BREAKING: another eminent domain threat in chester county?

I’m gonna leave this right here.

This is yet another potential example of the devastating cost of over development in Chester County. School districts in particular piss me off with this crap because they always act like they know nothing about what’s going on around them.

These people should not be forced to lose their properties, the developer should give up part of their land to build the school there.

People need to go after the school district now please contact all your elected officials local, county, state, federal.

Contact the media. Attend this upcoming meeting and raise hell.

This is another piece of the cost of development at the expense of where we call home.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not just, it must be protested.

I know nothing more than what I am showing you right here right now.

“roundabout” we go in east whiteland and east goshen looking for answers…that don’t add up to eminent domain….

aerial

Roundabouts. That is PennDOT new speak for traffic circles.   I know, I know I have been writing about this a lot on this blog. Most recently at the beginning of this month (October, 2019) That is when East Whiteland and East Goshen released a letter they received from PennDOT September 30:

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At that time I said  September 30th was Monday, so why has it taken this long for the people to be notified and have they even notified the potentially affected residents? I marvel that PennDOT dated the letter September 23rd and it took until September 30th to be received? DO they not also send an electronic copy?

PennDOT needs to define “minor construction” and does that mean any eminent domain land takings?

PennDOT will do this project when exactly and how long will it take?

And if PennDOT was offering to meet with both townships, I suggested that when that occured the most directly affected homeowners should be present with whatever representation they so chose to be with them.

Well guess what? According to residents I know (directly affected in fact) the meeting DID take place. And East Whiteland Towsnhip verified this on October 15 when they said on their websiteOn September 30, East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships received a letter from PennDOT regarding its recommendations for the Route 352 and King Road intersection.

The Townships recently met with PennDOT to discuss those recommendations. No decisions as to road improvements have been made, but the Townships agreed to update traffic counts along the roads and expect to continue discussions with PennDOT when those studies are completed.

Please note who was missing at said meeting with PennDOT. Yup, you’ve got it, the potentially affected residents.

When they received the news these residents (my extended neighbors) replied to East Whiteland very politely but firmly:

Thanks for keeping us in the loop and for pushing back on PennDOT’s recommendations.

That said, while we appreciate that you may be hesitant to proceed with the only two options PennDOT is permitting (a roundabout or making the roads perpendicular), we still have much to talk about. Will you share why the townships are willing to pay for new traffic counts, what the townships think are the existing problems that must be fixed and what is your goal?

It is my understanding that the various justifications the township has presented have been adequately debunked. It started with cut through traffic, then law breaking cut through traffic, then rush hour delays, then unjustified future traffic predictions, and eventually it morphed to safety. Now, it seems like rush hour delays may be the leading reason again. Or, is this all just a means to mask future plans for over-development? Whatever the reason, it is concerning and very disappointing that the township hasn’t ruled out eminent domain given the community feedback as well as an overwhelming evidence contradicting those justifications.

If the township still feels adequate justification exists and cares about the affected residents, you will help us to understand those justifications. We don’t need to wait for new counts.

If people were dying in the intersection, bad accidents were above “normal” or traffic was backed up frequently enough that it was unpleasant for those of us who actually live here, we would understand (or move). However, these conditions absolutely do not exist. We live here because we want to. If you plan to take our land, destroy our properties, reduce our quality of life, eliminate our privacy and reduce our safety by making the traffic move faster and closer to our homes, we need to understand and accept your justifications or we will fight you to the bitter end.

Finally, can we audit the new counting process when it occurs? Or can we be involved in hiring the firm to perform the counts? Given the conflicts of interest identified with McMahon and the weakness of their presentation, the legitimacy of any further data they present will be called into question.

Subsequent email letters went to PennDOT (three times) from directly affected residents and as they can be obtained on a Right To Know Request, I am publishing them now.

Here is the first letter:

From: Tom Stuart
Sent: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 11:28 AM
To: ASHPATEL@pa.gov
Cc: Sue Drummond <sdrummond@eastwhiteland.org>; Rich Orlow <rorlow@eastwhiteland.org>; ‘slambert@eastwhiteland.org‘ <slambert@eastwhiteland.org>; 
Subject: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352

Dear Mr. Patel:

I read your September 23, 2019 response to East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships regarding the intersection of Sproul (S.R. 0352) and King Road (S.R. 2022).

In your first paragraph you cite an increase in traffic volumes as the justification for a solution requiring eminent domain taking.  A solution that “must be advanced for eventual implementation within a reasonable timeframe.”

Given your solution will destroy homes, privacy, safety and home values (for which payment alone will not cure), are you basing your recommendation on the two traffic reports prepared by McMahon & Assoc in 2005 and 2016?  Or, do you have some other traffic volume data that you can share?

It is my understanding that both McMahon studies were performed for just (2) one-hour periods during peak traffic periods in 2005 and 2016, respectively.  Further, while I am not currently able to locate the 2005 report to confirm, I was informed by an EG township official that there was very little traffic volume increase measured at the intersection between 2005 and 2016.  If this is true, then what “increase in traffic volumes” are your referring to?  Is it based on only future predictions?  Please quantify.

My wife and I have lived at the intersection for over 20 years. (I purchased the home on December 31, 1996.) Our home literally faces the center of the intersection.  Based on my extensive experience, I vehemently disagree with the premise that there is a volume problem that must be resolved.  You may consider my opinion biased because the widening and tree/brush removal will eliminate all of the privacy I have spent 10s of thousands of dollars (and a couple decades) to build up, it will dramatically reduce my safety (I can provide more details), and moving me closer to the intersection will destroy my property value.

That said, don’t take it from me.  At the June 5, 2019 meeting at Immaculata, I surveyed an audience full of 100+ township residents by asking, “Who thinks delays are the primary problem at the intersection?” Exactly zero people raised their hands.  (https://bit.ly/2oueoGQ:  Time Stamp: 1:50:10)  

So, while your recommendations may be suitable if there were a traffic delay problem at the intersection, the township residents do not agree with the premise under which you have proposed a solution.

So, if PennDOT will not support a permanent, signal-only solution to help address the left turn issues from 352, does PennDOT support a “do nothing” approach?  It was not entirely clear whether you were recommending or requiring your “comprehensive” eminent domain taking solution.  This is an important detail.  Please clarify.

Best Regards,

Tom Stuart

Here is the second letter:

From: Tom Stuart
Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2019 3:37 PM
To: ASHPATEL@pa.gov
Cc: Sue Drummond <sdrummond@eastwhiteland.org>; Rich Orlow <rorlow@eastwhiteland.org>; ‘slambert@eastwhiteland.org’ <slambert@eastwhiteland.org>; ‘rsmith@eastgoshen.org’ <rsmith@eastgoshen.org>; John Nagel <jnagel@eastwhiteland.org>
Subject: RE: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352 – *** Major Safety Concern ***

Dear Mr. Patel,

I have a critical safety concern regarding your suggestion to enable King Rd traffic to drive head on through the 352 intersection at the same time (“in exchange” for split phasing on 352.)

First, do you have a sketch or diagram of the revised intersection layout you are proposing?

I have driven up and down King Rd through the intersection a few times since I read your letter—including in the pitch dark last night. I wanted to get a feel for and imagine the shifted sight lines you are proposing (if the township proceeds with a 2-phased approach.) I imagined it with the westbound King Rd lane being re-located southward by about 1 lane width.

Given that the westbound approach rises slightly to the intersection and the eastbound approach rises significantly, you are inviting a full-speed, head on collision by letting that traffic flow at the same time and at full speed with such limited visibility.

Even if your plan includes destroying a half dozen or so properties by removing all of our privacy and safety providing trees and shrubs, safe sight lines simply do not exist with the current (or the slightly modified) geometry.

As you may or may not be aware, the left turns from 352 are not a major safety hazard now. They are more of an inefficiency and annoyance. The resulting accidents from those turns tend to be low speed fender benders… not head on and certainly not at full speed. The worst symptoms are frustrated drivers honking and cursing.

For this reason, I believe that switching the split phasing from King Rd to 352 as you propose (in part 1 of your 2-phased approach) will make the intersection considerably less safe.

Incidentally, there is a similarly shaped intersection geometry where Paoli Pike meets route 30 in Paoli. The sight lines are MUCH better there because it’s more level. However, in the mid to late 1980s (before the lights were changed to include a protected left turn phase from 30) there was a head on collision that occurred with so much force the driver’s heart detached from all of her arteries. So, unless you and the township want to be directly responsible for introducing fatalities to the intersection, I suggest you withdraw or amend that portion of your recommendation.

If you have any feedback defending what you proposed, I’d be interested to hear it—especially because the townships will likely heed your input more than mine.

I urge the townships to respond to this concern as well.

Best Regards,
Tom Stuart

And here is the third letter:

Tom Stuart 
Thu, Oct 17, 8:21 PM (12 hours ago)
to ASHPATEL@pa.gov, Sue, Rich, slambert@eastwhiteland.org, rsmith@eastgoshen.org, John, Christie, benpoe4@juno.com, TINA, Timothy, Christine, Zeek747, me, Ted

Dear Mr. Patel,

I gather from your lack of response to my previous emails (and because the residents were not invited to recent closed-door meeting) that you do not intend to respond to me. The important part is that I have raised my safety concern, you saw it, the townships saw it and it’s now part of the public record.

I would like to draw your attention to a few more critical issues I have identified in your letter of Sept 23 to the townships:

Your suggestion (2e) indicates that signal upgrades could better detect traffic. Obviously, this means reducing delays without any negative impact on safety or otherwise. If PennDOT thinks traffic delays are a problem, why would this not be your recommended solution as a first and immediate phase? Why wasn’t this recommended and implemented years ago? You go on to state that this improvement would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”. This is outrageous and extremely upsetting. Is this how PennDOT operates– with a complete and total disregard for residents’ homes and properties not to mention a disregard for common sense and unnecessary expenditures?
One of your suggestions is to clear the vegetation through the intersection along King Rd to improve visibility (2c). When it comes to the goal of improving safety, this applies not only to the drivers but also to pedestrians and residents, I assume. As Senior Manager of Traffic Engineering and Safety Division, you must be aware that trees and shrubs create a safety barrier between the traffic and the residents when they must co-exist in close proximity. Tearing them down, as you propose, reduces safety for residents (and pedestrians).
You state that that safety is the department’s primary goal. Yet, you directly contradict this statement with your proposed solutions. If safety is the primary goal, a safety improvement like enhanced traffic detection and painted lines (as you suggest in 2f) could be implemented now. (Or, years ago.) In fact, if safety were the primary goal, a safety improvement such as signal phasing on 352 could be delivered even if it came at the expense of added delays. Your proposals not only fail to make safety the primary consideration, you go so far as to suggest that signal-only safety improvements to 352 traffic can only be delivered if the township agrees to reduce safety on King Rd by letting it drive head on, simultaneously. Local residents would likely agree with me that this could be a net reduction in safety. The reality is that the goal of your proposal appears to be: reduce delays and, if possible, improve safety and do so at the highest possible expense. I find it disappointing that neither you nor the townships ever acknowledge this glaring falsehood being perpetuated. This is not and has never been about improving safety.
Each time I read your proposal and consider what has transpired to date, I become more and more disappointed by what appears to be a complete lack of competence, integrity, honesty, transparency and common sense by all parties carrying some sort of responsibility here. If you disagree with anything I have said and do not wish to have a dialogue with me directly, I understand. I hope you will communicate your feedback to the townships so they can pass it along to me. Or, if the townships care about the affected residents, they can prove it.

Until I see common sense prevail, I will not go away.

Best Regards,

Tom Stuart

“….would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”.”

There you have it. EMINENT DOMAIN.  They always try to make it sound pretty. How was it one of the East Whiteland Supervisors referred to it? As “slivers” of land or something equally preposterous?

It’s eminent domain. It’s stealing someone’s property and for what? So PennDOT can have their Roundabout Reign Of Terror?

I noticed in September PennDOT was doing the old soft shoe PR on their pet project to ruin where we live. All. Across. The. State.

media1media 3

Here, courtesy of Talk Erie News, is essentially PennDOT’s press release in September about this:

ERIE NEWS
PennDOT Data Shows Pennsylvania Roundabouts Reducing Fatalities, Injuries, and Crashes
By TalkErie News – September 16, 2019

roundabout

erie 1erie 2erie 3

Now whomever heads up PennDOT gets a plum pickings patronage job with taxpayer funded benefits of pure political pork, right? Well it is currently one of the original Wolf girls, Leslie Richards:

leslie

 

If you wonder why our roads are so bad, can it be said look no further than Ms. Richards?  Would you like to contact Leslie Richards? Try:

The Honorable Leslie S. Richards
Secretary, PA Dept. of Transportation
Keystone Building
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
lsrichards@pa.gov

Leslie also has a Facebook page, but she allows no contact there. Just public adoration. She also has Twitter – Leslie S. Richards (@SecRichards) REALLY making her a Wolf girl.

Here (courtesy of Wikipedia) is the chronology of her ascent to the cushy land of political patronage jobs:

Richards was elected to the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors in 2007, and became chairwoman of the board in 2008. 

Richards was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners in 2011. Her election, along with that of fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro, marked the first time in over a century that Democrats controlled the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Richards served as Montgomery County’s representative on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.  Richards also serves on the board of SEPTA. 

Pennsylvania political operatives had mentioned Richards as a potential Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. Richards declined to run for the seat after incumbent Congressman Jim Gerlach retired in 2014. 

In 2015, following the election of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, Richards was nominated to serve as Secretary of Transportation of Pennsylvania. She was subsequently confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate in May 2015. 

In 2017, Richards was appointed the first female chair of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as well as the Public Private Partnership (P3) Board. 

But what does she actually DO? I will note I contacted Ms. Richards when this whole Roundabout Reign of Terror began.  Her response, even an acknowledgement, of the fact that I contacted her must have gotten lost in the mail.

So people always say when it comes to things like road projects to follow the money, right? So what happens when we follow the money to PennDOT with regard to things like Roundabout Reigns of Terror? Who is benefitting? Is it a long list? Is it a short list?

I sent an e-mail overnight to Senator Andy Dinniman since I feel the State Representatives have been quite invisible on this.

What is happening here is terrifying. He needs to act. He actually might have the power to help my neighbors and get the pause button pushed.

NO ONE HAS TRIED BASIC SIGNALIZATION CHANGES! Why the heavy PennDOT push for traffic circles or the more politically new speak term of “roundabouts” ? Whatever happened to trying something less expensive before taking people’s homes?

Again, if the money trail is followed all the way to Harrisburg where will it lead?

The basic intersection changes affected residents asked for would cost a whole lot LESS than a Circle. And it would not involve eminent domain.

But we, as residents and taxpayers, have been told that PennDOT doesn’t want that. Everything they want seems to involve  eminent domain doesn’t it?

Money, money, money. It’s only money and OPM or Other People’s Money at that.  Do you want your taxpayer dollars to go to stealing a neighbor’s home?

Why should my neighbors be forced to this? Why should they fear losing their homes? How would you feel if you were facing eminent domain?

None of us asked for this. And the origins of this current situation is somewhat mind boggling to me. That all came out when we did RTK requests a few months ago.

People have asked State Reps for help and to the best of my knowledge that has kind of gone nowhere.

road1

My neighbors need and deserve help. This affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen. Truthfully it affects anyone who travels through this intersection.  Have you watched people use roundabouts? And what about Immaculata and the buses that come through to them and the trucks, big trucks, which travel these roads?

Of course my personal thoughts include that wanton development is also a culprit here- another thing residents didn’t ask for.

I have seen what the threat of eminent domain does to communities as I have been to this movie before. I just didn’t expect it out here as a threat quite as often as I have seen it.

We have done rights to know.  In the spring we learned a lot.  Is that the only way we can ever get answers is to pay to be flooded with paper?

This summer I took photos while a passenger in a car. Of a roundabout no one knows how to drive on in Chester County.  On Route 52. Where it is still kind of rural and no one lost their homes, although undoubtedly someone lost some land as in open space/farm land.

The topography where that circle was placed is radically different from where PennDOT seems hell bent for leather to get one at King and 352.

Putting a traffic circle, roundabout, whatever you wish to new speak it as on King and 352 is like the proverbial square peg in the round hole, or is it round peg in the square hole? (Sorry, traffic circle humor)

Remember this issue when election day rolls around.

Soon it will be Halloween.  Then we will have Thanksgiving and Christmas and Channukah and so on, so what do these poor residents have to look forward to with the evil specter of eminent domain courtesy of PennDOT lurking around seemingly every corner?

Residents asking for traffic improvements on side streets somehow translated to a potential pork project and please stop the roundabout turntable, residents want to get off.

Can anyone help stop this? Does anyone give a crap about residents anymore? Or all we just expendable?

Other posts:

the dance around eminent domain and other tales from the king road/route 352 meeting

no eminent domain. no circle/roundabout. people before politics.

meeting on route 352 and king road set for june 5th at 7pm at immaculata university

east goshen responds to right to know request on 352 and king intersection improvements

dear east whiteland and east goshen: we need a little “sunshine” about shared intersection improvements at king and 352.

penndot responds on king and sproul/352

Image may contain: outdoor

in the shadow of the goshen fire company on greenhill and boot

DSC_1049

I still do not understand how it is Sunoco/Energy Transfer/Sunoco Logistics is doing anything next to a fire house?

How is this even safe?  I thought firehouses were supposed to be respected and protected? How can our first responders keep us safe when they are literally not safe?

This is what it used to look like:

fh1

Now it’s this and I just don’t get it:

DSC_1047

residents, it is time to saddle up to save berwyn and save easttown – important meeting tonight at hilltop house !

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Handel’s Ice Cream. Photo found on Google Photo Search

ZONING MEETING EASTTOWN TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 17 7:15 PM AT HILLTOP HOUSE 570 BEAUMONT RD DEVON

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Turn out to #SaveBerwyn

This first pegged below was sent to me re: Easttown and the proposed hideous plan for Handel’s Ice Cream and some of the BUSINESSES seem to be AGAINST the residents?

This was part of something sent out by a guy in the Berwyn Devon Business Association – I am told they used to head the group but now Stacey from Eadeh below does ?

berwyn

The email says (and I quote):

Just a reminder that tomorrow night Sept 17 at 7pm will be the zoning meeting to hear public comment regarding the Berwyn Square/Handels development. We need the business community to come out to support this project which could be the game changer for Berwyn like East Side Flats for Malvern. The neighbors who are against it have rallied a petition and seem to project fear based on change and not looking at this as an opportunity for growth and vibrancy in our community and getting rid of an eyesore at the entrance to the Village. If you can’t make it please text me or email Stacey Ballard at staceyballard@eadeh.com with your comments and support. Again we need to balance the negative but not majority voice. Thank you!!!

So the author is a Realtor aren’t they? And I have to ask how much Eadeh Enterprises would profit if this project goes up? Wouldn’t it benefit their property values?

Also note the post card that went out to the business community about the project (and a meeting last week) and do you see the rendering? The people who are running this business association don’t seem to respect the residents they want as customers do they?

Look, the thing about businesses is that a lot of those people do NOT live RIGHT there where this is being proposed 24 hours a day /7 days a week / 365 days a year. Not all business owners anywhere and everywhere are also residents of municipalities going through development angst. That is WHY they often do NOT get WHY residents are upset.

In this case in Easttown I don’t get WHY developers don’t get why residents are upset, especially because some of them live in Easttown, so how could they propose something so out of character, right?

And oh yeah, have you all looked closely at Eastside Flats that the business association seeks to make a comparable on? Facade is the only thing with something to it and 3 sides of the building are NOTHING  as in they look like a cheap motel at the beach on 3 sides and will the facade finishes withstand the test of time? And as for safety, can a fire truck actually get BEHIND Eastside Flats? Or would they have to go up on the train tracks? And have you ever stood in the little neighborhood on the other side of the train tracks to see what those people see? A big hulking building shadow hanging over them?  And the sidewalk don’t even properly go to the edge of the driveway/parking lot at Eastside Flats. You have to step up and go over mulch so isn’t that a problem for the handicapped and elderly? (And why has Malvern Borough had them fix that?)

I took this photo when the flats were being built

We all patronize the businesses at Eastside Flats because we love them, but stand inside some of them if something gets flushed upstairs and tell me what you hear ? IMHO inside this one store you hear everything. And that was with music playing in the store.

East Side Flats still does not fit or complement Malvern Borough from a design aesthetic and never will. I don’t think that is right. And to say that building getting built created a renaissance is a fallacy because that project was built because Malvern was already on an upswing. Another opinion I am entitled to.

Image result for east side flats chester county ramblings

I also took this photo a few years ago.  Please note that is scored concrete, not real brick. And when it is wet, that is STILL more slippery than real brick in my humble opinion. These buildings are still out of character with the size and scale of other buildings in Malvern.  People might be getting used to them, but it still doesn’t make it right.  Human scale and setbacks matter.

The things about East Side Flats getting built that businesses and Easttown aren’t mentioning include the piss poor low ratables – $60,000 was ALL that Malvern Borough got wasn’t it?

$60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough
The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough.
By Pete Kennedy, Patch Staff
Jun 27, 2012 8:34 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2012 3:38 am ET

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the of Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

“That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.

“It was staggering, how small it was,” Mayor Jerry McGlone said

So remember the fairy tales spun on pots of Township gold from ratables are NOT necessarily true are they?

Oh and the thing that Easttown and the pro-development faction DO NOT tell you about is the fact that after East Side Flats went up it was a HUGE catalyst for change because that next election the mayor and I think half of borough Council were removed on a massive stealth write in ballot campaign weren’t they?

Meet Malvern’s new councilmen, mayor
By Linda Stein
lstein@mainlinemedianews.com Nov 12, 2013

In an example of democracy in action the voters in Malvern turned out in record numbers in the Nov. 5 to sweep out the incumbent mayor and three councilmen.

The pace and character of development in the borough was evidently the issue that brought voters to the polls, resulting in the successful write-in candidacy of three residents for seats on the council…David Burton, a Democrat who won the mayoral race 509 to 266 against long-time incumbent Gerald J. McGlone Jr., said development was the issue on people’s minds as he knocked on doors this fall.

At four stories, residents thought that Eastside Flats was too tall for Malvern, which is a small town with only 3,000 residents and encompassing a square mile. People worried that additional development would change the character of their hometown.

“Most people were upset as I campaigned,” said Burton. “People expressed that concern.”

So Easttown Township residents, it’s UP TO YOU. Don’t let non-residents and others tell you what your community should be. If you want to preserve your “village” then you need to send plans like this right back to the drawing table. Development needs to be careful and inclusive, not selfish. Don’t let non-residents, politicians, and developers make your village decisions.   Learn from the mistakes of residents in many different municipalities and counties.

Intersection of Berwyn and Midland Aves (where the large old Oak trees are currently in front of DeLuca’s Barbershop). This rendering leads the viewer to believe that Berwyn Ave is very wide. Instead, this is a narrow intersection that sits directly across from the CVS/Veekoo parking lot, and is already a busy one. Cars not able to exit onto Lancaster via the light at Midland, or the stop sign at Woodside, will use the surrounding village streets such as Berwyn Ave, to get onto Lancaster.

Again, development should be inclusive and growth should make sense.  In my humble opinion, this plan is another one that doesn’t make sense and I am entitled to said opinion. Naysayers will point to this post and say again that I am anti-development.  I am not.  But what I don’t see around here that I have seen in other areas are plans that are complementary to the surrounding area. Does the Flat Iron Building in NYC look like it would fit here? Because that is what looking at some of  the renderings made me think of, right or wrong. And we can’t downplay the impact continued development has on traffic, other infrastructure, school districts, municipal services, etc.

The developers' rendering shows how Handel's ice cream would be incorporated into the town center proposed on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Luxury town center proposed around Berwyn’s beloved ice cream shop, Handel’s
by Erin McCarthy, Updated: September 4, 2019

….a four-story, 150,000-square-foot mixed-use development with Handel’s and one or two small retailers on the ground floor, luxury apartments above, and a public plaza in the center. The complex also would have a two-story, 228-spot parking garage. Della Porta declined to comment on how much they intend to spend on the project.

Over the course of two meetings this summer, developers presented their plans to the zoning board, asking it to allow the construction of a public plaza and one more story than the code permits. They will have a third meeting later this month. When the presentations are finished, Briggs said, the board will decide whether to recommend the project for consideration by the township planning commission, a process that would take months….Residents who oppose the project say the complex will increase traffic, put pressure on the police and fire departments, and increase enrollment in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. They’ve started a loosely organized group called Save Easttown to protest the plan, which developers have called Berwyn Square.

I am going to close with the words of the residents who are part of Save Easttown. I don’t know that I know any of them personally, but I feel for them.  This is too reminiscent of the crap which has destroyed Ardmore. Sorry not sorry for that opinion too.  A lot of us worked to literally save Ardmore from eminent domain. But how many years later what did we save exactly? It’s still a quagmire of crappy development plans, horrible traffic and no parking. And it keeps getting worse.

SAVING EASTTOWN WITH RESPONSIBLE ZONING 
Next Zoning Hearing Board Date is Tuesday September 17th – 7:15pm at the Township Building
EASTTOWN, PA
AUGUST 27, 2019 IN HISTORIC BERWYN

easttown+signYou may have heard of current plans to construct a mixed use project situated on what is now Handels Ice Cream and its adjacent buildings. The developer, Berwyn LLC, is requesting zoning variances in order to build above the current 42’ limit, meaning that the building will reach the 50’ + level. The project will consist of 122 apartments with commercial space, and will fill the entire block of Lancaster, Midland, Woodside, and Berwyn Aves. We are a group of concerned citizens of Easttown Township, who have come together to preserve and promote the historic residential neighborhoods of the village of Berwyn. We are opposed to the development of this project for a variety of reasons, which we’ve described below.

Neighborhood Impact:

We are opposing the development of this project, because of its size, its population density, the increased traffic it will create, the impact to our police and fire departments, the parking shortages on the adjacent village streets it will cause, and the inevitable increase in the student population within the T/E school district. We also believe that there is a safety issue related to the number of children walking to and from T/E middle and Conestoga HS, especially with sidewalks being incomplete.

To give an idea of the density — the number of residents who would be housed in the apartment complex would mimic the entire population of all of Midland and Woodside Avenues combined. When questioned by an Easttown resident at the August 5 zoning board meeting, on the need for a zoning variance and why a project of this size is necessary, the developers provided two main reasons: the toxic underground waste presents a ‘hardship’ that can only be partially remediated (meaning that they can’t dig down very far to build a parking garage, and thus need to extend the height of the complex), and that the scale of the project needs to be this large, simply because anything smaller would not be “feasible” for them.

A project of this magnitude is unlike anything ever undertaken in the village (and it’s only one of several currently being proposed to our zoning board). The Berwyn village streets were built to accommodate traffic and parking needs from 100 years ago, not for what will occur if this development is allowed to go through as planned. Unless we oppose this project now, the impact will be felt for years to come. Not only will we face congested streets and parking shortages for existing Easttown residents (think Friday and Saturday around the local restaurants), but we are also endangering our children who walk to T/E middle and Conestoga HS – on streets without sidewalks.

High level view of the development – you can see that this complex will occupy the entire block. Plus, there are only two entrance and exit points onto Lancaster – Midland and Woodside. And neither are adequate for the expected lines of vehicles entering and exiting the property, and accessing Lancaster Ave. Drivers will seek alternate routes through the village to get to and from the premises.

when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields

Long ago is what feels to be now another lifetime, I was part of the original Save Ardmore Coalition. We were ordinary people who banded together to save friends’ and neighbors’ businesses from eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore PA.

Along our journey the wonderful people at the Institute for Justice helped us and taught us and encouraged us. Through IJ we also met some amazing and inspirational people.  (and if your community is facing eminent domain check out the Castle Coalition part of the IJ website.)

Here straight from IJ (Institute for Justice’s website success stories):

Pennsylvania
Ardmore
Through the grassroots and political processes, a citizens group called the Save Ardmore Coalition (SAC) successfully defeated Lower Merion Township’s attempt to seize and bulldoze 10 thriving businesses in Ardmore’s charming historic district. When it comes to grassroots activism, the SAC did it all — rallies, protests, publicity campaigns and coordinated efforts to unseat local officials who supported eminent domain abuse. Its members testified before state and local bodies urging the reform of eminent domain laws, attended the Castle Coalition’s national and regional conferences, and worked with the media to bring attention to their battle. In March 2006, the Township took its condemnation threats off the table — no doubt in response to the public outcry generated by the SAC.

Valley Township
It cost Nancy and Dick Saha $300,000 of their retirement savings and six hard years, but they prevailed in their bout with the City of Coatesville. The couple bought their Pennsylvania farmhouse in 1971, making lifelong dreams of owning a small horse farm a reality. With their five children, the Sahas moved to Chester County and restored their charming 250-year-old residence. Truly a family farm, two of their daughters married and built their family homes on the land, giving Nancy and Dick the chance to see their five grandchildren grow up next door.

When Coatesville threatened to take their property by eminent domain to build a golf course—plans for which didn’t even include their farm in the first place—the Sahas remained fully committed to a grassroots battle. They submitted three petitions, protested at local meetings and took their fight to court. Ultimately, the city council backed off when the Sahas pushed to elect new representatives, agreeing to purchase five acres that the Sahas had offered to give the government for free at the beginning of the dispute.

It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle.  We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more.  It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.

Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational.  They created a hand off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention.  We all did. It was kind of crazy.

It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.

I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha.  They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.

But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain.  I moved to Chester County.  And since I moved to Chester County  I have thought about the Sahas once in a while.  I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird.  But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.

So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)

Two Sisters Transformed Their Family’s Chester County Farm Into a 42-Acre Lavender Oasis
Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker, the owners of Wagontown’s Mt Airy Lavender, have dedicated themselves to growing and harvesting seven different varieties of the plant.
BY LISA DUKART

In the heart of Chester County, there’s a little piece of Provençe, France, thanks to sisters Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker. On their 42-acre Wagontown farm, some 1,200 lavender plants flourish. In the warm months, those fields are abuzz with bees and butterflies. They flit from plant to plant, drunk on the heady scent the flowers release as they sway in the breeze.

Creating and maintaining such an idyll has been no small feat. Saha and Voelcker’s Mt Airy Lavender has required years of dedication and hard work. Their parents bought the farm in 1971, moving their family from Media to the homestead just outside Coatesville. With love and care, its rundown 48 acres began to thrive.

Years later, in 1991, the city of Coatesville tried to build on the property, claiming eminent domain. After a six-year legal battle, the family won, losing just six acres in the process. As their parents aged, preserving the land they fought so hard to protect became more and more important to the sisters. They couldn’t bear to see it sold.

Over the years, Saha and Voelcker built their own homes on the farm to be near their parents. The houses sit on either side of a long, shaded driveway that wends by pastures where horses can be seen cropping the grass. One lavender field is right behind Voelcker’s home. She began planting it in 2012, a year after she and her husband returned from a five-year stay in Brussels. “I worked and lived over there,” says Voelcker, the former head of client insight and marketing technology at Vanguard. “I got a chance to visit the South of France, and I just fell in love with the lavender.”

Please take the time to read the entire article. It’s so wonderful. I am so happy for the Sahas and this new success I am am all choked up with emotion.  It is so awesome to hear about nice things happening to nice people in a world that some days is truly nuts.

I can’t wait to visit the farm on open farm days.  Via their Facebook page for Mt. Airy Lavender I found their website.

They have great products they make that you can order online and they hose all sorts of events .

Events that interest me are the upcoming open farm days and I hope my husband will want to check it out:

Visit us when the lavender is expected to be in bloom – Mt Airy Lavender Open Houses – Sat. June 22, Sun. June 23, Sat. June 29, Sun. June 30
Come visit Mt Airy Lavender these weekends when we expect the lavender to be in bloom. Shop our products, bring your cameras and a picnic lunch. Fresh cut lavender and a variety of lavender products will be available for purchase. We aren’t normally open to the public, so this is a great opportunity to enjoy the farm. Please note – we lost quite a bit of lavender due to all the rain and lack of sun. We are in the process of replanting. The farm is still quite beautiful so we hope to see you at our Open Houses.

We will be open 11 am to 4pm on:

Saturday, June 22 & Sunday, June 23

Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30

Note: Bees love lavender, please be aware that bees will be attending the Open House as well. If you are allergic to them, please take special precautions!

Click here for directions to their slice of heaven.

What else makes me happy? Not just that this is still a farm and was saved, but how farmers in Chester County get creative to exist in today’s world.  See? We don’t need fields of plastic mushroom houses, we can have things like fields of lavender instead!

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Another view of the Saha Farm today courtesy of Mt. Airy Lavender 

the dance around eminent domain and other tales from the king road/route 352 meeting

The residents of East Whiteland, East Goshen, and elsewhere should be proud. You guys showed up for your communities and neighbors.

In spite of other committee meetings at East Whiteland and East Goshen (zoning and planning I think? Not sure which meeting where), Immaculata’s Great Hall was literally bursting at the seams for the King Rd and Route 352 meeting last night. (Thank you to Immaculata by the way, what an awesome space!)

It was a contentious meeting at times. East Whiteland Supervisors Chair Sue Drummond set the tone by her opening remarks and attitude. Dear readers, she might not like my opinion because she knows I do not care for her but it happens to be the truth. She opened the meeting with snippy acerbic comments about what residents were going to be allowed to say and not say do and not do and that’s kind of the Cliff Notes version but she was well...obnoxious. She seems to have forgotten for whom she works…the residents! And oh by the way? Me thinks the lady supervisor doth protesteth too much. (Just sayin’)  Also at ends of meeting shouldn’t a politician make sure no offending residents are left within ear shot? I was standing there with another resident and “the PennDOT guy.”

I know the video is not the best quality and the township also recorded it, but I felt it was important, very important to get it out there.  State level elected officials sent representatives although they did not stay for the entire meeting. This YouTube is a recording of the 3 hours we Facebooked live last night. I will try to get the rest of it loaded. Some media was present as well.

I am completely against a traffic circle, roundabout, or whatever clever marketing term you prefer.  It will mean eminent domain.  Eminent domain is ugly and your home is your castle in this country until some government entity wants to take your land. ANY ELECTED OFFICIAL WHO CHOSES EMINENT DOMAIN NEEDS TO BE PUT OUT OF OFFICE WHENVER THEIR TERM OF OFFICE IS UP.

Last night residents asked over and over again for elected officials to say NO to the use of eminent domain.  East Goshen remained eerily silent but East Whiteland politicians sort of danced a dance.  So did the gentleman from McMahon associates who go quite the grilling from potentially affected residents. He got very defensive at times.

Listening to resident after resident it became abundantly clear that the consensus is NO EMINENT DOMAIN.  And for THREE hours those leading the meeting would do anything other that say the words EMINENT DOMAIN.  They referred to “slivers”, you know like they were sneak slicing bits of pound cake or a pie or something? If you can’t say the words “EMINENT DOMAIN” then obviously on some level it bothers you so East Whiteland and East Goshen Supervisors why not just take a pledge to NOT use eminent domain?

[Follow this link (as in click on it) for everything residents have obtained via Right to Know requests thus far.]

Things I find perplexing from the meeting includes how for 95% of the meeting East Whiteland Supervisor Chair Sue Drummond kept announcing how while she was not sure of East Goshen’s timeline, the East Whiteland Supervisors would decide next week —the East Whiteland Board of Supervisors meets NEXT Wednesday, June 12 at 7 PM and if you are concerned about this project you need to attend this meeting as well.  Public comment still belongs to the residents.

OK that is cray cray right? Except for those of us who have been dogging this topic, how many people knew about this? And to send residents a letter within the last two weeks which one would presume mentions slivers…err eminent domain as a potential, what the hell is up with that?

By the end of the meeting East Whiteland Supervisor Sue Drummond was saying she had conferred with her colleagues and well maybe they would wait for the July to vote?

Again what the hell is up with that? Does July mean when people are on vacation? After all doesn’t everyone know that a favorite trick of government and traffic counters is to do what they do at weird times of the year and/or holidays?

They have been tossing this idea around of at least intersection improvements for years, so what is a few more months of study with residents fully and openly engaged? And how can they use traffic issues on Carol Lane and Summit as justification for the potential of a traffic circle? How do they NOT understand that would cause MORE cut through traffic over there?

And if the politicians  say they don’t really want a traffic circle then why didn’t they say last night “there we showed you a circle, but we aren’t going to do that”? The cannot be a little bit pregnant here. They need to be definitive, which of course some politicians have a difficult time with because it affects talking out of both sides of their mouths, right?

And the presentation was flawed. Residents pointed out things on what was presented like how some wouldn’t literally be able to get out of their driveways.  Some people speaking were heartbreaking.  All they wanted to know is why these supervisors hadn’t let them know in some cases sooner this was a possibility and what would happen to their homes they worked so hard for?

I will note again that East Goshen was oddly silent through a lot of the meeting.  I will also note that residents pointed out how the land taking would basically occur in East Whiteland if it occurred.

As they spoke of traffic counts and studies last night, I could once again hear the wise words of one of my favorite Commissioners once upon a time in Lower Merion Township.  He quipped in comments at one meeting where some members of township staff and certain commissioners were trying to justify the results of a traffic study that was done either around a holiday or in the dog days of August before school started “When it comes to traffic studies, you get what you pay for.”

He wasn’t saying that in a flattering way.

East Whiteland wants to hurry up and slam this through and my honest opinion is affected residents might wish to consider legal counsel to make sure their interests are properly protected.  Or they should at least consult with legal counsel.

Our homes are our castles.  And these are our neighbors and friends.  I thank everyone who came out last night and hope they keep on showing up. And remember the unintended consequences of all the freaking development in Chester County are truly to blame here. Or at least in my humble opinion.

These thoughts were bought to you in part by the First Amendment.