what books are on your coffee table in chester county?

What books are on your coffee table in Chester County?

I can tell you which ones are on mine. Since I moved to Chester County I have added to my library a small Chester County section. And the books on my coffee table specifically are as follows:

100 Artists of The Brandywine Valley by Catherine Quillman.

Speaking for Themselves: The Artists of Southeastern Pennsylvania by Daphne S. Landis.

A Traveler’s Album by Eugene L. DiOrio.

If these books interest you there are a lot of them out there in new/unused and gently used but in very good condition on Amazon and eBay. Also you never know what you will find at Baldwin’s Book Barn 😊

skin in the game of pipelines?

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So I started looking at the interactive pipeline map again along with the pipeline website for Chester County set up by the Chester County Planning Commission. And it prompted an email to pipeline companies and the Chester County Planning Commission to clarify how we would possibly be affected where we live. ( I will note we have neighbors not so far away who have like three pipelines running through their property.)

“When I look at our mapping, which uses the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) that the Federal Government maintains, in conjunction with the pipeline operators, the western edge of your house is roughly 1,030 feet from the closest line, which is Interstate Energy, which is planned to be converted to natural gas.”

~ Carrie from Chester County Planning Commission

Close enough.

Yikes. (and that is the most polite phrase fit to print.)

And for what isn’t planned, possibly planned, maybe planned, who knows what plan exists right through my backyard and/or woods, well I would be close enough to be in a blast zone. Only it is apparently not politically correct to use that phrase, because when I did, I was told:

Regarding your concern about being in a “blast zone,” our office does not define or utilize the phrase “blast zone.” We do use the term Consultation Zone, which is a term used by the federal government and operators to distinguish an area of 1000 feet (in Chester County) on either side of an existing transmission pipeline where coordination between local officials, landowners, and operators are encouraged to consult with each other before land developments are planned for these areas. The US Department of Transportation (which houses the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Office of Pipeline Safety) sponsored a planning effort known as “Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance” (2010,) which identified the phrase Consultation Zone. They define it as an area extending from each side of a transmission pipeline to describe when a property developer/owner, who is planning a new development in the vicinity of an existing transmission pipeline, should initiate a dialogue with the operator. (see https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/…/pipa-report-final-20101117.p…) These zones are a recommended practice and not something that is required.

As another person pointed out to me:

 …the Blast Zone is something different. PHMSA calls it the “Buffer Zone” but sorry, we and our loved ones are not buffers.

If Adelphia [and others] end up being like Mariner East, at a 1000 ft you will be within the Blast Zone.

 

Whether Buffer Zone, Consultation Zone, or Blast Zone….they are all scary bad zones to me, o.k.?

Well now, apparently I will have skin in the game? That now I can join all of the other Chester County and Delaware County residents worrying about pipelines?

Fabulous. Worry is such a good look on people, right? (Dripping sarcasm, can you feel it?)

What started me like Alice down the proverbial pipeline rabbit hole this week is something I saw posted on Charlestown’s website:

adelphia

You see, in neighboring East Whiteland Township where I live, the township doesn’t have much out there yet on the pipelines.    All I found (easily – I say easily because perhaps information is hidden deep down in website ) was the Adelphia Gateway letter from January, which I had already seen.  Here it is:

A lot of townships now have stand alone pages with pipeline information.  Like East Goshen, Uwchlan, and Upper Uwchlan, for example. (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE) All townships with any pipelines should have these informational pages in my opinion.

I will note that when I sent my email to Chester County Planning about pipelines in my particular neighborhood, while the planning commission was kind and replied to me, only  ONE pipeline company gave me the courtesy of a reply acknowledging my outreach. Ryan Lumbridge from Enbridge. He offered up his phone number if I need to speak with him.  I will call him but I am most concerned with Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy. And apparently since now a couple of days has passed without even a simple acknowledgement of contact, Adelphia Gateway and Interstate Energy don’t seem to think they need to communicate with residents.

Wrong.

The pipeline companies need to communicate. To Interstate especially I say if you plan to maybe possibly or maybe definitely plan to do something 1,030 from the edge of our property, you can show a little interest. I am on a well, I have gardens, I have beautiful woods and more.  I want to know exactly what Interstate is planning to do if they do it and when. I am sure I am but one of many emails they get, and I am trying to be calm and rational, except I have seen what is going on in neighboring municipalities with Sunoco, and well, I don’t want my neighborhood to have these problems. 

I reiterate my objections to these pipelines which rape and pillage and destroy so they can ship their good overseas so other companies in Europe and elsewhere can do things like make more plastic.  Our homes are our castles, our American dreams and it is heinous that American companies can just take our land (without even just compensation in my opinion) and trash it for their profit. And put us in danger.

We are also densely populated enough that what if with other pipeline companies wishing to be Sunoco-Mariner East II-Lite something blows up? Collapses? Ruins wells, breaks water mains? Causes sinkholes? Brings down property values? We as residents are NOT protected. Officials can’t say it won’t happen because all the media coverage and whatnot shows it HAS happened.  Are we just to repeat the same darn patterns over and over from pipeline company to pipeline company and municipality to municipality???

I am sure pipeline companies want residents to just go quietly into the night.  We can’t. Our lives and our homes and our properties are at stake.  You can’t bully, harass, or threaten us into submission. We live here and like it or not, we have rights.  We shouldn’t have to be pipeline guinea pigs should we?

And right or wrong, I feel like these pipeline companies, our sitting Governor Tom Wolf, and even municipalities at times want us as residents to know as little as possible.

#DefendWhatYouLove

Here is a round-up of some recent articles I found:

DelCo Times Guest Column: An opposing view to Sunoco’s rosy outlook on pipeline project

Daily Local News: Middletown to Pa.: Stop pipeline construction

Dragonpipe Diary: Here’s how the “worst case” could happen: a dry run

Philadelphia Business Journal: PUC rules to keep Mariner East 2, 2X pipeline construction on hold

Delco Times: Delco moves forward on pipeline risk assessment study

Daily Local News:  Local lawmaker calls on PUC to post pipeline public comments online

State Impact PA:Officials: Water main contractor struck Mariner East 2 in Delaware County

Daily Local: Chesco Commissioners urge PUC to stand against pipeline projects

#savestoneleigh (and photos from the opening)

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On May 8th and May 10th I wrote posts on Stoneleigh in Villanova.  A little far afield from Chester County but so important. I am a supporter and believer in Natural Lands, and then there is a more personal bent.  You see, one of my high school classmates grew up on Stoneleigh. His parents, John and Chara Haas, put the property into a conservation easement in 1996.

The 1996 conservation easement was with Natural Lands. The express wish of Mr. and Mrs. Haas was that the property be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Open space, gardens, and so on.  Now today is Mother’s Day and yesterday at the members preview on Stoneleigh, people were speaking of when Mr. and Mrs. Haas would open up the property on Mother’s Day for people to enjoy.

Here is a photo array to see before continuing with the post here – it takes a while to load – a lot of photos:

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After Mr. and Mrs. Haas passed away, their children decided to donate the property to Natural Lands, and that happened in 2016.  The conservation easement remains very much in place today, but is now under the stewardship of the Lower Merion Conservancy. Lower Merion Conservancy now is responsible for the annual monitoring.

I think Lower Merion School District is already starting damage control with their eminent domain B.S. given this overly verbose don’t hate us because we are big jerks press release currently on their website. I am more than a little disappointed by former 6ABC  reporter Amy Buckman already. Her predecessor’s press releases were much easier to follow and didn’t word wander, but I digress.

With regard to what is on their website, it is the full on poor pitiful Pearl routine where among other things they say that “LMSD is now the fastest-growing District in Pennsylvania by total number of students over the past eight years and enrollment could surpass 9,500 students in the next ten years.

But do they tell you WHY the district is growing so fast? Do they mention all of the development they have never, ever questioned? And yet, they are making a play for Stoneleigh based on future assumptions, or a possibility?  Call me crazy but they seem to want land for a future not a present need? And why are their needs the problem of Natural Lands and Stoneleigh? Just because it is there?

I have permission from Natural Lands to share some of the history of Stoneleigh so here’s an excerpt:

Stoneleigh’s history dates back to 1877 when Edmund Smith, a rising executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and constructed a residence there. To shape the grounds, Smith hired landscape gardener Charles H. Miller, who trained at Kew Gardens in England and later served as chief gardener for Fairmount Park.

At the turn of the 20th century, Samuel Bodine, head of United Gas Improvement Company, acquired the property. In addition to building the Tudor Revival style building that exists today, Bodine hired New York landscape architecture firm Pentecost and Vitale to radically redesign the gardens in a more formal, or “Beaux Arts,” style.

Evidently, Bodine was not pleased with the results. In 1908, he retained the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts—sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, and the most prestigious landscape architecture firm in the country—to “guide him in the gradual transformation of the place.” Over the next 50 years, the Olmsted Brothers firm returned periodically to Stoneleigh to plan vistas and pathways, establish gardens and terraces, reroute points of entry, select plant species, and transplant trees.

Following Samuel Bodine’s death in 1932, Stoneleigh was subdivided and sold. Otto Haas, entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Company, purchased the southwestern portion of the estate, launching a more than 80-year tenure of careful stewardship by the Haas family. Otto and Phoebe’s son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired the property in 1964 and lived there for the next five decades.

Yesterday, Stoneleigh was packed. Natural Lands members turned out from everywhere to tour the house and the grounds.  It was lovely and bucolic, and I would like to think what the Haas family had hoped for.  Family members were on site yesterday.  I am sure it was also a little bit hard for all of them. This was their home, after all.   Now it’s an achingly beautiful public garden space and although this is the path set forth by their lovely parents, it just has to be bittersweet. And then to learn that Lower Merion School District is seemingly proceeding on a path of land stealing? Well, I can only imagine.

Apparently Lower Merion School District is having a tour on May 18th? Allow me to quote them again:

Due to a need for additional field space, Superintendent Copeland has stated that the District would like to pursue the 6.9 developable acres of Stoneleigh no matter whether or where a new middle school site is acquired. The District is hopeful an amicable accommodation can be reached.
As part of their continuing due diligence, and especially now in light of the possibility of the Class 1 designations on two of the potential sites, District representatives in April requested a walk-through of the entire Stoneleigh property for May 18, 2018.

Amicable is school district speak for give us what we want NOW.

Here is an excerpt of what WHYY wrote in an article May 12th:

WHYY: Conservancy mobilizes as Lower Merion looks to Stoneleigh garden for school use
By Laura Benshoff   May 12, 2018

To combat overcrowding, Lower Merion School District has proposed buying — or seizing through eminent domain — 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh estate and historic garden in Villanova.

In response, Natural Lands, the conservation trust overseeing the property, has launched a public advocacy campaign called “Save Stoneleigh,” urging the district to drop its bid…

At Stoneleigh, gardeners and conservators have been doing their own planning, preparing the picturesque 42-acre estate that once belonged to the Haas family to open to the public, starting Sunday….

Lower Merion School Board will ultimately weigh every option before deciding whether to invoke eminent domain.

“It’s not the district’s first choice to do that,” said Roos. “But it just can’t be taken off the table as an option.”

Thugs. That is a good descriptive adjective don’t you think?  I am all for what lawyer Arthur Wolk wants at this point: removal of the entire school board. To that I add the removal of autocratic school Superintendent Robert Copeland.  To THAT I add Lower Merion Commissioners and township staff who have been ever so gung ho over development for YEARS and years.  Just clean house.  

Legal battles aside, that is exactly what needs to happen to prevent this B.S. in the future.

Savvy Main Line has a lovely write up about Stoneleigh on their website. Check it out.

And now that Stoneleigh has opened, visit. It will take your breath away. And once you are there and experience the magic of the place, you will understand why oh so many of us are so passionate about it. It is magical. Simply magical.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos I shared.

Please see Save Stoneleigh for more information.  Please consider signing the petition . Please write a letter, speak at upcoming meetings, and keep spreading the word.  Open Space should not be threatened like this. And at the end of the day, if the Lower Merion School District is unwilling and unable to respect the legacy of the Haas family, it is our duty to see that they are taught respect, don’t you think?

#SaveSoneleigh (pass it on.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

eminent domain should be a four letter word/ little pink house

Susette Kelo

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house circa 2008 . Scott Mahan photo.

Sunday we went into Philadelphia to see the movie Little Pink House, which I had written about recently.

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Mary Cortes from Cramer Hill, Camden, NJ on left with another Cramer Hill resident on the right at the Little Pink House Screening in Philadelphia with the Institute for Justice.

The Institute for Justice in Washington, DC was kind enough to sponsor an event reuniting a lot of groups who had fought eminent domain for private gain.  I was so happy to reunite with my original Save Ardmore Coalition friends and to see Mary Cortes and some of the Cramer Hill, Camden folks. I was thrilled to spend time with Scott Bullock, who is now President of the Institute for Justice and Susette Kelo, about whom the movie is about.  I had met and spent time with Susette Kelo when she was going to the United States Supreme Court and after.

Little Pink House  coming to town brought back a lot of memories.  Eminent domain should be a four letter word. Here is a re-cap of what the movie is about:

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should, even more so after seeing the movie.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer , the State of Connecticut and New London, Connecticut.

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My dear friend Sherry Tillman (left) with Susette Kelo on Sunday at the Little Pink House screening.

Little Pink House could happen to any of us.  And as I sat through the movie I was struck again by the B.S. spouted by politicians salivating and greedy for development (it’s universally sleazy.)  How they were doing this for the residents and how it would be so wonderful….and what did they do? They stole people’s homes, bulldozed them, and handed it all on a silver platter to Pfizer (it really makes you despise big  B.S. development plans all over again after seeing this movie.)

In 2009, Pfizer left New London. Yes, left.  People’s lives and homes were destroyed for them.  These were every day working and middle class people.  The heart of their community was bulldozed into oblivion. Stolen by eminent domain for private gain.

Here is a New York Times article about Pfizer’s final bad act in this play of misery and human suffering:

N.Y. / REGION
Pfizer to Leave City That Won Land-Use Case
By PATRICK McGEEHANNOV. 12, 2009

From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

The announcement stirred up resentment and bitterness among some local residents. They see Pfizer as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run.

In Chester County, many of you should remember the case of Coatesville trying to steal the Saha farm for a golf course and whatnot.  That was eminent domain for private gain and I saw the Sahas often during the time we were fighting eminent domain in Ardmore.  Dick and Nancy Saha were wonderful folks.  I have not run into them since moving to Chester County, and hope someday our paths will cross again.
Here are a couple of articles that will refresh your memory on the Saha case:

During the two-hour hearing, much of the testimony referred to the battle between Dick and Nancy Saha and the city of Coatesville.

Prior to the hearing, Sen. Jim Gerlach, R-44th of East Brandywine, who is chairman of the committee, said he wants to establish whether one municipality can condemn land in another municipality without that municipality’s approval and whether eminent domain can be used for nontraditional uses such as for recreation centers.

The testimony which began with Greg Lownes, the nephew of Dick and Nancy Saha….

“We are not against the revitalization of Coatesville. What Coatesville does with their property, we don’t care. Dick (Saha) has a business in Coatesville. He has a vested interest. But we object to the city taking the Saha’s land for a for-profit business,” Lownes said.

In his testimony, Lownes said he would like laws to be passed that would not allow one municipality to condemn land in another municipality without that municipality’s approval.

The Sahas beat city hall quite literally. But is was a long, ugly, drawn out legal battle.

Also note the 2013 article in the Daily Times where the land acquired that the Saha land was supposed to be added to. The land was being auctioned off.  Here is the article from then:

Chester County land sale marks end of long battle for Saha family, Delco natives

By Ginger Dunbar 8/13/13

The Saha family – Delaware County natives – rocketed into the headlines a decade ago when they dug in to fight a municipal land grab in an eminent domain case that sparked national headlines.

The Sahas’ struggle with the City of Coatesville centered over the city’s desire to use a part of their family farm for a golf course development.

The Sahas, who came to Chester County from Drexel Hill, decided to fight City Hall. And they won.

They stopped the golf course plan. Elected officials from Coatesville pushing the project were ousted by voters. The city administration was replaced.

An auction Tuesday hopes to dispose of the property surrounding the Saha tract that were acquired in efforts to build the golf course and related projects.

A city property in Valley township is 22.5 acres of land with old stone farm home and is zoned as conservation land. The property is at 175 South Mount Airy Road. The property, officials said, is ideal for agricultural uses.

The city property in West Brandywine township is 63.5 acres of vacant land that is zoned as agricultural and residential land. The property is located off North Manor Road (Route 82).

Dick and Nancy Saha moved to their farm on Mount Airy Road in 1971. They said they worked hard for 15 years to make their home live able and added heating and plumbing. They raised five children on the farm.

In April 1999 they said city officials knocked on their door with legal papers for the intention to take their 38 acre farm land through eminent domain. For the six years that followed, the Sahas said their fight against the city cost them more than $300,000 in legal fees.

There are stories like the Sahas’ from coast to coast. Eminent domain for private gain has been addressed on a state level in many states, but not on a federal level.

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

We won our battle in Ardmore and the Sahas won in Coatesville, and Long Branch, NJ won….because Susette Kelo lost the U.S. Supreme Court Case by one vote. This of course also demonstrates what happens when administrations stack the United States Supreme Court, doesn’t it?

Seeing this movie on Sunday, and listening to Scott Bullock and Susette Kelo again, brought all of this back.  Susette and I spoke before and after the movie and I said I thought she was so brave and amazing to keep telling her story but I imagined it was incredibly hard some days to sit through showings of this beautiful film.  She said it was.

Recently I wrote a post about Lower Merion Township and Main Line Today Magazine and an article I found to be quite the piece of revisionist history. It was another fluff piece on Ardmore.

Main Line Today March, 2018

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

BY MICHAEL BRADLEY

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those of us who reunited from the original Save Ardmore Coalition on Sunday remember what it was like.  It was at times, awful.

But also on Sunday we realized what we were a part of with Susette and all of the other folks who the Institute for Justice helped back then.

Also see the huge interview on Megyn Kelly on Today.   44 states changed their eminent domain laws as a result of the Kelo Case.  So many people’s lives have been destroyed by eminent domain.  Real people. Nothing in the abstract.  It almost happened to my friends in Ardmore.

Ironically today, the current governor of Connecticut announced jobs coming to Connecticut…including New London. But it won’t bring back the houses and displaced lives.

I will note that the whiff of eminent domain is once more in the air in Lower Merion Township. Why? because Lower Merion School District is searching for land they can beg, borrow, or steal to expand.  Why? A story for another day but the Cliff Notes version is all of the development there has caused the schools to (shocker) get over-crowded, right? One place mentioned in a recent Main Line Times article is Stoneleigh. Otherwise known as the Haas Estate in Villanova that was given to Natural Lands to preserve the open space.

Also don’t forget the attempted (and failed) eminent domain taking by a prior administration of West Vincent Township. Of Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show. It was real. It happened. And because of the path Susette Kelo laid down by going to the United States Supreme Court, this also was a failed taking attempt.

See 2012 East Coast Equestrian: Township Tries, Fails to Take Ludwig’s Corner Show Grounds by Eminent Domain

WNPR: ‘Little Pink House’ Hits The Big Screen, Reviving New London Eminent Domain Saga
By HARRIET JONES • APR 24, 2018

A landmark Supreme Court case over eminent domain and people’s right to private property is back in the headlines with the new movie “Little Pink House.” It tells the story of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London, which was the scene of an epic struggle between a municipality that wanted to take property for the purpose of economic development, and the homeowners who resisted every step of the way….“You go to work every day, you pay your bills, you’re a taxpayer, you’re a law-abiding citizen, you keep your yard clean, grow your vegetables in your little garden, raise your family — and to have this happen to people who were just trying to be simple people and live their lives was really wrong,” said Kelo in a recent interview with Connecticut Public Radio.

 

If you are interested in learning more about what the Institute for Justice does, check out their website. IJ.org  .  Also check out the Little Pink House website to find our where the movie is playing or if you can get a screening where you live.

Little Pink House is more than a movie. It happened.

Related image

 

loch aerie in 1963

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

I received a note form this nice man asking if I wanted to see photos he took in 1963 of Loch Aerie in Malvern/Frazer (I say Frazer, but others say Malvern.)

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

He lived here when he was young and his name is George W. Pyle, Jr.

This is what he had to say about the photos, some of which he sent overnight:

417bn+C2kIL._SL500_SX382_BO1,204,203,200_

My personal copy of the book – affordable and easily found on Amazon

These and all of the photos to follow were taken by me around 1963.  I found the Loch Aerie Mansion, LLC Facebook page.  It is quite interesting.  I saw a picture of the new owner (?) with Eugene DiOrio.  Mr. DiOrio has a very nice section on Loch Aerie in his book, “Chester County. A Travler’s Album”  I believe that book is out of print but I was able to find an excellent copy, #51, signed by Mr. DiOrio, in 1991 at Baldwin’s Book Barn.

The first picture is a higher quality image of the one you already have.  The stairs were not carpeted.  There were area rugs in the entry way but bare floors on either side of the staircase.  Against the wall on the left was a large and heavy mirrored hat and coat rack with holders for canes or umbrellas on either side of a bench seat.

The second picture was taken standing about halfway up the stairs.  On the right side are the bell chimes that were used to call the upstairs or downstairs maid or housekeeper.  There is a note safety pinned to the back of the chair on the left.  There was a ribbon stretched across the arms at one time.  The note said the chair was valuable and shouldn’t be used.

Outside the front door was a mat that had a couple pair of large men’s boots on them.  Mrs. Reilly said they put them there to give the impression that men were there and not just two older women.

 

 

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

Mr. Pyle also tells me that in the photos, the dark spots are artifacts on the negatives from development.  The last two photos are one of his and one of mine.  Just to show everyone what time and neglect causes. Mr. Pyle’s photo was 1963.  Mine was 2016 from a similar angle.

I will post any others he might send.  Thanks for stopping by!

Loch Aerie, 1963. Photo courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.

My photo. Taken March, 2016.

little pink house is coming to town, and why you need to see this movie

Little Pink House is coming to town. I got this e-mail today inviting me to a screening.

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer and New London, Connecticut.

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house around 2008 (I think) – It has been a long time since I looked at these photos. Scott Mahan photo.

And all of a sudden, I am taken back years.  I see faces I haven’t thought of in years; hear voices and snippets of long gone conversations.  Ardmore, PA to Washington, DC and Virginia.  What a long strange trip it was.

Dick Saha of Coatesville (left), Scott Mahan (center), Nancy Saha of Coatesville (right). I took this photo in June of 2006 down in DC/VA at an Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition conference on Eminent Domain.

My friends and I were ordinary people who became accidental activists via the Save Ardmore Coalition.  I resigned my position at Save Ardmore Coalition (“SAC”) in 2011 when diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not know if the organization still exists at all or not, truthfully. I am not there any more. My friends and I have all moved forward into our lives, and now we are mostly like local folklore.  Normal people who went to Washington to fight eminent domain and hang out with people like Susette Kelo.  But it’s not folklore, or urban legend as we did all that and lived through all of that.

Scott Mahan (left), Susette Kelo (center), Ken Haskin (right). Scott Mahan photo (again circa 2008 or thereabouts)

It was a long road for those of us who were the original SAC and we paid heavy prices for our activism at times (it was not pretty), but I would do it all over again as it was the right thing to do. We were part of the Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition’s eminent domain fighting communities.

My friends from Ardmore and I (the original Save Ardmore Coalition)  went to Washington once upon a time as I mentioned when Susette Kelo and others (like Long Branch NJ and the Sahas of Coatesville, PA and the other New London, CT /Fort Trumbull folks) were fighting eminent domain for private gain. We lived this with the Institute for Justice as we fought (and won) Ardmore’s battle.

They were crazy times and I am proud of what we did in Ardmore back then. I am honored I got to spend time with Susette Kelo and the other amazing folks from other cities and states along with the people from the Institute for Justice.

Here is the Institute for Justice Press Release:

Little Pink House Movie Hits the Big Screen, Seeks to End Eminent Domain Abuse

Biopic on Supreme Court’s Landmark Kelo Ruling Shows How Eminent Domain for Private Gain Destroyed Lives and an Entire Community

  • Eminent domain creates strange political bedfellows: Once-developer and now-President Donald Trump, along with liberal justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, came out against ordinary homeowners and in favor of the government and private developers.
  • But for the government’s use of eminent domain, corporations would be powerless to take someone else’s home.
  • The release of Little Pink House provides a rare opportunity for political unity. It should unite the Left, which wants to limit corporate influence on government, and the Right, which wants to limit government power over property.

Little Pink House is both a major motion picture and a cautionary tale that shows what happens when the government teams up with powerful private interests to take an entire working-class neighborhood for a glitzy development—a project that 13 years later is nothing but barren fields.

Starring two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener and Emmy nominee Jeanne Tripplehorn, Little Pink House opens on April 20 and will be screened in theaters across the nation.  It tells the true story of Susette Kelo (played by Keener), a small-town paramedic from New London, Connecticut, who buys her first home—a cottage—and paints it pink.  When the governor and his allies plan to bulldoze her little pink house to make way for a development benefitting the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Kelo fights back, taking her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although national polls at the time of the Kelo ruling consistently showed that the public overwhelmingly rejects the use of eminent domain for private gain, the issue made for strange political bedfellows.  It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices who made up the majority that ruled against Kelo and in favor of the government, and when the Kelo ruling was handed down, developer Trump said, “I happen to agree with it 100%.”  Trump had earlier sought to employ eminent domain to take a widow’s property in Atlantic City for his private use.  After becoming President of the United States, he said, “I think eminent domain is wonderful.”“As the Atlantic City eminent domain battle showed, unless the government abuses its power of eminent domain, private corporations are powerless to take someone’s property; they must negotiate because they cannot use force,” said Institute for Justice Litigation Director Dana Berliner, who successfully represented the widow at the heart of the Atlantic City lawsuit and who argued Kelo’s case before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As documented in the film, after Kelo lost her U.S. Supreme Court case, her struggle sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse that today helps millions of Americans better protect what is rightfully theirs.  The Supreme Court used the Keloruling to radically expand this government power—allowing eminent domain for the mere promise from a developer that it might pay more taxes if given someone else’s land, rather than for an actual public use, as required by the U.S. Constitution.  Because of the grassroots backlash at the state level against eminent domain abuse, however, the Kelo case is justifiably seen as a situation in which the government won the battle, but lost the war.  Still, the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo, stated that more reforms are still needed if the abuse of this government power is to be ended once and for all.

Little Pink House wonderfully captures what the fight for property rights is all about,” said Institute for Justice President Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “A house is typically someone’s most valuable asset, but the value of a home goes well beyond its mere monetary worth.  For so many, it is an extension of who they are and what they value.  It is where a person might raise a family, grow a small business, celebrate, mourn and grow old.  Eminent domain abuse, as depicted in this film, is not only unconstitutional, it is profoundly wrong.  Little Pink House vividly documents the heroic struggle of Susette and her neighbors to not only fight for their homes but for the constitutional rights of millions of others in America and throughout the world.”

Little Pink House should unite those on the Left who want to limit corporate influence on government, and those on the Right, who want to limit government power over property, said Bullock.  Eminent domain abuse disproportionately strikes poor and minority communities, and there is often a giant gap between the promises made by redevelopment supporters and the promises such plans actually deliver.  In just a five-year period, there were more than 10,000 instances nationwide where eminent domain for private development was either used or threatened by the government.

Government officials and the developer promised that the project that replaced Susette Kelo’s tight-knit blue-collar neighborhood would thrive and would make New London tax-rich.  Now, 13 years after the landmark Kelo ruling, all that remains there are barren fields; nothing lives there now but weeds and feral cats.

“It was all for nothing,” said Susette Kelo.  “The government put us through all that torture and now, more than a dozen years later, they have literally nothing to show for it.  But even if they turned what was my home into an emerald city, that still wouldn’t have made it right.  The government and their corporate confidants destroyed our neighborhood and our constitutional rights.  We need to keep fighting this until we end eminent domain abuse once and for all.”

Eminent domain hot spots remain around the country.  For example:
In Garfield, New Jersey, the town’s redevelopment agency is using a bogus blight designation to take a zipper manufacturing warehouse, along with its neighbors’ homes, for a private developer to build private retail and housing.
Cumberland, Maryland, is trying to bulldoze a number of homes to make way for a chain restaurant.
The Bae family left Korea and built a successful dry cleaning business in East Harlem, New York. But city officials want to demolish it so a developer can build an entertainment complex.

Little Pink House has been lauded by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, among others.  In addition to attracting stars Keener and Tripplehorn, Little Pink House features the original song “Home Free,” written and performed for the movie by rock legend David Crosby.

The independent film was directed by Courtney Balaker and produced by her husband, Ted Balaker.  It will open on screens across the nation with more screenings being added each week.  In those markets where Little Pink House is not being shown in theaters, the public can follow a simple process to bring the movie to their hometown theater or enter an email address at littlepinkarmy.com and a representative from the film will walk them through the process.

Courtney Balaker said, “Eminent domain abuse is a fancy term for legalized bullying.  It happens when insiders take advantage of outsiders.  Developers and politicians promise more jobs and more tax revenue, so it sounds appealing to lots of people.  But all the high-minded talk obscures what’s really going on—they’re forcing people out of their homes.  If you own your home and you want to keep living in your home, you should be able to stay in your home.  Eminent domain abuse happens far more often than most people realize, and it rarely brings the kind of economic development its supporters promise.  It should come as no surprise that poor and minority communities are especially likely to be targeted.”

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

My friend Si Simons with Susette Kelo, June, 2006. My photo.

And we hit roadblocks. Although eminent domain had become a national issue when Susette Kelo took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Philadelphia area we discovered it was hard to get media attention from anyone other than the local papers. Eminent domain wasn’t sexy enough—it was just “a local issue”. We were called NIMBY and castigated publicly by certain local elected officials at public meetings, who referred to us as “a small group of mean spirited individuals.”

When someone told us in a letter if we didn’t like how government was run we should “change the face of who governs us,” our resolve as a group was strengthened. We decided to change literally the faces of those who were governing us. We had an upcoming election. We didn’t back one candidate in particular but decided they should all adopt our position and take IJ’s pledge against the use of eminent domain for private gain.

We were successful. In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

February, 2006 walking Congressman Sensenbrenner (left) around Ardmore. Scott Mahan (right). I am behind them on the left with then Congressman Jim Gerlach on the right)

In February 2006, then Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner came to town with Congressman Jim Gerlach to discuss eminent domain. In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

For me, there was also the fact that I hid my activism from my employers.  I was working for then Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo), and while not officially forbidden, such outside activities were seriously frowned upon.  We were supposed to be good little examples of Corporate America at all times, no matter what our position.

Susette Kelo is and always will be one of the most courageous people I have ever met. I have been waiting for this movie to be finished. (See Little Pink House Movie website too!!)

This is a story that still resonates.  See:

The Volokh Conspiracy    The story behind Kelo v. City of New London – how an obscure takings case got to the Supreme Court and shocked the nation
By Ilya Somin May 29, 2015

LAWNEWS
Dreams Demolished: 10 Years After the Government Took Their Homes, All That’s Left Is an Empty Field
Alex Anderson / @alexanderJander / Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / June 23, 2015

Eminent domain still under fire

June 23, 2017 by NCC Staff

POWER PLAY
Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case
Published March 20, 2014 Fox News

The Kelo House (1890)

March 20th, 2009 Posted in Folk VictorianHousesNew LondonVernacular

Visit The Institute for Justice website. There is a Kelo vs. New London timeline.

Seriously….see this movie.  This can happen to anyone.  It happened to people I know and people I met.  And if you follow the current pipeline debacle, how do you think Sunoco has gotten land from Chester County residents? It certainly wasn’t candy and chocolates, it was the threat of eminent domain, wasn’t it?

And you can try to get Little Pink House played where you live by contacting the filmmakers HERE.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

scenes from a 95th birthday party (for hedgerow theatre, and also honoring penelope reed)

Into the Old Mill at Rose Valley we went to celebrate Hedgerow Theatre (America’s oldest repertory theatre) turning 95 and to also properly fête their beloved Director Emeritus, Penelope Reed for her many years of service.

We entered into a party that was alive and electric.  It was marvelous! During the cocktail hour, people mingled, nibbled on wonderful butlered hors d’oevres, and enjoyed things like the signature cocktail named “Essence of Rose.”

Penelope Reed, left, with guests

People mixed and mingled, and enjoyed a fun photo area set up with props. I loved meeting all of these new faces!  Everyone was open, friendly, and welcoming.  The colors of the gaily attired guests were such a welcoming sight after this past week’s 4th Nor’Easter.

I so enjoyed meeting the “Belle of the Ball”  Penelope Reed (also a 2017 recipient of the prestigious Theatre Philadelphia’s Barrymore Award) and the event co-chairs Jane McNeil and Richard Taxin!

Rose Valley is such a magical place, and it is truly fitting that it is the home of The Hedgerow Theatre.

Founded in 1923 by Jasper Deeter, Hedgerow was an old mill re-imagined by one of my favorite architects (and Philadelphia Quakers), William Lightfoot Price (Will Price.)

Will Price began his path to being an architect by working in the offices of Addison Hutton (Quaker architect who designed Beechwood House in Bryn Mawr on Shipley’s campus and Loch Aerie in Malvern/Frazer for example.) Price also designed things like Woodmont in Gladwyne (pretty much his largest and grandest residential commission), and he and his brother Frank worked for Frank Furness before setting up their own shop. In  1888 their first joint commission was to design homes in Wayne, PA.

Price came to Rose Valley at the turn of the 20th Century. Rose Valley (although founded with William Penn land grants)  and in the early 20th century evolved into a hub of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Philadelphia area, and was also somewhat of a Utopian community.

Gala Co-Chairs Richard Taxin and Jane McNeil having fun with the photo “booth” and props!

 

Rose Valley Borough in their history of the area writes:

In 1901, Will Price bought eighty acres in the name of the Rose Valley Association from the bankrupt estate of Antrim Osborne. With the financial backing of a group of wealthy liberal Philadelphians interested in social reform, Price set about creating the Arts and Crafts movement’s vision of “the art that is life.” The Rose Valley Association was to be an association of shops whose purpose was the manufacture of handcrafted items. The Association would rent space to these shops and work that met the standards of the Association would be stamped with the Rose Valley seal, a wild rose superimposed by a ‘V’ and circled by a buckled belt to symbolize fellowship. On the social side, true to his democratic philosophy, Price envisioned a community where “the tiniest cottages may be built side by side with a more spacious neighbor.”

….Although the commercial side of the experiment was not a success, the social and artistic sides were. From its beginning Rose Valley was attractive to people who saw an opportunity to use their creative talents in their living environment. The Rose Valley Folk, initially organized to deal with the practical problems of self-government, became more a social organization. The Folk organized all sorts of community events – picnics, swimming and canoeing parties, baseball games. At night the Guild Hall was kept in perpetual use with concerts, plays and dances. The community threw itself into these productions, writing the plays, designing sets, making costumes, printing programs and acting.

 

The Hedgerow Theatre was founded in 1923 by Jasper Deeter, the now benevolent spirit referred to many times during Friday evening’s gala event.  Built in 1840, the theatre was originally a grist mill. It was reconstructed and turned into a theatre by Will Price before Mr. Deeter came to town.

As per Hedgerow’s website:

Hedgerow is inextricably entwined with the legacy of the Rose Valley Arts and Craft Movement. A movement that defines itself by independent thinkers resisting the wave of industrialization rushing over society. Founding Artistic Director, Jasper Deeter, recognized in this movement a kindred spirit after visiting his sister and watching her perform at what was Guild Hall. He saw here was the place to create an independent theater and transformed Guild Hall into Hedgerow Theatre.

In this act, he foreshadowed the regional not-for-profit theatre movement, and pushed for a racially integrated company of artists both near and far crafting an identity for Hedgerow as a beacon for artists throughout the country.

Beginning in 1923, Hedgerow launched the first resident repertory theatre that, over its 94 years, has become a magnet for many national theatre personalities, from Richard Basehart to Edward Albee; from Ann Harding to Susan Glaspell; to—more recently—Keanu Reeves and Austin Pendleton.

Visionary actor/director Jasper founded Hedgerow in 1923 as a haven for cutting edge artists of the early 20th century, and the theatre quickly gained a national and international reputation as a proving ground for era defining artists such as Eugene O’Neill, Henrik IbsenGeorge Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser, and Wharton Esherick.

In a sense, the very history of Rose Valley and The Hedgerow Theatre are inextricably linked.

Hedgerow is now in the capable hands of Julliard trained, Jared Reed. He is also Penelope’s son. As event media sponsor Main Line Today Magazine in their March, 2018 article writes:

Penelope’s step-grandmother was with Hedgerow in its early days, and her mother began taking classes with Deeter in the early 1960s. A young Penelope soon joined in, though she spent much of her career on different stages, including the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, where she was a principal actor, and New Jersey’s McCarter Theatre Center, as a lead actor, director and teacher. In 1991, Penelope returned to Hedgerow, where she would take up tenure as the artistic director, bringing new life to the theater. “My goal was to get the community to embrace the theater, because a lot of times they saw Hedgerow was in the community, but not of the community,” she says.

For over 20 years, Penelope worked on that goal, upping programming. Jared, meanwhile, pursued a career in New York. He’d been involved with Hedgerow, but left to attend Rutgers University and eventually Juilliard. “I did my time in New York. I did my 10 years—and I was successful—but it never was a family thing,” he says.

Jared’s early years spent at repertory theaters with his mother made him want to return. “When you’re in a company and everybody does everything, I think that’s what drew me back here,” he says.

Jared returned to Hedgerow in 2012. Over the course of the next few years, he worked with his mother before being named producing artistic director. Penelope now focuses on teaching master classes. “A lot of times, I feel I’ve been tending the place until Jared came,” she says.

 

At the event on Friday, we also heard from Hedgerow’s young artists.  Amazing children, eloquent and talented.  We had a song from the Beauty and The Beast Cast, “Belle”. What I loved about some of these theatre kids was how some of them carry themselves already.  In some cases it was uncanny to see their confidence and knowing full well when cameras were on them (even if they weren’t looking at a camera.)

I am appreciative of theater, but as a kid I never got further than helping on stage crew and being in the chorus of Oliver! in either 8th or 9th grade, so when I see these kids who are the real and talented deal, I love to watch them.

Dinner was served buffet style, and the caterers outdid themselves. Of particular note were the two salads,the cod fish, and of course the beautiful dessert buffet complete with a marvelous cake replica of the Hedgerow Theatre.

What stayed with me as we drove home is how Hedgerow is quite literally a family affair, and how devoted people are to the continued success of Hedgerow and it’s various programs. 

Charitable giving keeps organizations like this alive.  Click HERE to check out how you can support Hedgerow Theatre Company, including through “Amazon Smile” which is what I have chosen to do.

Thanks for taking the time to read about Hedgerow and Rose Valley today. Any photos featured here were taken by me, and I am giving all of the photos I took to Hedgerow for their use as long as they would like.