I am trying to gather my thoughts cohesively, but if I am honest, right now tears are getting in the way.
I met Dick and Nancy Saha in the early 2000s. It was back in the days of eminent domain for private gain. They were fighting to save their family farm from Coatesville which decided his gorgeous property would make a great golf course. (Read about it here on the Castle Coalition/Institute for Justice.) We were trying to save Ardmore’s historic business district from a similar eminent domain for private gain fate.
As a member of the Save Ardmore Coalition (see “success stories” on Castle Coaltion website) , we spent a fair amount of time with the Sahas. We all went to Washington DC together and other places. And the thing about Dick is he supported all of our efforts in Ardmore. He and Nancy came to community events.
Dick Saha lived by the courage of his convictions. He was like a lion defending his farm, but I am telling you that man did it in the most pleasant no-nonsense way. One of my favorite memories of him was when he and his friends went to Radnor Township years ago to make sure the old Coatesville manager who was part of the eminent domain game was NOT hired by Radnor as an interim township manager. The Radnor Commissioners were nervous that these people from Coatesville were there. It was hysterical. And all Dick Saha did was stand at the back of the boardroom. And smile. It was his John Wayne moment for sure.
One thing I also adored about Dick Saha was his devotion to his wife and family. The love was so real and you could see it. Magnificent and steady not gushy. You never saw Dick without Nancy, generally speaking.
The years passed and we all went on with our lives. I thought of Dick and Nancy here and there, especially when I moved to Chester County. Then as fate and luck would have it last year I learned about a lavender farm called Mt. Airy Lavender, otherwise known as the Saha farm. I was so excited about it, and went out to an open farm day. ( I wrote about it HERE. ) At that time I wrote:
It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle. We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more. It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.
Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational. They created a hands off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention. We all did. It was kind of crazy.
It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.
I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha. They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.
But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain. I moved to Chester County. And since I moved to Chester County I have thought about the Sahas once in a while. I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird. But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.
So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)
Dick Saha wasn’t a close friend or a family member, but I am feeling this as if he was. He and Nancy made an impression on me. They are good people (I can’t even really think if Dick in the past tense yet), and I am lucky to know people like this in my life even for a little while. Dick Saha is one of those people who made the world a better place.
Here we are in COVID19 land so how do families mourn their loved ones? This breaks my heart. I am sorry this post is not more eloquent. I am just sad.
May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
This is yet another potential example of the devastating cost of over development in Chester County. School districts in particular piss me off with this crap because they always act like they know nothing about what’s going on around them.
￼These people should not be forced to lose their properties, the developer should give up part of their land to build the school there￼.
People need to go after the school district now please contact all your elected officials local, county, state, federal.
Contact the media. Attend this upcoming meeting and raise hell.￼￼
This is another piece of the cost of development at the expense of where we call home.
It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not just, it must be protested.￼￼
I know nothing more than what I am showing you right here right now.￼
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.
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 To: ASHPATEL@pa.gov 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.
Best Regards, Tom Stuart
And here is the third letter:
Tom Stuart 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:
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?
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 is offering to meet with both townships, I suggest that when that occurs the most directly affected homeowners should be present with whatever representation they so choose to be with them.
The municipalities have problematic elected officials and in all fairness, residents need to be there to make sure that in no uncertain terms they understand what PennDOT will be doing.
I am cutting and pasting from East Whiteland ‘s website. The meeting is June 5th at 7 pm at Immaculata’s Great Hall which is 1145 West King Road Malvern. (the school calls it “Immaculata, PA” )
I urge residents to turn out in numbers for this meeting. I don’t know about you, but I do not want any neighbors having to deal with the Sophie‘s choice of which neighbor’s property goes for eminent domain so they can have a circle or round about that nobody really wants. I haven’t heard supervisors from either municipality pledge not to use eminent domain either, have you?
Please contact State Reps Comitta and Howard and Senator Dinniman’s office and urge them to attend as well. State grant money and state money will be involved here, so they do have a place at this table and should be representing the interests of the plurality as a whole. There is also the potential of Federal funds, correct? So our Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan should be looped in as well, right?
And PennDot? Is PennDot attending? Shouldn’t PennDot be attending? We pay taxes locally and to the state, shouldn’t that buy us an audience?
I hope someone shows up with some kind of camera equipment to record this meeting as well.
It seems like the alternatives proposed by McMahon (who also does nice little videos on PennDot’s website and isn’t that special?) are can involve EMINENT DOMAIN – Cliff notes version: install turning lanes on 352 for $2.5 million or take property via eminent domain and install a roundabout for 3.1 million?
Why have they not tried things like cutting back shrubs and changing signal timing so there is NO right turn on red and each side of the intersection goes ONE SIDE AT A TIME?
There are options they could try without taking people’s freaking houses. Maybe if these townships didn’t all approve so much development the infrastructure wouldn’t be failing, right? Always remember they are from the government and they are here to help. (Sorry, just dripping sarcasm today)
Below is the head of PennDOT. She is a double Wolf appointee. She was a good soldier and somewhat useless Montgomery County Commissioner prior to that. Her position in my humble opinion was a reward for campaigning for the governor:
The Honorable Leslie S. Richards
Secretary, PA Dept. of Transportation Keystone Building
East Whiteland Township and East Goshen Township will hold an informational meeting in the Great Hall at Immaculata University, 1145 West King Road, on June 5 at 7 p.m. on alternatives for reducing the congestion at the intersection of Route 352 and King Road.
McMahon Associates will make a presentation on the alternatives followed by a question and answer period.
UPDATE 5/3/2019: Today I received a US Mail reply to my Right To Know submitted on 4/23/2019 to PennDOT which was identical to my requests of East Goshen and East Whiteland.
This is why people believe in conspiracy theories. What any of us have asked for should be simple, right? We live in one of the two municipalities contemplating intersection changes , we live in Chester County, this has SORT OF been being discussed mostly out of the public view for a couple of years, right? (I can’t say intersection improvements any longer since two out of the three parties seem hell bent on hiding from the public what is going on and why?)
Well as per the response from PennDOT well, they also want additional time to contemplate their bureaucratic navels…letter very similar to East Whiteland’s response so I guess this is going to be a thing?
I am thinking it already is a “thing” since someone I think of as a total social media blowhard (they are not someone I would chose to have in my circle in real life and removed them from a social media group for essentially harassing and haranguing myself and anyone else who didn’t agree with his limited view of the world and life as we know it) has been bandying about my name in vain again.
Apparently myself and others concerned about this because a roundabout/circle WOULD have to mean eminent domain are essentially drama queens and everyone should remain calm and informed. He claims to be Master of the Universe and to have been having conversations with “one of the players”? My, my, my is it one of the “players” resisting a Right to Know? Sure hope not because that might be a problem if they won’t discuss this with all residents but will discuss it with select residents? He also says he personally will see that this project gets the attention it deserves. Excellent, right?
I will note that I did not originate discussion on this topic, neighbors closer to him did.
Here is what PennDOT said:
UPDATE 4/27/2019: Today I signed for certified mail from East Whiteland Township regarding my right to know request on the proposed yet somehow TOP SECRET intersection improvement plans for King Rd and Sproul/N.Chester/352 which may or may not end up being a circle or roundabout which in turn could mean eminent domain to gather the necessary land. I have redacted personal data from the Right to Know, but basically they sent me BUPKIS. While I appreciate the timeliness of their response (because PENNdot has completely ignored me), I do not understand how East Goshen can send me LOTS of information, and East Whiteland nothing…BUPKIS?
I also had a comment to this blog which I forwarded onto PENNdot for comment and …well…BUPKIS… I am finding this whole situation curiouser and curiouser.
And people feel the municipalities are to blame for the intersection issues because of all of the development approved and continuing to be approved which is incredibly hard on the infrastructure and so on. Failing intersections like these can be directly connected to increased volume thanks to increased development, correct?
I am vehemently opposed to one of the ideas floating around – a roundabout or “circle” because in order to have it be the right size, people will undoubtedly lose their properties and homes via eminent domain.
I am not sure what I will get out of East Whiteland, and PennDOT did not even acknowledge I contacted them and the head Mahatma Leslie Richards was cc’d. But I was not impressed with her when she was a Montgomery County Commissioner and figured she was a political payback from Wolf when he was elected to his first term as Governor in PA. (But I digress)
However, I did get a response from East Goshen. Their manager is very fair to deal with. Here is what I was told:
I am in receipt of your right to know request of April 22, 2019
At their meeting on February 19, the East Goshen of Supervisor accepted the February 5, 2019 proposal from McMahon to develop a conceptual design plan for a roundabout and update the cost information. We received the report on March 28, 2019 and are currently working with East Whiteland to set up a joint meeting to roll out the project. The links below will take you to the agenda for the February 19 meeting and the minutes.
Because a roundabout or circle would drastically affect around the Lockwood Chase development, I am including the photos below:
Here is the video of the East Goshen meeting referenced above:
I will note that since 2015, articles have occasionally been appearing about how New Jersey is REMOVING circles.
Someone wrote to me from East Goshen:
Go to the Wegmans in Frazer/Malvern and see how good circles work! They SUCK. When we lived in northern Chesco and used Hares Hill Road between 724 and 113, we had 3 “4 way stops”, and a one lane bridge. even during rush hrs everyone would do the every other car thing. Circles don’t invite such nice driving habits.
As a matter of fact since I wrote my first post on this topic, the conversation on it has been coming at a fast and furious pace. And the consensus is (1) the townships are not discussing this enough with the public and should be more forthcoming (especially East Whiteland), (2) those who live around the intersection and in these townships do NOT want a circle or roundabout, they was signalization which would make each side of the intersection go one at a time and (3) the only people in favor of the circles and roundabouts don’t necesarily live in either East Goshen or East Whiteland Townships.
One of the things I wonder about is if either township has taken the temperature of Immaculata and Villa on this because buses have a crazy impossible time with circles and roundabouts and these academic institutions have many school buses daily and the big coach buses that transport visiting collegiate sports teams. And a lot of trucks also have issue with circles and roundabouts.
I will also note that if you are concerned, contact East Whiteland and East Goshen, preferably in writing. If you submit a Right To Know, you may find the following helpful:
“The Right-to-Know law has an express presumption that all records in possession of government agencies are public. However, there are more than 30 exemptions that allow agencies to deny access. There are two critical things to understand about exemptions An agency’s use of an exemption is discretionary; they are not required to deny access just because they can. There are other state laws that mandate secrecy but the Right-to-Know law does not. The legal burden of proving the legitimacy of the exemption falls to the government, not the requestor. In the years since the passage of the Right-to-Know law in 2008, significant case law has been developed, so it is critical to do some legal research on any specific exemption.” http://pafoic.org/right-to-know-law-exceptions/#ex22
If anyone else responds to my Right to Know I will continue to update my readers. I will close with sharing my friend Tim’s presentation to East Whiteland recently:
Now is it just ME or are others in the know wondering why Lower Merion School District shoved people into small rooms with crappy air-conditioning instead of the auditorium? Was the auditorium actually booked for the same time frame? People I know who were there found that information confusing since all they saw was the auditorium was locked up and dark and that is not very hospitable if true, is it?
It is my opinion, if this is true, that the Lower Merion School Board and Lower Merion School District wanted to make supporters of Stoneleigh as uncomfortable as possible. After all people do all sorts of nasty tricks to psych out people on the other side of an issue, right?
As I said in my editorial, and have said many times before, eminent domain is an ugly business. It is defined as the right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction.
As a community activist, I was one of many who successfully stopped an attempted eminent domain for private gain taking in Ardmore years ago. This would not be eminent domain for private gain at Stoneleigh; it would be eminent domain for public purpose, except Stoneleigh already has a public purpose.
Stoneleigh’s public purpose is preserved open space.
Now I knew Ms. Beresford back in the day (and she and Dr. Gilbert were always tight as ticks, weren’t they?), and liked her immensely…enough even to give (not sell) her furniture (including an antique 3/4 bed) when one of her kids needed a bed and they had just moved into a new house in Ardmore. (But I digress)
Dare I say it that they sound like communistshere? Why does it also sound like they are shaming the memory of Mr. Haas because he was successful in business? Are they even aware of all of the philanthropic deeds he and his wife performed? That their children continue to perform? So their pretzel logic is such that because Mr. Haas did well and had a large property, it should just be available to Lower Merion School District for the taking? I swear that sounds like communist and “take for the state” doesn’t it???
The 29-acre Ashbridge Memorial Park, including the 1769 stone farmhouse, was left to Lower Merion Township by Emily Ashbridge on her death in 1940 to be dedicated for passive recreation. The grounds include a number of specimen trees that the Ashbridge family intended to serve as living memorials to World War I soldiers from the community. Later, the Rosemont-Villanova Civic Association installed the first walking trail as a tribute to those who served in World War II.
Is this to be a recurring theme? Someone dies in Lower Merion Township and the Lower Merion School District thinks they can just take land? The precedence this would set would be dangerous. People would cease all land and historic preservation efforts and land conservation efforts in my humble opinion because why donate, why preserve if some greedy school district or other entity wants to take it?
And let’s talk about the private school property, shall we? As in Friends Central on 228 Old Gulph Road in Wynnewood? They do not wish to sell to Lower Merion School District and well one educational institution cannot take another educational institution via eminent domain, can they?
Seriously, this whole thing gives me a headache. The meeting went until nearly midnight and supposedly Lower Merion School District has not announced eminent domain as in starting a formal taking yet. But can it be said many of us still believe it is in the offing?
On May 8th and May 10th I wrote posts on Stoneleigh in Villanova. A little far afield from Chester County but so important. I am a supporter and believer in Natural Lands, and then there is a more personal bent. You see, one of my high school classmates grew up on Stoneleigh. His parents, John and Chara Haas, put the property into a conservation easement in 1996.
The 1996 conservation easement was with Natural Lands. The express wish of Mr. and Mrs. Haas was that the property be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Open space, gardens, and so on. Now today is Mother’s Day and yesterday at the members preview on Stoneleigh, people were speaking of when Mr. and Mrs. Haas would open up the property on Mother’s Day for people to enjoy.
Here is a photo array to see before continuing with the post here – it takes a while to load – a lot of photos:
After Mr. and Mrs. Haas passed away, their children decided to donate the property to Natural Lands, and that happened in 2016. The conservation easement remains very much in place today, but is now under the stewardship of the Lower Merion Conservancy. Lower Merion Conservancy now is responsible for the annual monitoring.
I think Lower Merion School District is already starting damage control with their eminent domain B.S. given this overly verbose don’t hate us because we are big jerks press release currently on their website. I am more than a little disappointed by former 6ABC reporter Amy Buckman already. Her predecessor’s press releases were much easier to follow and didn’t word wander, but I digress.
With regard to what is on their website, it is the full on poor pitiful Pearl routine where among other things they say that “LMSD is now the fastest-growing District in Pennsylvania by total number of students over the past eight years and enrollment could surpass 9,500 students in the next ten years.”
But do they tell you WHY the district is growing so fast? Do they mention all of the development they have never, ever questioned? And yet, they are making a play for Stoneleigh based on future assumptions, or a possibility? Call me crazy but they seem to want land for a future not a present need? And why are their needs the problem of Natural Lands and Stoneleigh? Just because it is there?
Stoneleigh’s history dates back to 1877 when Edmund Smith, a rising executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and constructed a residence there. To shape the grounds, Smith hired landscape gardener Charles H. Miller, who trained at Kew Gardens in England and later served as chief gardener for Fairmount Park.
At the turn of the 20th century, Samuel Bodine, head of United Gas Improvement Company, acquired the property. In addition to building the Tudor Revival style building that exists today, Bodine hired New York landscape architecture firm Pentecost and Vitale to radically redesign the gardens in a more formal, or “Beaux Arts,” style.
Evidently, Bodine was not pleased with the results. In 1908, he retained the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts—sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, and the most prestigious landscape architecture firm in the country—to “guide him in the gradual transformation of the place.” Over the next 50 years, the Olmsted Brothers firm returned periodically to Stoneleigh to plan vistas and pathways, establish gardens and terraces, reroute points of entry, select plant species, and transplant trees.
Following Samuel Bodine’s death in 1932, Stoneleigh was subdivided and sold. Otto Haas, entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Company, purchased the southwestern portion of the estate, launching a more than 80-year tenure of careful stewardship by the Haas family. Otto and Phoebe’s son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired the property in 1964 and lived there for the next five decades.
Yesterday, Stoneleigh was packed. Natural Lands members turned out from everywhere to tour the house and the grounds. It was lovely and bucolic, and I would like to think what the Haas family had hoped for. Family members were on site yesterday. I am sure it was also a little bit hard for all of them. This was their home, after all. Now it’s an achingly beautiful public garden space and although this is the path set forth by their lovely parents, it just has to be bittersweet. And then to learn that Lower Merion School District is seemingly proceeding on a path of land stealing? Well, I can only imagine.
Due to a need for additional field space, Superintendent Copeland has stated that the District would like to pursue the 6.9 developable acres of Stoneleigh no matter whether or where a new middle school site is acquired. The District is hopeful an amicable accommodation can be reached. As part of their continuing due diligence, and especially now in light of the possibility of the Class 1 designations on two of the potential sites, District representatives in April requested a walk-through of the entire Stoneleigh property for May 18, 2018.
Amicable is school district speak for give us what we want NOW.
Here is an excerpt of what WHYY wrote in an article May 12th:
To combat overcrowding, Lower Merion School District has proposed buying — or seizing through eminent domain — 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh estate and historic garden in Villanova.
In response, Natural Lands, the conservation trust overseeing the property, has launched a public advocacy campaign called “Save Stoneleigh,” urging the district to drop its bid…
At Stoneleigh, gardeners and conservators have been doing their own planning, preparing the picturesque 42-acre estate that once belonged to the Haas family to open to the public, starting Sunday….
Lower Merion School Board will ultimately weigh every option before deciding whether to invoke eminent domain.
“It’s not the district’s first choice to do that,” said Roos. “But it just can’t be taken off the table as an option.”
Thugs. That is a good descriptive adjective don’t you think? I am all for what lawyer Arthur Wolk wants at this point: removal of the entire school board. To that I add the removal of autocratic school Superintendent Robert Copeland. To THAT I add Lower Merion Commissioners and township staff who have been ever so gung ho over development for YEARS and years. Just clean house.
Legal battles aside, that is exactly what needs to happen to prevent this B.S. in the future.
Savvy Main Line has a lovely write up about Stoneleigh on their website. Check it out.
And now that Stoneleigh has opened, visit. It will take your breath away. And once you are there and experience the magic of the place, you will understand why oh so many of us are so passionate about it. It is magical. Simply magical.
I hope you have enjoyed the photos I shared.
Please see Save Stoneleigh for more information. Please consider signing the petition . Please write a letter, speak at upcoming meetings, and keep spreading the word. Open Space should not be threatened like this. And at the end of the day, if the Lower Merion School District is unwilling and unable to respect the legacy of the Haas family, it is our duty to see that they are taught respect, don’t you think?