revisionist history on the main line

File under the more things change, the more things stay the same.

When an article comes out about anything Lower Merion Township, let alone Ardmore, PA I give it a read. I just lived there too many years.

This is both puff piece and a lovely attempt at revisionist history.

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.

Let’s recap:

In 2004–2006, Ardmore’s business district was the subject of a hotly contested eminent domain for private gain battle. Lower Merion wanted to take a nice train track side chunk of land via eminent domain and give it over to private development- hence the private gain part.

A grassroots organization of which I was part of until diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011, the Save Ardmore Coalition, along with local businesses and other civic associations and civics groups, opposed eminent domain as a redevelopment program that would have involved the demolition of historic buildings, in favor of preserving those buildings for other commercial use.

In March 2006 after the previous election in the fall of 2005 when a large chunk of the THEN Board of Commissioners got voted out of office and the then new and improved 2006 Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution disavowing the use of eminent domain for the benefit of private redevelopment projects. The Ardmore battle was also instrumental in prompting PA to enact state legislation in 2006 restricting the use of eminent domain for private projects.

So that is the Cliff Notes version. Those of us down in the trenches back then were vilified and targeted. We were publicity spun into being resident and business owner pariahs by our opposition. It was really, really bad. All for defending what we loved.

Lower Merion Township have you forgotten? I haven’t.

Mind you this is not the first time that Lower Merion has placed Ardmore pieces that were glossy and glossed over things. May 2009 for the same magazine was one time and they even used my photo:

It hasn’t all been fabulous and if people point fingers at Lower Merion Township appointed and elected officials well shall we say it has been with good reason?

Ardmore’s largest handicap, is the fact Lower Merion Township as in the township seat, is situated there.

I am not commenting on the most recent past president of Save Ardmore Coalition or the litigation they filed in more recent times. It was sort of a horse is already out of the barn scenario to go after One Ardmore Place when they did. I did not think they would get the necessary traction and a positive result, and they didn’t.

But are they wrong?

I still think this development is a hideous mistake. I think their overlay zoning ordinance known as MUST (Mixed Use Special Transit/More Unfair Special Treatment take your pick) has been a disaster since enactment, and the development on and off Ardmore’s “Main Street” is ridiculous. You know, like the “mini” Target and whatever else is going to happen at the corner of Ardmore Avenue and Lancaster Avenue?

I think these developments will destroy Ardmore. But perhaps the only way for other parts of Lower Merion Township to survive is to lose Ardmore to all of this development?

The thing is this, I think for the most part these types of developments ultimately fail is because nothing is done in moderation. Nothing is done truly in concert with residents and/or small businesses. A good game is always talked, and with the case of Ardmore, Lower Merion Township is always trying to change the underlying narrative, but they can’t.

The township is responsible for this cluster F. They are responsible for the mistrust of residents and the like. They have never owned their part and their many, many missteps.

It’s a shame, really.

The other fault lies with Lower Merion Township voters. And who they allow to continue to represent them.

I loved spending a lot of my growing up and young adult to early middle-aged years in Lower Merion Township, but as an adult the bloom came off of the rose. And a lot of that had to do with all of the politics, development, and Ardmore.

It is because of what I bore witness to in Lower Merion that the pace of development in Chester County terrifies me….because I have already lived through the negative effects of overdevelopment.

And it is only getting worse because read the jaw dropping Main Line Times article of April 20 on what Lower Merion School District wants to do.

Lower Merion School District eyes four properties for future middle school location
By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Apr 20, 2018

Lower Merion Township claims it’s brand as exclusive and well-heeled. I think the history books will remember this time as the cautionary tale of what happens to a beautiful area when development takes over.

Another post with a postscript, as I received a note tonight with photos:


đź“ŚLoved your post tonight, especially as one who lives smack dam in the center of the nightmare – Suburban Square neighborhood. You came to my house once, about 14 years ago.

Take a look at this, and please consider encouraging anyone you know who cares about fighting the blood thirsty developers in LMT to show up at the meeting Township Planning meeting this week to oppose the demolition of three quintessential Main Line Homes to make way for CF Holloway’s next apartment building – 4 stories and a parking garage directly across Montgomery Avenue from Suburban Square. I live in one of them.

Sale of all three homes is contingent upon Holloway getting LMT’s buy-in. Sadly, I think we both know how this will turn out. Here’s a pic of the building I live in on Glenn Road.đź“Ś

Wonder if the developer will cry on cue if things do not go his way like he did one time in Radnor?

People live in that house. It is in nice shape and it is lovely. But does the fact that people live there and it’s lovely matter in Lower Merion Township? (And by the way, the head of the Chester County Planning Commission lives in Lower Merion. And spent many a year on Lower Merion’s Planning Commission.)

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 Victorian, Houses, New London, Vernacular

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.

 

 

respect small businesses 

Things that happen to small businesses that I hate. Not in Chester County but my old stomping grounds of Ardmore, PA. 

So apparently someone hired this landscape company because someone put out big planters on Lancaster Avenue (see above.)

Now this is the Main Line so of course you have to hire someone to plant a couple of plants in a planter, right?


Well that is fine provided said service provider is NOT blocking public walkways, rear business entrances, and oh yes parking in someone’s posted private and non-municipal parking.


Well completely disregarding all of the above award of the week goes to Charles Friel Landscaping. They did this to one of my closest friends who is a small business owner. 


And when she went out to basically ask him to move he was like he would be done soon and he had these plants to get in. My friend kept trying to explain that the guy was blocking her rear door (fire and safety hazard), parking in her customer parking on private property, and blocking a public walkway. 

That is not right and for some reason he could not tell her who had paid for the planters (don’t people usually know for whom they are working?). None of the businesses (even the ones with them in front of their stores) seem to know where the big plastic planter boxes have come from.

I am all for community beautification in business districts as so many business districts just don’t bother. But what I am not for our people who do things like this landscape truck did today. Ardmore is horrible for parking. It gets as congested as the Borough of Malvern or downtown West Chester. But people need to be considerate of small businesses. These mom-and-pop shops make our communities unique and careless behavior like this literally takes business away from them because of people can’t get to the store they’re going to go someplace else.

the highs and lows of community involvement

butterfly

I used to be a community activist. Really. It’s not so grand sounding, I think people just get to a point in their lives when they see change needs to occur and they seem to either choose activism or politics.  While I am fascinated by politics, I would never want to be an elected official, so I chose activism.

It all started innocently enough.

Prior to 9/11 I did mostly traditional volunteer work.  But there comes a time in your life when you can’t sit at the dinner table and murmur “that’s too bad.”

I come by my love of old houses and community by way of genetics. My late father was involved in every community we lived in starting with the early days of the Society Hill section of Philadelphia.

My personal entré into all of this started with my old neighborhood when the first of many developers sought to create infill development where I then lived. This developer was renovating an old factory/warehouse building which no one objected to.  But the ingress/egress onto our street where it was literally 12 feet wide we did object to.

Then, on the heels of that at the time my alma mater The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr wanted to tear down historic Beechwood House in Bryn Mawr  for a parking lot. I became part of a group headed by a fellow alumnae named Heather Hillman which raised the funds necessary to completely restore the house and give it a practical adaptive reuse in today’s world. The 9100 square foot home was an architectural gem designed by prominent late 19th century architect Addison Hutton. We did so well, the architects even won awards on the renovation. (A synopsis of what occurred can be found here.)

Then came the fateful night when I went to my friends’ restaurant in Ardmore and found the wife in tears.  “They want to take our building” she said.

That was my introduction to eminent domain and how I came to be part of a 501(c)(4) civic action organization called the Save Ardmore Coalition. The group was comprised of many people from different walks of life as well as different political parties. We came together because we felt positive change was needed. Instead local politicians (of course) labeled us as being obstructionist.

Eminent Domain in Ardmore, Lower Merion Township was a long and horrible process.  We went to Washington DC and stood beside people from all over the country including Long Branch, NJ, Camden NJ (Cramer Hill), Philadelphia and got to know  a lady from New London CT named Susette Kelo who became the symbol of the anti-eminent domain movement all across this country. (See Kelo vs. City of New London).

In Ardmore we were lucky and we were able to defeat eminent domain for private gain and at the time unseat half of the board of commissioners in Lower Merion (there are the ridiculous number of 14) . I was part of a group of wonderful people who learned that once in a while ordinary people could be right and it was worth fighting for what you believed in.

But all of this came at a personal cost.  We were labeled and tarred and feathered by developers and politicians and their cheerleaders and even paid publicists in Lower Merion Township. I was personally  subject to craziness like a letter to the editor by two then business owners like it was all my fault and I was wrong to have an opinion.  It was a crazy and angry time which lasted years and is still in fact going on. And people were and are nasty.

And nasty for what? Caring about where we lived? It was crazy, and I watch it still happen today and still think it is crazy. As residents I still believe that we need to be a much larger part of how our local governments decide things.

Essentially, I think a lot of communities need to taken back by residents before we are over-taxed, over-governed, and developed away. We  need better historic preservation on local and state levels. It has to mean something or people won’t do it.  We need the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code updated as well.

We need many things.  But people need to be involved more where they live.  It doesn’t matter if you are the loudest voice or the most quiet voice, just be a voice.

What started me on this post today? One word: Ardmore.

Once again Ardmore is embroiled in controversy over development. Carl Dranoff’s hideous behemoth of a project to be precise. Ardmore needed a train station and what it has suffered through now for way too many years is the emperor’s new clothes of ill advised development projects and plans. And developer driven zoning overlays.  And lots and lots of question over the use of public funds. In a nutshell, Lower Merion Township continues to be a shining example of what not to do (and the need for term limits in local government.)

So the new litigation was filed after the developer settled with business owners over other issues with “One Ardmore Place”. This litigation centers around the use of state funds known as RACP funds ( Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program ).

The new litigation has been filed by the successor citizens involved with the Save Ardmore Coalition.

August 17, 2015 Civic group files suit over Ardmore redevelopment: Save Ardmore Coalition claims project is missappropriation of public funds

By Sharon Lurye
PhillyVoice Staff

A civic group has filed a lawsuit against the governor of Pennsylvania, the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority and Lower Merion Township over a redevelopment project in Ardmore, saying that it is a “misappropriation of millions of dollars of public funds” for private use.

The Save Ardmore Coalition announced last week that it was filing suit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The issue at hand: $10.5 million in state grant funds set aside for One Ardmore Place, a proposed mixed-use development with apartments, retail and public parking.

Currently, the site is a parking lot. The civic group argues that the grant funds were supposed to be used for the Ardmore Train Station.

“We testified many times before the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners and we were mocked. We brought petitions signed by residents only to see them disregarded,” said SAC President Philip Browndeis

I am no longer part of Save Ardmore Coaltion or in the executive branch of the group.  I resigned in the spring of 2011 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And then when that was all over with I moved. To Chester County.

So to say I had no idea this was going to happen next is an understatement.  When this news broke my phone and email started going crazy. “Why is this happening?” “What is going on?” “Why are you doing this?”

ME????

News flash: Alice doesn’t live in Ardmore any more. There is a new crew of people with some original folks doing this.  Contact Save Ardmore Coalition President Philip Browndeis at 267.250.2121 or email him at comments@saveardmorecoalition.org if you have questions.)

Of course, human nature being what it is, within days of the litigation being filed, a few anonymous cowards also and predictably rolled up on the Main Line Media News website to  drag me into this. The paper has since removed the comments and will continue to do so because I have nothing to do with this. I am sitting on the sidelines watching like everyone else and darn grateful not to be ensnared by this nonsense as I realized it is the same old rhetoric and whatnot rearing up again.

My personal opinion is I understand why new Save Ardmore Coalition has done this, but what I don’t understand is the timing of it. Why wasn’t this done a few years ago? And of course there is the other thing: residents can do whatever they think necessary to preserve their community but will they ever truly achieve their goals if they do not change the faces of who govern them? As in when are they going to vote the bums out?

I was in Ardmore a few weeks ago for a funeral viewing. I had not been in easily over a year.  The town looks run down and shabby and the public trash cans in front of the township were overflowing with trash.  It all looked welldepressed. And that is the effect of all the grand plans of developers, politics, and local government: inertia.

one ardmore placeSomething needs to happen in Ardmore.  I still don’t think it is “One Ardmore Place” because it is way out of touch with the reality of a small main street oriented town. It lacks human scale and design and if it gets built  it’s 8 stories in small building main street downtown Ardmore will make Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough look good.

People like to say I am anti-development. I am actually anti bad plans.  And every plan no matter where it is located looks the same these days. Homogenous and out of place and scale. The plans are presented where they look like they are situated in the Elysian Fields.

What is going on in Ardmore is going on all over Pennsylvania. Who knows when the madness will stop. Which is why I would rather cook, garden, treasure hunt and photograph butterflies. But I still believe people should be more active where they live.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

when non-profits become bad neighbors

  

Your eyes do not deceive you. This is  indeed a photo taken Monday of a parking lot resembling an obstacle course. This parking lot is not in Chester County thank goodness, the  location is Ardmore, Pennsylvania. In Lower Merion Township where West Chester’s former borough manager Ernie McNeely is now the Township Manager. 

The Junior League of Philadelphia is doing a huge renovation project at the thrift shop and headquarters in Ardmore. I applaud them for all the good works they have done for decades, but they are being astoundingly dad neighbors now.

Ardmore is a town that suffers from parking issues chronically. So if you add a construction project where construction vehicles park every which way and dumpsters get put and left in thru lanes for very tight parking lots,  it creates a driving hazard and an impediment to small businesses.  Believe it or not, close to that dumpster out of the sight line of the photo is an outdoor dining space for a small cafĂ©. I can’t imagine they have much business with a giant dumpster RIGHT there.

One of my closest friends owns a store that you literally cannot get to through this parking lot a lot of the time right now because of these construction vehicles. So if customers and suppliers can’t reach the stores and store owners and employees are having a hard time, how are small businesses coping? The answer is not really well and it’s just not fair.  (I also have to note that many of these buildings have apartments and office suites above them and all of those people are having a hard time too)

Why can’t the Junior League find other parking close by for the construction vehicles?  Why does it seem like they are getting preferential treatment and everyone is letting them get away with murder in the parking lot? Other businesses can’t stop being in business because the Junior League is renovating their building.  

Don’t misunderstand me, the building they (The Junior League) are in has been long in need of renovation, it’s kind of a pit, but they should be more considerate of their neighbors and they aren’t. If there are projects which have to block portions of the parking lot at times during this project (which keeps occurring), why not start it a little earlier in the morning before businesses open or why not provide neighboring businesses advance notice that the parking lot will be blocked on certain dates for certain amounts of time?

I used to be a big fan of the Junior League of Philadelphia, and hopefully someday I will be able to be once again. But right now they are simply a nonprofit behaving badly. Think of this post as #dogshaming of a charitable organization. Somehow I don’t think when Mary Harriman founded the Junior League in 1901 being a bad neighbor was part of her plan.

This is yet another reason why I am glad I no longer live on the Main Line. I would however love to be able to navigate this parking lot safely so I can patronize my friend’s business. I  used to donate to the Junior League for their shop once in a while and I never will again after this. 

  

good-bye oogy 

I see the news is making the social media rounds so…..

Sad news to share. My friend Sherry just called and one of our favorite fur pals has gone over the rainbow bridge. Oogy. 

Yes, that Oogy.

 

His humans were friends of Sherry’s so I was lucky to see Oogy at a lot of First Friday Main Lines. He would come and hang out in Sherry’s store, Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA.

 

Before he was a doglebrity, he was just a big lovable dog with really nice humans. And an amazing story.

If you ever need a reason as to why animal rescue is so important, look no further then Oogy. The photos I am sharing are ones I took of Oogy at different First Friday Main Lines.

Oogy you were a big love of a dog and I am glad on a few occasions I got to hang out with you 

RIP Oogy.

if septa is considering cutting service past paoli, why does malvern need T.O.D.?

malvern train stationI remember years ago as a college student without access to a car when I wanted to go visit friends at West Chester University, if I couldn’t get a ride I had to take a train to Paoli and then get one of those scuzzy cabs to West Chester. And Paoli train station on the side going towards Malvern felt just as creepy and isolated then as it does today.

I was happy when Malvern and beyond opened again on Septa.  And people ride the train.  When I was transitioning out to Chester County for a while I took the train out from the Main Line.  I was going through radiation treatment for breast cancer and a lot of the time towards the end of my treatment I was too tired to drive. This was when Malvern train station was under construction.  It was then I realized there was no handicap access at either Paoli or Malvern – quite frankly during that time I would have welcomed a ramp versus steep stairs – I was just that tired. At Malvern during the heat of that summer I was going through radiation was when you not only had to climb  steep stairs, the train station also had no place for you to sit to wait to be picked up and a car couldn’t get near enough to pick you up.  Instead you had to wind your way through a construction site and around through to the other side via the roads on a sidewalk that was not the best.

So now there is the tunnel and the station is rehabbed (but still isn’t truly handicap accessible) and during the summer Malvern Borough officials were putting on charettes or whatever for T.O.D.  Transit Oriented Development, otherwise known as borough officials see dollar signs and have no brain cells. I wrote about T.O.D. before.

I said then I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses. It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

To say that people in suburbs and exurbs and quasi rural areas will give up driving is just ludicrous.  These municipalities and developers should just be honest: they don’t have the ability to put sufficient parking in all this new age urban-like development.  They don’t care so much about the environment and being green, in my humble opinion it is all about the green they can bank in profits. And who suffers? People already living around these infill development targeted sites.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

TOD stands to add hundreds of living units. Hundreds as in someone told me in excess of 600.  Malvern is no way capable of handling that many additional living units and cars and people.  That has a trickle down effect to the schools too. And we aren’t talking real estate taxes, we’re talking overcrowding.

TOD in Malvern will also adversely affect their neighbors in East Whiteland.  Much the way Tredyffrin affected Radnor residents downstream along the Gulph Creek when they allowed Church of the Savior and some other things to super-size.  East Whiteland should stay on top of this from a municipal perspective.  No one needs trickle down issues.

So why am I writing this? Because of something that appeared in Malvern Patch that was copied from Plan Philly.

The long and short of it there is a very real chance SEPTA will cut stops off the R5 Paoli/Thorndale Line.  As in NO MORE train service. Stopping at Paoli again.

(See  septa-s-complete-service-realignment-plan-and-letter-to-state-secretary-of-transportation-barry-schoch.original )

eli kahn

So I have to wonder if Septa will even do the makeover planned for Paoli train station?  And if the service is truncated and stops at Paoli, how will Paoli even if their grand plans make it to completion handle the influx?

I put forward that Malvern Borough Council and Borough staff /administration need to be watched.  They want to shove, shove, shove through new development yet they have no substantive planning that I can see. I know what they see- they see ratables.  What is happening (for example) with the Gables Greenhouse property on Warren and Second Ave?  There were a couple of things in Malvern Patch which seem to have disappeared?  The comments indicate on the remaining article that like five houses are being considered for that property?

Malvern Borough has lost it’s way.  They don’t seem to listen to their residents.  They also can’t seem to get much money in the end for development projects.  Remember when people checked out what they were getting in ratables for East King Street/Eastside Flats? See:

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.

And oh yeah what exactly in the realm of new businesses is Eli Kahn actually bringing to Malvern? Besides Kimberton Whole Foods?

I feel I must say again that in addition to better planning by municipalities and boroughs throughout Pennsylvania, there also need to be updates made to the Municipalities Planning Code.  After all Zoning blames Planning and Supervisors/Commissioners.  Supervisors/Commissioners blame flaws in Municipalities Planning Code.

Want to see bad planning?  Look no further than Lower Merion Township and take Ardmore as an example.  There is a short film surfacing about development there and the fact that when it occurs a lot of businesses and residents will have ZERO parking for two years and reduced parking after that. Why?  Because Lower Merion is essentially giving away land to a developer. I think you can view the documentary short by following this link: https://vimeo.com/72950877

Getting off the soapbox now.  Just been chewing on this a few days.