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. 

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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