’, a Community Matters reader has also been troubled by the backdoor approach that Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter took to get the St. Davids Golf Club matter just pushed through without public notification.  Roger did some background research yesterday, reading Board of Supervisors Meeting Minutes all the way back to 2002.  His discovery led him to June 16, 2002 BOS Minutes: take a look at what he found:

Under Miscellaneous, Page 3, Paragraph 1:  Mr. Olson said he had planned to make a motion tonight to keep the Strafford Library open, but he was informed that it must be placed on a public agenda for everyone to see. He said he will introduce a motion to keep Strafford Library open at the Board’s next meeting.

Interesting to note that in 2002, Board of Supervisors Chairman was John Bravaco and Vice Chairman was Bob Lamina.  Supervisors Lamina and Olson understood (and followed) the rules of Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter in 2002 but 8 years later in 2010 the requirement to follow the rules is no longer necessary.  How is that Olson knew he could not make a motion without public notification in 2002 but neither he nor Chairman Lamina viewed that as a stumbling block in 2010? I guess we are to assume that the policy and procedures which existed in 2002 are no longer valid. (Or maybe the difference is that Lamina is Chairman in 2010 whereas he was Vice Chair in 2002).

Here is the link for the June 16, 2002 BOS Meeting Minutes

The Board of Supervisors Meeting Minutes are now available from the January 25, 2010 meeting.  Please take the time to read these recent meeting minutes.  You will see that Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline understand the need for public notification of motions (and just think, these 2 supervisors were not even serving in 2002!).  Note in the minutes that several audience members attempted to point out that the rules of the Home Rule Charter were not being followed.  Rules, policy, procedures . . . not required by Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter in 2010. 

Isn’t it interesting what the Board of Supervisors could do in 2010 they could not do in 2002!

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The execution of the laws is more important than the making of them.   
– Thomas Jefferson

Newspaper Editor Offers His Opinion on our Supervisors, stating “. . . Tredyffrin Township residents deserve better and we will make sure we hold the board accountable for their actions.”

When do you suppose was the last time the editor of our local newspaper weighed in on the actions of our local elected officials?  I cannot remember it happening in any recent times, that is until today. In today’s edition of Main Line Suburban Life, Executive Editor Tom Murray offers strong words in his Editor’s Corner for supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter and their St. Davids Golf Club decision.  Tom’s words, ” . . . trust was lost when four of the supervisors made that fateful vote a few weeks back” are understood and echoed by many in this township. (Tom’s full column is below.)

Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter probably thought that their St. Davids decision to return the country club’s escrow would be forgotten by this point, swept under the carpet by their apology and that we (the public) would have just moved on.  Just the contrary, . . .  far from forgotten, I think we all agree with Tom Murray’s assessment, we do deserve better in Tredyffrin Township.

For the record, there has been no response from Chairman Lamina concerning my email request this morning to add St. Davids Golf Club to the Agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Guess he doesn’t need to respond to me; I will just wait and see if St. Davids is on the Agenda tomorrow.

As an aside, I wonder if the stalling on the St. Davids matter is related to Warren Kampf’s upcoming weekend event – the Chester County Republican Committee have their formal endorsement process in West Chester this Saturday (my understanding is the committee vote will help determine Mr. Kampf’s political future).

      Bad decision in Tredyffrin

Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

By Tom Murray

Three weeks ago I guess you could say I hit a wall.

After 62 consecutive weeks of writing this weekly column – all 54 in Main Line Suburban Life and eight before that for Main Line Life, I felt I needed a break. We had some very strong letters to the editor and I felt it was more important to hear from the readers.

Two weeks ago the new boss of our parent company started and there were meetings and discussions about our Web site, videos to watch and podcasts to listen to, and bull sessions with my bosses and staff. Another batch of strong letters and guest columns made my decision not to write again easier.

Then last week came the snownami, which according to the Urban Dictionary I found online is defined as “when it is snowing so damn much you can’t even see a thing.” Yes, Mother Nature sure had the last laugh last week when she followed up her 28-inch snowfall with 17 inches more and winds that left many Main Liners in the dark.

A decision was made to push up deadlines so another week passed without this column. I received a few phone calls and plenty of e-mails from loyal readers asking if everything was OK and a few were concerned about my employment status. I assured them that I would make sure that I would let them know when that time comes. I want to thank all those readers who checked in. So with the batteries recharged, I feel it’s important to touch on one issue that I missed the past few weeks.

Up the line in beautiful Tredyffrin Township, the Board of Supervisors voted a few weeks ago that sidewalks weren’t needed at St. Davids Golf Club and they voted to release money from an escrow account that ended the longtime controversy.

While the debate over sidewalks has been around long before I arrived on the Main Line, it was the way the board went about its business that has me concerned.

I took it personally because it was my decision not to attend the meeting when the four commissioners pulled a quick one. Each week I sit down with reporter Blair Meadowcroft and we discuss what needs to be covered. There was a big Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board meeting that same night and the school budget for the year was being discussed. Blair and I looked at the agenda for the Board of Supervisors that night and we made the decision that since there was nothing earth-shattering to be discussed, she should attend the school-board meeting and see where the board would cut millions of dollars in programs.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that week’s newspaper.

I started getting calls and e-mails that night from upset residents letting me know what the supervisors did, and that was bring up the St. Davids issue, debate it for a short time and then vote to give the golf club back the money it originally had to put up. Board Chair Bob Lamina has since apologized to residents for the board’s actions. It was a good first step but I don’t blame residents for still being upset.

Board members need to realize that it’s no longer the 1950s and they can’t get away with this kind of behavior anymore. I had given the board the benefit of the doubt a few times since January’s reorganization meeting, but now it’s personal. That trust was lost when four of the supervisors made that fateful vote a few weeks back.

Tredyffrin Township residents deserve better and we will make sure we hold the board accountable for their actions.

That’s our job.

Supervisor Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter Vote to Return St. Davids Escrow Continues to Provide Commentary From Residents

Looking at the viewership statistics from yesterday, I am pleased that many residents have watched the February 8 Board of Supervisors meeting YouTube video clips and have continued to weigh in with personal comments. I would encourage you to email the Community Matters link to your neighbors, co-workers, friends in the township; failure to follow policy and procedure by our elected officials is an important issue and one that we need to keep in community discussion.  A comment from Township Reader, ” . . . Is there anyone out there who is a lawyer who can tell us if there is any basis whatsoever to do a recall of 1)the vote or 2)the supervisors?” has sparked comments from others, including a couple of attorneys.

JudgeNJury and John Petersen, offer their legal opinions and case studies that speak to the specific problem of recalling both the vote and supervisor(s).  Reading through the following commentary, it is obvious that legal recourse would not be a simple, inexpensive road to take.  However, I am one of those who believes that justice will win and that the wrong will be righted as it pertains to the vote to return St. Davids escrow.  Public scrutiny of the situation, compelling commentary from residents, and continued light on our elected officials will hopefully encourage the supervisors to ‘right the wrong’ at the February 22 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Please read through the following commentary from local attorneys:

JudgeNJury, on February 15th, 2010 at 10:48 PM Said:
As I see it, there are two options for “undoing” the vote: (1) a majority of the Board votes to undo it, or (2) a court orders the Township to undo the vote. Given what we’ve seen so far, option 1 does not seem terribly likely. Therefore, you’d have to pursue option 2. But a court will not do anything unless and until someone brings and prevails upon a suit (which, as a general rule, can take months or years to resolve). This previous thread discussed the legal precedent: https://pattyebenson.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/home-rule-charter-violations-legal-cases-from-philadelphia-and-erie-county/. In short, where a municipality takes an action that violates its Home Rule Charter, the proper course of action for those who want to challenge the decision appears to be a declaratory judgment action to declare the municipality’s action null and void (or “void ab initio,” as they say) and/or an injunction action to prohibit the municipality from enforcing its decision. There are two main problems with bringing suit, one legal and one practical.

First the legal problem: Only a person with “standing” may bring this kind of suit. In Cohen v. Rendell, 684 A.2d 1102 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1996), the Philadelphia City Council passed 28 ordinances in one “block vote” (i.e., it passed all 28 ordinances in one vote). Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter, however, provided that ordinances had to be voted on individually, not in a block (I am oversimplifying a bit, but that’s all you really need to know for purposes of this discussion). Therefore, arguing that the vote violated the City’s Home Rule Charter, three private citizens and Philadelphia City Councilman David Cohen brought an action against the City for a declaratory judgment that the ordinances were invalid and for an injunction to prohibit the City from enforcing the ordinances. The Commonwealth Court (one of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts) held that, although Councilman Cohen had standing to challenge the ordinances, the private citizens did not. Here is a quote from the opinion (I cannot find a copy of this opinion on any of the free legal reference sites, so I cannot provide a link to it):

“As to the standing issue, Private Citizens contend that each have standing to maintain the action since each has an interest in Council following the Charter’s procedure for adopting ordinances. In order for Private Citizens to have standing as ‘aggrieved’ citizens, they must assert more than the common interest of all citizens in procuring obedience to the law. See William Penn Parking Garage, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 346 A.2d 269 (1975). ‘Standing is the requirement that the person bringing the action be adversely affected by the matter they seek to challenge to assure that they are an appropriate party to bring the matter to a judicial resolution.’ Drummond v. University of Pennsylvania, 651 A.2d 572, 577 (Pa.Cmwlth.1994). A person who is not adversely affected in any way by the matter he seeks to challenge cannot be ‘aggrieved’ and, thus, has no standing to seek judicial resolution of his case. William Penn, supra. Rather, he or she must allege a ‘direct’ interest by which he or she demonstrates the causation of harm to his or her interest by the matter of which he or she complains. Id. Private Citizens clearly do not possess the type of interest in the result of the ordinances necessary to obtain standing because they have not asserted anything more than an interest common to all citizens. Though they contend that Cronin and Haver [two of the private citizens] represent citizens of the City of Philadelphia who ‘would be affected by the various passed Ordinances’, they have failed to specifically allege that any interest of either Cronin or Haver has been directly affected here. And, though they contend that Shigaki [the third private citizen] was directly affected because one of the 28 ordinances affected ‘streets in the area in which Shigaki lived and encompassed by members of his civic group’, Private Citizens have not pled any facts that would show that he is specifically aggrieved.”

What this means, I think, is that a generic Tredyffrin resident would not have standing to sue the Township to undo the St. David’s vote. Rather, the plaintiff would have to be an individual (or a group of people) who can allege that he or she will be directly and negatively impacted if the Board’s vote is left to stand. And since the vote did not actually kill the sidewalk (although that may be the practical effect, all the vote actually did was release a letter of credit), finding someone who can say they are “aggrieved” by the vote may be difficult.

The second problem – the practical problem – is money. Unless you can find a lawyer to do this for free (not terribly likely, I’d think) you would need to pay for a lawyer to bring this suit, which would not be cheap. This is not the type of case that a lawyer will take on contingency, as there is little chance the court will award monetary damages and, even if it did, they won’t amount to much.

  • Ray Clarke, on February 16th, 2010 at 9:37 AM Said:

    So, if councilman Cohen had the standing to challenge the ordinances in the case cited, would we have to look to one or more of the Supervisors in our situation?

    • JudgeNJury, on February 16th, 2010 at 9:57 AM Said:

    • Yes. This analysis from the Cohen case seems to suggest that one of the Supervisors would have standing to mount a legal challenge:

      “Councilman Cohen, however, as a Council member, possesses the requisite standing to bring the complaint against the City. In Morris v. Goode, 107 Pa.Cmwlth. 529, 529 A.2d 50 (1987), we considered whether individual members of a city council have standing to seek injunctive relief based on council’s failure to comply with the voting procedures mandated by the Charter. In Morris, we held that the plaintiffs, as council members, possessed a legal interest granted by the Charter in having a quorum present to vote on council resolutions. Id. 529 A.2d at 53. In other words, council members individually possess a legal interest in enforcing the voting procedures established by the Charter, and have standing to seek declaratory relief when such procedures are violated.

      And, in an analogous situation, in Zemprelli v. Thornburg, 47 Pa.Cmwlth. 43, 407 A.2d 102 (1979), we held that a Pennsylvania State Senator’s right to have Governor’s nominations to vacant appointed offices submitted within the constitutional period conferred a legal interest upon him by which he possessed standing to seek a judicial remedy against the Governor when he failed to submit such nominations. Because Cohen, as an elected, voting member of Council, has a legal and direct interest in ensuring that Council follows the procedures set forth by the Charter, we hold that he does possess standing to bring his case against the City.”

       

    JudgeNJury, on February 16th, 2010 at 10:28 AM Said:By the way, I was curious to see what the ultimate resolution was in the Cohen case so I pulled the docket from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas:

    “30-SEP-1999
    03:44 PM WSFFD – FINDING FOR DEFENDANT GLAZER, GARY S 30-SEP-1999
    03:47 PM
    Docket Entry: IT IS ORDERED THAT THIS COURT, IN THE EXERCISE OF ITS EQUITABLE POWERS, FINDS THAT ALTHOUGH THE HOME RULE CHARTER WAS VIOLATED BY THE USE OF THE CONSENT AGENDA, THE NULLIFICATION OF THE 28 ORDINANCES, PASSED BY CONSENT AGENDA BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF PHILA ON 6/22/95, WOULD IMPOSE GREAT HARDSHIP ON ALL INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES AFFECTED. THEREFORE, THE RELIEF REQUESTED BY THE PLTF IS DENIED, AND A FINDING IS ENTERED ON BEHALF OF THE DEFTS IN THE ABOVE CAPTIONED MATTER. BY THE COURT ….GLAZER,J 9/30/99″

    So even if you can prove a violation of the HRC, that is no guaranty that the Court will award relief.

  • John Petersen, on February 15th, 2010 at 11:04 PM Said:

    This link may help..

    http://www.lgc.state.pa.us/deskbook06/Issues_Governance_08_Removal_from_Office.pdf

  • Not good news… In PA, we simply cannot recall an elected official. There must be a crime of some sort. Is there underlying criminal activity re: the St. David’s vote? As outrageous as many of my comments appear to be, even I wouldn’t go that far as to allege a crime was committed here. Bad judgment and bad political calculations. Put it this way, if there was a cognizable crime here, I would be shocked. And for the record, not much shocks me…

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part VI: Final Citizen Comments, Loss of Trust in Elected Officials

    This last video clip of the February 8 Board of Supervisors meeting is important to watch.  Many more residents speak including Lou Erdelan, Marie Thibault and Carol Clarke.  What is striking in this part of the meeting is that many residents are now speaking to an overriding concern . . . the loss of trust in our elected officials.  Pay close attention to Lou’s remarks, he says that he has worked on committees with Warren (Supervisor Kampf) and that he thought he could trust him. 

    There is a sadness when you have people who represent organizations, committees, groups, standing up and questioning the actions of our elected officials.  What happens to a community when the residents don’t feel that their elected officials can be trusted? 

    Folks, the clock is ticking on this situation and we need resolution and answers which we did not receive at the last supervisors meeting.  In my opinion, Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf and Richter have one more chance to correct the trust issue and that will happen at the February 22 Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Here’s hoping that they find the courage to do what is right.

    To watch the final video clip: YouTube Video Part VI: Final Remarks, Loss of Trust in Elected Officials

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part V: Residents Pattye Benson, Liz Feinberg & Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s Response

    As I have said from the beginning, for me the decision to return St. Davids escrow is not about sidewalks.  It is about the failure of certain supervisors (Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter) to follow the policies and procedures as set forth in Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter.  I find it remarkable that as elected officials they make the choice to disregard the rules (deciding instead to govern as they please), apologize for their actions and then expect the community to  just move on.  I stand behind the comments that I make in this video clip.  The actions of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter have now set precedent; with liability to the taxpayers for lawsuits as a result of this vote. When asked at the January 25 supervisors meeting, township manager Mimi Gleason agreed that the return of St. Davids escrow has now set precedent for future developers doing work in Tredyffrin. 

    Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s response is an interesting section of this video clip.  His comments and understanding of the citizens stands in stark contrast to remarks made by Supervisors Lamina and Kampf.  I know many of us thank JD for hearing the residents and trying to ‘right’ the wrong of the decision to return St. David’s escrow.

    Please watch this video clip:  YouTube Video Part V: Residents Pattye Benson, Liz Feinberg & Supervisor DiBuonaventuro Response 

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part IV: Residents Speak Out

    Residents continue to offer their opinion on the St. Davids escrow return at the February 8 Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Please note that the community members who attended the meeting and offered their remarks where not ‘arranged’ in advance. 

    If you recall, there was a small group of St. Davids neighbors contacted for the January 25 BOS meeting.  It was at that meeting that St. Davids Golf Club did not appear on the agenda, no public notification and yet some of Supervisor Olson’s constituents in the St. Davids area somehow knew to show up (some even had written comments) and support Olson’s motion.  Supervisor Olson was absent for the February 8 meeting.  Interestingly the small Olson support group also did not attend that meeting. 

    At the February 8 meeting, one after another resident offered commentary and asked questions of the supervisors. For the most part, their questions were unanswered, citing legal reasons.  Chesterbrook Jim Bailey did not expect to speak but was so troubled by the treatment of Supervisors Lamina and Kampf towards resident John Petersen, Jim was compelled to speak.  He also offered that he was a Tredyffrin Republican committeeman; highlighting that the issues/concerns with certain elected officials was not about one political party vs. another. 

    Please watch this video clip, Part IV:  Part IV: Residents Continue to Speak Out

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part III: Citizen John Petersen

    The next to take his turn to present comments was John Petersen. The audience witnessed an amazing exchange between John and Chairman Lamina and Supervisor Kampf.  John attempted to ask questions of the supervisors but was quickly interupted by Lamina and Kampf.  It was obvious that they had come to the meeting prepared to ‘take John on’ .  It appeared to me that Lamina and Kampf were not about to let John make his comments without intervention.  Although John tried to ‘plow’ on through, at one point Lamina is heard to say that John would not be allowed to speak again.  The behaviour of these 2 elected officials calls in to question a citizens right to freedom of speech. 

    The interchange between John and Lamina and Kampf is one that all residents need to watch; YouTube video clip, Part III: Citizen John Petersen