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. 

Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting Update

A few days ago I sent an email to the members of the Board of Supervisors and copied Township Manager Mimi Gleason, Asst. Township Manager Tom Scott and Zoning Officer Emmy Balderssarre in regards to the re-scheduling of the Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting. 

I kindly heard back from Mimi and also Police Chief Andy Chambers.  Officer Larry Meoli has been coordinating the Town Hall Meeting re-schedule date with Donna Shipman, the representative from the Mt. Pleasant community.  I am pleased to report that details are in the works and it looks like March 22 may be the next scheduled date for the meeting.  Hopefully (fingers crossed) the snow is behind us and this much-anticipated Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting can take place. 

Thanks Chief Chambers and Officer Meoli for your follow-up; I know that you share the concerns of the Mt. Pleasant residents.  It’s great to see movement on the Mt. Pleasant front!

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

Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part II: Christine Johnson

One of the most moving moments of the Board of Supervisors Meeting was when Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson took her turn to speak.  Christine eloquently spoke of her community, Mt. Pleasant as not being a sidewalk to nowhere as is often referred to by Supervisor Olson.  Christine is a research librarian and she put hours in to research, providing copies of minutes from Board Meetings, Planning Commission meetings, STAP meetings, etc. Please watch Christine’s passionate delivery of information . . . and please watch as virtually no response is offered from Chairman Lamina. 

Please watch this video clip:  YouTube Video Part II: Christine Johnson

Town Hall Meeting for Mt. Pleasant Residents

I am pleased to report that the Mt. Pleasant community (Panhandle area of the township) is going to have its Town Hall meeting with township representatives.  This Saturday, residents will have an opportunity to voice their concerns and seek answers from members of Tredyffrin’s police, public works, code enforcement and Board of Supervisors. Zoning and land development issues in addition to college student rentals have been a source of ongoing concern for the Mt. Pleasant residents.  Students may have a right to live in Mt. Pleasant (assuming no zoning ordinances are being broken) but the residents also have rights.  The quality of life of the residents also needs to be protected.

Township Supervisors Judy DiFilippo and John DiBuonaventuro have met with some of the residents and this upcoming forum will allow for greater participation.  The Mt. Pleasant Action Committee Group has helped to organize the meeting and I have been invited to attend.  I am looking forward to the meeting and to hope to share favorable updates.  Last month I had several postings about the Mt. Pleasant community and their struggles, to read further, click here.

If you are unsure of where Mt. Pleasant is located, it is in the shadow of the St. Davids Golf Club.

Thank you to Save Ardmore Coalition

Save Ardmore Coalition, “working together for Lower Merion’s future” is a grassroots community organization that is dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Ardmore business district.  However, many of the blog contributors including Carla, are interested in communities beyond their own backyard, including Tredyffrin Township.  Carla has been following Mt. Pleasant’s neighborhood struggles and recently conducted a field trip to Mt. Pleasant to document the community. Her posting titled Visiting Mt. Pleasant: Another Small Neighborhood at Risk tells it all.  Carla’s Mt. Pleasant photos.

I am excited that the Save Ardmore Coalition has announced my Community Matters in Tredyffrin Township blog to their audience; click here for the announcement.  Communities helping communities is how we are going to make a difference! Thank you Save Ardmore Coalition for doing your part!

Mt. Pleasant Update

Some updates to report on Mt. Pleasant:

Recently, there was a meeting with some of the Mt. Pleasant residents, the township police and Supervisors Judy DiFilippo and John DiBuonaventuro to discuss concerns and ongoing issues in this neighborhood.  A town hall type meeting is currently in the works which will include Mt. Pleasant residents and landlords, in addition to township representatives.   Providing an open forum for the participants to air their differences will encourage a path for peaceful solutions.  This is good news. I salute those involved in the process and look forward to hearing about the scheduled date for this town hall meeting. 

At this time, Tredyffrin Township does not have a specific ordinance that address student housing in the township. I was told that the township is looking at neighboring municipalities ordinances for student rental properties with the intention of creating our own ordinance.  With the township budget cuts, are we going to have money to pay for a new ordinance? I did some checking on my own — Radnor Township has specific ordinances and guidelines concerning student renters. In their ordinance, Radnor has established oversight and enforcement policy for landlords and students.  It would be interesting to know if Radnor has seen a difference in policing requirements as a result of stricter penalities for landlord/student offenses. Following up and enforcing rental housing is challenging in Tredyffrin. Tredyffin’s  Zoning Officer, Emmy Baldassarre (Tel: 610-408-3614) is doing a good job with follow-up when specific situations are brought to her attention. Understand that she can only do this job if she is provided with specific details of offenses.  Emmy is very approachable and I would encourage the public to contact her with zoning questions.

I received an update from last night’s Planning Commission Meeting.  An applicant for a property on Upper Gulph/Mt. Pleasant area presented a subdivision plan to convert a single family home in to a twin. The plan included an addition which would greatly expand the footprint of the properties.  A number of Mt. Pleasant residents attended and after thorough discussion, the Planning Commissioners voted unanimously, 7-0 to not recommend the proposed subdivision plan to the Zoning Hearing Board.  The plan now moves to the Zoning Hearing Board and we will wait to see what happens.

Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood. . . How Can We Help?

Mt. Pleasant community is located in the panhandle area of the township and borders on Upper Gulph Road.  The historic Carr School (c.1833) is a local landmark that you pass on Upper Gulph. I became particularly aware of the Mt. Pleasant community when I co-chaired Tredyffrin 300 with Judy DiFilippo.  For the celebration, we did a special 2007 calendar which featured special places and people from around the township.  Included was a photo which featured a tea party in front of Mazie Hall’s house in Mt. Pleasant. Ms. Hall passed away in 2006, at the age of 103 – she never married and lived her entire life in the same Mt. Pleasant house.  Read the Phila Inquirer’s Mazie B.Hall obituary for details of how Mazie made a difference!

During my election campaign, I spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon in Mt. Pleasant and spoke to a number of its residents.  One young woman, Christine Johnson impressed me with her spirit and community activism on behalf of her neighbors.  Mt. Pleasant is an interesting mix of young families, older people who have lived there for years and college students from Cabrini and Villanova who are renters during the school year.  There was a real sense from Christine and her neighbors that the township was not helping them with their ongoing issues and they have become frustrated to the point of creating a Mt. Pleasant Community Action Group.  The residents complained of loud parties, speeding cars, trash, etc.  In addition, the neighbors do not think that the zoning has been followed in regards to single family homes housing multiple unrelated persons.  Mt. Pleasant residents feel that their community is looking more and more like college dorm life.  Apparently as recently as 6 years ago, there were no college rentals and that now 1 in 4 houses in Mt. Pleasant is rented to students.  The residents have documented 17 homes are now college rentals. It appears that the ordinance and zoning in the Mt. Pleasant area allows for 3 unrelated persons living in a house but my guess is that there are often times more than 3, their names just don’t appear on the lease.  Maybe 3 or less persons sign the lease but I’m guessing that these houses are home to many more during the school year.  As I walked through the neighborhood, I saw several instances where multiple mailboxes existed on individual houses.  One house had a commercial trash dumpster in the back of the house with a large commercial-like asphalt parking area.  Would appear to me that it was designed for many more cars than would be needed for a single family dwelling.

Another complaint which community members echoed was in regards to police.  The police are often called to Mt. Pleasant because of the loud parties, drinking, etc. but are giving the kids warnings in lieu of fines.  I am all for the idea of warnings, but are the police keeping track of how many warnings some of these kids are getting?  At some point a stricter approach may be in order.  Don’t get me wrong – I spoke to some of the college students and they were respectful and actually one of the neighbors spoke highly of the students living next-door to her.  I am sure that the majority of the students are ‘good kids’, I just think maybe some guidance could be useful.  If the landlords are aware of their tenant issues in the neighborhood, why not supply a list of ‘dos & donts’ that might improve the community living situation. 

The residents have taken their concerns to the Board of Supervisors a number of times, asking for help with the situation.  One resident stated that when she complained about the noise to the police, she was told by the police to shut her windows and doors as a solution.  Not acceptable.  I would like to know the record of complaint calls to Mt. Pleasant and how follow-up to the neighborhood was handled.

Bottom line is the students may have a right to live in Mt. Pleasant (assuming no zoning ordiances are being broken) but the residents also have rights.  We need to ensure that the quality of life of these residents is also protected.  On behalf of the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, I would ask for township support . . . supervisors, police, zoning officer, etc.  Tonight’s Planning Commission agenda actually includes a subdivision request on a Mt. Pleasant-Upper Gulph property.  Here’s hoping that the Planning Commissioner ask the intentions of this owner (investor?) — is this property going to be used as another college rental to add to the other 17 rentals?