The developers did not show up with very many copies of site plans. I do not think they were expecting a completely packed room which included people standing for the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board meeting on February 27th.
It was so amazing to see all the people turn out. General Warren Village and General Warren Village supporters did an AMAZING job.
And they had a powerful and unexpected ally in the room: Maya K. van Rossum, The Delaware Riverkeeper.
The role of the Delaware Riverkeeper is to give the Delaware River, and the communities that depend upon it and appreciate it, a voice at every decision-making table that could provide help or do harm. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network that van Rossum leads is the only citizen action organization that works the entire length and breadth of the Delaware River and its watershed, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. Delaware Riverkeeper Network has its main office in Bristol, PA and can be found on the web at www.delawareriverkeeper.org. van Rossum’s blog can be found at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/blog/ – they have a Water Watch hotline and well, in an era of David vs. Goliath, they give “David” an edge.
Maya was an incredible addition to last night, and I will get to that later. (she is FIERCE!)
We did have one of the three supervisors in attendance last evening, which I found heartening.
East Whiteland also sent a solicitor to represent at the zoning meeting on Bishop Tube.
Here are some notes taken on the fly – so feel free to add to them or correct:
- Board of Supervisors responded last evening via attorney to concerns. Township is closely monitoring remediation, impact of remediation, standards and monitoring of remediation etc etc.
- Township wants safer environment. Township right now in opposition of variance according to lawyer unless certain conditions met with Township.
- DEP has approved conditions* BUT township reviewing. BOS is reviewing with EAC and then they will decide whether to object to variance request.
- March 15 special meeting being asked for by Zoning. The meeting (hearing) was ultimately continued to March 15, 2017 at 7:15 PM
- * “Conditions” referred to above Developer expert is talking about conditions discussed with DEP- didn’t catch all – witness for developer was speed speaking:
~ Establish a separate environmental escrow associated with development $20 k
~ Non refundable deposit to future HOA
~ Applicant will remediate 3 major hotspots in accordance with scope of work submitted to DEP – digging out soil as per Act 2. But it isn’t Act 2
~No disturbance in 3 soil hot spots until remediation complete (New construction?)
~ Applicant will install vapor mitigation systems. Most stringent available designed by engineer. Review said systems, maintain?
~ Developer would obtain stormwater permit – county/state – did not catch acronym
~developer will provide access to DEP etc
~ utilities will be developed to prohibit vapor migration/ groundwater migration
~ developer will comply with local zoning
~ developer will document remediation
~ until 3 hot spots remediated no construction of residential units.
~ developer would submit demolition plans to township and DEP
(NOTE: very abridged version of above – expert was speaking so very quickly and I don’t take dictation professionally so I did my best – I know I missed one of the conditions – feel free to add or clarify in comments. It would be helpful if media had covered meeting, but I did not see any media there at all.)
- Something about collecting storm water and capture and release to stream? Not sure if I heard that right . ZHB has concerns about retaining wall and safety- 20+ storm water “systems” – all release to stream. What environmental impact does that have considering existing toxicity of site? How is water cleaned? Whose job will it be to stay on top of that?
- Final stormwater discharge into / near emergency access so does that mean General Warren gets water?
- GWV residents are pointing out a shallow stream expected to take developer’s stormwater. Is GWV in part going to be part of stormwater management plan? They say no construction vehicles on village way (developer)?
- Maya (Delaware Riverkeeper) asking about volume reduction and other things relating to creeks. Asking about correspondence on sampling between developer and DEP. Asking about TCE staying in place?
- Residents questioning stormwater retention basin(s) and retaining wall.
- More questions on stormwater runoff into stream and does stream have capacity to handle it?
- Vapor intrusion being discussed by older gentleman- potential cancer cluster – people with cancer in General Warren Village? (couldn’t hear all of it clearly)
- ZHB kept quizzing on removing top soil, Remediation , etc
- Elevation from General Warren Village to retention walls eye level according to developer witness? Residents asking what they would see from Village Way? Someone from General Warren remarked about being able to see from “bathroom windows”
- Maya the Delaware Riverkeeper talked about the planting of trees and trees they were removing – good point as developers tend to remove and replace NOT with the same size plantings. And they spoke of riparian buffers, but not what they consisted of or if they would be substantial.
- Keith Hartman who worked at Bishop Tube is asking questions. He is extremely knowledgeable about site. He spoke about how they used to “dispose” of the toxic chemicals in one part of site in the old days (sounded like they just dumped stuff kind of wherever?)
- Mr Hartman pointing out toxic hotspots – see dark grey areas – and asking about mineral salts.
- Mr. Hartman asking about sampling near old parking lots that were near spill. Not sure but it might have been that 1981 incident?
- A gentleman (I guess investigator?) from PA DEP visited Mr. Hartman recently – Marinelli or Martinelli? (Not sure but found a Martinelli listed HERE.)
Here are articles where Mr. Hartman was in the paper – he knows the site SO well:
Bishop Tube site possibly up for development
In January there was a follow up article in Daily Local about Bishop Tube:
Plans to develop contaminated East Whiteland site resubmitted
Now one of the most interesting parts of the meeting occurred between Maya The Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the developer witnesses (some sort of engineer I thought). It was at the end of the meeting before they called it to continue March 15th.
I was taking notes like crazy and this one exchange was so interesting – I did my best to be accurate but again I do not take dictation and I am not a court reporter, although there was one there:
Maya: “I would have you speak to what in fact what is left for DEP to to review and decide upon and what process is still left?
Two – There also seems to be this suggestion that anytime additional contaminants are found that they are going to be cleaned up, and so this site is going to be cleaned up…and so I would like you to speak to this issue of whether or not in fact when you are done at this site that all of the TCE and toxic contaminants will be removed, so people don’t have to be concerned about it, or in fact is that not true and you have specifically and carefully with all your communications with DEP actually limited the scope of your remediation including not going to uhhh saturated soils for example, 12 feet below ground surface, etc?”
Witness for developer: “That’s absolutely correct.”
Maya cuts back in “You are not? You are limiting, you are capping how much work you will do and you will intentionally leave contaminants on the site and people need to know that.”
Witness “That is correct. Allow me to explain in a way that is no way nefarious…”
He (witness) goes on to explain liability and an old consent order (??is that right???) with DEP and state version of hazardous clean up – PRPs – potentially responsible parties. He goes on into known contamination beyond the scope of their legal responsibility – about how they will clean up so much and then it seems it will be up to DEP to enforce clean up by PRP potentially responsible parties that I guess are former manufacturing occupiers of site?
Witness acknowledges issues, discusses how developer will be doing more beyond satisfying their part of old (?) consent order (?) and will excavate three known soil contamination issues of the site above water table, excavate, clean up according to most stringent PA standard, residential statewide heath standard…acknowledges caused contamination of groundwater on site that migrates off site, affects tributaries of Little Valley Creek. They believe their soil excavations will have a beneficial effect towards clean up.
I do not think enough monies being set aside by developer to pay for experts East Whiteland may need to hire are much because experts are expensive – environmental lawyers and environmental engineers. Monies quoted could disappear quite quickly – those experts bill expensively, right? And what about any monies for future HOA? How does East Whiteland know if THAT is sufficient?
Other questions that I have include the fire department – as the plans are currently drawn up are there any indications from East Whiteland Fire Department about cartways and whatever you call them? Will all fire apparatus be able to navigate site? I feel that this is VERY important – it is not just abut emergency access from General Warren, but will ALL of their apparatus safely navigate the plans as currently available? Those big rigs need room!
A related aside – here are the LLCs on the developer side:
As I said previously, O’Neill knows how to do brownfield developments, but what about Benson Companies? I can only find Benson on Houzzz, no current website. No mention of Bishop Tube on O’Neill’s website so that is somewhat concerning and want to know why? Two words: Linden Hall. Remember when Benson was thought to have been the savior of old Linden Hall? If they received their approvals for townhouses at Linden Hall, how they were going to restore Linden Hall itself as a new office for them? What did we see instead? Wasn’t it selling approved plans to Pulte and no rehabilitation thus far only minimum maintenance?
And then there is the issue brewing in Tredyffrin Pattye Benson alerted everyone to. Historic Howelleville being their location for yet a total community destroying cram plan? And what of how Radnor residents feel about Benson? I have to ask can Benson actually be trusted here? Or will residents go through all the heartache and meetings to have these plans sold off to someone else?
I do not recall last evening that the developer’s attorney got into the whys of it all concerning WHY the developer is seeking zoning variances, so will it be the battle cry of “economic hardship”? Or, they can’t build without a variance which would increase density in an already dense plan? And why is any developer’s potential economic hardship a burden a community getting a plan inflicted upon them not by their desire in the first place?
This site is going to be developed, I am not arguing that. I have never argued that. But it is a very toxic site because of the TCE and whatever else was left behind and is lodged in the land, the aquifer. How the site gets developed has always concerned me and I ask again, is this the best use for the property?
What of impact on the school district? How are a few more hundred to potentially few thousand kids from this plan combined with Atwater and any other development large or small going to affect the school district? Has the school district weighed in on this?
Traffic lights proposed? Who is paying for that if variance is waived? The previous zoning is in place to help preserve open space or farms or industrial from being over developed.
And what kinds of complementary businesses will be added to the surrounding area to support these new homes? Will that zoning need to be changed too? What is it costing East Whiteland residents in legal fees for all of this now (let alone the future)? Will this plan be one that is truly economically viable for East Whiteland or become another millstone around East Whiteland’s proverbial neck?
Why always townhouses instead of single family homes? Lighting and noise? How will this development affect General Warren Village with regard to those issues?
I do believe that the Zoning Hearing Board is weighing this all carefully, but I would say that residents MUST keep up the pressure. Packing the boardroom last evening was a great start. But there is a while to go.
I have done my best to relay my meeting notes accurately. Others may add to them. Of course it would be helpful if the media took an interest. And it would be helpful to hear what development happy Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission thinks? Does he have an opinion? He was around serving in Lower Merion when ROHO and O’Neill’s now defunct Rock Hill Road project came about, so realistically he knows a similarly dense plan THERE was horribly unpopular as was the B.S. developer driven zoning overlay that allowed it, doesn’t he?
And what of the PA DEP? Don’t they have an obligation to make the PRP (Potentially Responsible Parties) freaking clean up the Bishop Tube site??? After all the developer will not be responsible for all that should be done so why when discussion of clean up started here so long ago, it has never happened? Remember that Law360 article from 2014 in addition? Or the memorandum from the case that was in Federal Court over this site most recently? How is it a Federal judge did not get the gravity of Bishop Tube?
There you have it in conclusion – the worst part about Bishop Tube is the longer this goes on the more we have to ask ourselves how we got here and what exactly is the PA DEP going to do about it, let alone the EPA on a Federal Level? Or what about state elected officials? Duane Milne and Andy Dinniman? Duane Milne was all Mr. Press Release in 2007 but what has he done for anyone lately?
Where is Erin Brocovitch and Tom Girardi when you need him? Call me crazy but I think General Warren Village and neighboring Malvern Borough residents deserve the best thing possible with regard to this plan, don’t you?
Sigh…to be continued….feel free to leave comments anyone who was in that packed room last night.