the highs and lows of community involvement

butterfly

I used to be a community activist. Really. It’s not so grand sounding, I think people just get to a point in their lives when they see change needs to occur and they seem to either choose activism or politics.  While I am fascinated by politics, I would never want to be an elected official, so I chose activism.

It all started innocently enough.

Prior to 9/11 I did mostly traditional volunteer work.  But there comes a time in your life when you can’t sit at the dinner table and murmur “that’s too bad.”

I come by my love of old houses and community by way of genetics. My late father was involved in every community we lived in starting with the early days of the Society Hill section of Philadelphia.

My personal entré into all of this started with my old neighborhood when the first of many developers sought to create infill development where I then lived. This developer was renovating an old factory/warehouse building which no one objected to.  But the ingress/egress onto our street where it was literally 12 feet wide we did object to.

Then, on the heels of that at the time my alma mater The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr wanted to tear down historic Beechwood House in Bryn Mawr  for a parking lot. I became part of a group headed by a fellow alumnae named Heather Hillman which raised the funds necessary to completely restore the house and give it a practical adaptive reuse in today’s world. The 9100 square foot home was an architectural gem designed by prominent late 19th century architect Addison Hutton. We did so well, the architects even won awards on the renovation. (A synopsis of what occurred can be found here.)

Then came the fateful night when I went to my friends’ restaurant in Ardmore and found the wife in tears.  “They want to take our building” she said.

That was my introduction to eminent domain and how I came to be part of a 501(c)(4) civic action organization called the Save Ardmore Coalition. The group was comprised of many people from different walks of life as well as different political parties. We came together because we felt positive change was needed. Instead local politicians (of course) labeled us as being obstructionist.

Eminent Domain in Ardmore, Lower Merion Township was a long and horrible process.  We went to Washington DC and stood beside people from all over the country including Long Branch, NJ, Camden NJ (Cramer Hill), Philadelphia and got to know  a lady from New London CT named Susette Kelo who became the symbol of the anti-eminent domain movement all across this country. (See Kelo vs. City of New London).

In Ardmore we were lucky and we were able to defeat eminent domain for private gain and at the time unseat half of the board of commissioners in Lower Merion (there are the ridiculous number of 14) . I was part of a group of wonderful people who learned that once in a while ordinary people could be right and it was worth fighting for what you believed in.

But all of this came at a personal cost.  We were labeled and tarred and feathered by developers and politicians and their cheerleaders and even paid publicists in Lower Merion Township. I was personally  subject to craziness like a letter to the editor by two then business owners like it was all my fault and I was wrong to have an opinion.  It was a crazy and angry time which lasted years and is still in fact going on. And people were and are nasty.

And nasty for what? Caring about where we lived? It was crazy, and I watch it still happen today and still think it is crazy. As residents I still believe that we need to be a much larger part of how our local governments decide things.

Essentially, I think a lot of communities need to taken back by residents before we are over-taxed, over-governed, and developed away. We  need better historic preservation on local and state levels. It has to mean something or people won’t do it.  We need the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code updated as well.

We need many things.  But people need to be involved more where they live.  It doesn’t matter if you are the loudest voice or the most quiet voice, just be a voice.

What started me on this post today? One word: Ardmore.

Once again Ardmore is embroiled in controversy over development. Carl Dranoff’s hideous behemoth of a project to be precise. Ardmore needed a train station and what it has suffered through now for way too many years is the emperor’s new clothes of ill advised development projects and plans. And developer driven zoning overlays.  And lots and lots of question over the use of public funds. In a nutshell, Lower Merion Township continues to be a shining example of what not to do (and the need for term limits in local government.)

So the new litigation was filed after the developer settled with business owners over other issues with “One Ardmore Place”. This litigation centers around the use of state funds known as RACP funds ( Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program ).

The new litigation has been filed by the successor citizens involved with the Save Ardmore Coalition.

August 17, 2015 Civic group files suit over Ardmore redevelopment: Save Ardmore Coalition claims project is missappropriation of public funds

By Sharon Lurye
PhillyVoice Staff

A civic group has filed a lawsuit against the governor of Pennsylvania, the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority and Lower Merion Township over a redevelopment project in Ardmore, saying that it is a “misappropriation of millions of dollars of public funds” for private use.

The Save Ardmore Coalition announced last week that it was filing suit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The issue at hand: $10.5 million in state grant funds set aside for One Ardmore Place, a proposed mixed-use development with apartments, retail and public parking.

Currently, the site is a parking lot. The civic group argues that the grant funds were supposed to be used for the Ardmore Train Station.

“We testified many times before the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners and we were mocked. We brought petitions signed by residents only to see them disregarded,” said SAC President Philip Browndeis

I am no longer part of Save Ardmore Coaltion or in the executive branch of the group.  I resigned in the spring of 2011 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And then when that was all over with I moved. To Chester County.

So to say I had no idea this was going to happen next is an understatement.  When this news broke my phone and email started going crazy. “Why is this happening?” “What is going on?” “Why are you doing this?”

ME????

News flash: Alice doesn’t live in Ardmore any more. There is a new crew of people with some original folks doing this.  Contact Save Ardmore Coalition President Philip Browndeis at 267.250.2121 or email him at comments@saveardmorecoalition.org if you have questions.)

Of course, human nature being what it is, within days of the litigation being filed, a few anonymous cowards also and predictably rolled up on the Main Line Media News website to  drag me into this. The paper has since removed the comments and will continue to do so because I have nothing to do with this. I am sitting on the sidelines watching like everyone else and darn grateful not to be ensnared by this nonsense as I realized it is the same old rhetoric and whatnot rearing up again.

My personal opinion is I understand why new Save Ardmore Coalition has done this, but what I don’t understand is the timing of it. Why wasn’t this done a few years ago? And of course there is the other thing: residents can do whatever they think necessary to preserve their community but will they ever truly achieve their goals if they do not change the faces of who govern them? As in when are they going to vote the bums out?

I was in Ardmore a few weeks ago for a funeral viewing. I had not been in easily over a year.  The town looks run down and shabby and the public trash cans in front of the township were overflowing with trash.  It all looked welldepressed. And that is the effect of all the grand plans of developers, politics, and local government: inertia.

one ardmore placeSomething needs to happen in Ardmore.  I still don’t think it is “One Ardmore Place” because it is way out of touch with the reality of a small main street oriented town. It lacks human scale and design and if it gets built  it’s 8 stories in small building main street downtown Ardmore will make Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough look good.

People like to say I am anti-development. I am actually anti bad plans.  And every plan no matter where it is located looks the same these days. Homogenous and out of place and scale. The plans are presented where they look like they are situated in the Elysian Fields.

What is going on in Ardmore is going on all over Pennsylvania. Who knows when the madness will stop. Which is why I would rather cook, garden, treasure hunt and photograph butterflies. But I still believe people should be more active where they live.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

what bishop tube looks like (and more legal stuff filed)

DSC_8760I went to Malin Road and stood outside the fences of Bishop Tube today.  Totally creepy and deserted.  I was glad to see an unmarked police car do a drive by a couple minutes after I got there, the place gave me the willies.

DSC_0009

I took photos from outside the fencing on the road. What a weird feeling to be out on such a gloriously beautiful day, yet there was the overwhelming creepiness of the Bishop Tube Site, all abandoned and the only way to describe it was the place seems to radiate negative energy.  Don’t see how that feeling will be eradicated by plastic townhouses marching row after row.  The site doesn’t appear to be particularly secure and given what appears to be vandalism, nor does itappear as if it has been for years has it?

DSC_0013

Staring at the site, I couldn’t help but wonder where the PA DEP was on this? I can find on the Internet where they were in the past, but not in the present. Or the EPA, which is so screwed up just read THIS and THIS and THIS.  Here let me share this:

The EPA Should Resign in Shame over Orange River

Let States Step Up to the Plate on the Environment

The cause? None other than a mistake by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Wall Street Journal reported details on the incident Sunday, noting that the spill was initially downplayed by the EPA, and that it was much larger than first reported. Most importantly, as of Sunday, the mine is still releasing wastewater at a rate of about 500 gallons per minute. The pollution incident is ongoing.

This latest toxic release is yet another example of the EPA spectacularly failing at its primary mission. As I’ve expressed in this space before, the government is not particularly competent at environmental remediation and management.

When you read things written by critics of the PA DEP, it is often not much better. Look these government agencies have good intentions but they all seem to get in their own way and in the end are the accomplishing their goals of protecting all of us?

Just check out this article from 2014 about fracking contaminating drinking water :

The Pennsylvania DEP has been criticized for its poor record of providing information on fracking-related contamination to state residents. In April, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case claimed that due to the way DEP operates and its lack of public record, it’s impossible for citizens to know about cases where private wells, groundwater and springs are contaminated by drilling and fracking.

“The DEP must provide citizens with information about the potential harm coming their way,” John Smith, one of the attorneys representing municipalities in the lawsuit, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If it doesn’t record and make available the violations records then it is denying the public accurate information, which is unconscionable.”

When is the last time the PA DEP or EPA took a good look at sites like Bishop Tube in Pennsylvania?  These aren’t new sexy disasters, they are plodding along existing trouble spots so now that there don’t appear to be lots of  government money floating around for clean up ( a la “Growing Greener“) who cares about these toxic sites like Bishop Tube?

Now the PA DEP mentions Bishop Tube in it’s 2014 report, yes but it isn’t in so much detail is it? I found the annual reports on the DEP website which crashes a lot. So where are State Representative Duane Milne and State Senator Andy Dinniman on Bishop Tube?  Aren’t they supposed to be looking after Chester County residents on this topic as well?

I happened to check the court dockets on the Bishop Tube litigation mention in prior posts when I came home and there are a few more filings on the case of ordinary hard-working people vs, everyone involved around Bishop Tube.  Here are the two most interesting:

Plaintiff Memorandum Response Bishop Tube 2015

Amended Complaint With Jury Demand Bishop Tube 2015 Aug 12

Apparently although The Daily Local did that curtain raiser of an article a couple of weeks ago, no other media seems interested in a toxic superfund site in bucolic Chester County? Or are there media inquiries and other inquiries starting to foment and ferment behind the scenes?

DSC_8764

Here are a couple of gems from all this legal stuff:

From the plaintiffs’ memorandum (2:15-cv-01919 (GJP) filed 8/10/15):

Table of Auth

Page 4: “The Plaintiffs have alleged that, during the Defendants’ respective ownership and operation thereof, they discharged hazardous substances into the environmental which have migrated onto and into the Plaintiffs’ property including the Plaintiffs’ drinking water. It is further alleged that the Defendants have failed to remediate the contamination, the regulatory authorities have failed to require the Defendants to remediate the contamination and additional response work will be necessary.”

Page 6 “It is alleged in the Complaint that, during their respective periods of ownership and operation of the Bishop Tube site, the Defendants used or permitted the use of hazardous substances, including trichloroethylene (“TCE”), during the manufacturing processes for their seamless stainless steel and other products and that, as a result of the Defendants’ ownership and operations at the Bishop Tube site, hazardous substances, including TCE, were disposed into the environment, including the Bishop Tube site’s soils and groundwater. See Complaint,¶¶34-35. It is further alleged that subsurface migration of contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site has and continues to contaminate the aquifer beneath the Bishop Tube site and beneath off-site premises including the Plaintiffs’ home. See Complaint, ¶36.”

Page 7 “Accordingly, in or about 1999, the PADEP took over response actions at the Bishop Tube site, which included periodic sampling of soil, surface water, groundwater, vapor intrusion pathway analysis and maintenance of monitoring wells in the contaminated aquifer as well as the installation of a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system designed to capture and remove contamination from subsurface soils at the Bishop Tube site. See Complaint, ¶¶42-43.

However, none of the Defendants have taken any steps to actively remediate the contamination that originated on the Bishop Tube site, which has and continues to migrate onto the Warren property and neither the EPA nor the PADEP have taken any steps to compel such remedial activity. See Complaint, ¶44. Further response action is necessary to abate the release of the hazardous substances at the Bishop Tube site which have and continue to migrate onto the Warren property. See Complaint, ¶45.”

A Notice of Intent to Sue was served on all Defendants as well as the EPA and PADEPon December 8, 2014, to which no one responded”

Page 11: “III. Plaintiffs’ RCRA Claim Must Not Be Dismissed

Johnson Matthey next argues that the Plaintiffs’ RCRA claim must be dismissed because it does not adequately allege an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment” and because the State is diligently addressing the contamination.

However, as described in detail above, the Complaint alleges that TCE contamination from the Bishop Tube site has migrated into the Plaintiffs’ well water. TCE is a volatile organic compound “used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers.

Trichloroethylene is not thought to occur naturally in the environment. However, it has been found in underground water sources and many surface waters as a result of the manufacture,use, and disposal of the chemical.” There is evidence that TCE affects the developmental and nervous systems in humans and is also carcinogenic. Specifically, there is evidence that TCE can cause kidney cancer and limited evidence for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer as well as various tumors in animals. See United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxic Substances Portal for TCE, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=30 (last visited August 7,2015).

Accordingly, it is respectfully submitted that it is disingenuous for Johnson Matthey to claim that Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged sufficient imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment to sustain a RCRA claim.”

Page 13: “Conclusion

Simply stated, in support of their federal CERCLA and RCRA claims, the Plaintiffs have alleged that: (1) the Defendants, including Johnson Matthey, discharged hazardous substances, including TCE, into the environment at the Bishop Tube site which have migrated onto the Plaintiffs’ property and, specifically, into their drinking water; (2) that the Defendants have failed to remediate the contamination; (3) that the regulatory authorities have failed to require the Case 2:15-cv-01919-GJP Document 6 Filed 08/10/15 Page 12 of 13 10 Defendants to remediate the contamination; and (4) that additional response work will be necessary. Indeed, TCE is a carcinogenic. Based on the foregoing, it is respectfully submitted that the Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts, which must be presumed true for purposes of this Motion, to withstand a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the FRCP”

From First Amended Complaint With Jury Demand:

Page 5: 37: “During their respective periods of ownership and operation of the Bishop Tubesite, the Defendants used or permitted the use of hazardous substances, including trichloroethylene (”TCE”), during the manufacturing processes for their seamless stainless steel and other products.”

 TCE

const dr ptnerbish tuNegligence Bishop Tube80 81Ok above are just snippets of the legal documents, quotes, excerpts. You can read for yourself the entire thing as they are uploaded in this post:

Amended Complaint With Jury Demand Bishop Tube 2015 Aug 12

Plaintiff Memorandum Response Bishop Tube 2015

I did not create any of this it is all on the court record.

I am a cancer survivor. I would not wish that on anyone. I have also known people who have seen their children through cancer and trust me, it is too gut wrenching for words. In my opinion based on the research available to publicly peruse, this is site is toxic is it not? And then there is General Warren Village.  Those residents deserve peace of mind don’t they?  They have always been directly affected by Bishop Tube haven’t they?

I am a realist. This might be a creepy site but it is this chunk of land that developers are salivating over (don’t know if they are glowing in the dark from walking around it, however.) This site will be made into something although really it should be cleaned up and left alone since it is also my opinion that this site will take years to properly remediate, and can’t you agree that is reasonable?

But the thing is this: a plan like that not only affects people who want their piece of the American Dream and want to live in gorgeous Chester County who might purchase these cram plan slab on grade no basement wonders if they are built, but potentially every east Whiteland resident in the future, correct?

How can East Whiteland say for certain they would not ever become a party over litigation surrounding this site?  They can’t, can they?  And they have an obligation to current and future residents to see beyond the shiny promises of developers oh so familiar to them, see beyond and some new ratables  down the road, and must put their heads down and see that this site is properly remediated and even get alternate land uses investigated, right? The bottom line is the owner of the land knows how to remediate this properly, they have the experience, correct?

Approving a development plan here while this litigation is ongoing and remediation isn’t complete can be considered a case of putting the cart before the horse, yes? And why is it all we hear is about the developer planning on “capping vapors” with the concrete slabs for the townhouses, yet the current litigation mentions aquifer again and again which is ground water, drinking water, and so on, right? A little different from vapors, right?

East Whiteland has a lot of development balls in the air and should we worry about how the land planning with all the developer driven zoning overlays are getting done?

East Whiteland, you have to do this right. Lives depend upon it. Please.

DSC_0015

a little peek inside the fox chase inn and barn

Looking out the front porch at the Fox Chase Inn

Looking out the front porch at the Fox Chase Inn

So last week in the midst of a brilliant thunderstorm, off I went to photograph and tour the restoration of the Fox Chase Inn and barn on Swedesford Road in West Whiteland. Today I am going to share some of the photos I took with all of you with the property owner’s permission. I will be going back for more appropriate exterior shots sometime this week, it was just too wet when I took these photos to do the exterior justice. I even got my camera a tad wet getting inside it was raining so hard at times! The Fox Chase Inn is a brilliant example of restoration and adaptive reuse. And these people did it because they wanted to do it right. No one told them they had to. And their caring and attention to detail shows. For more on the history of the property check out this file from West Whiteland’s website: Fox Chase Inn West Whiteland Site 325_ historic information . Here are some photos of the restoration in progress – and it is amazing because this place was a wreck when they bought it: BARN: DSC_8607 DSC_8608 DSC_8610 DSC_8612 DSC_8613 DSC_8616 DSC_8617 DSC_8618 DSC_8621 DSC_8623 DSC_8630 DSC_8634 DSC_8635 DSC_8640 FARMHOUSE: DSC_8656 DSC_8712 DSC_8660 DSC_8661 DSC_8670 DSC_8675 DSC_8682 DSC_8684 DSC_8691 DSC_8664 DSC_8666 DSC_8694 DSC_8695 DSC_8697 DSC_8699 DSC_8700 DSC_8702 DSC_8703 DSC_8709 DSC_8710

is the bishop tube site in malvern completely remediated for environmental hazards?

Bishop Tube in Malvern PA courtesy of Abandoned Not Forgotten

It is a fairly simple question: has the Superfund toxic waste dump of a site known as Bishop Tube been completely remediated? And if not where is it in the process?

According to court records from 2005, the Bishop Tube site groundwater contamination was first formally recognized in 1980:

In 1980, Congress enacted CERCLA. Groundwater contamination associated with the
Malvern Site was first identified in the spring of 1980 in residential wells. (Pl.’s Resp. Ex. 2 at
56412.) In September 1983, the Malvern Superfund Site was listed on the National Priorities
List. (Id.)

Yesterday I wrote a post on Bishop Tube and the latest proposed development. I had the link to a health report. So…Ok look but the thing is this – that health report thing says a LOT about Bishop Tube. The site has been targeted as toxic and been investigated a bunch of time since 1972, correct?  A cancer cluster was alleged in March 2007 by the community, correct?

Community folks reported 1-2 cancer cases in every household at that time, correct? A plume of contaminants from on-site has spread and is in the groundwater and local wells, correct?  A creek flows through there. Traces of the crud have been discovered a mile away, correct? There has been activity to clean up the contaminants at the site, but is it REALLY complete? Until it is complete, crud will continue to move in the plume, correct?

Additionally, since I posted my post I have seen the post shared on social media.  Residents of the area who grew up in and around General Warren have shared memories like this one:

” I remember being evacuated in June 1982 due to chemical spills and clouds of toxic stuff being in the air. Still clear in my mind since was studying for finals and we had to spend the night up in the old school in town. Also remember how my parents felt since there were fire police knocking on peoples’ doors to get out of their homes while the cops stayed in their cars and were using  speakers to get people out.”

Lots of current and former residents who also had relative who worked for Bishop Tube have commented. And have you ever read any of the obituaries of people who worked for Bishop Tube? How many of those people died of cancer? Also getting a lot of reads is a 2007 Daily Local article that was part of a series on Bishop Tube:

Keith Hartman and Dave Worst have many things in common.

They were both born in the 1950s, two years apart. They both grew up in General Warren Village, the modest, working class subdivision located south of Lancaster Avenue near the intersection of Route 29, and named for the historic General Warren Inne.

Like many of their neighbors in General Warren, Hartman and Worst worked at the nearby Bishop Tube Co.

Most significantly, the two men know of former Bishop employees who suffer from potentially fatal illnesses that they believe may have been caused by their exposure to trichlorethylene (TCE), a suspected carcinogen, during their tenure at the plant.

Hartman’s father, Lester Hartman, who worked alongside him at the plant, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease. Worst has stage two melanoma and lesions on his liver and kidneys that his doctors are monitoring.

According to a report from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, breathing high levels of TCE may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma and possibly death.

Hartman and Worst can also run off a list of fellow Bishop Tube workers who either died from cancer or nerve diseases, or currently suffer from them.”

Ok so then you peruse all the East Whiteland Planning Commission meeting minutes you can find online that discuss Bishop Tube and here is a sampling:

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING February 25, 2015

ZONING ORDINANCE AMENDMENT; CONSTITUTION DRIVE PARTNERS (BISHOP TUBE) – RRD RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT.
Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire and Bo Erixxon and Chuck Dobson
The proposed ordinance is amending the “Table of Development Standard for Residential Districts” for the RRD Residential Revitalization District for the maximum tract density by reducing the number from 20 units to 12 units per developable acre. Other changes provide for reduction in setbacks from street and building spacing. The applicant had held a meeting with the adjacent tank farm owners and residents from General Warren Village. They have been able to satisfy the access of school buses, tanker trucks and emergency access under the railroad overpass. The total number of units being proposed has decrease from 303 to 264 units.

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING April 23, 2014

ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE

Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Frank Tavani, John Benson

The applicant is requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts.” The property is located on the south side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation. Mr. O’Neill advised that he has partnered with Benson Companies to construct townhouses on South Malin Road.

Mr. O’Neill stated that he met with the Township’s Fire Marshal who expressed his concern with the ability to handle a fire for multi-story structures at this location. Therefore, Mr. O’Neill has reduced the number of units to 305 down from 537 units. Density has been reduced by two-thirds from the original proposal. There will be no building on “hot spot” within the property, thereby, providing more green space. These “hot spots” will be capped. The new design is a rear entry building with 16 or 20 foot widths, three stories and approximately 1,900 sq. ft. The issue of a school buses being able to maneuver was investigated and determined not to be a problem. Changes to the intersection timing at Route 30 and South Malin Road will require modifications. Emergency vehicles only will have access to a keyed gate through Village Way. Members were advised that stormwater runoff will be controlled and the water will be cleaning before discharged to protect the Valley Creek. Discussion ensued.

Mr. David Babbitt presented his finding of the Fiscal Impact Study. He advised that the financial impact is positive for all entities: township, school district and county. He reviewed the report and stated that this development will not have a negative impact on the school district. Discussion ensued.

Members were advised that stacked townhouses are three and one-half stories tall and approximately 1,600-2,300 sq. ft. Mr. O’Neill addressed the screening for the units on the west side facing the tank farm and the exterior building materials being proposed. He offered to provide a four foot berm in front of the homes facing the tank farm for additional protection. Members suggested: 1) further review by the Fire Marshal for the new plan configuration; 2) traffic study review; and 3) approval of the building heights.

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING February 26, 2014

ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE

Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Guy Wolfington

They are requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts. The property is located on the southeast side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The permitted uses are by right, special exceptions and conditional uses. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation.

Mr. O’Neill advised that the Bishop Tube property access is restricted due to the railroad tunnel. Various other development proposals have failed due to these restrictions. He is suggesting developing the property by demolishing the buildings. He will build 34 townhouses and 360 loft apartment with underground parking. There has been a cooperative effort from all parties to clean up the site. Discussion ensued concerning the safety limitations out of this area. Mr. O’Neill offered other developments where similar access limitation exists. He offered to provide the members a tour of these other locations he’s developed.

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING May 28, 2014

ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE

Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Frank Tavani, John Benson

The applicant is requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts.” The property is located on the south side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to

provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation.

They are proposing to construct 305 townhouses. The density has been reduced by two-thirds from the original proposal. Mr. Colagreco stated that this most recent plan has been presented to Ken Battin, Building Official/Fire Marshal, and he gave a favorable review of this plan. Members were advised that they can satisfactorily comply with the items listed in McMahon Associates letter, dated May 23, 2014. Changes to the intersection timing at Route 30 and South Malin Road can be accomplished. A discussion ensued relative to the County Planning Commission review letter. The solicitor felt that they had not been given them credit for the revitalization. Ms. Woodman asked, if the two properties under agreement with the Benson Company, contained any contamination? She suggested that the applicant investigate Section 200-25.1 (A) which requires that the properties either will or have undergone remediation standards. To date, the Township has no “brownfield” notification on these two parcels. The applicant was advised the the surrounding community is interested in the status of the cleanup. Mr. Colagreco suggested that information be forward to the Township for incorporation on the website.

ACTION:

Mr. Laumer made a motion to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of the Zoning Ordinance Text and Map Amendments to creating a new RRD- Residential Revitalization District and applying this District in lieu of the current I-Industrial Zoning District designation on three parcels including the former

Bishop Tube property located on South Malin Road east of the Buckeye Tank Farm. The motion was seconded by Todd Asousa and the vote was unanimous.

Ok, so all this craziness mostly talks ONLY about HOW many units. From a couple hundred to over five hundred, to three hundred to two hundred and sixty four and apparently after last evening’s meeting oh goodie two hundred and thirty some odd units.

But where is everyone on where exactly is the remediation of this toxic site? As of April of this year (as in 2015 in case you read this post years from now), there is a Federal Law Suit filed that is NEW about this site. Filing a Federal suit (Bishop Tube et al 2015 litigation) is not something someone wakes up one morning and decides to do like putting on a blue shirt versus a pink dress. It is a little more complex and complicated is it not?

Oh and as pursuant to the resident remembering an evacuation in 1981:

1981 Bishop Tube Acid Spill

So where is the remediation?  I have been checking old HSCA Remedial Sites Listing and De-listing Dates on the web from the state and have NOT found any de-listing of Bishop Tube, so what is going on?

If this site is NOT completely remediated , why the cart before the horse scenario? Isn’t it a little bass ackwards to be discussing a development plan if a site is not completely cleaned up?  And is it true it can take decades to properly clean up a site like this because you never know when little pools of toxic goodness will bubble up? And can’t these chemicals get trapped between rocks and stuff and get released anew if moved?

In 2007 State Senator Andy Dinniman talked a good game on TCE, or Trichloroethylene (reference July 2007 newsletter item “Dinniman Gets Tough on TCE“), so where is he now? Where is he on the Bishop Tube site? What about State Representative Duane Milne?

Ok so what about the court/legal pissing match between Constitution Drive Partners LP and the PA DEP?

Excerpt:

Philadelphia (July 18, 2014, 5:09 PM ET) — A Pennsylvania court ruled Thursday that the owner of a contaminated tract of Chester County land could not appeal a Department of Environmental Protection letter ending an agreement in which the landowner agreed to take measures to rehabilitate the site in exchange for protection from liability.   

The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board said that the letter the DEP sent to Constitution Drive Partners LP — which purchased the site of a former precious metals and steel processing facility in 2005 — was not appealable because the letter itself had no effect on the company…..When CDP bought the former Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township, it reached an agreement with DEP to take certain steps to remediate the existing soil and groundwater contamination, according to the opinion.

Then, in 2011, an independent contractor hired by CDP damaged piping and protective covering on a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system while conducting salvage operations on the site…..But in January, DEP sent the company the letter citing the 2011 damage and accusing the company of breaking the 2005 agreement…..CDP is represented by Jonathan Sperger and Lynn Rauch of Manko Gold Katcher & Fox LLP.

The DEP is represented by in-house counsel Anderson Lee Hartzell.

The case is Constitution Drive Partners LLC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, case number 2014-019-M, in the Environmental Hearing Board.

So how  does the above affect this potential development?  And should there even been anything in the approval process of a municipality when remediation doesn’t appear to be complete and there is a Federal level law suit pending?

In 2007 the PA DEP out a press release which says in part:

DEP TO HOLD HEARING OUTLINING TREATMENTS FOR CHESTER COUNTY SITE CONTAMINATION

Public Invited to Comment on Plans for Bishop Tube Property

NORRISTOWN — The Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, to give residents the chance to comment on a proposal to address soil and groundwater contamination at the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. The former industrial facility is being cleaned up under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA), a 1988 law that authorizes DEP to investigate and clean up hazardous waste sites. “We have a unique opportunity at this site to partner with the current property owner to make sure that groundwater and contaminated soil can be treated simultaneously and efficiently,” DEP Southeast Regional Director Joseph A. Feola said. “We will present these plans at the Jan. 30 hearing for public comment.”

The site consists of a large area of contaminated groundwater associated with the former Bishop Tube Company. The company used, and most likely released, hazardous substances into the environment, including trichloroethylene (TCE), nitric acid, hydrofluoric acid and various heavy metals including nickel and chromium. TCE is of particular concern since it has been detected in groundwater on the former Bishop Tube property and in wells and springs off-site.

Although DEP activity on this site began in 1999, most recently, the agency has been concentrating its efforts on three distinct source areas of contaminated soil.

Last September, a DEP contractor installed monitoring wells to help determine the extent that contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site is affecting the Little Valley Creek, part of the Exceptional Value Valley Creek Watershed.

From 1999 through 2006, DEP completed three phases of remedial investigation work at the site, mapping onsite soil contamination and conducting stream and sediment sampling while conducting groundwater investigation work. Within the last year, the agency has initiated a feasibility study to evaluate options for addressing the discharge of contaminated shallow groundwater to Little Valley Creek.

The 13.7-acre Bishop Tube property is currently owned by Constitution Drive Partners (CDP), who purchased the site in 2005 to redevelop it for commercial or light industrial use. As part of the site purchase agreement, CDP will finance the purchase and installation of equipment needed to remediate contaminated soils in the three source areas and work with DEP to address groundwater contamination issues. This will enable DEP to better coordinate cleanup actions with the developer’s plans to renovate the site for productive use.

So what happened? What is the latest? My research thus far that save development discussions as in how many units, will there be playing fields and so on I can’t find anything much over the past few years about where the clean up process is can you? Now yesterday on this contractor builder “smart bid” site I found an interesting drawing:
bishop tube site TCESo these are hot spots and contaminated areas that they know of? (And isn’t it amazing this project is being all put out for bid consideration like it is a done deal? Is it a “done deal”?)

Last night I heard a handful of residents attended the East Whiteland Planning Commission Meeting. Early reports of citizenry perspective can be summed up in one word: disappointment.  East Whiteland has a grave responsibility here don’t you think? Shouldn’t a plan with so many external balls in the air be tabled until things are settled? Like any litigation involving the site and site remediation being completed? What happens if they just close there eyes, hope for the best and approve without all of that stuff being taken care of? Litigation where the township could be added to, correct?

And a word to the wise to residents who think this plan doesn’t affect them: even if you don’t live in or around General Warren Village this affects you. Traffic, infrastructure, and costs associated with any future litigation over a site contaminated with toxic waste for starters, right? Couldn’t any potential township involved litigation related to this site be economically crippling to a municipality?

Residents in East Whiteland should stand with the residents of General Warren on this. Those people in General Warren have taken it on the chin with things like Cube Smart (and the stories of how some residents were treated are a little alarming, right?). The negatives thus far outweigh the positives of any development at Bishop Tube, don’t they?

And there is another thing to consider  – so once upon a time there was this moratorium on development in East Whiteland. See:

Fate Of Debated Building Moratorium Hinges On E. Whiteland Race

Posted: October 28, 1999

Town Eyes Construction Moratorium East Whiteland Would Take 18 Months To Develop A Comprehensive Plan. Some Say The Proposal Would Not Stand Up In Court.

Posted: February 23, 2000

East Whiteland has no regrets on moratorium Such measures were recently struck down. Still, the break from development was valuable, officials say.

Posted: July 05, 2001

Ok so this went all the way to the State Supreme Court. And it was struck down. Which isn’t any great surprise given things like, oh I don’t know…. the Municipalities Planning Code and whatnot?  At the time former supervisor Virginia McMichael was quoted as saying:

“We knew we were sticking our necks out a little bit, and people said we should wait to enact a moratorium,” Virginia McMichael, vice chairwoman of the East Whiteland supervisors, said recently.

“But by not waiting, we did have a year to work on our comprehensive plan without having to accept new plans, and that was helpful to us. Now, we’ve lost one of our arrows.”

The article continued:

The township’s 18-month moratorium was adopted in February 2000. It was suspended last July after the Zoning Hearing Board found it invalid because proper review procedures were not followed. Supervisors reinstated the moratorium in September.

On June 20, the state Supreme Court ruled that while a municipality can regulate land development, it cannot suspend it through moratoriums.

Eyes rolling. How much did Virginia’s Folly cost East Whiteland tax payers? We may never know, right? And the irony of this woman championing a moratorium on development back then and by the time she skeedaddled to  wherever she went after she stepped down she was a champion of development and do I have that straight?

Who says you can’t have it both ways?

So if you do the math starting with plans that started getting presented when McMichael was still supervisor to the present day how many living units are in the works for East Whiteland?  1200+?   1500+?   Or more?

East Whiteland is awash in a Where’s Waldo of development. But hey, since East Whiteland is working on another comprehensive plan maybe they should have a Groundhog Day and try another moratorium on development? (Kidding but if only it could happen, right?)

Look Bishop Tube is scary stuff. Why can’t they clean it up completely and get some sort of cleaned up certification from PA DEP or the EPA before proceeding on anything else? And why can’t East Whiteland ask for that?

And as far as development goes East Whiteland would be best served by taking a breath just because a developer decrees build it and they will come, it doesn’t make it so. Especially when you are talking about sites like Bishop Tube which have the distinct potential of becoming Silkwood meets Erin Brocavitch, right?

The bottom line here is we all have to care, all of us. We just have to.  Can we say  that lives and future lives depend upon it? Here is hoping in a strange collision of the universe that politicians and developers and municipal folk care about doing this one right.

Bishop Tube 20140908_Report_of_Findings Bishop Tube

Figure_12_-_TCE_Source_Area_Location_Map

Bishop Tube Environmental Impact Assessment

Chester County Hazard Vulnerability Analysis July 2009

PRESENTATION ON HAZARDOUS SITES CLEANUP FUND REPUBLICAN POLICY COMMITTEE HEARING DECEMBER 6 2007

Bishop Tube Earth Engineering Report Letter

bishop tube in malvern up for huge residential development – discussion at east whiteland meeting july 22nd

Abandoned Bishop Tube in Frazer PA as found on Abandoned But Not Forgotten Website

Abandoned Bishop Tube in Frazer PA as found on Abandoned But Not Forgotten Website

My late father always told me that I should check the Saturday papers for news that is meant to escape most and that if someone wants to slip important things past a populous, do it in the dead of summer.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but one of the most notorious toxic waste sites around is being discussed in East Whiteland Township tomorrow, July 22nd – Bishop Tube on Malin Road in Frazer:

 PLANNING COMMISSION
EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP
REVISED MEETING AGENDA
July 22, 2015
Workshop – 7:00 p.m.
Public Meeting – 7:30 p.m.

4.  Malin Road Development – former Bishop Tube Site – Sketch Plan
S. Malin Rd & Route 30 – RRD – Residential Revitalization
District – to permit 264 townhouses

The abandoned Bishop Tube Company of Malin Road in Frazer (East Whiteland) as featured on Abandoned but Not Forgotten website

The abandoned Bishop Tube Company of Malin Road in Frazer (East Whiteland) as featured on Abandoned but Not Forgotten website

Ok yes, it is abandoned. I assume these buildings are still there? I have never gone back there. But I remember reading about this site dating back to the 1980s and 1990s.

As a matter of fact and more than a little alarming is the fact that a law suit was filed this past April as in 2015 about Bishop Tube. And it has been closed, empty, abandoned for YEARS now, right?

Of course this never made the news around here did it? Or was it some little tiny mention that evaporated?

Homeowners allege leeching of hazardous chemicals into aquifer under home

Bradley and Paula Gay Warren filed a lawsuit filed April 19 in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania against: Johnson Matthey Inc.; Bishop Tire Co.; Whittaker Corp.; Christiana Metals Corp.; Central and Western Chester County Industrial Development Authority; Electralloy Corp.; Marcegaglia SPA; Marcegaglia USA Inc.; and Constitution Drive Partners.   According to the lawsuit ….the defendants used and disposed the environment of hazardous chemicals, including trichloroethylene, during the manufacturing of seamless stainless steel and other products.

“As a result of the defendants’ ownership and operations at the Bishop Tube site,” the lawsuit states, “hazardous substances, including TCE, were disposed into the environment, including the Bishop Tube site’s soils and groundwater. Subsurface migration of contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site has and continues to contaminate the aquifer beneath the Bishop Tube site and beneath off-site premises including the plaintiffs’ home.”

In 1980, the lawsuit states, the Bishop Tube site was included in a liability information list by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Warrens seek the court’s assistance in making Bishop Tube’s subsequent owners “prevent any further endangerment and also all costs, including attorney and expert witness fees.”

The case is real and active – click on Bishop Tube et al 2015 litigation

Ok so can they go forward with land development discussions while litigation like this is pending? And read what the article is saying.

Bishop Tube was something I was aware of before I lived out here. They were marked by the EPA in 1980 , and was mentioned in an article in 1992 in the Philadelphia Inquirer when President George Bush (as in the father) was in the area touring tube plants.

Then in 2007 there was an article in The Daily Local

Bishop Tube facility started in 1951, now abandoned

Katz seeks to build sports center in Chester County

Posted: March 21, 2001

Using public and private financing, a development company owned by Sam Katz, the former Philadelphia mayoral candidate, wants to build a $17 million sports center on a contaminated industrial site along Route 30 in Chester County.

The center, with ice-skating rinks, indoor soccer fields and a wellness center, would be on the former Bishop Tube manufacturing site in Frazer, in East Whiteland Township.

Abandoned two years ago, the 17-acre property – a brownfield, or environmentally contaminated site – is near the Route 202 high-tech corridor….

Katz would set up a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity that would qualify for public money, including low-interest loans or bonds and grants, to clean up the site and build the facility……This is the first brownfield site Katz has proposed developing.

The land would remain in the hands of the Central and Western Chester County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), an affiliate of the Chester County Development Council, a private, nonprofit organization………

East Whiteland is the only township in Chester County with a building moratorium. The 18-month moratorium is set to expire in February 2002. Township officials declined to comment on the Katz project, saying that they had not heard about it nor seen the proposal.

East Whiteland experienced its peak growth in the 1950s. In the last 10 years, census figures show, the population has grown 11 percent, from 8,398 to 9,333.

If the sports facility were built, it probably would draw from an area much wider than the township…..

Robins said planners envisioned a state-of-the art building, designed with “green technology,” incorporating recycled materials, passive heating and other techniques that would “have a minimum impact on the environment.”

“What we like is, one, here’s a site that for the most part, is a scar on the environment. By making it a green building, not only do we correct that imbalance, but we also take it to the positive side. The building starts to give back,” Robins said.