the delaware riverkeeper opines on bishop tube to east whiteland zoning hearing board

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?

Limerick residents blast DEP for slow action against pollution (Video)

By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/17/10, 12:01 AM EDT|UPD

LIMERICK – Residents of more than 45 homes whose wells have been polluted by twin underground plumes of pollution packed the township meeting room to hear how the state is handling the crisis.

Residents complained about the slow pace of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in dealing with the pollution problem that was detected as early as the 1980s and more recently in 2002.

To date, wells tested at 47 homes have been found to have chemical contamination. The homes are in the vicinity of South Limerick Road, Springford Road and West Linfield-Trappe Road….

Last week, The Mercury reported that another groundwater contamination site has been identified by the DEP. Called the Landis Creek Site, the contamination has been found in eight wells near the intersections of Country Club Road and Ridge Pike and Township Line Road and Graterford Road.

The contaminant at the Landis Creek Site is trichloroethylene, or TCE, which is recognized as a carcinogen in California and considered a potential carcinogen by several federal agencies, including the EPA.

Now in Missouri in 2016 a company was awarded $20 million “for exposing a 27-year-old woman to a toxic chemical that has left her with permanent disabilities, according to online court records….At age 14 in 2002, Kirk was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. Testimony at the trial revealed that the disease was caused by trichlorethylene, also known as TCE. The chemical, a known carcinogen, was used by the manufacturer of ball bearings to clean metal parts.”

TCE is what everyone is talking about at Bishop Tube.  As per a lawyer in Nebraska’s website:

People who have worked in degreasing operations have the highest risk of exposure to TCE. Exposure to the chemical can happen by breathing, touching, or drinking/eating. People who use TCE as a solvent may breathe significant amounts of the compound. Since TCE evaporates quickly, people who shower or bath in contaminated water may breathe the vapors, as well. TCE can be absorbed through the skin. Individuals who don’t use solvent-resistant gloves while using the compound may face exposure. Groundwater can be contaminated once TCE is released into the soil, thus anybody who drinks from a well may be exposed.

Unfortunately many industrial companies use and have used Trichloroethylene for decades without properly supplying their employees with proper education about the chemical or proper safety training or protective measures to prevent all the devastating problems associated with Trichloroethylene exposure.

Potential Health Effects of TCE

Some health effects may occur immediately or shortly after inhaling air that contains more than 50,000 parts per billion by volume of Trichloroethylene. These include:

  • Heart problems including cardiac arrhythmias;
  • Serious liver injury;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation.
  • Dizziness, headache, neurological problems; and

Although TCE has not been specifically linked to certain effects in humans, studies have shown that animals exposed to high levels of the compound may develop problems such as:

  • Cancer (including liver, kidney, lung, brain, soft tissue, testicular tumors, and leukemia)
  • Heart defects in offspring when mother was exposed to TCE
  • Increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease (six times greater than that of non-exposed subject)

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:

East Pikeland Township Board of Supervisors Meeting February 3, 2015

East Pikeland Township Board of Supervisors Meeting March 1, 2016

East Pikeland Township Board of Supervisors Meeting April 5, 2016

Kimberton Meadows Residents Go Before Board Again

The group of homeowners says the development is not moving forward.

By September 13, 2011 1:22 pm ET

Residents are begging the  East Whiteland supervisors for help.  But why is a steep slopes variance for a cram plan the only solution? The groundwater. How will the development address that? How does East Whiteland know for sure what TCE will do?  The answer is they do not. East Whiteland your obligation is to your residents FIRST.  

Here is an excerpt from the letter sent by the Delaware Riverkeeper that stands out:

….As you know, the intent of the sleep slope protections identified in § 200-57 “is to protect hillsides and their related soil and vegetative resources, thereby minimizing adverse environmental effects” including providing protection from “inappropriate development, such as excessive grading, landform alteration, and extensive vegetation removal”, “[a]voidance of potential hazards to life and property and the disruption of ecological balance that may be caused by increased runoff, flooding, soil, erosion and sedimentation, blasting and ripping of rock, and landslide and soil failure,” “[p]rotection of the entire Township from uses of land that may result in subsequent expenditures for public works and disaster relief and adversely affect the economic well-being of the Township,” “[e]ncouragement of the use of steep and very steep slopes for open space and other uses that are compatible with the conservation and protection of natural resources.”

Granting a variance to Constitution Drive Partners from the steep slow variance would undermine all of these goals. The site is significantly contaminated and borders Little Valley Creek, tributary to Valley Creek, an exceptional value stream. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is concerned that the level of land disturbance proposed, including on the steep slopes for which variance is sought, on this site given the high level of continuing contamination, poses both health risks and will result in ecological damage, including to the Little Valley Creek, will result in future costs to the township to respond to the degradation, and is not otherwise compatible with conservation.

As discussed by Dr. Tom Myers in the attached report:

“Developing this site would expose the existing contamination to wind and rain which would cause it to erode and pass downstream or downwind where it would contaminate additional areas. Also, much of the contamination would remain in place, especially in groundwater and soils outside of the targeted excavation zone. Other than the additional contamination caused by water and wind erosion, this residential development and remediation will expose substantial amounts of contamination that would be left in place to increased erosion. The development would not contribute substantially to the necessary remediation of downstream and downgradient resources.”

Constitution Drive Partners wants to do a partial cleanup so it can develop the property, make lots of money, and walk away. Leaving dangerous amounts of contamination still at the site to contaminate groundwater, Little Valley Creek, Valley Creek, and any communities that are on the receiving end of that contamination as it makes its way to soil, air and water.

Constitution Driver Partner’s responses to DEP questions and concerns regarding their proposal demonstrates a disregard for the environment that is troubling, to say the least.

 

toxic nightmare site bishop tube goes back to zoning…

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow. Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well?

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow.  Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well? I will note I have only ever taken photos from OUTSIDE the chain link fence.

Bishop Tube is a toxic site. It has been through remediation to a point, but I can’t find anything for 2015 in as far as a public accounting of where the clean-up is. Now maybe an update exists, but is it posted publicly anywhere that is easily accessible?  I am including a letter from Chester County Planning Commission from 2014 I do not think I shared before ( chester-county-planning-on-bishop-tube-march-2014 ).

Something that jumped out at me from said letter:

RECOMMENDATION:    While  the  County  Planning  Commission  supports  single-family  attached and multi-family residential development in the Suburban Landscape where infrastructure capacity can support such development, along with the implementation of adaptive reuse and infill strategies to redevelop abandoned industrial brownfield sites for moderate to high density multi- family housing designation, it does not appear that this location can support the density being proposed due to its existing physical and environmental characteristics.  Additionally, the amendment petition does not appear to be consistent with the Township’s Comprehensive Plan and its vision for Community Mixed Use.  The Commission recommends that East Whiteland Township deny the applicant’s zoning ordinance and zoning map amendment petition.

 

So that was 2014.  We are now in 2017.  East Whiteland has had Bishop Tube as a guest star topic at many meetings since then.  So truthfully, I don’t know which iteration of Constitution Drive Partners LP anyone is looking at.  Constitution Drive Partners = Brian O’Neill, remember?

Well, this plan is up in front of East Whiteland Zoning NEXT week January 23:

bishop-tube-zoningHERE in case you can’t see all of the fine print:

LEGAL NOTICES

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the East Whiteland Township Zoning Hearing Board conduct a continued public hearing at 7:15 p.m. on Monday, January 23, 2017, at the East Whiteland Township Municipal Building, 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, Pennsylvania, to consider Appeal No. 2016-24 Application of Constitution Drive Partners, L.P. and 9 Malin Road Development, LLC (collectively, “Applicant”) for a variance from Section 200-57.C.(6) of the East Whiteland Township Zoning Ordinance to permit single-family attached dwellings and townhouses in rows of more than six units, with associated driveways and grading to be located in both steep slope and very steep slope areas of the property formerly the site of the Bishop Tube complex (which is currently a brownfield site improved with dilapidated industrial buildings), located at 9 South Malin Road, 10 South Malin Road, and 1 South Malin Road (Tax Parcels 42-4-321, 42-4-321.1 and 42-4-321.2) (collectively, “Property”). The Property is located in an RRD (Residential Revitalization District) Zoning District. The public hearing was opened at the Zoning Hearing Board’s November 28, 2016 meeting. The Applicant has subsequently amended its Application to request a variance from Section 200-93.B of the Zoning Ordinance to permit the proposed retaining walls to exceed the permitted six (6) feet in height. On the above date, the Zoning Hearing Board will continue the public hearing and may render a decision on Appeal No. 2016-24. Anyone with a disability requiring a special accommodation to attend should notify Joseph T. Leis, Zoning Officer, at 610-648-0600 x 268. The Township will make every effort to provide a reasonable accommodation. Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco Attorney for Constitution Drive Partners, L.P. DL-Jan 10, 16-1a

Steep slope and very steep slope.Still the key here. They want to increase site density if they want relief from steep and very steep slopes, right? How many hundred units do they want?  Last count was what, 264? And before that over 300?

Bishop Tube is what they call in crass terms a potential flipper baby site still, correct? Will super high amounts of residential density built on slabs with no basements solve all problems? Or is another use better for the site?

Forget about the problems with the site in the DEP and EPA categories and let us talk traffic, infrastructure, schools, basic township services.  Why does East Whiteland want to be King of Prussia or Bensalem? Is that what the majority of the residents want? Or do residents actually want thought and carefully planned growth versus one construction explosion after another?

How many 1000s of living units are planned, approved, or are in various stages of approval in East Whiteland at this point? That also affects neighboring municipalities and anyone in the Great Valley School District.

And do not forget this interesting developer O’Neill article from December:

Former O’Neill site on Rock Hill Road goes up for sale; was to be part of area’s transformation

Former O’Neill site for sale; was to be part of ‘gateway’ to Lower Merion By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Dec 2, 2016

Bala Cynwyd>> A long awaited building project that was supposed to be part of the transformation of an old rock quarry along Rock Hill Road in Bala Cynwyd has officially gone back on the market. Except for a groundbreaking and some preliminary work a couple of years ago, the approved project never moved forward.

 

The site was to become a mixed-use development proposed by Brian O’Neill, owner of O’Neill Properties.

Monday, Kevin Flynn Sr. of The Flynn Company confirmed that his company has the property at 131 Rock Hill Road up for sale.

According to Flynn, the 8.2-acre site was approved for four buildings of four-stories each with parking decks underneath. There would also be a surface lot and numerous other amenities.

 

O’Neill owned the site since 2004, when it was purchased for $3.5 million, according to online Montgomery County records. In 2014, the site was sold to an LLC called Alexander Street, for $11.122 million as the preliminary work was being done. They were to be the financing arm of the project.

 

Another site across the street on Rock Hill Road had also been owned by O’Neill and had been sold in 2010.

 

It’s not clear why O’Neill is apparently divesting himself in his holdings in that area. Calls to the company this week were not returned.

In Lower Merion Township people went through YEARS of awful meetings over steep slopes and a developer driven zoning overlay known as ROHO.  Has anyone asked Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission about this as he would be very familiar with this plan given his time on Lower Merion Township’s Planning Commission?

I can’t see Bishop Tube from my window.  But if I could I sure as heck would turn up at this meeting.  Or if I lived at the edge of Malvern Borough where traffic here would become an issue. If I was a neighbor or affected by Bishop Tube, I would see that board room was packed.

Here are some of the old articles on Bishop Tube:

community

lavenderLast evening I went to my first ever municipal meeting in Chester County.  It was the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board.  CubeSmart was supposed to be on it, but apparently the applicant continued it until September 23rd.

The meeting started a little late and the room was packed, even for August.  I estimate that maybe 100 people can be seated and truthfully it wasn’t far off capacity. The first order of business was they announced the retirement of one of the members – I think it was the guy who fell asleep during the last Zoning Hearing Board Meeting where CubeSmart was discussed.

The most contentious discussion of the evening was the application that requested a single variance.  1535 Morstein Road in Malvern. They needed the variance on the frontage so they can shoehorn in two McMansions on what looks to me to be a flag lot.  They got it.  In a perfect world the variance would have been denied. But just like Lower Merion, Radnor, Tredyffrin, and so on they throw it back to the public that commissioners and supervisors create the zoning. And we all know the zoning and everything else is based on what? The outdated Municipalities Planning Code of Pennsylvania.

Yes it is a cycle, and we elect the people who perpetuate the cycle. So in order to break the cycle we have to change the players enough until we get people willing to enact the changes on a top down basis that better reflects what we want in our communities as residents.

But politics of municipalities is not the conversation I am having today.  The conversation I am having is about community. And I saw it last night and it was terrific. First a little recap and a couple observations.

1535 Morstein

This Morstein application and discussion on the property was interesting.  The applicant’s attorney put up several witnesses, including the daughter of the deceased who I presume was the executor of the estate. The guy has been dead a few years so who knows if there were other executors or not, but for someone who wants to sell and move on in my opinion the property has sat a long time in an area where they don’t sit too long.  Now this lady grew up there and on some level it must be darn difficult to go through this.  Obviously she lives someplace else and needs to settle the estate but I still find it hard to believe some of what she said.

When quizzed about the property by the Zoning Hearing Board and even residents she said that she had tried to interest a realtor in selling the property but couldn’t find one and that no neighbors had ever expressed interest in the property.  I find that hard to believe.  It is quite a desirable area.

The house itself is a wreck. The property is so overgrown and neglected that you almost expect Charles Dickens’ character Miss Havisham from Great Expectations to come wandering out of the woods.   It did not get that way overnight. That takes years.  I am always fascinated when people let a family home sort of crumble year by year.  I have seen it out here, have seen it on the Main Line.  Saw it some more in and around Berwyn yesterday when I was cruising around photographing historic homes for a fall house tour.

The proposed plan seems as if it has a few more hoops to go through (and wow look at the drawing below – light green looks like proposed lawn area and dark green forest. That to me looks like a LOT of trees will go) before it can become reality including things like septic testing, storm water considerations  and so on. It is not a done deal yet.  They have to pay close attention to the septic as apparently back there a lot of septic systems have failed and if the area went to municipal/public sewer well as I understand it the sewage plant or whatever that is closest is at or near capacity and where would they pump to? And the cost of adding public sewer is also quite expensive.

What I saw last evening that I REALLY liked and totally respect was a community which came together to morstein1appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board.  All they want is their way of life and neighborhoods protected.  They were realists.  Many said if you have to build one house we get that, but why do you have to cram two into the space? The other thing I liked is they did this in a respectful manner.  There was some drama but not to the extent you see in similar Main Line meetings I used to attend.

Community that comes together is awesome.  I am glad to see a sense of community is alive and well.  It is so important. What I also liked is I discovered that a lot of these people had lived around there for decades in some cases.  That is a positive sign for any community and what has changed on the Main Line, for example.  A lot of areas (the Main Line included) can get quite transient and that is not good for a community necessarily.  Not everything can always stay the same but when you check out a community that has lots of comings and goings of residents to me that always makes you wonder what is wrong, doesn’t it?

We don’t need to all be in each other’s pockets and we don’t need local governments that micromanage every little thing. But a sense of community along with a sense of place is so important.  It was so very nice to see neighbors who care about each other.  That is something I saw less and less of on the Main Line before I moved.

People define community often as “community events”.  Events are nice, but they don’t make the community, people do.  And when people do embrace a true sense of community it is very cool and I think marvelous. And that is something no developer can replicate. It either just is or isn’t.