westtown: the vote on crebilly should be a simple decision.

With election season here, it means two more lawn signs in Westtown Township, Chester County. It means a vote “YES” to save Crebilly sign. Sadly it also means a vote “NO” to save Crebilly sign.

I have been keeping my mouth shut but I think now is the time to say something. There isn’t much time to make the right decision here.

The folks who want a “YES” vote have it right. This is a unique opportunity it’s not just a couple of acres, it’s a lot of acres. It’s a lot of open space. Its a lot of open space that nods to agricultural tradition and the equine culture that literally made Chester County. It’s also a lot of open space with serious historic importance.

Voting “YES” to save Crebilly won’t come around again. In the short term, does it mean you get to pay a little more as a resident in taxes? Yes it does. But tax increases for land purchases such as this have a sunset date, don’t they? They don’t last forever, do they?

Land is not free. Could the Robinson family just donate the whole kit and kaboodle like the Haas family did with Stoneleigh? Maybe they could, but I don’t think they ever would. I think this is the best deal that residents are going to get who want this land parcel saved in perpetuity.

People have worked for years to get everything to this point. A critical point in the history of Westtown Township. And that’s where the naysayers come in. The naysayers claim to be fiscal conservatives, but I think they just want a free lunch. I think they’re being selfish. Yes it’s a hard time to ask people to dig deeper and pay a little bit more each year and taxes. But it’s not forever.

If the naysayers get their way and push through the “NO” vote and Crebilly is NOT saved, in my humble opinion they should be shunned, yes a good old-fashioned Amish shunning.

Why?

It’s pretty simple and no one should have to spell it out for you. If Westtown does not get a “YES” vote, the development Russian Roulette will start again and this time? The neighbors of Crebilly, the concerned residents of Westtown, and essentially anyone in the area will be screwed in perpetuity. The open space will be gone, the roads will be more clogged, the infrastructure will be stressed unbelievably, and let’s talk about the West Chester Area School District because what do you think it means to get a huge development on Crebilly to that district?

So that’s the choice that is before you residence of Westtown Township. Do you vote “YES” and have something in perpetuity that you, your neighbors, your friends, your children and your children’s children can love and enjoy and be proud of OR do you end up looking like an over developed section of Delaware County or Bensalem or King of Prussia that everyone hates?

Vote “YES” residents of Westtown. Tune out the selfish naysayers who don’t, can’t, or won’t understand. If they don’t like it, they can move, right? It’s a desirable municipality to live in, after all.

Vote “YES” to #SAVECREBILLY . It’s the ultimate act of community.

what about oakwell? once part of stoneleigh, now set to be demolished by greedy lower merion school district?

Tea House at Oakwell (October 2022 photo)

Oakwell. 1735 County Line Road, Villanova, PA. Originally part of Stoneleigh…..

I wrote briefly about Oakwell at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t going to care. I don’t live in Lower Merion any longer, so why should I care? Then a friend sent me photos. She had gone on an impromptu tour of the grounds, and met Dr. Bennett who is the man who first was selling to Villanova, then Lower Merion School District had it’s greedy paws out.

But then down the rabbit hole I went because a friend was there this weekend and sent me photos.

It started with the tea house. Such a folly. I had seen photos of them in Victorian estates. And then I saw the life size terra cotta warrior. A Chinese warrior. I find the Chinese terra cotta warriors fascinating. I have a small replica of one. (Check out the Smithsonian article HERE on them.) I have only seen life size ones in this area one other time: a few years ago for sale at Resellers Consignment Gallery in Frazer.

Then I read some fun history the Save Oakwell folks have dug up:

1921 Olmsted Brothers map of Stoneleigh property that become Oakwell in 1922: Greenhouse Complex, Superintendent’s Cottage, Squirrel Inn dormitory for women in the gardening and horticultural training program. White oak indicated in red box. Source NPS Olmsted Archives, Job #3577

In 1919, William Bodine was making preparations to build his new house on a portion of his father’s Stoneleigh estate, a property that came to be known as Oakwell in 1922. The famed Olmsted Brothers firm had been Stoneleigh’s landscape architects since 1908, and there are hundreds of pages of their records for both properties accessible in the Library of Congress and the National Park System’s Olmsted Archives showing the level of expertise and thought that went into the stewardship of this place through the 1950s.

What was Olmsted Brothers’ main concern when it came to placement of the new house and driveway along County Line Road? Almost 103 years ago to this day, this telegram to their client William Bodine, along with other correspondence, shows that their main concern was situating these structures in order to “save trees.”

~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group

Friday May 23, 1919 was a busy day for Stoneleigh’s Eleanor Gray Warden Bodine.

Bryn Mawr College was hosting the 5th Annual Conference of the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association. As an association member, Mrs. Bodine listened to talks on topics ranging from War Gardens to Community Gardens to the Woman’s Land Army.

Two years later, an article in House & Garden titled “Consider the Gardener” again shone a public spotlight on this program for training of young women, “offered by Mrs. Samuel T. Bodine of Villa Nova, Pa whose extensive estate and eminent superintendent-gardener, Mr. Alexander MacLeod, have formed an exceptional combination.”

After the program, the conference attendees toured 4 nearby farms & gardens, with Stoneleigh the last stop of the day. Eleanor Bodine would have welcomed attendees to view Stoneleigh’s magnificent gardens at the front of the property but given the interests of the membership, the back of the property likely would have been center stage. For this is where Mrs. Bodine and her superintendent Alexander MacLeod hosted an innovative gardening and horticultural training program for women, centered on a greenhouse complex and Superintendent’s Cottage designed by noted architect Frank Miles Day sometime before 1903 (both structures became part of her son William Bodine’s Oakwell after 1922). The women in the program lived in a dormitory they named “Squirrel Inn,” built specifically for them by the Bodine family, near the sprawling fruit and vegetable gardens where they spent their days (these were Victory gardens during WWI).

The article focused on the need to foster the interest of more young people in gardening and horticulture, with these lines that resonate 101 years later: “nature study classes and school gardens are awakening special powers of observation and emphasizing the practical value of patience and diligent perseverance…. public and private enterprise must combine to throw searchlights on the path to be chosen, revealing the mysteries of science related to horticulture [because] even soil… teems with history, science, poetry and religion.”

~ Erin Vintinner Betley “Save Oakwell” Facebook Group

So Oakwell. Was (again) literally once part of Stoneleigh. Stoneleigh as in the house was built in 1877 by Edmund Smith, a Pennsylvania Railroad executive. Pennsylvania Railroad money built a lot of the Main Line of a certain period, didn’t it? When the Bodines acquired the estate, in the early part of the 20th century, what is now Oakwell and Oakwell land was gifted to William Bodine. William Bodine’s house “Oakwell” was built in 1922. In 1932, it was subdivided off of Stoneleigh.

So Stoneleigh survived, was donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands, yet Oakwell, which is a place that should be part of a similar preservation and conservation conversation is at risk. It is fascinating that there has not been more noise about this. Maybe people are just tired of Lower Merion School District taking properties or causing reassessments and increases in taxes. The Lower Merion School District is a greedy behemoth and I don’t think those in the administration have ever cared about other that what can be gotten in the name of the school district.

Next up: trying to make preservation conversations fun. Another rabbit hole I went down were old newspaper clippings. Enjoy:

Now here are a couple of society clippings discussing Oakwell and more recent era parties which I remember hearing of:

Philadelphia Inquirer October 17, 1991
Philadelphia Inquirer September 9, 1993

Ok yes, a lot of this is memories of days gone by, but properties like Oakwell? Legendary. Why shouldn’t a place like Oakwell live on with an adaptive reuse? The gardens although a wreck, are all still there! The tree are amazing. There is literally a small oak forest. And all of this is supposed to be flattened for TURF fields? For MIDDLE SCHOOLERS, no less? Is this an actual need, or a want?

Hidden City Philadelphia wrote an amazing article a couple of days ago. The talk about Oakwell being a historical resource. I will remind people this is Lower Merion Township and I watched Addison Mizner’s La Ronda get demolished. Being a historic asset may buy some time, but we live in a private property rights state, so it can sadly only delay the inevitable. And Lower Merion needs to pay more mind to demolition by neglect, in my humble opinion.

Here is an excerpt:

….The Oakwell estate’s current resident, Dr. John Bennett, founder and CEO of Devon Medical Products, has lived there for 25 years. He intended to sell the sprawling estate to Villanova University to be used as a retreat. However, in December 2018 the school district elbowed out Villanova and voted in favor of condemning Bennett’s property.

This is not how the school district sees it. “After a long search, the school district paid more than $12.9 million for the contiguous properties, which had both been offered for sale by their owners, for use as playing fields for Black Rock Middle School,” said Amy Buckman, director of school and community relations for Lower Merion School District.

Bennett disagrees. “I had the property under agreement with Villanova and, just prior to closing, the school district took it by eminent domain,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it go to baseball fields, destroying the ecological setting we have here. I went to court to fight them and lost. It’s a travesty.” The school district paid Bennett $9.95 million for the property.

“I offered to remain on the property to care for the house, but they want me gone so they can claim that it is abandoned, allow it to deteriorate, and tear it down.” Bennett has kept the entirety of the estate well maintained and still lives there with his daughter and grandchild.

~ Hidden city philadelphia 10/22/2022

Ok I saw this also in the Tap Into online publication in 2019 it was, I guess:

Landowners’ Charge LMSD with Fraud, Collusion, Bad Faith and Arbitrary Action in New Court Filing By MIKE BANNAN Published February 12, 2019

The day that LMSD condemned 1835 County Line Road allowing it to be taken by Eminent Domain, the property was effectively titled to the LMSD.  The only option available to the owners to get their property back is to fight a legal battle in court.

Lower Merion Township, PA — Fraud, collusion, and bad faith are alleged in court documents filed on February 7, 2018, by attorney Michael F. Faherty on behalf of his clients, township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco who are in a legal battle over the taking of their property by the Lower Merion School District.

In the documents, Bennett and Di Rocco are referred to as the “condemnees.” 

Who allegedly did these wrongdoings?  According to the documents it was the Lower Merion School District.

Using a tool afforded only to governments, the LMSD unleashed the force of “eminent domain” on Bennett and Di Rocco.  That Force is the power to condemn and take a private citizen’s home, land or property by a government for the betterment of society.

Eminent domain are two words that can strike fear into anyone owning property that a school district or government wants to own or acquire.

Township residents John A. Bennett, M.D. and Nance Di Rocco of 1835 County Line Road, Villanova, PA have had their property condemned and taken by the Lower Merion School District.  That is a fact, but the rest is very murky.

The court documents filed against LMSD allege a pattern of collusion and interference in a private business transaction where Bennett and Di Rocco say that LMSD officials and surrogates worked to scuttle an agreement with Villanova University to buy their property for almost $12 million.  

 The documents further charge the Lower Merion School District took the property illegally, and that school district officials or their delegates used fraud, collusion and bad faith tactics leading to an arbitrary action by the LMSD…..Villanova University’s President, Father Peter Donohue verbally offered to buy the property for $12 Million and agreed to have the paperwork drawn up.

The documents allege that Superintendent Robert L. Copeland, reached out to Father Donohue, after hearing about Villanova’s interest in the property.  The document states that Copeland Donahue that $12 Million was too much for the property. Copeland allegedly told Donohue that the LMSD was interested in buying the property and that LMSD valued the property at $8 Million.

Donahue relayed to Bennett and Di Rocco that the University would delay their offer letter and that they didn’t want to appear hostile or look like they were attempting to block LMSD, “especially with all of the flair up over Stoneleigh.”

At the same meeting, a discussion occurred about both the condemned property on County Line Road and the Spring Mill Road property.  The key question being: were both properties needed?

According to  Faherty’s filing Dessner stated that “LMSD could sell it to Villanova University.”
 

Bennett also informed Dessner and Copeland that the University would pull out of their agreement of sale if the condemnees’ were able to reach an agreement with the LMSD.  

Bennett provided a copy of the agreement of sale with the understanding that it would remain confidential.

Three days later on December 21, 2018.  The school board convened a special meeting and passed a resolution to condemn the property at 1835 County Line Rd, and a press release was issued.

~ TAP INTO LOWER MERION

Now back to the Hidden City Philadelphia piece (it’s wonderful):

How was Stoneleigh able to block the school district, while the historic landscaping, Acorn Cottage, and horticultural structures of the Oakwell estate, originally part of Stoneleigh, at risk? “When the historic resource inventory survey was conducted in the late 1990s, the greenhouse buildings were overlooked. However, this parcel is historically associated with the Stoneleigh estate and warrants similar protections,” said Kathleen Abplanalp. director of historic preservation at the Lower Merion Conservancy.

“From the very beginning, the entire 13-acre property has fit into our mission goals for historic preservation, open space preservation, the health of the local watershed, and sustainability,” Abplanalp said. “We are vehemently opposed to the current plan and hope the school district will compromise some of their programmatic needs.”

Erin Betley, a conservation biologist who lives in Lower Merion, views the pending destruction of the estate’s landscaping and historically significant structures like the greenhouse complex as lost opportunity. “Oakwell’s intact landscape provides a hands-on educational opportunity for our children, and our community, to learn about ecology, conservation, environmental science, gardening, sustainability, history, natural history, historical preservation, and more,” she said. “Historical records reveal that Stoneleigh’s greenhouse complex and fruit and vegetable gardens were educational spaces for young women during and after WWI, where they gained practical training in gardening while also feeding the community. I hope this can be viewed as a chance for this valuable place to come full circle and used in a way that takes inspiration from our collective past to inform our collective future”…A single mature oak tree can consume more than 40,000 gallons of water a year. Where will all that water go when the Oakwell estate’s trees are gone? 

Doug Tallamy, a conservationist, author, and professor of agriculture and entomology at the University of Delaware, agrees. “If you replace a forest with a lawn, you are generating run off,” he said. Tallamy was involved with preserving Stoneleigh. His message to the school district? “Find another place without cutting down hundreds of trees.”

~hidden city philadelphia 10/22/22

I am a huge fan of Doug Tallamy, own his books, have heard him lecture a few times now. I also live with a woods full of oak trees. I love them. I am attached to my woods and the creatures and plants in them, much like the folks who live around Oakwell.

This property would be better suited as a retreat, which is I think what I heard Villanova wanted to do with the property.

And not to skip around but is all of this crap being done by Lower Merion School District going to cost Lower Merion Township big time when it comes to public works, police, fire, EMTs? So when will they have to put in another firehouse and where exactly?

Here are some links which I saw on Save Oakwell which some of you might find of interest:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskn2EhZ5

https://www.flickr.com/photos/olmsted_archives/collections/72157657327384753/?fbclid=IwAR0hJvNu8F-i4pJ6ElAV3miRecfqnKmIMlqQitcfA8CaNMyIbtc4NGqIDwk

https://www.loc.gov/item/mss5257102658/?fbclid=IwAR0wGaGhzlHG5t7JHdZIk5aTviAy3q60lsWdnrNmHO3ckxIR5YaFT41wYOk

https://www.loc.gov/item/mss5257104294/?fbclid=IwAR1nRjtB9CqWct6cU0GR9Zy4016WG7ySHg2KmcVY4TiAgp8K5qETBGhhpgE

What do I think? I am not sure as on one hand, this is such a complex tale that I do not know if we will ever know the whole story. BUT on the other hand I am so tired of major properties being demolished and I am definitely of the school of thought that Lower Merion School District need to be stopped. After all, #thisplacematters and has anyone gone to the National Trust for Historic Preservation yet?

And let’s talk about the trees. 500 as in FIVE HUNDRED. Yes, that is the destruction number. That makes me want to throw up.

Isn’t it time to curb the rabid dog of destruction that is Lower Merion School District? From the historic preservation aspects to land and environmental preservation aspects, sadly Oakwell has it all going on. Yet people are being too damn quiet about this. Natural Lands needs to speak up. Hell, they know what it is to have to fight Lower Merion School District over eminent domain and also, the eco system that is their Stoneleigh will be threatened and altered and affected irrevocably if the mass destruction of Oakwell succeeds. Natural Lands speaking up now is very important, and I don’t quite get their silence, do you?

Oakwell need a reprieve. But more people need to care. Not enough people seem to care or are willing to stick their necks out. I really wish that someone would sit down at Oakwell with people who had lived there, or whose family has lived there and film an oral history. Well that should have happened before I think. And where are elected officials on this? Not just statements of Lower Merion Commissioner, but State Reps, State Senators, Congressional representatives, etc? County Commissioners? State environmentalists?

Where. Is. The. Really. LOUD. Public. Outcry?? And more media or do they only cover bad politicians and crime in Philadelphia?

I don’t have answers here only dismay and anger at Lower Merion School District. There is a Save Oakwell page on Facebook, a Save Oakwell group also on Facebook, Save Oakwell on Instagram, SaveOakwell.org, and Preserve Oakwell.

People. We need to save the region’s history. That includes gardens too. Trees. Houses. Tea Houses. I don’t have the answers. God I wish I did. But if we allow this to happen, in the end we will all be sorry. And I have to ask, is Radnor Township asleep here? Their township is quite literally across County Line Road. Radnor residents will be affected too. One would think the Radnor CONservancy might feign an interest, but that would mean getting out of their bubble, right?

Oakwell needs some big hitter angels, do any exist for this property? Why is it in other areas of the country, properties like this are revered and preserved?

Enjoy the photos my friend took.

#SaveOakwell

nasty subdivision potential in east goshen? file under another chesco farm about to bite the dust?

I remember years ago when East Goshen was having their yard sale day going to a yard sale here. Or I am pretty sure this was the house. I bought a brass oil lamp that I had electrified. I remember thinking what a spectacular property this was. This has to be the place. I have a pretty good memory for places like this.

Anyway, imagine my horror when I noticed this on the October 5th Planning Commission Agenda for East Goshen.

So this will be another farm bites the dust, won’t it? Another cul-de-sac subdivision on a road that already can’t handle the traffic it has? More houses in an area that has significant stormwater damage almost every time it rains, doesn’t it? 15 more houses in Chester County. These houses will affect the West Chester Area School District, BUT this isn’t so far from the border with East Whiteland Township, is it ?

This is a spectacular property. I found some more photos on the Internet. And I’m also sharing some of the stuff off of the planning commission agenda. I don’t think residents in East Goshen around here will like this plan. I don’t think their neighbors next-door in East Whiteland will like this plan either. I mean why would anybody like this plan?

Pipeline activists, is this in the midst of any of that?

How many more freaking subdivisions do we need in Chester County?

Well residents of East Goshen and neighbors in next door East Whiteland it’s up to you guys now, I told you about it, here it is. Another potentially bad plan for Chester County. A cluster F of a cluster development is being proposed. Proposed is the operative word if you care about this road which is truthfully rather special.

It would be really nice if municipalities would stop blowing smoke up all of our collective asses in Chester County about open space. It would be really nice if local supervisors made state representatives and state senators earn their keep and update the Municipalities Planning Code before Chester County is overdeveloped out of existence.

Fresh development hell for October has arrived.

bishop tube news: it’s about god damn time someone started cleaning up.

It’s no secret how I feel about the Bishop Tube Site in East Whiteland. It’s the poison ground and apparently now some sort of cleanup is starting. We would not have gotten this far without the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. There really doesn’t need to be any more commentary from me, I am just posting what the DEP posted today and I’m also including the YouTube link to the Bishop Tube documentary.

https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/NewsRoomPublic/articleviewer.aspx?id=22193&typeid=1

https://www.dep.pa.gov/About/Regional/SoutheastRegion/Community%20Information/Pages/Bishop-Tube.aspx

why is radnor township like a nancy drew mystery that needs to be solved?

In December of 2013, The Radnor Township Board of Commissioners agreed to buy 71 acres of original Ardrossan land. It was well-documented in the media, right?

To quote Radnor Patch back then:

To cover the $11.6 million cost, Radnor plans to use a $10 million bond issue (previously approved by Radnor voters) as well as supplementary grant funding requested from DCNR, Delaware County and private fundraising, according to the township document.

“The bond payments would be largely funded by revenue from our Open Space Fund, which comes from the real estate transfer tax, rather than from property taxes. However, for an 11 year period (2015 to 2026) the projected payments will exceed the amount available in that fund and we would need a millage increase to make up the difference,” reads a township document on the acquisition.

The document continues, “The millage increase would be structured to sunset in 2026. The millage increase required would be .15 mills. The median home assessment in Radnor is $264,710. That landowner would pay $39.71 a year with such an increase. Further, 67% of the properties in Radnor are assessed under $344,682 and those taxpayers would pay an average of $29.34, with the highest in that range paying $51.70.”

“Board President Elaine Schaefer said the community has had a ‘long-standing desire’ to preserve Ardrossan as open space. She pointed to a 2006 referendum that allowed the board to sell up to $20 million in bonds to pay for open space that was approved by 80 percent of the residents,” reports Main Line Media News.

“Also, in the four recent hearings held to discuss the purchase where “scores of people spoke,” residents supported the plan 3 to 1, she said. While Schaefer said that she understands the financial concerns of ‘the minority,’ Schaefer, who was just reelected, said that Radnor was a democracy,” the newspaper reports. According to the document, the intended use for the land would be for a trail system (both walking/running on the perimeter and macadam/biking on the road) “and continued agricultural use through a farming licensing agreement, and reforestation, habitat and wetland restoration.”

~ Radnor Patch 12/19/2013

OK, let this sink in again for a minute “According to the document, the intended use for the land would be for a trail system (both walking/running on the perimeter and macadam/biking on the road) “and continued agricultural use through a farming licensing agreement, and reforestation, habitat and wetland restoration.”

I have to ask, are their proper trails back there yet and has all of that mentioned years ago happened? Or just cows grazing up against McMansions, so McMansions get tax breaks and the farmer grows his cow’s food and no one seems to wish to actually release a comprehensive report since he signed off on his original lease and Radnor developed the ordinance to produce the lease or whatever?

Not to be picky, but from said document of 2015:

And here, the entire document signed by Bill Spingler in 2015:

So in theory, the chemicals would have to be human, domestic animal and wildlife friendly, right? Also in theory, chemicals used could not pose an actual or potential threat to natural water sources, right?

So if the list of chemicals used by said farmer as part of the lease agreement is supposed to be provided, are they regularly and PUBLICLY available (as in always posted on township website as exhibits in the form in which they arrived with only personal email addresses and phone numbers redacted?) ??? At this point why can’t the issue be discussed at Radnor meetings whenever and why can’t the public seem to ever quite know the truth? I still don’t understand what the big deal in Radnor Township’s mind is since that agreement lays out disclosing of chemicals, etc?

So Radnor what about the chemicals? Has that creek been tested regularly and by whom and where are the test results? Why are no outside environmental groups involved or are they involved and if so who? Does Trout Unlimited know for example? What does Delaware County say or a state thing like the PA DEP?

OK now let’s think about the folks who think the lease agreement is ridiculous and come on where else can someone get a deal of renting gobs of land at a $1 and they keep all the lovely moola they make off of the land as well? That my friends, is a farmer’s dream. I can’t blame a farmer for wanting a great deal because farming is brutally hard work and ungodly expensive. However, there is an original ordinance and lease and lease agreement correct? So what happens if the farmer isn’t keeping with the agreement? Has the lease been changed in any way since it’s original issuance?

So yes, to those who wanted the lease overturned in 2021, did you ever think another way to invalidate a lease is if the terms of the lease weren’t being adhered to? And wouldn’t super nasty chemicals be a lease issue?

Bringing it full circle to today, is that why Radnor doesn’t seem to want to release all of the information the public is entitled to see because it is public land?

Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it? But sadly, hasn’t Radnor Township had transparency issues in the past? Sunshine doesn’t just help the crops grow, yo’.

Here are links to articles relevant to the farmer and the original lease. I looked for stuff on the trails that were part of this idea and purchase and subsequent leases or changes in lease verbiage, but…. ???? Does this stuff exist?

Radnor official says cattle are part of a tax dodge at the former Ardrossan estate
Richard Booker’s motion would end Fern Valley Farm’s $1-a-year lease for land that the township paid almost $12 million for in 2013.

by Jacob Adelman
Published Nov 12, 2021

An elected official in Radnor is pushing for the township to cancel its lease with a cattle rancher on publicly owned land that had once been part of the sprawling Ardrossan estate, saying the deal helps wealthy landowners on other sections of the former estate take unfair advantage of tax breaks for agriculture.

Richard Booker’s motion, which he plans to introduce at a Board of Commissioners meeting on Nov. 22, would end the agreement that lets rancher Richard Billheim’s Fern Valley Farm use 71 acres of township-owned property for its beef cow operation in exchange for $1 a year.

Booker said in a memo with his motion that he decided to take action on the lease after reading an article published earlier this year by The Inquirer about the tax breaks at the former estate enabled by statewide agricultural-conservation programs under Act 319 — better known as “Clean and Green” — and Act 515.

The programs tax land for what it is worth as a working farm and not what its value would be if sold on the open market for housing, strip malls, or offices. Under Act 319, by far the most commonly used of the programs at Ardrossan and elsewhere, the land must produce $2,000 a year in farm goods.

At least two dozen parcels on more than 260 acres are successfully enrolled in the programs, accounting for more than 40% of the former Ardrossan estate’s acreage sold over the last quarter-century, according to an Inquirer analysis of Delaware County records.

» READ MORE: Ardrossan homeowners qualify for local reductions, too — courtesy of programs to save farms

Properties covered by the tax breaks include homes of a leader at a major real estate firm, members of the family that cofounded the Apple Vacations tour business, and the top-ranking member of the County Council for surrounding Delaware County.

The only known agricultural products coming from the enrolled land are the corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay grown there to feed Fern Valley’s cows. While cows do graze on a portion of that land, most of their grass-munching is done on the township-owned property. To Booker, that means Radnor is helping private property owners get their tax breaks because those cows wouldn’t be there absent the generous lease.

Radnor officials defeat measure to cancel ranch lease seen as aiding Ardrossan tax reductions
The decision leaves in place an agreement that Fern Valley Farm has said was vital to its 10-person operation
.

by Jacob Adelman
Published Nov 23, 2021

Officials in Radnor have defeated a measure to cancel a lease on township land for a cattle operation that also helps residents on parts of the former Ardrossan estate save hundreds of thousands each year on their taxes.

In a 4-2 vote with one abstention, the township’s Board of Commissioners on Monday rejected member Richard Booker’s motion to terminate Fern Valley Farm’s $1-a-year lease to use 71 acres of publicly owned property for its 60-head Black Angus beef business.

Booker said at the sometimes combative hearing on Monday evening that this was not a good use of the land that Radnor paid $11.7 million to purchase in 2013 and now costs the township $600,000 a year in debt service payments.

“I don’t want anyone to lose their job or for the farm to go away,” said Booker, who is one of two Republicans on the seven-member panel. “What I do want is to get the township out of … the business of farmland-assessment reductions it has been in for the last seven years…….”However, commissioner Lisa Borowski, a Democrat whose ward includes part of the former Ardrossan estate, said residents are benefiting from the deal…..

Borowski also said that the farmland-preservation programs give Ardrossan landowners an incentive not to subdivide and develop their large properties, which they could opt to do. This does not appear to be accurate, since all of the privately held properties enrolled in such programs are also covered by deals known as conservation easements that prohibit them from being further developed in perpetuity, according to an analysis of property records by The Inquirer.

When the former estate was first broken up, buyers of those properties qualified for federal tax breaks for land conservation thanks to those easements, as The Inquirer has reported.

Asked in an interview Tuesday about which properties she was referring to in her public remarks, Borowski referred the question to Township Solicitor John Rice. Rice said he had not performed an analysis that would identify such properties.

Oh and don’t forget, Lisa Borowski is running for State Rep in the 168th against Chris Quinn, right? So maybe it would benefit State Rep Chris Quinn to inquire as to the chemicals used on the fields, etc,. right?

Look, I love open space and I will admit it, I love cows and those cows are awesome and special. BUT chemicals are a big deal and look at all of the things in the news about glyphosate and paraquat-based herbicides? And what about the pesticides they warn about that can harm bees and other beneficial insects? I totally get that not all farmers can go completely organic BUT where this land is being farmed should be part of a more organic plan if not a completely organic conversation, correct?

So time to show ALL of the cards on this, Radnor. At a minimum if you like and respect your farmer, don’t you want him to be able to farm in peace? And farm safely to protect humans, domestic animals, natural water sources, nature in general, etc, etc?

Happy Saturday, and moo.

hey tredyfrrin dodo hamilton neighbors, are you ready for rue dégueulasse in radnor township?

Today Radnor Township is being visited because THEIR planning commission meeting Tuesday September 6th has a big old bomb of a plan which will affect Tredyffrin Township residents in Chester County. The pretentious A.F. name is “St. Honoré” for the development and there is an as equally pretentious A.F. street name proposed of “Rue St. Honoré” .

Zut alors! Mais oui, très prétentieux for a developer whose late father was born in Chester, n’est-ce pas? Which is why I found a better name to propose: Dégueulasse (disgusting, revolting, sh*tty, swinish, putrid) and Rue Dégueulasse or perhaps even Rue Dégoûtant? (And yes, dear developer, I can have these opinions.)

The location of this plan is DoDo Land in Wayne on Strafford Avenue, first mentioned on this blog in 2020. I had written about it then because of Tredyffrin Township residents and Radnor residents, because it just seemed like a shall we say, greedy development prospect?

What is even more concerning is if you look at the planning packet in it’s entirety, it looks like two more properties are folded in? 211 Strafford Avenue and 227 Strafford Avenue?

Here is the packet below. I don’t trust things to not disappear on agendas, so have fun wading through. It also has things on yesterday post concerning Garrett Hill:

Look, this is a lot to digest with VERY little time to do it. I know that Tredyffrin residents were VERY, VERY concerned the last time plans for DoDo Hamilton’s property came up in Radnor. Then I remember the strip the house sale.

And I wouldn’t say DoDo wouldn’t do this, because it was a fact she sold other properties for development when she was alive, correct? Including further out in Chester County? What I also seem to recall were neighbors being super concerned even while DoDo Hamilton was alive about stormwater management issues as a result of this property. And people were super concerned about stormwater management last time this property came up in Radnor, so, what now that it seems two additional properties are part of this?

In 2021, Main Line Today Magazine talked about this project and make sure you look at leadership team page of Haverford Properties:

Without strong preservation ordinances, things like “vinyl windows with short lifespans replace historic wood windows that could be made energy-efficient,” Prichard says. “In the end, all of thesesmall changes lead to a drastic overall change in the appearance of historic neighborhoods, even when no buildings are lost in the process.”

“Unfortunately, I think it’s gone.”

Radnor Township commissioner Jack Larkin is referring to the mansion at the corner of Strafford and Eagle roads once occupied by the late Campbell Soup heiress Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton. The township is powerless to stop the razing of the Victorian-era home for a residential development. As written, its preservation ordinance “is very vague,” says Larkin. “We don’t have the authority to preserve private property, [and its location] would make it very difficult to build around it.”

The developer, Haverford Properties Inc., didn’t respond to several requests for comment, and it seems residents are mainly concerned about the density of the development. “There hasn’t been an attempt to save [the mansion], nor any significant community outcry over its impending demise,” says Prichard, a Radnor resident and member of the township‘s historical commission.

~main line today magazine Paul Jablow January 6, 2021

Now I don’t know if Haverford Properties is involved in the development at this point, do you? What I see from the documents in the planning packet, it’s C.F. Holloway. Yessss people, Cas Holloway, and is it fair that some refer to him as a neighborhood killer? Look what he did in Ardmore. The houses he took down were gorgeous old stone Main Line houses, and he pushed people out that I knew who were renters in one address, so IF 211 Strafford Avenue is being folded into this plan, what happens to the Wayne Bed & Breakfast Inn?

The Wayne Bed & Breakfast Inn is a historic home. I remember when the original B & B owners were looking for approval a bunch of years ago, and you would have thought they wanted to add rapists and murderers to Radnor Township. Ha, those residents should be careful what they wish for, right? In 2016 The Radnor Historical Society honored the Wayne Bed & Breakfast.

Also note this from a Radnor Historical Society 2012 event listing:

Local Garden Tour
Friday, June 7, 2013, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Nominal fee of $10 and reservation required. Tour four unique gardens surrounding wonderful homes in Radnor and Tredyffrin Townships. The tour begins at the garden and greenhouses of Mrs. Dorrance Hamilton (only open from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.). on Strafford Avenue. Then visit the Victorian garden across the street at Traudi and Bob Thomason’s Wayne Bed & Breakfast Inn. The Thomason’s property features a 110 foot copper beech, thought to be the second largest in the state, wonderful outdoor spaces for sitting and relaxing, including a large pool and spa surrounded by gardens, and an inviting porch that wraps around the circa 1890 inn. Myrna and Paul Paluba will host at their creatively executed, multilevel garden with raised beds, water features, and a peace garden for contemplation. Maud Walker will host at her garden which is highlighted by an unusual collection of trees and shrubs, including a magnificent weeping beech, whimsical garden decorations, and a replica of an Irish garden shed. Directions to all of the gardens will be provided at the Hamilton property. Further information, including how to make reservations, will be sent to you in March. This event is cosponsored by RHS and the Radnor Conservancy.

~ radnor historical society 2012

Ha! With this development when it comes to plantings and trees, wonder what will be left? Don’t answer that, it’s a we shudder to think conversation, mais oui?

Another old thing I found on Developing DoDo land was

LIFE IN THE BURBS |MAR 03, 2021HAVERFORD PROPERTIES DEVELOPING THE CURRENT HAMILTON PROPERTIES ON STRAFFORD AVE AND EAGLE ROADS IN RADNOR WITH 41-3 STORY TOWNHOMES, AND 9 SINGLE FAMILY HOMES

And then there was an Inquirer article:

Developer to share plans for part of Radnor estate of late Campbell Soup heiress

by Katie Park
Updated Jan 28, 2020

A development company is considering building houses or townhouses on part of the Main Line estate of the late Dorrance H. Hamilton, heir to the multibillion-dollar Campbell Soup fortune.

Representatives of Haverford Properties are scheduled to meet with Radnor Township residents for the first time Thursday.

The company has not formally submitted plans to the township, but some residents, already disgruntled over development in the sought-after area, say they feel a sense of inevitability. Under what’s known as “by-right” development, Haverford Properties can legally build housing on the parcel.

“They have, without question, the right to develop that property. We have no discretion,” said Jack Larkin, a township commissioner who represents the section of Radnor where the development would be built. “We can never say we don’t want a particular industry in our town because we don’t like what it is.”

Then this:

Delco Today: Developer Eyes Houses at Former Wayne Estate of Campbell Soup Heiress Dorrance Hamilton

By David Bjorkgren
Published: 5:14 am EST January 17, 2020
Updated: 7:50 am EST January 17, 2020

A developer has plans for an estate property in Wayne where prominent philanthropist and Campbell Soup Co. heiress Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton lived, writes Linda Stein for Main Line Media News.

Hamilton died in 2017 at the age of 88.  She moved to Wayne with her husband, Samuel M.V. Hamilton, in 1950. He died in 1997.

Radnor Township Board of Commissioners President Jack Larkin reviewed two plans for the property  at Eagle and Strafford roads.

“The first is purportedly a by-right plan, and includes approximately 40 homes,” Larkin wrote in his newsletter.

Larkin felt that plan was unattractive because it meant cramming 40 single family homes on to the two lots.

He was more enthusiastic about a second plan putting 41 town homes on the western lot and nine single-family homes on the eastern lot.

Forty nearby neighbors also weighed in, stating they wanted to “mitigate any negative changes to the neighborhood and keep its current character.”

They asked for no more than 30 town homes on the west lot and no more than seven single-family homes on the east lot.

A meeting between residents and the proposed developer is planned Jan. 30.

Read more about plans for the Hamilton estate here.

~delco today 2020


Main Line Media News did something to their website, so I found one their articles on Delco Times website:

New housing in works for Wayne estate of Campbell Soup heiress Dodo Hamilton

By LINDA STEIN |
PUBLISHED: January 13, 2020 at 11:30 p.m. | UPDATED: August 23, 2021 at 10:47 a.m.

RADNOR – Although no plans have been filed with the township, word is getting around that a developer has set his sights on the Wayne property of the late Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton, who was one of the Main Line’s iconic grande dames.

“The developer has shown me two concept sketches for the lots; the first is purportedly a by-right plan, and includes approximately 40 homes,” Larkin wrote in his newsletter. “This is, to me, an unattractive plan: Because the units are, by right, single family dwellings, cramming 40 homes onto the two lots means filling them with houses without space for buffers, open space, or stormwater recharge areas.”

Larkin continued, “The second plan would require a conditional use approval by the township, and would put approximately 50 homes into the two lots -41 town homes on the western lot, and nine single-family dwellings onto the eastern lot. Because the homes on the western lot are town homes, they leave a lot of space for the things that are absent in the by-right plan: Stormwater management, sidewalks, buffers, and open space. The density is problematic for me, but with that in mind, it is a good plan.”

“When we first discussed the property, they took my stormwater concerns seriously and the concept sketch they presented had already incorporated stormwater management facilities above and beyond what was required by the ordinance,” Larkin wrote. “Second, when they met with the township engineer for feedback, they promptly incorporated his feedback into their design. Third, they’ve already asked for a meeting with residents to discuss their plans and get your feedback.”

Meanwhile, about 40 nearby neighbors sent this statement to Larkin: “We understand and appreciate the developer’s rights to develop the property, and our goal as a neighborhood is not to squash any development, but to mitigate any negative changes to the neighborhood and keep its current character. For those of us who have lived here many years, we have seen the negative effects of cutting down trees on the Hamilton’s property and the building of just four homes on the corner of Strafford and Eagle Road. Despite the assurances of the engineers, developers, and other experts, our neighborhood has been substantially damaged and our lives negatively affected by ‘tiny’ changes to the Hamilton’s property. There are approximately 40 neighbors on Strafford, Hedgerow, Grant, Forrest, Fairfield, and Old Eagle School who will attest to being harmed financially by the improper regulation of storm water runoff in the past.

“The character of the neighborhood will be drastically changed by the proposed development. Haverford Properties is seeking to double the number of homes within our small community. Our current neighborhood contains 35 acres and 64 homes, approximately two homes per acre. The developers plan to build 50 homes will result in 114 homes, for over three homes per acre. We already have a traffic problem, exacerbated by the fact that our community straddles two townships and counties. The Strafford train station is a delightful anchor to our neighborhood, but it too increases motor and foot traffic. Residents are already fearful to walk on Strafford Avenue. It is a death trap (with) no sidewalks, insufficient lighting, and a dangerous curve in the road. As a community we deserve better from both Radnor and Tredyffrin townships.”

~ delco times 2020

I looked on Commisisoner Jack Larkin’s website and couldn’t find anything about DoDo Land. Perhaps he doesn’t want the general public to see his commissioner musings or has he just checked out as a commissioner?

So here is some other stuff on screenshots to make it easy:

Look, Radnor Township doesn’t care if this gets developed, that has always been my opinion. But it is also my opinion that they make have tarted up the proverbial pig here with a new developer, but this is a plan that is still too dense. And now given the meeting agenda states this meeting is slated for NEXT WEEK AS IN THE DAY AFTER LABOR DAY, residents in Radnor and Tredyffrin do not have much time to rally.

THIS IS AN IN PERSON MEETING – Tuesday, September 6, 2022 – 6:30 PM – Radnorshire Room – 301 Iven Avenue Wayne PA 19087-5297

I think this is being put out in the hopes no residents show up after the last holiday weekend of the summer. I think this is deliberate. So residents in Radnor and Tredyffrin, it’s up to you. Below is the link to where you can find the email addresses for Radnor’s Board of Commissioners. Remember in particular that Lisa Borowski is running for State Rep in the 168th. HOLD HER FEET TO THE FIRE.

https://www.radnor.com/government/boards-and-commissions/board-of-commissioners

That is all I have got on this. Residents, you rose up before, just like the residents in Garrett Hill over unwelcome development and more there. Get yourselves to the meeting, but when you storm this Bastille don’t act all cuckoo like Willistown Residents over the sewer sale. Show decorum, make your points, be heard.

Good luck. You will need it here, especially Tredyffrin residents because you are neighbors and affected, but Chester County as well as another municipality. Tredyffrin needs to get their township to take a stand and attend the meeting too. And if zoning variances are sought, Tredyffrin Township needs to be a party to this so their residents can preserve their rights, correct?

guess what has a target on it’s back again? yup, garrett hill in radnor township.

Garrett Hill 1958 Sullivan photo/Radnorhistory.org

I will start this post with an editorial I wrote in 2007 (and Main Line Media News’ hedge fund owners shaved off my actual byline. If former Editor Tom Murray were still alive, he would tell them. Main Line Media News didn’t write it, I did):

It was the year of the neighborhood group December 18, 2007 at 10:00 p.m.

As 2007 winds down, I find myself contemplating what a long strange trip it has been from Bala to Malvern, and everywhere in between and beyond. In my mind, 2007 will be remembered as the “Year of the Neighborhood Group.” You see, to me, it isn’t just about the individual stories reported (and not reported), it is about the people behind the stories. The ordinary people who had the courage to step forward and be counted; not just one individual or group, either. I credit everyone who has had the courage to speak out and participate in the betterment of their communities.

I will start with a group I am proud to be part of that is dear to my heart: The Save Ardmore Coalition.

The Save Ardmore Coalition continued on its journey in 2007 by being recognized with two prestigious awards: The 2007 Stewardship Award for Historic Preservation from the Historic Architectural Review Board and Historical Commission of Lower Merion Township, as well as the nationally recognized David Award from The Institute for Justice in Washington, DC.

The Save Ardmore Coalition has also earned a place on the Ad Hoc Committee for Ardmore’s revitalization process, our members have participated in the comprehensive plan workshop process, we are a part of First Friday Main Line, we were proud to play a part in the fundraiser to aid Moira Shaughnessy, and have just launched a new initiative called “Be Vocal/Shop Local: Discover MORE in Ardmore.” Our hope with this year-end initiative is to further promote and support Ardmore’s local and independently-owned businesses. We also continue to lend our voices to other issues in Lower Merion Township and beyond.

I also want to recognize other citizen groups like Protect Berwyn, Save Ithan Coalition, WHOA from Gladwyne, the residents of Rugby Road in Bryn Mawr, the residents of Righters Mill and River Roads in Gladwyne, the residents of Cricket Avenue in Ardmore, Friends of The Barnes, the Garrett Hill Coalition, and the Daylesford Neighborhood Association. I salute these groups along with the many other citizens and groups along the Main Line and beyond who had the gumption to stand up and be counted.

And in addition to the organized groups, I would like to draw your attention to some new citizens seeking positive change as 2007 draws to a close: two brave ladies from Ardmore named Deanna Miller and Donna Dundon. Main Line Life Staff Reporter Cheryl Allison introduced us all to them in her recent article concerning a missing community room at the apartment building for limited-income seniors at Ardmore Crossing, now known as “Greenfield Commons.”

These ladies are senior citizens on fixed budgets who are members of our community. As the story is told, these nice people moved into this building so they could afford to grow old in Lower Merion Township, which increasingly, is no easy feat. When they looked at the building, they were told they would have a community room with a kitchen where they could play games, gather, have parties, special events, and community events. This is something fairly common for developments of any level, churches, as well as senior and assisted living facilities.

Well, the holidays are here, and apparently these seniors still don’t have their community room. According to Cheryl Allison’s article, there is much contention over this topic and I wonder how this can be?

I think it is most unpleasant to read stories like this especially during the holidays and mere days before Christmas, a holiday which is supposed to embody goodwill towards all mankind. But instead we are wondering if this new Ardmore story will become a tale of Dickensian proportions? Where are the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future when you need them?

A community room with a basic kitchen can’t be such a big deal or other places wouldn’t have them. And with all the great thrift stores, generous people along the Main Line, and furniture outlets in this area, how hard would it be to furnish such a room nicely? There are also sales all over right now on stereos and televisions. Surely this all can’t be that difficult and wouldn’t it just be the right thing to do? Wouldn’t it be nice for these seniors to get this room as promised from the new owners and for it to be decorated for the holidays? If I could have another holiday wish, it would be for these senior citizens in Ardmore, and I would hope others would share my sentiments.

In conclusion, many thanks again to everyone in 2007 who had the courage to stand up and be counted. I know it can be difficult to have a voice that may differ from the general consensus, or might be contrary to what government is comfortable hearing. I want all of you to also remember that positive change can happen, and ordinary individuals can make a difference in their communities.

So Tom Murray, when you are counting your readers’ votes for the “story of the year” this year, if I could ask you to think differently, it’s not really about just one story in particular, it’s about all of the terrific citizens who made a difference. So maybe voting 2007 “The Year of The Neighborhood Group” is the way to go. To me, this year, it is just too hard to pick ONE story.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody!

I stumbled across that while looking into Garrett Hill in Radnor and remembering the good things accomplished years ago by a group called the Garrett Hill Coalition. The Garrett Hill Coalition fought so hard to save where they called home, much like the Save Ardmore Coalition back then fought to save Ardmore, PA in Lower Merion Township. Today in 2022, I wonder what we worked so hard for because like Ardmore is constantly at risk, so is Garrett Hill.

As of today, I think Garrett Hill is at risk again. There is this whole thing going on about well, paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. Utterly cliché, but so apropos. This all came up at a Radnor meeting August 15th, and then there was an outside, not recorded meeting in Garrett Hill.

Garrett Hill is like a ping pong ball on Radnor Township’s ping pong table. Some years this community is left alone. Some years snide commissioners refer to it as essentially a poor section not worthy of much attention. Some years Radnor Township wants to do something stupid there, and 2022 is like revisiting the early 2000s.

Wentworth is a road I thought was not all township dedicated in Radnor or possibly private? And did ALL neighbors potentially affected by a shoe-horned in parking lot get notice of this? I heard quite to the contrary? So this land is not a taking in the eminent domain sense, but it is being taken/purchased at market rate for a….parking lot. Here look at these screen shots to get an idea of the “where”:

Yup that is a tiny street. It leads to more tiny streets. Sounds like a cluster fart of epic proportions waiting to happen. Here are some resident comments after the outdoor meeting where Radnor BOC President Moira Mulroney was overheard saying certain things, right? Like she thinks this is O.K.? Well of course she would, not her ward so does she really care?

Comments:

This lot will not benefit anyone in the neighborhood. It will only increase traffic going up and down Wentworth and Williams!! We need to stick together neighbors!

~ garrett Hill resident

I always avoided, at all cost, trying to turn onto Conestoga Road from Summitt Terrace/Wentworth Land due to poor sight lines. If they put a lot where Mike and Lorrie’s house use to be, I can see any unfamiliar drivers parking there having a challenge getting out to the main drag.

~ garrett hill resident

Adding both a parking lot entrance and exit to a very narrow residential street does not increase safety for those who live on the street.

~ garett hill resident

Since the property is owned by the same developer who already owns 910 and 912 Conestoga, I feel like we’re just footing the bill as taxpayers for his parking lot. Let the developer spend his own money.

~ garrett hill resident

While I agree GH needs parking, is almost $50k a spot the usual cost in Radnor for a parking spot? How long will it take Radnor to recoup that amount for each spot thru the parking meters?

~ garrett hill resident

What the hell … we were told 2 homes were going up we didn’t want the parking lot was there any discussions with the neighbors on Summit Terrs.?

~ garrett hill resident

 It looks like it was only introduced, so you & other Summit neighbors have a chance to speak up at the Sept 12th meeting.

~ garrett hill resident

That is a horrible idea to put a parking lot there!! There is no easy way to enter/exit the property!! And the late night noise that will follow Think about the residents still there that are retired and the new ones with little ones raising kids in school. You want a parking lot put it on your street next to your house!

~ garrett hill resident

Over $800,000 for 17 parking spots 

~ garrett hill resident

I don’t know how many times I have called the Radnor Police for people breaking into cars or stealing catalytic converters from Cars over on Meredith Ave. ….But anyway, I have lived here for many years and Lights are out all the time we need them updated to LED light won’t use a lot of power and, how about our roads so many things beak on peoples cars all the time anything they can do there, or is that a state road. But I also think that draining systems are very bad. The tunnel floods every bad rain, the road from my Apartment…. floods all the past the park and peoples cars around the area get messed up in our neighborhoods. And the ….delivery guy in is blue Subaru flying down Conestoga in the middle of the night all night and they haven’t done anything to him. And Villanova kids from the campus yelling when they leave Flips. But things like this need to get taken care as well.  I agree with you people I’m sure people around here won’t like me saying that ether, cause statements that I spoke about that my kids told me about the parade. But little do they know I had some great ideas that I shared for next year. But why can’t they park at the Business campus? That parking lot is gonna be backed up….

~ garrett hill resident

Now, how about some photos of Garrett Hill sourced from everywhere on the Internet like Facebook and Google so people can see Garrett Hill for what it really is: a small, still tight knit multi-generational area that doesn’t need supersizing or “:”improvements” that don’t actually help the residents:

A problem in today’s Radnor Township is the current manager sees his narrow abacus-rued world view and nothing else. I don’t think he actually cares so much about the residents, and I am allowed that opinion much like I am of the opinion he is always seemingly unwilling to listen to residents. He was fine as the finance guy, not manager. But this is not the only problem. One of the LARGEST problems is the current commissioners know very little of the past and past history and past problems with the way Radnor Township has attempted to treat Garrett Hill.

(Oh and as a related side bar to the two Radnor Commissioners who said non-residents shouldn’t speak at commissioner meetings? What planet or alternate reality do you all hail from? I for one have addressed this governmental body as a non-resident including in 2009 when I went before the board to get a historical market that benefitted Radnor and her history approved. Oh and I raised the money for that project although I was never sure everything we raised money for actually happened, but I can’t control that. )

Radnor Township is regressing and that is not a good thing. I wish the Garrett Hill Coalition still existed. ( See October 26, 2009 meeting video and start at 17:26 time mark for public comment about Garrett Hill – oh and Radnor Township will not allow their videos to be embedded, you have to watch on YouTube or their website and didn’t always used to be that way. It’s about control. Control to the point of questioning actual freedoms, I wonder?)

Radnor only wants their videos so public. So I found some others, like:

I will admit I am not quite sure what the League of Women Voters is doing down there for elections, but here is another Garrett Hill video:

Now. Time for more history. Maybe, just maybe the current Radnor Township Board of Commissioners might learn something. Some of the articles are written by friends, so I will excerpt one in particular liberally:

Neighbors rally to guide Garrett Hill’s development
Imagine a place in suburbia where neighbors check on each other, shovel snowy driveways together, and deliver soup to the sick.

by By Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer
Published Oct 13, 2009

Joe Marchesani, owner of Garrett Hill pizza, sweeps clean the entrance to his restaurant before opening. ( Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel / StaffPhotographer )
Joe Marchesani, owner of Garrett Hill pizza, sweeps clean the entrance to his restaurant before opening. ( Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel / StaffPhotographer )

Imagine a place in suburbia where neighbors check on each other, shovel snowy driveways together, and deliver soup to the sick.

It’s a spot where children walk to the two local parks, a group of retired guys meets for cheap coffee and conversation before starting the day, and the neighborhood mechanic will drop what he’s doing to listen to a funny-sounding engine.

People with Ph.D.s and others with blue-collar jobs live side by side, families reside on the same streets that their grandparents did – in some cases, in the same houses – and everything shuts down for the Fourth of July parade and picnic.

Sound a bit too Leave It to Beaver to be true?

The residents of Garrett Hill in Radnor Township will tell you it’s not.

They have it that way, and they want to keep it that way.

Residents have worked tirelessly over two years to ensure they have had a say in zoning changes proposed in the township’s master plan for the neighborhood. Countless hours of televised meetings and volumes of paperwork attest to their commitment.

On Monday, Radnor commissioners will hold a hearing and vote on the master plan. Residents feared that, without their input, the plan would change the culture of their neighborhood.

“There are not too many places like Garrett Hill left in this country,” said Bill Kingsland, 57, owner of the local Bywood Seafood for 25 years.

While McMansions have sprung up across suburbia, Garrett Hill has apartments, twins, and single homes set close to the street on small lots with deep backyards built for vegetable gardens.

The small business district has changed over the years. What once was a general store is now a college bar. The post office is gone. A cleaners, a few small restaurants, auto repair shops, and a trophy store are at the epicenter of the neighborhood.

What defines Garrett Hill’s boundaries is probably more a matter of opinion than a firm border.

Garrett Hill owes its beginning to an Indian trail running between the Schuylkill and the Susquehanna River. The path later became Conestoga Road, the heart of Garrett Hill, which about 14,000 cars now use daily.

Carved from a land grant by William Penn, the area was once known as Methodist Hill. In the 1800s, the land was subdivided and became known as Garrettville after Dr. Lewis T. Garrett, a property owner. In 1907, a rail line – now the R-100 – cut directly through Garrett Hill.

The small properties of Garrett Hill were purchased by laborers or railway workers, many of Irish or Scots-Irish descent. A number of Italian families eventually settled in Garrett Hill, and there was an African American enclave.

The first African American elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Emlen Tunnell, grew up in Garrett Hill.

The neighborhood is the epitome of diversity on the Main Line, said John Fischer, vice president of the Radnor Board of Commissioners.

“There are people from all walks of life living together – all nationalities, religions,” he said.

“Everybody played together and ate together,” recalled Joe Marchesani, 58, a life-long resident and owner of Garrett Hill Pizza, where the sauce has changed, but the crust has been the same for 19 years. “There were no problems. We all kind of stood up for each other.”….Bob Adams, 48, a third-generation Garrett Hillian, describes it as Mayberry – a safe place surrounded by plenty of family. When he was young, Adams explained, if you did something bad, a neighbor threw a shoe at you.

Adams and his wife, a fourth-generation Garrett Hillian, bought his grandmother’s house; a cousin, who now lives behind him, bought his grandfather’s house.

“This community is so close-knit,” Adams said, “you know everybody.”..

In 2003, Radnor Township’s Comprehensive Plan suggested making zoning improvements to the neighborhood’s small business district. A $48,000 grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and $12,000 in township funds were earmarked in 2007 to create a Garrett Hill Master Plan and Overlay District.

The neighbors felt threatened. They signed petitions, and more than 100 residents went to the township meeting to ask for better representation and to have a voice on any zoning changes. “Save Garrett Hill” posters sprouted up on lawns.

The Garrett Hill Coalition was formed, and it appointed nine residents to a steering committee to represent the neighborhood’s interests.

“We were worried that this [zoning] would be used as a tool for developers,” said Rick Barker, the chairman.

~ mari schaefer, philadelphia inquirer 2009
2007
2007
2008
2008
2008
2009
2012

PATCH: Garrett Hill Group Gets Grant For Stormwater Project

Workshops will help tackle stormwater pollution and beautify properties.

By Sam Strike Posted Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm

ROSEMONT — Garrett Hill Coalition (GHC), a local civic organization, has been awarded a $4,100 grant by the Water Resources Education Network, a project of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania Citizen Education Fund for its project titled: “Managing Stormwater in Our Back Yards: Valley Run, Radnor Township.” 

Funding will support educational workshops and demonstration projects for residents of Radnor and Lower Merion Townships to learn about ways to reduce polluted runoff and remedy flooding problems using landscaping amenities like rain gardens and rain barrels. 

~Sam strike patch 2012

Now stormwater is a big fear in Garrett Hill much like other parts of Radnor Township. Radnor seems to have a selective memory when it comes to stormwater management. Not lip service, actual stormwater management. As in where you actually have to do it, not add to the problems.

Radnor Township has stuff on Garrett Hill zoning on it’s website, CLICK HERE. Sometimes the links don’t work though. I swear their website was redesigned to NOT work.

One more old article:

And before I close two more bits of history. First is a piece from 2009 about Garrett Hill by the Radnor Historical Society:

The next excerpt is screen shots from a book on the history of Garrett Hill that appeared to be maybe circa 1977 that I found on Ancestry.com – I couldn’t download in PDF so I took some screenshots. The book is significantly more pages I believe. Some old timers may remember it – A history of Garrett Hill on its 100th anniversary by Phyllis C. Maier.

Well that’s all I have got. I think Garrett Hill is about to be told to bend over, and pardon me for being crude, but it kind of is. Radnor Township is a funny place, and it is full of pretensions. They don’t like that Garrett Hill exists anymore than other parts of Radnor like “Little Chicago” in North Wayne. It doesn’t fit the Main Line image they have which includes kind of sort of forgetting they are part of Delaware County.

Garrett Hill is like it’s own small town. It doesn’t need to be super-sized, overly urbanized, paved into oblivion. “Leave them be” a friend of mine said earlier today who doesn’t live in Garrett Hill but appreciates it’s character. What the current commissioner can’t see is it doesn’t need to have some puffed up unsustainable artificially enhanced business district. They should figure out a way to make nice with Steve Bajus for parking on the Rosemont Business Campus, otherwise known as “where a cute school once stood.”

Or maybe Radnor buys the private lots owned by the petty towing czars? Or maybe they just table the whole thing for now instead of spending money that some say this township really doesn’t have to spend?

I don’t know. All I know is Garrett Hill, you have like 14 days to rally. It may be time to storm the Bastille err Radnor Township Building. But don’t be freakish about it like Willistown residents. You have a big board room, pack it. The media is out there, start lobbying for coverage.

And other Radnor Residents, do you was what will amount to easily $800,000 taxpayer dollars to be spent on a parking lot in Garrett Hill in this uncertain economy? A parking lot which will be monopolized undoubtedly by the over abundance of Villanova off-campus students that Radnor Township also conveniently forgets about a lot of the time?

Garrett Hill, it’s time. I know you all are tired of this. But once again you have elected officials and township officials who don’t want to listen to you and really don’t care what you think.

Save Garrett Hill one more time. For your own sakes. Keep your character. You don’t have to be Wayneunk East.

file under “catalyst” for change: my goodness east whiteland, it looks like penndot spanked the billboard baron?

In July, I wrote about the clear cutting of a billboard site that essentially wasn’t supposed to happen that way. See:

So….residents weren’t happy, and neither was the township. PennDOT was contacted. Also before all that there was this letter East Whiteland send out this letter:

Now before I get to today’s lovely news, I spied a familiar name to Radnor Township residents on that letter above. Jack/John Larkin Esquire. Is he not the Vice President of the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners??? Anyway, just politically interesting.

So here we are at the end of August and guess what? PennDOT actually acted. Catalyst or East Whiteland Outdoor LLC seems to have gotten spanked?

Hmmmm this is getting interesting again. “Notice of Intent to Revoke Permit”? My my my.

Oh and Willistown residents? No storming of the Bastille or inciting a riot was necessary.

where’s the poop….in willistown?

Where’s the poop? Why right here (see screenshot above.) “If I was a supervisor” he says? But he’s not, is he? Nor is he on sewer, is he? He’s on septic while trying to control the flow of township poop in Willistown, right? (https://www.willistownsewer.org/ )

He is the Willistown website guy for sure. He is also the “Walkable Willistown” guy. (See https://www.walkablewillistown.org/ ) Think about this pretzel 🥨 logic for a second: he would be O.K. with miles of concrete (impervious surfaces) which would mean removal of heritage trees and possible land takings, but sewers are bad and he thinks magically ALL septic users would be strong-armed into sewer lines? That is a fallacy. Someone taking over a municipal sewer system doesn’t mean all septic systems go away, are banned, or whatever. It just means the sewer changes hands, doesn’t it?

Pretty ludicrous so far, right?

The other thing is why does anyone think developers need sewer lines as an excuse to develop? Also ludicrous, because he’s kind of got it twisted (shocker, I know, right?) The development is already here, isn’t it?

Development causes stresses on infrastructure. Infrastructure includes where the poop goes (other than on his posts, of course), otherwise known as SEWER and septic, right?

It’s kind of See Spot Run basic.

Also See Spot Run basic? The fact that Willistown residents need to do their own research and not depend on the local version of fake news, AKA this guy.

Again, state laws protect utility companies like AQUA and that is WHY they can jump rates willy nilly.

Again, local zoning is guided by the State Bible known as the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC.) The MPC has not been comprehensively updated since the late 1960s, early 1970s (I forget which.)

State elected officials (State Senators and State Representatives) are the ones who need to change the laws and update the MPC.

So while Spot is running all over the Internet with fake news and around town designing nasty street signs, perhaps Spot might wish to talk to State Senators and State Representatives to try and solve the underlying issues which if corrected might help slow the roll of development stressing infrastructure causing municipal sewer sales and big companies buying sewer systems and price gauging residents? Just a thought…

So Willistown if you really want to fight the good fight , maybe don’t hitch your wagons to those with personal agendas? I mean it’s kind of interesting when the same people seem to drive issues in a community year after year, isn’t it? Oh and make sure you keep your backyard chickens ( https://www.palegalads.org/journals/pdf/592_Law_Reporterv68_Issue44.pdf and https://www.willistown.pa.us/Calendar.aspx?EID=458 ). close, right?

Some poop you just can’t make up.

Buy Spot some toilet paper.

Verbal diarrhea makes the world go round, doesn’t it? And here I used to think West Vincent and West Whiteland were the most amusing municipalities to watch. Pshaw, they’ve got nothing on modern day Willistown.

Ciao ciao. Until the next scintillating poop-centric Facebook post appears. Some poop you just can’t make up….Spot undoubtedly sees me as free advertising, well I see him as popcorn worthy entertainment in the made for Lifetime TV movie or Bravo Reality show that Willistown has become.

bucolic but an ugliness lurks?

I used to think Willistown was one of the most beautiful places around. But as the years have gone by, I have found that beauty marred by ugliness within the actual community. We have all read about it when the issues have burbled over into local and regional news. The ugliness can be staggering.

The whole smear campaign against Willistown Supervisors Bill Shoemaker and Bob Lange does NOT sit right with me. A pied piper on a septic has it all wound into the sewer and other issues, and it’s not right in my opinion. So I thought I would de-bunk the myth of the mysterious campaign donation once and for all. It’s why I wrote when a gotcha is a big fat nothing. And I also went the extra mile and did my own verification of the facts of the matter, because the below bothered me.

So guess what? It is good that the assertion “Bill got $$$ from Aqua” bothered me. Why? Because it’s not true. It’s FALSE as in a LIE.

There is also a failed politician in Willistown desperately seeking relevance (for another run for something perhaps?) who wishes to essentially say I am a bad person etc, etc in her nonsensical passive aggressive manner. I am not having any of that, either. She made herself a public figure by running for public office and therefore becoming a politician, and espouses much publicly so I am in turn expressing my opinion here. I will start that she announces before she speaks at meetings that she ran against Bill Shoemaker for Supervisor. She of course, lost. It’s odd and she did it at the most recent meeting. ( See willistown needs a sedative.)

I block this person on social media who was a recent enough political candidate for elected office, so I don’t see the nonsense unless someone sends me a screen shot. Well several someones sent me a particular screenshot.

In this screenshot they were referring to a blog post I wrote about this topic. That’s fine, people have different opinions. BUT perhaps she needs clarity?

Shall we file this whole thing under we hold these untruths to be self-evident? Again, I block this failed politician so I’m not sure where it appeared, but it is in response to the post I wrote after watching the Willistown meeting earlier this week live.

She was right there at the meeting in front of the township cameras, and you can see her on the videos and meeting rocking back-and-forth on her feet in a blue pattern summer dress.

So I don’t know if she had listening issues that evening, or what the deal is but I did not hear supervisors say they were too busy to read/answer emails. I did hear supervisors say, including one of her political persuasion, who said that some of the emails received would have delayed responses because some of the emails sounded like they needed more involved responses. Is that actually unreasonable?

What I also heard is I don’t think all of the supervisors are even on social media, some of them who are don’t have time to read all the back-and-forth drivel on social media (which is reasonable as they work), and most importantly they don’t govern via social media. That reality seems to escape this politician without an elected office.

She seemed upset to be on camera although she was right there front and center of the camera’s range? What she also neglects to mention in her remarks is this was a public meeting and people have the right to record it. And the reason people recorded it was so what actually happened could be seen accurately. No interpolation, actually seeing it unfold as the events of the night occurred. The township records the meetings too. And if you watch her on the meeting video was she also recording / photographing at least parts of the meeting? Sure appeared that way, did it not?

And where she also needs to buy a clue is one reason a lot of municipalities need to sell sewer systems is because they can’t afford them in part because of the stresses development puts on infrastructure.

The sewers don’t cause development, but development causes infrastructure expenses all across the board to go up, and no one ever wants to talk about that cost of development because why? Oh yes the other thing that this failed politician doesn’t understand: zoning with regards to development. The Municpalities Planning Code (MPC) is the state bible which guides all local zoning in Pennsylvania. It needs to be comprehensively updated. That would require state elected officials who are state reps and state senators to actually enact an act of the state constitution to perform a comprehensive update the MPC, just like they are the very same folks who need to amend the laws that protect corporations like AQUA at expense of residents vis-à-vis rate hikes!

Large tracts of land are sold to developers because they are ponying up the coin to buy said land. They are developing because the current zoning as dictated by the MPC allows it. The development stresses infrastructure including sewers. Development is also causing overcrowding in school districts which is another conversation entirely.

Like me or dislike me, I am entitled to my opinions on a meeting where the behavior of the majority of residents was deplorable and inappropriate. You can feel passionate about a local issue without acting like a crazed mob of thugs.

I am sure this failed politician will next blame the lack of rain and climate change on the sewers. This is why you don’t allow failed politicians like this to actually make it into office. She is just as bad as a Marjorie Taylor Greene even if she sits on the other side of the political aisle.

And regarding the size of the board room in Willistown: I have no idea what the board room looked like before this. What I do know is townships out here seem to ALL mostly have small boardrooms. No one asked for a larger venue ahead of meeting advertising time, so a larger venue was not sought.

And also there’s another sad reality of local government and that’s usually nobody much shows up. This time people showed up because they were led to believe that a decision was happening on something that decision was not being made on that night.

Also, if I can find the sewer on agendas and minutes going back quite a ways, why can’t anyone else find it referenced? It’s time to also stop saying no one told the residents when the residents weren’t paying attention, isn’t it?

It actually doesn’t matter what the issue is in this particular township, it’s how everything is approached at public meetings on the part of the public. there are so many people that scream and shout first and think later. They make these offensive comments about the supervisors essentially being their employees. They are your elected officials. Yes they should be responsive to residents, but when residents are acting irrational nobody responds to that. But they aren’t your boys and girls and what they get as far as compensation is a pittance. It’s not a real salary, more like a really small stipend. And local elected officials no matter what residents think, spend almost a second full-time job as far as hours dealing with residents and township business every week

The same thing goes with the township staff. A lot of people are incredibly rude to a lot of the people in this township, a lot of whom are very nice and hard-working. I do have a caveat for that however, because in Willistown in the past they have had Township staff that I always thought literally “what were they thinking” because they had a lot of former Radnor Township employees who migrated west after the scandal years in Radnor. A former zoning officer who wasn’t very good immediately comes to mind.

The thing about choosing township staff anywhere is sometimes I don’t think you have a very big pool to choose from, and they all seem to migrate between municipalities. But I definitely think it would behoove municipalities in general to do a little more homework.

Willistown has a new township manager. I don’t even know what her name was she was announced at the meeting but there were so much hubbub you couldn’t hear it really watching the zoom. I do think she needs to step up and be visible and do things like help take control of the meetings and help the supervisors run the meetings more efficiently. in other words, a township manager literally has to manage. That is also a balancing act because her bosses are the elected officials.

Township managers and township employees work for the township as in the municipality, they don’t work for individual residents and that is often what residents assume. However, things like taxes that residents pay go towards salaries, so it’s not like there isn’t a connection there.

Every single time Willistown residents don’t get their own way these days a lot of them scream “corruption.” Trust me when I tell you, you don’t know from true municipal corruption. I have seen residents fight actual corruption. And then there is this whole thing about being offended by two supervisors because they are related by marriage, and their family has owned land for generations. So what? It’s neither immoral, unethical, or illegal. And that whole argument is

As I have said before, I’m not actually in favor of municipalities selling out their sewer systems to big corporations. But it’s often not as simple a conversation at times as “don’t sell.” I think that is the case here.

No matter what happens, if Willistown is to survive, the residents have to stop the baseless ad hominem attacks and stick to the actual issues and actual facts. And they have to be more proactive, less reactive. They need to consistently participate in where they call home, and that doesn’t just need to happen in Willistown, it sadly needs to happen most places.

Here’s hoping Willistown exorcises it’s ugliness. Start with public meetings.

Thanks for stopping by.