be glad you live a little off the main line…

…I know I am.  

Sure, every area has issues.  No local government is perfect, and yes, there is always something to complain  about, but seriously?  I moved out of a township that prided itself on being “first class”, yet it in essence required an act of Congress to accomplish something as basic as filling a pothole.

Yes, Lower Merion Township.  The Magic Kingdom as it is known (sarcastically) in some circles, isn’t what she used to be.  You have a political majority that believes they know better than everyone, and as a resident you feel as if you work to support the township.

Where do a lot of these negative feelings stem from?  A lot of them have to do with all the crazy infill development plans and the fact that it has been over 30 years since Lower Merion had a completed Comprehensive Plan update.  Some land planner told me once that as per the Municipalities Planning Code in PA municipalities are supposed to do this every couple of years.

When I used to wake up in Lower Merion, although a high rent district, the cacophony of sound that assaulted my senses on a daily basis was quite urban.  Construction and other noises often way too early.   Here when I wake up, I hear birds.  You have NO idea how marvelous a sound that is unless you have experienced the other.

Development plans in Lower Merion, suit the developers, not the residents.  For example, the development begun in my old neighborhood by a wannabe developer, architect Tom Hall, and then turned over to Cornell builders was shoe-horning in thirteen townhouses in barely over an acre.  But the houses are “green” and you can spit at The Haverford School, which was perhaps the most uncaring neighbor in my neighborhood.   You have no idea what it is like to live with an institution as a neighbor in close quarters.  We existed to be their overflow parking lot and speed thru cell phone mommy/nanny zone.  The nicest thing about that school are some of my friends’ sons.

In Ardmore, the neighboring town, mostly in Lower Merion, for years not so long ago, small business owners had to fight eminent domain for private gain.  Ardmore residents and business owners are still suffering because although no one can spend money like Lower Merion Township, they still can’t get the Ardmore Redevelopment Plan off the ground.  Of course, many feel, that those on township staff who put forth the infamous plans A & B that contained eminent domain for private gain for years should have just been removed from their jobs.  But they stayed and the six million dollars  that a couple of commissioners went to Washington DC many years ago to get has basically been frittered away, and while places like Malvern and Wayne have a new train station, all Lower Merion has are plans.

Read here about Ardmore’s and other Lower Merion development woes in this week’s Main Line Media News.

Also in Lower Merion, there is crazy zoning being planned for around City Avenue.  So if you think it’s fun now when you get caught in traffic around there, just wait.

Lower Merion loves infill development plans.  The more congested the better.  When I was a child growing up there, like I do now here in Chester County, then I also heard birds and nature as my waking sounds.  It is so much less stressful to hear birds versus construction.

Radnor is not so problematic since they got a new Township Manager and some new commissioners.  Of course, their current president, Bill Spingler is more like old school Delco politics and we’ll leave it at that….hopefully he won’t be president too long.  But Radnor’s new manager,  Bob Zienkowski, as opposed to the old one who made headlines and got relieved of his duties (Dave Bashore), is an accessible advocate for his residents.  It makes a huge difference.  Which is why I am hopeful that Radnor residents will be heard fairly as Villanova attempts to supersize the university (read about Villanova’s expansion plans here ).  It won’t be easy since one commissioner has had to recuse herself, and given Bill Spingler’s cozy personal relationship with the attorney on this project, should this in fact be the commissioner who recuses? After all sometimes isn’t it hard to feel secure around a career politician like Spingler, who offered once upon a time to write a reccomendation letter for the manager the township fired (Dave Bashore)?

One thing that bears watching in Radnor are residents taking up their proverbial pitch forks against storm water issues in North Wayne. (Check out this YouTube from a recent meeting.) What cracks me up here is the woman with dark hair and pony tail.  She wants to sue, sue, sue and all the storm water issues stem from AT&T in Wayne and so on.  While the storm water issues are indeed large and increasingly problematic, truthfully they don’t even realize how people have been working for years on this.  She isn’t breaking new ground so to speak.

In February of 2009, a situation created by the railroad in North Wayne bugged me enough that I wrote an editorial for Main Line Media News about it. The end result was, a Septa engineer high on the food chain contacted me, and without even having to deal with Radnor’s old regime, they actually built some storm water management into the station makeover in Wayne.

It’s not perfect, but better than it used to be.

And this woman who did the presentation at the Radnor commissioners’ meeting (Channel 30 on FiOs FYI)  and a neighbor who says she lives next to a field and the Gulph Creek (wonder if she’s the one who built an addition to a carriage house where the outside door in the rear basically looks like if you open it the creek can just come on in?) who are in this meeting tape, well I get why they are upset, as I have seen first hand the flooding in North Wayne, but as they rant and rail against Radnor, they also need to consider a neighboring municipality.

Ahhh, there is some Chester County of it all in this post, isn’t there?

I am talking about Tredyffrin.  Tredyffrin is upstream on the Gulph Creek from this flood zone in Radnor.   Now Tredyffrin is also in the paper this week talking about some focus group and needing storm water solutions. Fabulous!  However, while the article talks about the need to make sure the storm water stuff is tough enough when it comes to Joe Duckworth’s plans for the Richter tract, nowhere have I seen Tredyffrin talk about the trickle down effect of their prior poor planning in neighboring municipalities.  I am talking in part about Church of the Savior in Tredyffrin.    A lot of issues occur UPstream.  Just check out this document I found from 2000 about storm water.

I guess from the Church of the Savior’s perspective and Tredyffrin’s it is holier to flood your neighbors?  Now granted, I find Church of the Savior to be in the category of religiously creepy, so some could say I have a bias, but Tredyffrin to me always seems a little kooky on the development front and in some other areas.  And if they can’t see it from the township building windows in Tredyffrin, more the better.  Just look at how long it took Tredyffrin to deal with things like off campus student housing.  After all, they couldn’t see historic Mt. Pleasant from the Township Building, could they?

I guess what I am saying is, I have seen and lived what poor development and land planning causes communities (along with the politcs of political favoritism and one party rule run amok), so maybe once in a while, I might point them out.  After all, would you rather listen to birds or bulldozers? Wouldn’t you rather hear about politicians and officials that care about their communities and not just during election cycles?

If you are a person interested in issues Tredyffrin, please check out my pal Pattye Benson’s blog Community Matters.  She also happens to be innkeeper at The Great Valley House of Valley Forge.  She wrote about the recent stormwater meeting that includes discussion of the latest New Urbanism Disneyland Joe Duckworth might do.  If you are interested in the Richter Tract plans put Richter in the search box on her blog. A post she wrote on conflict of interest is well worth your time in addition to other posts.

Above all else, take an interest in where you live.  It’s a good thing.

 

1 thought on “be glad you live a little off the main line…

  1. You do have a way with words, my friend 🙂 Love your rundown on Main Line municipal government. Sadly, it would be more amusing if it wasn’t true. Thanks for the Community Matters mention.

    If you want some real interesting reading, check out the proposed C-1 zoning change in the Daylesford neighborhood (across from the Daylesford train station). (just entire Daylesford in the search line on the homepage of Community Matters, http://www.pattyebenson.org )

    Currently an assisted living facility is only permitted in a special zoning overlay district requiring 10 acres but a developer, Ed Morris, is suggesting that Tredyffrin change their C-1 zoning to allow his proposed assisted living facility. (The applicant Capital Health Services recently opened an assisted living facility in Bala Cynwd). The plan is to use the old, empty Jimmy Duffy catering site that only has 1 acre of C-1 and sits right on Lancaster Ave.. The building would overlook Paoli Vetcare’s dog/cat incinerator! Such a view for the residents!

    The developer and his attorney, Denise Yarnoff, know that they would never receive variance approval so that’s why they are going after a zoning change. Oh, and I should mention that Yarnoff wrote the proposed zoning amendment change! Another reason that it has be a C-1 zoning change for the entire township, so as to avoid it being called ‘spot zoning’ (which many believe that it is!)

    And yes, Tredyffrin Township is Chester County … 🙂

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