Roundabouts. That is PennDOT new speak for traffic circles. I know, I know I have been writing about this a lot on this blog. Most recently at the beginning of this month (October, 2019) That is when East Whiteland and East Goshen released a letter they received from PennDOT September 30:
At that time I said September 30th was Monday, so why has it taken this long for the people to be notified and have they even notified the potentially affected residents? I marvel that PennDOT dated the letter September 23rd and it took until September 30th to be received? DO they not also send an electronic copy?
PennDOT needs to define “minor construction” and does that mean any eminent domain land takings?
PennDOT will do this project when exactly and how long will it take?
And if PennDOT was offering to meet with both townships, I suggested that when that occured the most directly affected homeowners should be present with whatever representation they so chose to be with them.
Well guess what? According to residents I know (directly affected in fact) the meeting DID take place. And East Whiteland Towsnhip verified this on October 15 when they said on their website “On September 30, East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships received a letter from PennDOT regarding its recommendations for the Route 352 and King Road intersection.
The Townships recently met with PennDOT to discuss those recommendations. No decisions as to road improvements have been made, but the Townships agreed to update traffic counts along the roads and expect to continue discussions with PennDOT when those studies are completed.”
Please note who was missing at said meeting with PennDOT. Yup, you’ve got it, the potentially affected residents.
When they received the news these residents (my extended neighbors) replied to East Whiteland very politely but firmly:
Thanks for keeping us in the loop and for pushing back on PennDOT’s recommendations.
That said, while we appreciate that you may be hesitant to proceed with the only two options PennDOT is permitting (a roundabout or making the roads perpendicular), we still have much to talk about. Will you share why the townships are willing to pay for new traffic counts, what the townships think are the existing problems that must be fixed and what is your goal?
It is my understanding that the various justifications the township has presented have been adequately debunked. It started with cut through traffic, then law breaking cut through traffic, then rush hour delays, then unjustified future traffic predictions, and eventually it morphed to safety. Now, it seems like rush hour delays may be the leading reason again. Or, is this all just a means to mask future plans for over-development? Whatever the reason, it is concerning and very disappointing that the township hasn’t ruled out eminent domain given the community feedback as well as an overwhelming evidence contradicting those justifications.
If the township still feels adequate justification exists and cares about the affected residents, you will help us to understand those justifications. We don’t need to wait for new counts.
If people were dying in the intersection, bad accidents were above “normal” or traffic was backed up frequently enough that it was unpleasant for those of us who actually live here, we would understand (or move). However, these conditions absolutely do not exist. We live here because we want to. If you plan to take our land, destroy our properties, reduce our quality of life, eliminate our privacy and reduce our safety by making the traffic move faster and closer to our homes, we need to understand and accept your justifications or we will fight you to the bitter end.
Finally, can we audit the new counting process when it occurs? Or can we be involved in hiring the firm to perform the counts? Given the conflicts of interest identified with McMahon and the weakness of their presentation, the legitimacy of any further data they present will be called into question.
Subsequent email letters went to PennDOT (three times) from directly affected residents and as they can be obtained on a Right To Know Request, I am publishing them now.
Here is the first letter:
From: Tom Stuart
Sent: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 11:28 AM
Cc: Sue Drummond <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Rich Orlow <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ <email@example.com>;
Subject: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352
Dear Mr. Patel:
I read your September 23, 2019 response to East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships regarding the intersection of Sproul (S.R. 0352) and King Road (S.R. 2022).
In your first paragraph you cite an increase in traffic volumes as the justification for a solution requiring eminent domain taking. A solution that “must be advanced for eventual implementation within a reasonable timeframe.”
Given your solution will destroy homes, privacy, safety and home values (for which payment alone will not cure), are you basing your recommendation on the two traffic reports prepared by McMahon & Assoc in 2005 and 2016? Or, do you have some other traffic volume data that you can share?
It is my understanding that both McMahon studies were performed for just (2) one-hour periods during peak traffic periods in 2005 and 2016, respectively. Further, while I am not currently able to locate the 2005 report to confirm, I was informed by an EG township official that there was very little traffic volume increase measured at the intersection between 2005 and 2016. If this is true, then what “increase in traffic volumes” are your referring to? Is it based on only future predictions? Please quantify.
My wife and I have lived at the intersection for over 20 years. (I purchased the home on December 31, 1996.) Our home literally faces the center of the intersection. Based on my extensive experience, I vehemently disagree with the premise that there is a volume problem that must be resolved. You may consider my opinion biased because the widening and tree/brush removal will eliminate all of the privacy I have spent 10s of thousands of dollars (and a couple decades) to build up, it will dramatically reduce my safety (I can provide more details), and moving me closer to the intersection will destroy my property value.
That said, don’t take it from me. At the June 5, 2019 meeting at Immaculata, I surveyed an audience full of 100+ township residents by asking, “Who thinks delays are the primary problem at the intersection?” Exactly zero people raised their hands. (https://bit.ly/2oueoGQ: Time Stamp: 1:50:10)
So, while your recommendations may be suitable if there were a traffic delay problem at the intersection, the township residents do not agree with the premise under which you have proposed a solution.
So, if PennDOT will not support a permanent, signal-only solution to help address the left turn issues from 352, does PennDOT support a “do nothing” approach? It was not entirely clear whether you were recommending or requiring your “comprehensive” eminent domain taking solution. This is an important detail. Please clarify.
Here is the second letter:
From: Tom Stuart
Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2019 3:37 PM
Cc: Sue Drummond <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Rich Orlow <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ <email@example.com>; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ <email@example.com>; John Nagel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352 – *** Major Safety Concern ***
Dear Mr. Patel,
I have a critical safety concern regarding your suggestion to enable King Rd traffic to drive head on through the 352 intersection at the same time (“in exchange” for split phasing on 352.)
First, do you have a sketch or diagram of the revised intersection layout you are proposing?
I have driven up and down King Rd through the intersection a few times since I read your letter—including in the pitch dark last night. I wanted to get a feel for and imagine the shifted sight lines you are proposing (if the township proceeds with a 2-phased approach.) I imagined it with the westbound King Rd lane being re-located southward by about 1 lane width.
Given that the westbound approach rises slightly to the intersection and the eastbound approach rises significantly, you are inviting a full-speed, head on collision by letting that traffic flow at the same time and at full speed with such limited visibility.
Even if your plan includes destroying a half dozen or so properties by removing all of our privacy and safety providing trees and shrubs, safe sight lines simply do not exist with the current (or the slightly modified) geometry.
As you may or may not be aware, the left turns from 352 are not a major safety hazard now. They are more of an inefficiency and annoyance. The resulting accidents from those turns tend to be low speed fender benders… not head on and certainly not at full speed. The worst symptoms are frustrated drivers honking and cursing.
For this reason, I believe that switching the split phasing from King Rd to 352 as you propose (in part 1 of your 2-phased approach) will make the intersection considerably less safe.
Incidentally, there is a similarly shaped intersection geometry where Paoli Pike meets route 30 in Paoli. The sight lines are MUCH better there because it’s more level. However, in the mid to late 1980s (before the lights were changed to include a protected left turn phase from 30) there was a head on collision that occurred with so much force the driver’s heart detached from all of her arteries. So, unless you and the township want to be directly responsible for introducing fatalities to the intersection, I suggest you withdraw or amend that portion of your recommendation.
If you have any feedback defending what you proposed, I’d be interested to hear it—especially because the townships will likely heed your input more than mine.
I urge the townships to respond to this concern as well.
And here is the third letter:
Thu, Oct 17, 8:21 PM (12 hours ago)
to ASHPATEL@pa.gov, Sue, Rich, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, John, Christie, email@example.com, TINA, Timothy, Christine, Zeek747, me, Ted
Dear Mr. Patel,
I gather from your lack of response to my previous emails (and because the residents were not invited to recent closed-door meeting) that you do not intend to respond to me. The important part is that I have raised my safety concern, you saw it, the townships saw it and it’s now part of the public record.
I would like to draw your attention to a few more critical issues I have identified in your letter of Sept 23 to the townships:
Your suggestion (2e) indicates that signal upgrades could better detect traffic. Obviously, this means reducing delays without any negative impact on safety or otherwise. If PennDOT thinks traffic delays are a problem, why would this not be your recommended solution as a first and immediate phase? Why wasn’t this recommended and implemented years ago? You go on to state that this improvement would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”. This is outrageous and extremely upsetting. Is this how PennDOT operates– with a complete and total disregard for residents’ homes and properties not to mention a disregard for common sense and unnecessary expenditures?
One of your suggestions is to clear the vegetation through the intersection along King Rd to improve visibility (2c). When it comes to the goal of improving safety, this applies not only to the drivers but also to pedestrians and residents, I assume. As Senior Manager of Traffic Engineering and Safety Division, you must be aware that trees and shrubs create a safety barrier between the traffic and the residents when they must co-exist in close proximity. Tearing them down, as you propose, reduces safety for residents (and pedestrians).
You state that that safety is the department’s primary goal. Yet, you directly contradict this statement with your proposed solutions. If safety is the primary goal, a safety improvement like enhanced traffic detection and painted lines (as you suggest in 2f) could be implemented now. (Or, years ago.) In fact, if safety were the primary goal, a safety improvement such as signal phasing on 352 could be delivered even if it came at the expense of added delays. Your proposals not only fail to make safety the primary consideration, you go so far as to suggest that signal-only safety improvements to 352 traffic can only be delivered if the township agrees to reduce safety on King Rd by letting it drive head on, simultaneously. Local residents would likely agree with me that this could be a net reduction in safety. The reality is that the goal of your proposal appears to be: reduce delays and, if possible, improve safety and do so at the highest possible expense. I find it disappointing that neither you nor the townships ever acknowledge this glaring falsehood being perpetuated. This is not and has never been about improving safety.
Each time I read your proposal and consider what has transpired to date, I become more and more disappointed by what appears to be a complete lack of competence, integrity, honesty, transparency and common sense by all parties carrying some sort of responsibility here. If you disagree with anything I have said and do not wish to have a dialogue with me directly, I understand. I hope you will communicate your feedback to the townships so they can pass it along to me. Or, if the townships care about the affected residents, they can prove it.
Until I see common sense prevail, I will not go away.
“….would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”.”
There you have it. EMINENT DOMAIN. They always try to make it sound pretty. How was it one of the East Whiteland Supervisors referred to it? As “slivers” of land or something equally preposterous?
It’s eminent domain. It’s stealing someone’s property and for what? So PennDOT can have their Roundabout Reign Of Terror?
I noticed in September PennDOT was doing the old soft shoe PR on their pet project to ruin where we live. All. Across. The. State.
Here, courtesy of Talk Erie News, is essentially PennDOT’s press release in September about this:
Now whomever heads up PennDOT gets a plum pickings patronage job with taxpayer funded benefits of pure political pork, right? Well it is currently one of the original Wolf girls, Leslie Richards:
If you wonder why our roads are so bad, can it be said look no further than Ms. Richards? Would you like to contact Leslie Richards? Try:
The Honorable Leslie S. Richards
Secretary, PA Dept. of Transportation
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Here (courtesy of Wikipedia) is the chronology of her ascent to the cushy land of political patronage jobs:
Richards was elected to the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors in 2007, and became chairwoman of the board in 2008.
Richards was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners in 2011. Her election, along with that of fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro, marked the first time in over a century that Democrats controlled the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Richards served as Montgomery County’s representative on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Richards also serves on the board of SEPTA.
Pennsylvania political operatives had mentioned Richards as a potential Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. Richards declined to run for the seat after incumbent Congressman Jim Gerlach retired in 2014.
In 2015, following the election of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, Richards was nominated to serve as Secretary of Transportation of Pennsylvania. She was subsequently confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate in May 2015.
In 2017, Richards was appointed the first female chair of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as well as the Public Private Partnership (P3) Board.
But what does she actually DO? I will note I contacted Ms. Richards when this whole Roundabout Reign of Terror began. Her response, even an acknowledgement, of the fact that I contacted her must have gotten lost in the mail.
So people always say when it comes to things like road projects to follow the money, right? So what happens when we follow the money to PennDOT with regard to things like Roundabout Reigns of Terror? Who is benefitting? Is it a long list? Is it a short list?
I sent an e-mail overnight to Senator Andy Dinniman since I feel the State Representatives have been quite invisible on this.
What is happening here is terrifying. He needs to act. He actually might have the power to help my neighbors and get the pause button pushed.
NO ONE HAS TRIED BASIC SIGNALIZATION CHANGES! Why the heavy PennDOT push for traffic circles or the more politically new speak term of “roundabouts” ? Whatever happened to trying something less expensive before taking people’s homes?
Again, if the money trail is followed all the way to Harrisburg where will it lead?
The basic intersection changes affected residents asked for would cost a whole lot LESS than a Circle. And it would not involve eminent domain.
But we, as residents and taxpayers, have been told that PennDOT doesn’t want that. Everything they want seems to involve eminent domain doesn’t it?
Money, money, money. It’s only money and OPM or Other People’s Money at that. Do you want your taxpayer dollars to go to stealing a neighbor’s home?
Why should my neighbors be forced to this? Why should they fear losing their homes? How would you feel if you were facing eminent domain?
None of us asked for this. And the origins of this current situation is somewhat mind boggling to me. That all came out when we did RTK requests a few months ago.
People have asked State Reps for help and to the best of my knowledge that has kind of gone nowhere.
My neighbors need and deserve help. This affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen. Truthfully it affects anyone who travels through this intersection. Have you watched people use roundabouts? And what about Immaculata and the buses that come through to them and the trucks, big trucks, which travel these roads?
Of course my personal thoughts include that wanton development is also a culprit here- another thing residents didn’t ask for.
I have seen what the threat of eminent domain does to communities as I have been to this movie before. I just didn’t expect it out here as a threat quite as often as I have seen it.
We have done rights to know. In the spring we learned a lot. Is that the only way we can ever get answers is to pay to be flooded with paper?
This summer I took photos while a passenger in a car. Of a roundabout no one knows how to drive on in Chester County. On Route 52. Where it is still kind of rural and no one lost their homes, although undoubtedly someone lost some land as in open space/farm land.
The topography where that circle was placed is radically different from where PennDOT seems hell bent for leather to get one at King and 352.
Putting a traffic circle, roundabout, whatever you wish to new speak it as on King and 352 is like the proverbial square peg in the round hole, or is it round peg in the square hole? (Sorry, traffic circle humor)
Remember this issue when election day rolls around.
Soon it will be Halloween. Then we will have Thanksgiving and Christmas and Channukah and so on, so what do these poor residents have to look forward to with the evil specter of eminent domain courtesy of PennDOT lurking around seemingly every corner?
Residents asking for traffic improvements on side streets somehow translated to a potential pork project and please stop the roundabout turntable, residents want to get off.
Can anyone help stop this? Does anyone give a crap about residents anymore? Or all we just expendable?
UPDATE: One of my readers has pointed out a great article in The Daily Local which has outlined this fire which obviously is still under investigation:
Atwater is a ginormous development that is new in Chester County. Part of it which is in Tredyffrin Township is on fire.
This is scary stuff and multiple fire companies have responded. My photos are from my readers. (Who are also reporting so many fire trucks that first responders are walking up the driveway.)
Below is from Chester County Working Fires. I think it is beyond 3 alarms. Thank God this building is unoccupied and please say prayers for all the first responders involved.
This last photo from another of my readers shows the long line of first responders. It makes you wonder about new construction doesn’t it?
Again, thank God this wasn’t occupied yet. Especially because it is for senior citizens I am told.
I will close with noting I have no idea what caused this fire. Some are speculating high winds, but I don’t know what the origin of the fire is. I will update the post if any of that is made known. I will update the post as additional media reports on it.
Many thanks to my readers for the photos and for Chester County Working Fires for covering it.
I do not know if the fire has been contained as I post this.
The other day I wrote one my last big post on Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA. I told you my faithful readers and local history buffs why I was giving up, and there is no need to re-hash that. Nothing has changed.
However, my friend and I came down Bacton Hill on our way back from Fricks Locks. As she was driving, I was able to snap a few photos. I think it is important to record it now, because as soon as those development houses go up next to Ebenezer and the Malvern Courts mobile home park, what is left of old Bacton Hill will cease to exist for sure.
It’s almost gone, now. This farmhouse I have photographed should be some sort of historic asset, but it is not. It has been rotting and will be demolished so the land can be cleared for part of this development that is coming.
Bacton Hill has serious historic significance, but it doesn’t matter. Only progress and development seem to matter. The park East Whiteland is planning up the road towards where the road meets Swedesford will carry the name Bacton Hill, but give it 10 years more and no one will remember what Bacton Hill was.
Bacton Hill is a region in East Whiteland that was an early village (and one of the largest early settlements) in Chester County settled by and for African Americans. The Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery is a sacred space where at least three Civil War soldiers are buried.
The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.
Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. He was an inhabitant of Bacton Hill.
Soon all that will be left of the area will be my blog posts including this one from 2017 which is an oral history complete with some really cool photos courtesy of Claude Bernadin, or this one from 2015, this one from 2016, this one from 2017, the ceremony November 2016, a post from October 2016, another one from October 2016, when for brief moment people stopped to visit the old souls now covered by weeds and brush once more, 2015 post which had links to earlier posts. Also will be the occasional newspaper article from every newspaper reporter who tried to raise awareness to this area and to Ebenezer.
Once upon a time people tried to get a Bacton Hill Historic District or something like that. It’s a shame it never happened. Because at least then there would have been a more organized history of the place.
We can’t keep developing away our history, or can we?
I will leave you with that for now.
In February, 2018 I wrote a post titled will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?
Well I am back to tell you sadly, I think I am right. Ebenezer looks like hell. Again. I am done with trying to get people to pay attention and preserve and save this site. It is pointless.
I drove past Ebenezer today and the photo above is from 2016, but essentially that is exactly the way it looks now. Perhaps worse. I couldn’t stop and take a photo as there was traffic. Ebenezer has been swallowed by the green death of weeds. The old farmhouse across the street is pending the wrecking ball as the development which alarmed me due to it’s proximity to Ebenezer was apparently approved?
These houses are going to be right next to Ebenezer on one side. A concern I still have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning any development anywhere has to also include protecting historic sites, right? And this site is fragile so what will the vibrations of earth moving construction equipment do? My guess is nothing good.
This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out quite a while ago, right? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)
Anyway….I am repeating myself (sorry.)
But my post in February was noticed by a lady named Patricia J. Henry who was doing Quaker research on the Malin family (and it was James Malin who deeded the land in 1831 to the then fairly new AME Church.) She was researching East Whiteland Malins in connection with “some individuals connected with Valley Meeting burial ground as well as Tredyffrin area residents.” (I have a couple of emails I am quoting from.)
To continue…this Patricia emailed Bertha Jackmon the historian at the uber historic Mt.Zion AME in Devon, PA. (I will digress for a moment and wonder aloud about Mt. Zion as it looked like it needed a lot of love when I drove by earlier this summer. I have heard like many other old historic churches they have an aging and dwindling congregation?)
Back to my topic at hand: Ebenezer.
This Patricia asked them if they were familiar with Ebenezer. Bertha replied yes. (I laughed to myself reading the e-mail chain because when I started my Ebenezer odyssey years ago I went to the Pastor of Mt. Zion April Martin. Pastor Martin was super interesting and inspiring to speak with, but nothing ever happened back then with Ebenezer via Pastor Martin.)
From this email I learned that as according to Bertha that Ebenezer was “originally known as Bethel AME Church as stated in the Deed. A/K/A Bethel Bacton Hill AMEC and names.”
Aha, I thought, quite the light bulb going off. Another link to the AME Church that seems more tangible, no? As in Mother Bethel in Philadelphia from whence the Mothership of the AME Church was born? As I have always suspected? (You see I have never been able to find definitive proof that the AME church ever divested itself of Ebenezer. It was more like over time, they just ignored it as they have ignored so many other sites across the country, right?)
Then there was discussion of me and this blog. That always amuses me when these things get forwarded. Mostly what was said was really flattering. This Patricia lady thanked Bertha and said that “this should give me plenty to follow up with.” ( I never heard from this Patricia, although not sure I was supposed to.)
Bertha next contacted Steve Brown at East Whiteland Township and eventually me as well. Apparently with Steve from East Whiteland they discussed East Whiteland and this Bacton Hill development site. Steve also gave Bertha the court reporter information for the zoning hearing on the Bacton Hill development plan I guess it was.
So then Bertha and Pastor April reached out to me again. We had a nice phone call back on February 20. I will admit being snippy at first because well, they were among the first I reached out to years ago when I started this odyssey. And back then they made me feel like the teenage girl dumped at the high school dance – they just evaporated at the time. Or at least that was my perception….
Amusingly enough, apparently East Whiteland really did not notify the AME church of this plan because well, the non-existent mailing address for Ebenezer was (as in decades ago, right?) RD1 Malvern Pa, and ummmm… hey now it’s been a long time since there were any RD rural delivery addresses around these parts due to all the freaking development, hmmm?
East Whiteland should know the address of the church was/is 97 Bacton Hill Road. East Whiteland should have maybe tried contacting the corporate offices of the AME Church or Mother Bethel in Philadelphia, right? But government is government and if something appears abandoned, how far do you go on the notification process? Especially when no one has really stepped forward to say Ebenezer is their responsibility, right?
So I did then have a conversation with Bertha and Pastor April back in February. At that time there was limited time for the AME Church to file a zoning appeal if they wanted to go that route. I do not know whatever happened, because I had no standing in the zoning matter and zero involvement because I knew I had no standing (I don’t live over there on Bacton Hill Road and I am not on the East Whiteland Historic Commission), even if I worry about the history of Ebenezer. You need standing in zoning matters.
The AME Church had they chosen to get involved with their history on Bacton Hill could have possibly sought an appeal based on ground vibrations or perhaps the impact to a historic site and also perhaps for the basic fact they did not receive good notice of a zoning hearing and should have if they are admitting the AME Church still owns the Ebenezer site, so is that what the AME Church was contemplating admitting here? Since I do not think an appeal was ever filed would that be part of why they didn’t appeal? Because then they would have to admit they let their own historic site rot and go to hell in a hand basket?
Anyway, to the best of my knowledge the development of those houses is going to happen and Ebenzer is SO overgrown that no construction crew is even going to notice what is there except a seemingly empty lot. But I am done. If the AME Church doesn’t care about preserving it’s early history, why should I care? It’s not my Church, after all. I did not expect this development plan to stop, but I was hoping that for once the AME Church would at least act to see Ebenezer’s ruins were stabilized and preserved.
Yes, I am really done.
I have ridden this pony as far as it can go. My last hope was the late Al Terrell. But he is dead more than a year and no one is stepping into his shoes to get the site cleaned up. And that is not anyone’s job truthfully other than the blasted AME Church. And they do not seem to care.
So why should I?
Some day, I predict, in the not too distant future the only records of what was Ebenezer AME will be what I have saved on this blog.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I am tired of expecting different results. I will post news as I get it, but I am divorcing myself from this. It’s too aggravating to care about a place that no one else, let alone the church that apparently still owns it, cares about.
History is important, but time is fleeting. I am sorry to the old souls buried at Ebenezer. I tried.
But I am done.
Friends and other readers are alerting me to flooding photos, so here is a slideshow. From Lower Merion where stormwater management in the township needs a makeover to flooded out Little Chicago in North Wayne, to out around West Vincent and beyond the flooding is crazy. Highways are closed like parts the Schuylkill Expressway, turnpike, etc.
But of course, global warming is an urban legend…and all of the development never, ever causes any storm water runoff problems, right?
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
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:
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.
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.
Here is a round-up of some recent articles I found:
I love parks. And a park naming contest is just good fun! East Whiteland Township is having a park naming contest through March 8th. And two of the finalist names involve parts of Chester County history right in East Whiteland that I feel very strongly about.
The suggestions to name the East Whiteland Township’s next park are in and the finalists are Bacton Hill Park, Woodyard Park and Patriot Park. You can vote on the next name until March 8.
Finalist Name Number 1: Bacton Hill Park
Bacton Hill is a region in East Whiteland that was an early village (and one of the largest early settlements in Chester County for African Americans. The Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery is a sacred space where at least three Civil War soldiers are buried. (Blogger Note: the ruins of Ebenezer and graveyard are currently in a somewhat precarious position due to proposed development)
To vote on the new name, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
Finalist Name Number 2: Woodyard Park
Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. (Blogger Note: the ruins of Ebenezer and graveyard are currently in a somewhat precarious position due to proposed development)
To vote on the new name, please email email@example.com with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
Finalist Name Number 3: Patriot Park
This name reflects the historical significance of the Township, region and members of the East Whiteland community.
To vote on the new name, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
My opinion? Please e-mail East Whiteland for either Woodyard Park or Bacton Hill Park. It is the most fitting due to the physical location of the park, and it is a VERY important piece of Chester County History, as well as East Whiteland history. Some of the dearly departed who lay in the Ebenezer graveyard have descendants who still live in and around East Whiteland, Malvern Borough, and Chester County today.
As a matter of fact, a slight segue but related to the importance of this particular area is in neighboring Charlestown on Bodine and Valley Hill Roads are the ruins of a little school for slaves and/or the children of the African Americans that settled in this area (like Bacton Hill). It is the Longwood School and the school was built in 1857 as a one-room schoolhouse for African-American children. Charlestown Township secured the ruin and stabilized it – something I wish for Ebenzer.
Junior Girl Scout Troop 1773 adopted Longwood School. There is an essay written by a girl named Caroline. She speaks about the history of the school which was founded in 1857. It is fascinating. Here is a long excerpt off of Charlestown Township’s website:
On March 27, 1858, the “colored” school was opened for business. It was the place where the School Board sent their “colored” children. All the “colored” children had to pay $0.04 to go to school everyday. This marked the beginning of the Longwood School.
In December of 1858 the school board agreed to add a stove, and a month to the school year now making it five months. Although the school year was increased, the schoolmaster’s salary went down.
In 1859, vast changes occurred for Charlestown Township Schools. For example, they required each student to purchase a textbook for every subject. This was a hassle for many parents. The board also demanded that the pupils were to bring absent notices, and be given an exam at the end of the year. These changes were attempts to make the schools more high quality learning systems. Exams were given at every school EXCEPT Longwood School.
During the next five years, the School Board dropped the term “colored” school and started to call it “Longwood School”. Even though this act may have seemed more respectful, it would take a lot more for Longwood to be noticed as a school.
The summer school session stopped, and the Board changed the school year to nine months. That is, in every school EXCEPT Longwood School, where it was still only five months.
By 1873, all of the “regular” schools had funding for new facilities and had been completed by this time, EXCEPT Longwood School, where no funding was made.
In 1879, Mary Lloyd was to be the teacher, but she didn’t remain long. After trying to get a new teacher, they gave up, and the children at Longwood School had no teacher for that term.
In 1887, a new teacher, Linda McPherson began taking attendance records to the public’s attention. She noted that nearly 50% of all the students had perfect attendance or missed only one day of school. This was a step to show others what a great school this was. To show that it was just like all the others, and they didn’t slack off. They worked as hard as any other school.
Finally in 1889 the Board decided to equalize the Longwood school term to the other schools, as well as the teacher’s salary. The board finally started to realize that Longwood School was a regular school.
Acceptance of the school grew when a 94-1/2 foot well was built for the school in 1895. On March 18, 1895, the Pride of Pickering Council gave the Longwood School a flag and flagpole. At last, the students were beginning to feel like a respected part of the community.
On April 26, 1885, a celebration was held for attendance of the pupils. They sang songs, read poems, and planted an oak tree. They named the oak tree “Bryant” in honor of a poem’s author, William Cullen Bryant. Under “Bryant” a glass bottle with the names of people who attended, as well as the pupil’s names was buried.
In 1901, the final teacher was reassigned, and after serving 44 years of educational services, the Longwood School was closed.
On June 1, 1902 Longwood School was sold for $2,000 dollars.
That school is so close to Bacton Hill. The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.
I will freely admit it, to see Ebenezer rise like a Phoenix from the ashes at 97 Bacton Hill Road and to have people from all over recognize how historically important Ebenezer and her departed souls are is what I would love to see. I would also love to see a park named either Bacton Hill Park or Woodyard Park so the history (much of which we can no longer see) is remembered.
I learned more about Hiram Woodyard from someone who now lives in South Dakota:
Photo is of the grave of Hiram Woodyard at Ebenezer. He was a freed slave and Black Civil War Soldier who resided in the village of Bacton, “Bacton Hisotric District”, AKA “Bacton African American Community”.
In 1991, Jane Davidson, the then Chester County Historic Preservation Officer certified that one of the houses attributed to him on Conestoga Road as a “County Historic Resource”. She said “The events and activities that have occurred in and around the site form a chronological record of past knowledge that portrays a history of the area.”
The historical information listed in some of the paperwork states:
This resource is part of the Bacton Historic District which is a post-Civil War, Afro-American community. This resource is also connected with Hiram Woodyard who was a prominent member of this community….Due to previous development there is an eminent potential to widen Rte. 401,this threat would negatively impact the integrity of this resource.
In other paperwork, the same author continues:
Hiram Woodyard, one of two leaders in the Bacton African-American community, has become a local folk hero in recent years. While part of the timber industry as a fence maker, he also commanded a great deal of respect for his leadership ability, not only in the community, but also in the Union army.
This history is all interconnected. Naming a park to reflect the history that took place right there, and to remember the people of Bacton Hill just seems right.
Anyway, the name for the new park, a 16-acre property off Bacton Hill Road that is currently known as the Swanenburg Property, will be announced at the March 14th, 2018 East Whiteland Board of Supervisors meeting.
Find where East Whiteland posted the naming request on their website BY CLICKING HERE. ***Also note that in the screenshot below the information, historical information is different than what I have written or which the historic commission will provide. That is because (I guess) of whomever does the East Whiteland website is very, very busy because this is one of many historical fact errors I have found in the past couple of weeks alone. The devil is in the details as they say….. ****
It has already been a year since my friend Al Terrell left this earthly plane. And almost two years sine Ann (A.V.) Christie has died. I am glad both of them are not around to find out what I discovered this morning.
I have been home with the flu, so I have been playing catch-up with municipalities. I started with East Whiteland. They have a Supervisors’ Meeting this Wednesday, January 10.
One of the things there of note, is a couple of more resignations from within the township building. One resignation is the guy who has only been there a short amount of time but came to East Whiteland from the Montgomery County Mall Township known as Upper Merion. Scott Greenly is leaving. He was/is East Whiteland’s Planning & Development Director. But I digress.
BACK to the reason for this post, only it actually what worries me was from RIGHT before Christmas (always have to pay attention before major holidays or in the dead of summer or stuff sneaks on it, right?) as in the Planning Commission December 20, 2017:
1. HP Flanagan, Inc.: Sketch plan proposing a 6 lot subdivision and associated improvements. The property is located at 100 N. Bacton Hill Road, is zoned R-1 Single Family Residential and is approximately 6.6 acres in size.
This is proposed for right on top of and across the road from….wait for it….the ruins of historic Ebenezer AME Church and Cemetery. When I last wrote about Ebenezer, it was late November, 2017 and it was about an oral history. Before that, you know all of the posts about the history and the various articles from 2016 (click HERE and click HERE for two of them.)
Well shame on me for not paying closer attention in December 2017. Here is what it looks like (100 Bacton Hill Road Sketch Plan):
Here is a close-up so you can see (right or wrong) why I am alarmed:
These houses are right on top of Ebenezer on one side. A concern I have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning this development have to also include protecting this historic site, right?
This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)
Do we need to worry that if the AME Church finds out about development they will try to sell these old souls to the highest bidder to make a buck or two? (It’s a valid concern, I think.)
Doug Buettner still owns the land now. I have met him. A nice guy. He actually helped with Al’s clean-up of Ebenezer in 2016. I have also been told that owns Malvern Court the mobile home park on the other side of Ebenezer. The developer is listed above at HP Flanagan in Malvern. They are an unknown to me.
My largest concern is how close this all is to the ruins of Ebenezer. This is not a big plan being proposed, mind you, and it would have escaped my radar except for the fact it is next door to our beloved Ebenezer. And well a development could detrimentally impact this historic site as I feel the site is fragile to begin with. I have fears that once construction vehicles move in to start construction if this plan is approved that it will cause the remains of the church to crumble from vibrations. When Al Terrell was alive we had wanted to try to get the AME Church to give permission for funds to be raised to stabilize the ruins.
A development of a 6 lot subdivision like this adjacent to a historic resource and a mobile home park is one of the ways Chester County Zoning is so strange to me. None of the things go together.
I still feel the pace of development is staggering in East Whiteland .
When does it stop? I have to ask if Mr. Buettner owns clear to the corner as I was told, would it be possible to shift those houses down? Or eliminate one from the plans to create a buffer zone next to the old souls of Ebenezer? After all, it is not generally considered good karma to disturb a burial ground is it? Freed slaves, member of a once vibrant early black community and black Civil War Soldiers matter, don’t they? Shouldn’t they?
And you see on the plans they also want setback variances? Bacton Hill Road is a speedy road. So no new development anything should be perched right on the edge of the road in my humble opinion.
Look, I wish this proposed plan, this sketch plan, wasn’t on top of Ebenezer, but it is. And Hiram Woodyard, Joshua Johnson, the Reasons and the other dear old souls here deserve respect. (See Daily Local article November 2016)
Bacton Hill is the location of some of the richest black history in Chester County. It was an early settlement of freed blacks among other things. This history here just keeps getting erased. I don’t think that is right.
Here is my wish list:
- NO development (which I doubt will happen as it is East Whiteland, after all.)
- More realistically, REDUCED development to protect the cemetery with a good buffer.
- As a condition of approval the developer gets permission to stabilize the church ruin and put up a better and more proper fence with a gate and a couple of pebbled (drainage is a problem over there already, right?) parking spaces in the buffer zone so people can visit Ebenezer.
- And developer also helps with maintaining the grass and weeds going forward
Here is hoping if something comes of this, the dead are respected, right? Ebenezer has been around since what? 1831 into 1832?
Ok signing off now. My thoughts are simple: Ebenezer should be and needs to be preserved. It is history that matters. And more people need to care. (For more on East Whiteland history click HERE.) People, this is a sketch plan, but it is under active review. If you have an opinion, please voice it to East Whiteland (politely.)
Ebenezer AME and her ruins are just something which should be saved, right?
In advance of the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board hearing continuation which will occur on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 7:15 PM at East Whiteland Township 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, PA 19355 unless it gets rescheduled due to weather please see letter sent to the Zoning Hearing Board – YES that is a year typo in the letter, it happens. (Also read about Bishop Tube on Delaware Riverkeeper website HERE)
East Whiteland residents are so incredibly fortunate that Maya the Delaware Riverkeeper has taken an interest here (letter uploaded here to this website Delaware Riverkeeper Network ZHB letter 3.15.17 DRN comment with Attachments ).
Don’t just take my word, or the word of in many cases ill former Bishop Tube workers or General Warren Village residents, take the word of EXPERTS.
Bishop Tube is a site that could be redeveloped, but in my personal opinion with much less density AND after serious not minimal remediation, but again why not check with experts who are obviously concerned with this? Read what the expert says in the letter above…
Hey media, what are you waiting for? Maybe you all can get the DEP to come out of the shadows here? I still do not understand what it is they have actually done and what they are supposed to do? And why hasn’t more clean up been done since they announced they were watching it? Isn’t that like the DEP is looking the either way?
And again…..just so we are clear – I am not adverse to the site being developed with following caveats: (1) much less density and preferably a different and non-residential use (2) AFTER a lot more remediation than has been discussed – as in not just the soil being removed and replaced but dealing with the groundwater issues, right?
Also, for once the residents of General Warren should be taken into consideration, shouldn’t they? And the potential health, safety, and welfare of potential future residents?
One General Warren resident said the other day:
Just hiked the stream between Bishop Tube and General Warren Village. Our township officials need to go back and seriously look at what they are considering before approving.
All the promises by the township that Village Way will be nothing more than “emergency access” are likely alternative facts. Not like a bed of stone will be laid to provide this access. They will build a bridge. I really do not believe that type of investment will be made and not used. Maybe the township needs to consider access coming off of Three Tun Rd and coming in behind the oil company. The train bridge going into BT is posted 12’10” built in 1915 and visually crumbling. I can’t imaging how they will get in the equipment to tear down BT under that bridge or any other large construction equipment. Sure 2 vehicles can pass under this bridge but what about the 500/600 people who end up living back in there, how will they walk to the Giant? I didn’t measure but I can’t imaging a sidewalk under the bridge. Build your development and keep the Village out of it. Stop the bridge into Village Way.
Someone responded to that resident with:
What also cracks me up, because you know this won’t be in the brochure, I read in some document they are planning to put some type of vapor chimney in the units. Not for our common Radon issue, but for any other vapor release from the chemicals left in the ground at Bishop Tube. WTH???
Another resident said elsewhere:
We need it cleaned up right before building starts and that includes the groundwater below where the TCE now is !
There has also been a lot of chatter about the developer leaving if they do not get zoning variance but does zoning variance get groundwater remediation, etc??? I think the developer will get the variance in the end. I see it getting set up for a softball in the meeting replay of the recent supervisors’ meeting. But when Bill Holmes said it isn’t the end of it, he is right BUT residents with standing (General Warren) have to keep going to meetings because that is HOW you will get the site cleaned and get DEP to move.
I have to be honest that while I have issues with the developer and serious issues with the density of the development plan (even if it wasn’t being built on a toxic waste dump of a land parcel), where the issues never abate and concerns continue to grow is with the Pennsylvania DEP. They are the constant from day 1 with Bishop Tube. So that being said, residents need to go to meetings and call the DEP (717) 783-2300 is the main number in Harrisburg. (484) 250-5900 is the number to the Southeast regional office in Norristown. And keep calling State Senator Dinniman’s and State Rep Duane Milne’s offices too.
WATCH THE EAST WHITELAND MEETING – [CLICK HERE] Start watching somewhere around 20 minutes in. Are supervisors prepared to cave no matter what the risks to current and future residents? And DEP? Where is the DEP…..thank goodness for Environmental Action Committee because they at least seem to be in the residents’ corner, right? Seriously, does East Whiteland need Erin Brocavitch?
The PA DEP seems to say a lot about what they will not do, but I ask about what they should have been doing all along? Anderson Hartzell is the acting director of PA DEP in our area now, but no one has ever clarified the rather mysterious and abrupt departure of Cosmo Servidio in the fall? And remember how Limerick residents complained about the PA DEP being slow to act in 2010?
Read an old article from 1989 from the Washington Post called Forging a Covenant of Silence . Here is an excerpt:
WEBSTER, N.Y. — There are three vacant houses on the 600 block of Salt Road in this community east of Rochester, and those who live on the street wonder why their neighbors moved out and no one else has moved in. “All of a sudden I saw a moving van moving one family out,” said Ray Gerber, who lives several hundred feet north of the cluster of empty houses, now owned by Xerox Corp. “I worry about it.” “We’re in the dark,” said Grace Krasucki, another Salt Road resident. The empty houses — the result of a secret and costly legal battle — stand as a testament to the growing use of secrecy procedures in the nation’s civil courts and how that secrecy is hampering efforts by scientists and health officials to learn more about hazardous chemicals and their effects….In the fall of 1984, construction workers at the Xerox complex discovered discolored water during excavation. Xerox later learned that 63 pounds of trichloroethylene (known as TCE), a solvent used in cleaning and lubricating machinery, had leaked over a period of years from four underground storage tanks…. In addition to faulting Xerox for the TCE contamination, attorneys for the families alleged that their clients’ health had been affected by airborne emissions from the plant. According to sources familiar with the case, tests in the houses showed traces of a TCE derivative in the basements and the sump pumps. They also showed residues of two other toxic chemicals, styrene and selenium, in the soot that coated lawn furniture, the walls of their homes and their car windows.
I would be curious if the builder on this (Benson) actually has brownfield development experience? And wow check out the Google reviews. Not positive but then again these are the people who said let us build townhouses behind Linden Hall and we will restore Linden Hall, right? And what happened? Sold the land with approved plans and Linden Hall just sits and continues to rot, right? And then there is that whole thing brewing in Tredyffrin about Howellville, right? And the whole Kimberton Meadows saga which seems to persist?
Here – Kimberton Meadows saga worth reading about if they are slated to be builders of Bishop Tube’s new lemming village:
The group of homeowners says the development is not moving forward.