east whiteland zoning alert: malvern issues

abandoned house on morsteinI have been waiting for East Whiteland’s CubeSmart drama to pop up again, and it is…on Monday. Remember the last meeting on Cube Smart this summer? The one where one of the board members fell asleep? The zoning hearing board agenda for Monday is posted, check it out.

Appeal No. 13-15 Application of Old Lancaster Venture, LP, c/o CubeSmart (continuation of the hearing commenced at the July 22nd meeting of the Board).

I say this is a meeting worth attending for CubeSmart alone.

Of course while I was perusing the agenda (which I have loaded for you here: East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board Agenda Aug 26 ), something else caught my eye that people anywhere near (or on) Morstein Road or Collegeview in Malvern should sit up and take note.

You know that derelict to the point of abandoned home on Morstein just before Collegeview (if you are coming up Morstein from King Road – grainy photo above)? The driveway is overgrown and trees have fallen down, yet if you look closely when you go by it appears it is still full of stuff although obviously not inhabited? Well apparently the property is in play and up for subdivision:

Appeal No. 13-17 Application of Pennfield Properties, LP as equitable owner, and the Estate of George F. Donahue as the title owner, for a variance from the minimum lot width at the street right-of-way line (75 feet required) in order to reduce the lot width at the street line to 49 feet, in conjunction with a proposed two-lot subdivision of property located at 1535 Morstein Road (tax parcel 42-6-51) in an R-1 zoning district.

I would say given the verbiage that the sale might be contingent upon zoning approval. If you live near this home or merely care about residential zoning in East Whiteland, I think this is an important thing – if this applicant gets approval for a variance in minimum lot width the barn door is WIDE open to questionable development where a lot more gets crammed onto a lot less space than used to be allowed.

The word of the day is precedence. As in you do not want it happening with this application.

Being allowed to go from 75 feet to 49 feet is a very big deal. Trust me, I came off the Main Line where no one is happy until every nook and cranny is developed and people are squished into neighborhoods like lemmings. (Which of course leads to other issues with things like infrastructure, roads, traffic, and so on and so forth.)

I figured from the first time I saw that house that the lot was just a goner and someone was waiting for a developer to put jingle in their pocket. However, I think if a developer overpays for land it is their personal issue. That being said, yeah ok, a developer bought it, but East Whiteland can say no to what they are requesting and have these applicants stick to developing more along the size and scale of other homes in the neighborhood. This property has a lot of woods. Once a neighborhood eco system is changed and open space is obliterated, it is not coming back. Please, if you are going to go to this meeting ask East Whiteland to deny the variance request. Preserve a very pretty stretch of road and neighborhood.

Pennfield Properties was unknown to me, so I looked them up:

pennfield 1


cubesmart application causes east whiteland zoning officer to doze off?

cube smart

The above photo is old.  Can’t find recent photos I snapped of CubeSmart’s giant box being built on the edge of Malvern overlooking Route 30.

It is a BIG, UGLY box.  I hate when areas are de-forested so Tyvec boxes can be built, don’t you?  And this is now your landmark when going to the General Warren Inne, which is a place I know and love.  I have seconded a wedding photographer there as well as having just been there as a dinner guest over the years. I also fully admit that I do not understand the lack of planning and general mish-mosh of conflicting zoning throughout Chester County.  You have residential often quite close to the most awful commercial zoning.  To me this is another one of those situations.

So CubeSmart, another fine project brought to you by Eli Kahn who to me seems to want to take over Chester County, has been a contentious project by comments I have seen on Malvern Patch every time it comes up. I think part of what is the problem is that this particular Malvern project, which is located in East Whiteland is not only due to what the project it (in essence a big box with more self-storage and then offices), but because it seems like East Whiteland doesn’t do much putting it out there as far as notification except to the letter of what they are supposed to do and do they have a public access channel for televised meetings or not?

So a zoning notice went up on the CubeSmart property like late last week regarding their application in East Whiteland. The notice said:

Appeal No. 13-15 Application of Old Lancaster Venture, LP, c/o CubeSmart for a special exception pursuant to Section 200-89 of the Township Zoning Ordinance, which authorizes exceptions to the otherwise applicable signage regulations under special circumstances, in order to permit the Applicant to install two wall signs and three free-standing signs having a total collective square footage of 223.5 square feet on its property located at 5 Old Lancaster Road (UPI 42-4-338) in an R-3 Residential Zoning District, in conjunction with the construction of an 86,400 square foot office building.

That got posted on one of those neighborhood bulletin board things on Malvern Patch (and not as a regular media coverage, either – some of the media coverage seems in flux to be polite since Pete Kennedy left the editorial spot there – he was very on top of things and diligent.)

Immediately the comments started.  Residents with immediate standing to this project seem VERY upset.  With good reason – the hearing on GIANT, yes GIANT billboard-y signage was scheduled in the middle of a July heat wave – you know when people are either dying from the heat or on summer vacation? Apparently East Whiteland doesn’t have a billboard policy? Or good signage policy? I don’t know so someone else will have to fill in that question via a comment. I would have thought they would because I noticed at the bottom of the notice posted on Pennsylvania Public Notices that Fronefield Crawford, Jr was listed as the Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor and well he made a stink at Radnor Township a few years ago in 2009 about their billboard and signage policies, but maybe that was because his church might have been affected – Wayne Presbyterian.  (Interestingly his name also surfaced in a literal “turf war” in Radnor too.)

Now no joke, off premises signs and billboards are big problem I think throughout Chester County and Chester County has a ton of the ugliest billboards from municipality to municipality.  I don’t like billboards and billboard-like signs.

Anyway, from what it sounds like a bunch of folks from the “General Warren Village” neighborhoods in Malvern/Frazer showed up at this meeting.

cube3I hear there were fireworks.  A resident named Jim rolled up on Malvern Patch today and left a stunning comment:

Jim McVeigh                July 23, 2013 at 10:36 am
         Well, sparks flew at the Zoning Ordinace meeting last night. During the first presentation myself and other residents witnessed Jeffery Freeman , a member of the Board, first dozing off and on, then shortly he was out fast asleep. I interrupted the presentation to bring it to the other members of the boards attention. I was responded to by Mr. freeman with the comment B**lS**T. I guess he does not like being interrupted during his nap time. For bringing this to the boards’ attention I was chastised for speaking out of order, even though I asked the audience if they had witnessed Freeman napping and 7- 8 residents raised thier hand. Of course nothing was said publicly to Freeman. If you are not aware of exactly the members of the boards duties include, I have included information from thier website. **************** Zoning Hearing Board **************  The Zoning Hearing Board is a five-member appeals board appointed by the Board of Supervisors for staggered, five-year terms. The Zoning Hearing Board hears applications for: special exceptions;  nonconforming uses;  variance requests.  It also hears appeals of decisions made by the zoning officer. The Board gathers facts by taking testimony and by reviewing evidence from affected parties at public hearings. It is charged with the legal responsibility of approving or denying applications and appeals.  In rendering a decision, the Board considers all testimony, presented under oath at public hearings, and evaluates an application’s impact on the community. When necessary, the Board can require special stipulations in allowing special exceptions and variances. The Board interprets, but does not set, the zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance and any revisions are prepared by the Planning Commission and adopted by the Board of Supervisors following a public hearing. The zoning ordinance was last adopted in February 2007. ************************************************


Wow. I have attended a lot of zoning hearing board meetings in various municipalities in my day, but I have *NEVER* heard of a Zoning Hearing Board Member dozing off have you?  Does East Whiteland have any comment? Any media following up on this?

I am asking for input here because my curiosity on this development leads me to the following question: can a fair and equitable zoning decision be reached when member of the board are seen dozing off in the middle of the hearing?  And the public, the residents with standing who had the courage to speak up and point this out were chastised for being out of order? REALLY?  What if this were a capital murder trial and the judge dozed off? I realize that using a murder trial is an extreme parallel of sorts but aren’t Zoning hearings mini legal proceedings?  Did a court stenographer catch all this?

Seems to me residents may deserve a little TLC here.

Again, thoughts on zoning naptime at the oasis?

(Update I am told East Whiteland doesn’t televise meetings – there seem to be a lot of Chester County municipalities that do *not* televise or videotape their meetings which I find *odd* since I know they all have access to public access TV if they want it, right?)