freedom of speech upheld by superior court

Image result for first amendment

As of a few short days ago, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court dismissed  the SLAPP suit I have been a named resident in for quite some time. It has been over the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Malvern/Frazer. The original suit was filed June 27, 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County by the site developer.

In August of 2017, Judge Sommers, the judge who presided over the case in Chester County dismissed the suit.  After that, an appeal was filed by the developer’s attorneys in Superior Court.

I have no idea if there will be an appeal by the plaintiff up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Almost a year ago the Superior Court appeal was filed.  It was filed right around the time PA State Senator Larry Farnese held a press conference I could not attend on anti-SLAPP legislation. I sent in a statement. Here is part of what I said then (in italics):

As children we are taught how the founding fathers of this great nation fought, bled,
and died for our rights and freedoms. Yet today, in a modern world, it feels like we still
must fight against injustice and for our very freedoms and, in my opinion, freedom of
speech and expression is particularly threatened. As a native of Philadelphia, the
birthplace of our American freedoms, I find that deeply troubling.

As a blogger, I have been aware of SLAPP suits for years. This year, I became embroiled in one, in Chester County, where I live. The suit is over the potential development of an old factory site in Malvern, East Whiteland Township known as Bishop Tube. I am a  resident of East Whiteland Township.

I had written about the Bishop Tube site on my blog. I am not the only one who has
ever written about it or ever has had questions about it. The site has also been written
about in newspaper articles off and on for many years. According to the Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Protection (“PA DEP”), there is TCE contamination on
this site. (Reference the PA DEP website’s Bishop Tube page).

I am a breast cancer survivor who underwent breast cancer treatment and, as a
survivor, a site like this should be a concern in my opinion. As a resident I should also
be able to express my opinions and/or ask questions. SLAPP suits are an invasive, fearsome kind of thing. Finding oneself in the middle of something like this feels like you are being bullied and harassed. It can also be unbearably costly. Frequently the suit bringer hopes this is what will defeat you.

Mostly, it makes you wonder about the good and honor of human kind.

Caring about where you live is not wrong, it is democracy in action. When people take
an interest in where they live, it is a powerful force. It is rarely easy for the residents
involved, and I think it does take great courage.

Our American freedoms are a real thing, not just lofty ideals tucked away in a 200+ year-old vault.  Think about that as we are also on the eve of 9/11.  Never forget September 11, 2001.  This is yet another date in the annals of U.S. history which will live in infamy.  Remember all those souls and first responders who lost their lives. They lost their lives because of our American ideals and freedoms even if they were not lives specifically lost on a battlefield in combat.

I can’t believe tomorrow it is 17 years already since 9/11.

I will close with saying thank you to Maya van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and their amazing lawyers, Mark L. Freed and Jordan B. Yeager of Curtin & Heefner LLP. I will also thank my own attorney, Samuel Stretton of West Chester.

Our inalienable rights as Americans exist for good reason.  Hopefully this issue is now at a close, but again, who knows? We live in strange times.

Here is the media coverage thus far along with what the Delaware Riverkeeper has said:

PENNSYLVANIA
State court ruling favors Chesco residents protesting brownfield development
by Vinny Vella, Philadelphia Inquirer

State Impact PA SEPTEMBER 07, 2018 | 05:48 PM
Court rejects developer’s effort to block protest against town homes plan
Delaware Riverkeeper Network says suit tried to silence its right to free speech
by Jon Hurdle

Daily Local News: Lawsuit denied concerning Bishop Tube site
Digital First Media Sep 7, 2018

Law360: Pa. Developer’s Defamation Suit Against Enviros Stays Nixed
By Matt Fair

Delaware Riverkeeper Network: SLAPP Suit Filed By Developer Against Environmental & Community Opposition Struck Down by PA Superior Court

r.i.p. keith hartman

Keith Hartman  Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Photo Credit:  STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Keith Paul Hartman slipped from this world at 1:04 A.M. on Saturday, March 24, 2018. he was in the ICU at Paoli Hospital where he had been taken around March 9th, 2018. Keith was born on December 28, 1955 to the late Lester B. and Louise Capp Hartman. He was 62 years old.

Keith lived in General Warren Village, and he worked for many years at Bishop Tube with David Worst.  He and David grew up together in the village. Keith was a proud graduate of Great Valley High School.

He was an active member of the Malvern Pocahontas Lodge #201 IOOF. Keith worked at Bishop Tube, Herzak’s Automotive and later operated Hartman Automotive.  Keith found a great enjoyment fishing and spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren.

I only knew Keith a little over a year, and I thought he was one of the nicest people I had ever met.  He was a kind man with a larger than life voice and a laugh that was joyful from deep inside. He had a very funny sense of humor.

As a relatively new person to Chester County, he and many of the General Warren Villagers I have met have been among the most warm and welcoming. I met Keith through his lifelong friend, David Worst.

Keith also had the courage of his convictions, and stood up for what he believed in.

I am actually pretty sad as I write this.  I told some of his friends I would write a tribute to Keith, and as I am given more details, I will update this post.  I felt I had to write something now.  He was too nice a guy not to ask for prayers for in his memory. I honestly thought he would come home.

Joyce Anne Hartman,  Keith’s beloved wife predeceased him  in 2011 and I also know he leaves behind his stepdaughter; Anna K. Schaeffer (Garett) and his four step-grandchildren.  He is also survived by cousins including Kevin L. Hartman. He is also survived by his stepmother, Jane Hartman.

Light a candle for Keith and say a prayer.

Life is so precious, and we are faced with that thought every time we lose someone who touched our lives. Keith touched my life only briefly, but I am glad I knew him for any amount of time.

My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

A service has been planned as per his cousin Kevin Hartman:

Just wanted to post Keith Hartman’s service arrangements.
Saturday 3/31/18 from 10 – 11 AM are the visitation hours at Malvern Baptist Church,
11- 12 AM will be the service at Malvern Baptist Church
Keith was a great friend (and cousin) to those of us who knew him .

Here is the LINK to the obituary from Mauger Givnish.

Rest in peace Keith and fly with the angels.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm on your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

“SLAPPED”…again

Social media page screenshotted above FIRST is one of the many pages which I follow.  I am not an administrator or page owner.  The SECOND screen shot is from the public docket  –Case #2017-03836-MJ. The developer has filed for reconsideration.

Timing being everything, this all happened around the same time this week as State Senator Larry Farnese’s press conference in Philadelphia City Hall regarding the anti-SLAPP legislation currently pending in the PA house. (Visit this link http://www.senatorfarnese.com/farnese-delaware-riverkeeper-network-news-conference-on-anti-slapp-suit-legislation)

CLICK HERE to find out about the bill and please contact your State Representative in PA and urge their support. Residents in Chester County, please contact YOUR state representative and urge passage of this legislation.  CLICK HERE to find out who represents YOU as a Chester County, PA resident.

And as I was asked to prepare a statement for the aforementioned press conference, here is what I wrote- Farnese Press Conference Philadelphia PA 9.13.2017

CLICK HERE for the link to the PA DEP page on Bishop Tube.

Thanks for stopping by.

slapp

19 July, 2017

Hello Dear Readers,

I am  writing today to let you know that I am at present a victim of what is known as a SLAPP suit (Strategic  Litigation Against Public Participation.)

 

Earlier this year, I was hit with a Cease and Desist in the form of something known in legal circles as a Writ of Summons.  It was issued on behalf of developer Brian O’Neill and Constitution Drive Partners over the Bishop Tube Site in Malvern/Frazer in East Whiteland Township.  It was sent to me by the West Chester and Chester County law firm of Lamb McErlane.

 

This whole thing also involves Maya van Rossum, who is The Delaware Riverkeeper , her non-profit The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and people thus far referrred to as “John Does 1 -10”

 

Yes I know Maya.  I used to live not too far away from her before I moved to Chester County.  She lives in Radnor Township and I once lived in Lower Merion Township. As I have previously stated, Maya van Rossum is one of the most ethical, dedicated, and smart women I have ever met.  I am honored to know her.

 

I actually had not seen Maya van Rossum in a few years in person before I turned around at that February 27, 2017 East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board Meeting because I heard a familiar voice – hers.  Others (unknown as to precisely who) had contacted her about this site.  And I also think the folks from Trout Unlimited were there, and have also been at meetings (I never even knew what that non-profit was until all of this.)

 

Within a couple of days of that February 27 meeting, I injured my knee seriously enough to require surgery.  My injury was to my right knee which meant I did not drive  or even truly walk again until quite recently and even now the distances are brief.  As I sat on the sidelines (which included NOT attending public or other meetings), many more public meetings happened. The whole debate of the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland raged on (and continues to do so seemingly.)  The DEP has been weighing in, along with State Representative Duane Milne, State Senator Andy Dinniman, even East Whiteland Township Supervisors.

 

The residents of General Warren Village also banded together and began to advocate for themselves as they live adjacent to this site.  People from neighboring areas seemed to have joined them based on replays of public meetings I have watched over the past few months.  And the Delaware Riverkeeper has persisted. (See this section on their website.)

 

This is democracy in action.  When people take an interest in where they live, it is a powerful force. It is not easy for the residents involved, and it does take great courage,  I applaud them.

 

As I have sat on the sidelines watching, this whole SLAPP thing has persisted.  At its most basic, things like this are an affront to our inalienable rights to protest and speak.  Our very rights are at risk, including that thing called the First Amendment:

 

First Amendment (As reprinted by the ACLU)

 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

I am not the only one experiencing this (even on this topic) but when you are faced with this it feels so very and truly personal.  Because in a way, it is.  It is a challenge to those aforementioned freedoms we as Americans (regardless of political and religious persuasion) hold dear and even at times…take for granted.

 

It is because of situations like this I believe municipalities need to do better by us as residents.  It is because of this that those we elect to the most basic of municipal levels, including the State House, State Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate need to do better by us.

 

As a perennial student of history, I have faith that the truth will indeed out.  And I do indeed have representation.  Mr. Samuel Stretton.  A gentleman whose career I have followed off and on for many years and now have the privilege of knowing.  Any questions may be directed to him.

 

I just thought it fair to let you my readers, neighbors, friends, and family know what was going on.

 

Thanks for stopping by

dear toll brothers and other developers: there is another way

Reader submitted photo April 2017

This is important to take note of, because it PROVES there is ANOTHER way then straight cram plan developments.

Chester County has been overrun by greedy developers.  For perspective remember that size-wise Bryn Coed is like a giant super-sized Chesterbrook.

If not for those who care, like Natural Lands Trust, you would be seeing “coming soon” signs for developers like Toll Brothers.


These screen shots are from the Natural Lands Trust Bryn Coed Farms website.   


Imagine living in an expansive, conserved landscape with a thriving nature preserve and miles of trails just next door. That is the unique opportunity available at Bryn Coed Farms.


In order to preserve as much of Bryn Coed Farms as possible, a number of large conservation properties will be made available to individual buyers. Each property will be placed under a conservation easement to be held and monitored by Natural Lands Trust, ensuring that the land is protected in perpetuity.

Seems like a revolutionary idea, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s how parts of Ardrossan are staying intact in Radnor Township and it is how large swaths of countryside and history  in places like England remain intact.

It is a viable solution to developing every square inch. It’s a compromise point.

Now critics will say more land should be saved with these plans and maybe they aren’t necessarily wrong , but this IS a viable compromise in my opinion.

Imagine if the Robinson Family did this at Crebilly, for example?

Or imagine if say developers who want to develop the Bishop Tube site chose a plan like this versus doing things like picking on me for wanting the best clean-up possible?

The Natural Lands Trust has once again proven, there is another way. 

And speaking of Bishop Tube it is a big story in the Philadelphia Inquirer today:

News — Pennsylvania: On toxic site abandoned for decades, developer sees townhouses sprouting in Chesco

Updated: APRIL 10, 2017 — 6:23 AM EDT

by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer @MichaelleBond | mbond@phillynews.com

Asleep after a long day at her social-work job, Peggy Miros was jolted awake by a booming voice through a loudspeaker urging her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.
A cloud of toxic gas had formed when chemicals accidentally combined at the steel tube manufacturer next to her housing development in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, in the early morning hours of June 9, 1981. In the sultry air, a steady southwest breeze exported the chemical mist toward General Warren Village, 500 yards away, before the cloud dissipated. Some of Miros’ neighbors went to the hospital with nausea and skin irritation…The EPA later found trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreasing agent linked to cancer, in the property’s groundwater. The former Bishop Tube Co. site, which produced stainless steel tubes from the 1950s until 1999, now is host to graffitied and dilapidated buildings, shattered windows, cracked concrete, and overgrown vegetation, one of more than 450,000 contaminated “brownfields” across the nation.

…Given the site’s history, residents are wary of plans for the property. Neighbors say they fear their families and any new residents could be harmed if workers disturb the polluted soil without removing every bit of contamination.
Last month, 40 people gathered for the first time in the home of one of their neighbors to plan a coordinated effort to oppose the project.

“These people know what they’re talking about and they have a right to be concerned,” said Maya K. van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who became involved after residents asked her for help.



Read the entire article. Read where the chair of the supervisors in East Whiteland says he expects the developer will get the zoning variance. That is East Whiteland’s compromise point? Gambling with people’s health and safety? (Notice you hear little to nothing out of state officials and why are these people in office again?)

Read the entire article.  Contact the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and East Whiteland Township today if you think more needs to be done with Bishop Tube,    Ok? 

a note from the “newcomer”

Bishop Tube 2017 photographer unknown

It’s so confusing when developers decide to blame the blogger, isn’t it? I feel so Erin Brocavitch….

And I am confused because this developer refers to his neighbors in General Warren so I have to ask does he no longer live in Lower Merion Township?

As a “newcomer” resident of Chester County, am I supposed to be the perfect Victorian woman and be seen and not heard?

No, I haven’t written lovely large checks to the wonderful and deserving East Whiteland Fire Company, does that make me a bad person?

I do not write the flyers going out. I have expressed my opinions on my blog.  Opinion is not against the law is it? The First Amendment still exists right?

Maya van Rossum is one of the most ethical and dedicated and smart women I have ever met, I am honored to know her.  She is the Delaware Riverkeeper and it is her job to know about these sites like Bishop Tube.

The ultimate irony for me is I am a cancer survivor.  I do not wish cancer treatment on anyone. Ever.  That is why TCE terrifies me. So is that making me a bad person for caring?

The other thing is I have never said don’t develop the Bishop Tube site. I have said do lots and lots of clean-up based on past news articles and other documents and things like first hand accounts from former Bishop Tube employees and why is that bad? I have said I thought it was too much proposed density and why not an alternate, non-residential use but that is my opinion, yes?

So I am sorry the developer thinks I am being unfair, I think I am being justifiably concerned, and is that bad?

Also see this:

delaware riverkeeper to pa dep: can you hear us now about bishop tube?

Bishop Tube 2017 photographer unknown

The Delaware Riverkeeper is keeping up the pressure on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  Hot off the presses find these two letters:

Bishop Tube is a crazy tale that just keeps getting more interesting, doesn’t it? Trichloroethylene (TCE) is so damn toxic. Yet you have to wonder why is seems the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) seems to play dodge ball on it at Bishop Tube, right? (Here is something the EPA put out around 2015 *I think* and something else from Arizona  and how NASA deals with TCE.)

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is the agency that is supposed to protect residents from toxic hazards, yet who is supposed to protect residents from them? I hear State Senator Dinniman’s office is starting to feel the pinch of Bishop Tube phone calls but what is he actually doing? (keep calling Phone: 610.692.2112 Fax: 610.436.1721 for West Chester PA and Phone: 717.787.5709 • Fax: 717.787.4384 for Harrisburg )

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has some fun facts to share about TCE :

Hey Erin Brocavitch can we interest you in a little good old PA TCE????