revisionist history on the main line

File under the more things change, the more things stay the same.

When an article comes out about anything Lower Merion Township, let alone Ardmore, PA I give it a read. I just lived there too many years.

This is both puff piece and a lovely attempt at revisionist history.

Main Line Today March, 2018

As Ardmore Prepares for a Revitalization, Some Residents are Hesitant About the Change
Will additions like One Ardmore Place disrupt the town’s way of life? Many locals are divided.

BY MICHAEL BRADLEY

Excerpt:

📌None of this is Angela Murray’s fault. Not the giant crane that hovers over the Cricket Avenue parking lot, its American flag billowing in the breeze. Not the 110 apartments rising from a giant hole in the ground. Not the upheaval for residents and business owners alike. Not the possible traffic congestion. None of it.

“People have blamed me,” says Murray, who’s been Lower Merion Township’s assistant director of building and planning for 16 years. “But I think it meets a need that was pressing.”….The allocated state money was supposed to go for the station, but when Amtrak balked at allowing apartments so close to its tracks, the plan—which included replacing some buildings along Lancaster Avenue south of the station—lost momentum. Meanwhile, the Save Ardmore folks filed lawsuits and protested the idea mightily. “Amtrak didn’t want people living so close to the rail line because it didn’t think it would be safe,” Lower Merion’s Murray says. “They were concerned about people throwing things out of windows onto the track.”📌

So….this is quite the piece in favor of Ardmore development. I don’t know who the writer is but my, he was sure led by the nose down a primrose development path.

I also take issue with the latest attempt at glossing over eminent domain in Ardmore. But then I also do not quite understand the article love affair with Angela Murray of Lower Merion Township, but perhaps she had a hand in the placement of the article?

Lower Merion Township can not unring the bells of the past.

Back in the day, as a member of the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition, Ms. Murray was awful to us. She was not nice, she was perennially unpleasant. However she wasn’t alone. You were either with them or against them. If you were against them, well then you were the enemy.

Let’s recap:

In 2004–2006, Ardmore’s business district was the subject of a hotly contested eminent domain for private gain battle. Lower Merion wanted to take a nice train track side chunk of land via eminent domain and give it over to private development- hence the private gain part.

A grassroots organization of which I was part of until diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011, the Save Ardmore Coalition, along with local businesses and other civic associations and civics groups, opposed eminent domain as a redevelopment program that would have involved the demolition of historic buildings, in favor of preserving those buildings for other commercial use.

In March 2006 after the previous election in the fall of 2005 when a large chunk of the THEN Board of Commissioners got voted out of office and the then new and improved 2006 Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution disavowing the use of eminent domain for the benefit of private redevelopment projects. The Ardmore battle was also instrumental in prompting PA to enact state legislation in 2006 restricting the use of eminent domain for private projects.

So that is the Cliff Notes version. Those of us down in the trenches back then were vilified and targeted. We were publicity spun into being resident and business owner pariahs by our opposition. It was really, really bad. All for defending what we loved.

Lower Merion Township have you forgotten? I haven’t.

Mind you this is not the first time that Lower Merion has placed Ardmore pieces that were glossy and glossed over things. May 2009 for the same magazine was one time and they even used my photo:

It hasn’t all been fabulous and if people point fingers at Lower Merion Township appointed and elected officials well shall we say it has been with good reason?

Ardmore’s largest handicap, is the fact Lower Merion Township as in the township seat, is situated there.

I am not commenting on the most recent past president of Save Ardmore Coalition or the litigation they filed in more recent times. It was sort of a horse is already out of the barn scenario to go after One Ardmore Place when they did. I did not think they would get the necessary traction and a positive result, and they didn’t.

But are they wrong?

I still think this development is a hideous mistake. I think their overlay zoning ordinance known as MUST (Mixed Use Special Transit/More Unfair Special Treatment take your pick) has been a disaster since enactment, and the development on and off Ardmore’s “Main Street” is ridiculous. You know, like the “mini” Target and whatever else is going to happen at the corner of Ardmore Avenue and Lancaster Avenue?

I think these developments will destroy Ardmore. But perhaps the only way for other parts of Lower Merion Township to survive is to lose Ardmore to all of this development?

The thing is this, I think for the most part these types of developments ultimately fail is because nothing is done in moderation. Nothing is done truly in concert with residents and/or small businesses. A good game is always talked, and with the case of Ardmore, Lower Merion Township is always trying to change the underlying narrative, but they can’t.

The township is responsible for this cluster F. They are responsible for the mistrust of residents and the like. They have never owned their part and their many, many missteps.

It’s a shame, really.

The other fault lies with Lower Merion Township voters. And who they allow to continue to represent them.

I loved spending a lot of my growing up and young adult to early middle-aged years in Lower Merion Township, but as an adult the bloom came off of the rose. And a lot of that had to do with all of the politics, development, and Ardmore.

It is because of what I bore witness to in Lower Merion that the pace of development in Chester County terrifies me….because I have already lived through the negative effects of overdevelopment.

And it is only getting worse because read the jaw dropping Main Line Times article of April 20 on what Lower Merion School District wants to do.

Lower Merion School District eyes four properties for future middle school location
By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Apr 20, 2018

Lower Merion Township claims it’s brand as exclusive and well-heeled. I think the history books will remember this time as the cautionary tale of what happens to a beautiful area when development takes over.

Another post with a postscript, as I received a note tonight with photos:


📌Loved your post tonight, especially as one who lives smack dam in the center of the nightmare – Suburban Square neighborhood. You came to my house once, about 14 years ago.

Take a look at this, and please consider encouraging anyone you know who cares about fighting the blood thirsty developers in LMT to show up at the meeting Township Planning meeting this week to oppose the demolition of three quintessential Main Line Homes to make way for CF Holloway’s next apartment building – 4 stories and a parking garage directly across Montgomery Avenue from Suburban Square. I live in one of them.

Sale of all three homes is contingent upon Holloway getting LMT’s buy-in. Sadly, I think we both know how this will turn out. Here’s a pic of the building I live in on Glenn Road.📌

Wonder if the developer will cry on cue if things do not go his way like he did one time in Radnor?

People live in that house. It is in nice shape and it is lovely. But does the fact that people live there and it’s lovely matter in Lower Merion Township? (And by the way, the head of the Chester County Planning Commission lives in Lower Merion. And spent many a year on Lower Merion’s Planning Commission.)

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