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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorney Offers Legal Opinion on February 22 Board of Supervisors Vote

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

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

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

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

Section 303(a) of the MPC states that:

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

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

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

2) “Planning agency” includes planning commissions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patriots Path Discussion Set for January 4

The first meeting of the Board of Supervisors on January 4, 2010 could be challenging; on the agenda will be the Patriots Path.  The township Planning Commission unanimously approved the draft plan and is recommending to the Board of Supervisors the inclusion of the Patriots Path in to the Comprehensive Plan. The path has been 7 years in the making and will connect 3 municipalities that share Revolutionary War history; East Whiteland, Malvern and Tredyffrin. The path would connect East Whiteland’s Battle of the Clouds Park, Malvern Borough’s Paoli Memorial Grounds and adjacent Paoli Battlefield, which was the site of the infamous Paoli Massacre, and Valley Forge National Historical Park

The Great Valley Association has formed a sub-committee to look at the pros and cons from the residents standpoint.  I myself live in the Great Valley in a pre-Revolutionary House and I can see both sides of the argument.  I have neighbors who are concerned about this path (and the potential of strangers) close to their properties.  But on the other hand, I think that the concept of the Chester Valley Trail system is wonderful.  The Radnor Trail originally met with much opposition and has turned out to be highly valued in that community; the hope is that the Patriots Path can enjoy that same degree of success in the Great Valley.  I know that the Sidewalks, Trails and Path Committee (STAP) have worked very hard on these plans and I want all the residents to full understand the benefits.  Involving the Great Valley residents in the process and implementation can only help with the success of the project.

To read further about the Patriots Path, please look at STAP’s link.

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.