do YOU want signs like this in your community?

A friend of mine sent me this today because they were up in Quakertown, PA.

This is the company that Haverford Township goes to court with this week after many years of no activity. This is the billboard company that Lower Merion Township has gone to court with and Tredyffrin Township is currently in court with as well. This is the billboard company that has been to West Whiteland, Phoenixville borough, Charlestown Township, and now is beginning a journey with East Whiteland Township.

I think this is like the best of tacky Vegas and that’s not where we live is it? I think it’s even worse than I 95. But that’s just my opinion.

What is your opinion on the signs out there in blog reader land? I am honestly interested in your opinions. Feel free to leave a comment.

Billboards = Blight

#NoBillboards #NoBillboardsInTheBurbs

big anti-billboard turnout in east whiteland

It was a packed room with people standing on the sides of the room for the Billboard hearings in East Whiteland tonight.

Tonight was about establishing party status for people with regard to each individual hearing for each individual application. As kind of expected pretty much everyone was objected to and if Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny had been present they would’ve been objected to as well.

The meeting was honestly quite contentious at times and once the video is up I will post a link so people can see it for themselves. One thing I did not care for was when East Whiteland ‘s solicitor threatened to have police remove a resident. It was a woman, a very nice woman whom I actually know, and she didn’t understand the process.

And that was something tonight that I thought was problematic – it was very confusing trying to understand the process. I sort of understood the process, or most of the process because I’ve been to these hearings before, but I was in the distinct minority and it wasn’t explained well.

Ginny Kerslake from West Whiteland showed up and suggested that East Whiteland do what West Whiteland did and request a full scale test of the signs.  That’s a really good common sense suggestion so I hope it happens.

Also the billboard company is going to have an open house coming up for residents of East Whiteland at the Desmond Hotel. I am a little fuzzy on the date ( I *think* it is Thursday, January 23 at 7 PM) and as soon as I have clarity I will post it here. I would suggest that residents go.

I have a feeling this is the first of many, many Billboard hearings. Tonight you had people showing up with legitimate reasons for wanting party status other than immediate proximity to the locations. Health impacts. Serious health impacts. I will give East Whiteland Supervisors kudos here for standing up for those residents, in particular, Supervisor Rich Orlow.

Anyway good job East Whiteland residents and others. Not a fun meeting for anyone. but if you care about your community this is just one of those issues where you have to keep showing up.

I did not see anyone from State Senator Dinniman’s office or anyone from State Rep. Kristine Howard’s office either.

the end of the decade, new year’s eve 2019

Lovely Loch Aerie, Frazer, PA

It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.

So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.

Ironically my three house picks for the decade are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era.

You see the first house above. My ultimate old house love, beautiful and lovely Loch Aerie mansion. I have written about her enough that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and restate her history.

Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.

Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.

Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.

My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.

We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.

I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry. I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)

It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.

My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.

This house is on S.Whitford and Clover Mill Roads in Exton. The Joseph Price House in West Whiteland Township.

Here is a wonderful little slide show presentation on prezi. This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.

I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

This house is not completely deserted I am told there is a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.

So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.

Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

Joseph Price House. West Whiteland Township.

east whiteland: billboard hearing january 15, 2020 at 7 pm. be there or be a billboard.

no billboards 2

The news came down early from the East Whiteland Planning Commission where this was supposed to be discussed:

agenda

Now we already established that East Whiteland Outdoor was Catalyst. As in wants billboards in Lower Merion, Haverford Township, West Whiteland Township, Tredyffrin Township and basically any place they can shove a sign and make dough-ray-me. It’s not about first amendment rights to sell advertising space on billboards, or fitting in with a community, or beautifying a community, or helping a community it’s like a Howard Johnson’s dine and dash isn’t it? They come in, make money, right?

Well no, actually WRONG.  We LIVE here, right? I guess you could say the billboard people live her too but would they put giant billboards on their front lawns? NOPE.

So this came back to me early:

Planning

The company was a NO SHOW.  Were they at a Christmas party or something? I mean how disrespectful to East Whiteland’s Planning Commission and residents was THAT?

Some one else wrote:

I just came from the planning commission meeting. The applicant (sign company) did not show up and the commission recommended unanimously against approval. they are advisory to the supervisors. The supervisors will have a conditional use hearing on Jan 15,2020 at 7pm unless they reschedule….As the solicitor pointed out, that hearing is like a legal hearing and there is a public comment period but it is last. The hearing could be continued into extra hearings until they finally get to public comment…. It is vitally important to get a show of as many citizens as possible at that Jan 15 meeting. No one in the township is in favor of these billboards as one neighbor pointed out tonight. They do not accept letters or petitions at the hearing. You have to show up in person.

They are CORRECT. No EXCUSES. People have to SHOW UP. Even from other affected municipalities because there are so many municipalities dealing with this SAME company.  Just ask other communities like  Lower Merion, Haverford Township, West Whiteland Township, Tredyffrin Township,  East Pikeland Township, and Phoenixville Borough (which said NO and prevailed incidentally)

The Phoenix: Billboard baron loses fight over Phoenixville zoning
By Michael P. Rellahan mrellahan@21st-centurymedia.com May 28, 2014

WEST CHESTER – A Chester County Court judge dismissed a Philadelphia-area billboard baron’s challenge to the Phoenixville zoning ordinance that he claimed improperly excluded such signs from the borough.

In a May 20 ruling, Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Tunnell upheld the ruling by the borough’s zoning hearing board, finding that the zoning ordinance did allow for billboards and other large outdoor signs to be erected, just not in the location that Thaddeus Bartkowski III and his company, Chester County Outdoor, wanted to erect them.

Bartkowski had filed a substantive validity challenge to the ordinance in 2011, claiming that it unconstitutionally prohibited a type of business from the borough. In 2012, the zoning board ruled against Bartkowski…‘The clear and unambiguous language of the zoning ordinance permits an occupant to have one freestanding sign per lot subject to the terms of the zoning ordinance,’ Tunnell wrote in a 16-page decision. ‘Billboards and off-permises sign are included … and are permitted in the borough.

‘Therefore the board properly concluded that there is no de jure prohibition and exclusion and (Chester County Outdoor’s) substantive validity challenge mist be denied.’

The decision was greeted with satisfaction by attorney Anthony Verwey of the West Chester firm of Unruh, Burke, Turner & Frees, who was appointed to act as special counsel for Phoenixville Borough Council in the case.

Now Tredyffrin is still in court with Captain Billboard as per Tredyffrin Blogger Pattye Benson.

So residents of Chester County and elsewhere? Aren’t we #StrongerTogether? We should all be getting to these meetings. Yes they take time. Trust me I know, I literally spent almost every month for years going to billboard hearings in Lower Merion Township and Haverford Township.  And here we are again, everything old is new again…this time in East Whiteland and Tredyffrin.  Also can’t forget West Whiteland.  Issue may be dormant for now, but is it gone?

West Whiteland made them demonstrate a live version of what a sign would look like at 500 N. Pottstown Pike in 2018. (See this letter that went out at the time.) Then there was a meeting. For now not sure what is going on with billboards in West Whiteland, but based on past patterns of this company, can we say they will be back?

Hey, a related aside: is there a billboard Terminator? Asking for lots of friends.

So from Scenic America:

To learn more about billboard blight and what you can do about it, click on any of the issue areas below:

The Truth about Billboards

Digital Billboards

Legal Issues and Billboards

Public Opinion on Billboards

Tools for action

On-Premise Sign Control

And don’t forget three states in this country prohibit billboards: Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine. So it IS possible.

As per East Whiteland these are the applications in front of them:

02-2019-CU Application

02-2019-CU Plan

104 Linc Hwyproperty 1property 1a

03-2019 CU 323 Lancaster Ave

03-2019-CU Application

323 Lancproperty 2property 2a

04-2019-CU Application 32 Lancaster Avenue

04-2019 CU Plan

32 Lancproperty 3property 3 a

Ok the locations and applications are public record. East Whiteland Township posted the information on their website along with the applications. What bugs me is the township seems to have had these applications for months? Yikes.

So there you have it.  That is all the information available to the best of my knowledge.  The media doesn’t find this a sexy issue apparently because I did not hear of any media coverage to date over the potential of billboards in East Whiteland.  But what if they just looked at the fact that as well as elsewhere, the townships of Tredyffrin, East Whiteland, and West Whiteland all have a common problem here?

I don’t have a crystal ball.  What  I do know is residents need to show up in force at the billboard hearing January 15, 2020 at 7 pm. They need to be there or be a billboard.

stronger

no billboards for christmas please, east whiteland

Just when you think more headaches can’t possibly arise for East Whiteland residents, along comes the possibility of…..BILLBOARDS…BIG ELECTRONIC ones.

So riddle me this East Whiteland— why did you spend ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money on a Route 30 Corridor Study only to allow further deterioration via billboards? I mean What The ever loving F ? is Lancaster Ave / Route 30 / Lincoln Highway supposed to improve by being turned into I-95 in Philadelphia by GIANT television screens that are on 24/7/365? You haven’t even addressed the smaller one that blinds people near Lincoln Court!

Way to sneak in the holiday surprise, right? (Here is the link to the Planning Commission Agenda but the links to each of the items on billboard, but those links go absolutely nowhere right now .)

And about the E. Whiteland Outdoor, LLC?

So does that mean East Whiteland now has a lot in common with other townships like Tredyffrin, Haverford, Coatesville, and even more? (See the Community Matters Blog in Tredyffrin.)

And hey East Whiteland all those apartment dwellers you want on Route 30? Townhouses, etc? Do you really think these people and future residents want to have to buy blackout shades to avoid the glare of I-95 in Chester County? Because that is what people already face driving by that small non-related overly bright TV in front of part of Lincoln Court, right?

And it looks like East Whiteland zoning for off premises signs doesn’t exactly match the supposed spirit of what they supposedly wish to accomplish with the Route 30 Corridor Study?

I just can’t EVEN with this township. Sign me disgusted. If YOU are disgusted too please go to the Christmas Surprise Planning Commission Meeting. Wednesday December 18th at 7 PM. East Whiteland Township is located at 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, PA 19355

december demolition

39 East Montgomery Avenue, 41 East Montgomery Avenue and 108 Glenn Road – all on the Montgomery Avenue side of the Suburban Square neighborhood in North Ardmore.

(Here is an interior tour of one of the homes demolished.)

I remember all of these houses. I used to walk my dogs past them when I lived on the Main Line. This is in Lower Merion Township (see page 29 if you click on hyperlink.) This plan has been around a few years as per a Main Line Media News article from November, 2018.

One of my readers from the Main Line sent me these photos.

Two of these homes were converted into apartments many, many years ago.

These three homes all were built between 1900-1920. These homes housed about 10 residents prior to this demolition from what I was told.

Once upon a time I knew some of the people who lived here. Hardwood floors, amazing woodwork, and architectural details that withstood the test of time. These homes, although rentals, still had gardens. Lovely, established gardens.

I still remember when I first saw inside one of the houses. I was in awe. AMAZING. The tenants were house proud.

But like other cool old houses I have been enamored of in the township I used to call home, they have been demolished.

When completed, There will be 21 three bedroom residences and 42 parking spaces. This is what will replace three once graceful and beautiful homes as per the developer’s website:

The developer describes his project thusly:

Inspired by the stately and legendary architectural heritage of the iconic Main Line, 39 MONTGOMERY offers 21 private residences suited to the way people live today. Gracefully proportioned, the combination of limestone and brick façade harmoniously blends with both residential neighbors and commercial Suburban Square.

I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I just do not see any of that. I did see that description in the three places torn down. They were definitely gracefully proportioned. And well-maintained. Timeless. Elegant.

I have known quite a few people who lived on and around Glenn Road. I wonder what they think?

I remember hearing how the residents of these now torn down homes attended many meetings in Lower Merion Township. It made me so sad. Been there, done that.

Once upon a time when I lived not too far from where these homes stood, my then neighborhood also had a December demolition. I still haven’t forgotten those houses. They were in a “historic district”. December, 2008. Here is an image from that day:

I remember what it felt like that day in December long ago. It was so sad. Like watching a neighborhood get torn apart for someone else’s version / vision of “progress”.

This is what the Glenn Road house specifically looked like:

Maybe my thoughts on “progress” like this don’t matter. Riddle me this however: when does it matter what residents in municipalities facing all this infill development they really don’t want are feeling?

RIP to three really and truly lovely homes.

life’s little observations

s-l1600

Something occurred to me the other day.  And I am not a psychologist or expert in the field of how negativity affects people, especially where they live, so these are merely my opinions and observations.

Stress and it’s impacts on us is widely studied.  This article from 2018 was insightful-  Stress and our mental health – what is the impact & how can we tackle it?. So was this article- Psychological Stress, Physical Stress, and Emotional Stress, and this one – All the Ways Living in a City Messes With Your Mental Health.

We live in an area that was bucolic and peaceful. Agricultural and equine heritage and traditions.  It is now being overrun by development.  Every time you turn around, another community is threatened. That is stressful if you are directly affected/impacted, and it can raise your blood pressure just driving by a place where you used to see cows, or horses swishing their tails while they grazed to seeing how  it is now just a big pit of scraped earth or budding Tyvec-wrapped communities where everyone is or will be jammed in like lemmings.

And then there are all of the pipeline sites. They are ugly and raw and NOISY.  People’s property values are declining, their wells being poisoned by whatever the heck it all is they drill with (there are enough articles in local papers etc about this, right?) And we can’t forget the sinkholes. When I was first coming out to Chester County before I moved here, I used to love when I turned on 352 off of West Chester Pike if I came that way.  All of a sudden it was just green with rolling stretches of lawn and trees. Now it is a raped landscape that actually stresses me out just driving by it, so I can’t even imagine how directly affected residents feel.

Or other area stressers like contested sites within municipalities where state agencies like PennDOT are concerned.  Take the site of Route 352 (A/K/A N. Chester R or Sproul Rd) and King Road in Malvern.  This directly affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen.

And here we are at year end and no one knows what is happening for sure at that intersection, and that includes the directly affected residents.  Will they face any eminent domain? Will they face a complete loss of certain properties through eminent domain? It’s a big mystery. And I watch email after email by affected residents go by to municipal officials and PennDOT.  PennDOT never replies. It is like they are ignoring the residents utterly and completely, which adds to the feelings of stress, dismay and uncertainty.

Is it just me or have any of you noticed how people aren’t putting up their usual Christmas displays in some of these areas targeted by pipelines, development,  construction, and PennDOT? This is what I have noticed, and it bums me out to see houses usually bright and cheery at the holidays look dark and sad. But in all fairness, if you were facing any of these things, how cheerful and full of Christmas spirit would you feel?

Life can be hard, that is the reality of life.  But for a lot of these people, it shouldn’t be so hard. These folks moved here and bought their homes to raise their families.  Their piece of the American Dream.  You live right, pay your taxes, are part of your community.  And your home is indeed your castle, and for a lot of these people there are quite literally barbarians at the gate.

Elected officials NEED to think about how these scenarios are affecting their constituents. All they have to do is drive by and notice how the longer these negative issues persist, how they affect people. Real people. People who in a lot of cases voted for them. It shows in the little things like gardening and holiday decorations.  I think it is criminal to drive by homes where you know the owners were once so house proud and see these changes.

Just some of life’s little observations.  Wishing these people peace.