eminent domain should be a four letter word/ little pink house

Susette Kelo

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house circa 2008 . Scott Mahan photo.

Sunday we went into Philadelphia to see the movie Little Pink House, which I had written about recently.

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Mary Cortes from Cramer Hill, Camden, NJ on left with another Cramer Hill resident on the right at the Little Pink House Screening in Philadelphia with the Institute for Justice.

The Institute for Justice in Washington, DC was kind enough to sponsor an event reuniting a lot of groups who had fought eminent domain for private gain.  I was so happy to reunite with my original Save Ardmore Coalition friends and to see Mary Cortes and some of the Cramer Hill, Camden folks. I was thrilled to spend time with Scott Bullock, who is now President of the Institute for Justice and Susette Kelo, about whom the movie is about.  I had met and spent time with Susette Kelo when she was going to the United States Supreme Court and after.

Little Pink House  coming to town brought back a lot of memories.  Eminent domain should be a four letter word. Here is a re-cap of what the movie is about:

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should, even more so after seeing the movie.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer , the State of Connecticut and New London, Connecticut.

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My dear friend Sherry Tillman (left) with Susette Kelo on Sunday at the Little Pink House screening.

Little Pink House could happen to any of us.  And as I sat through the movie I was struck again by the B.S. spouted by politicians salivating and greedy for development (it’s universally sleazy.)  How they were doing this for the residents and how it would be so wonderful….and what did they do? They stole people’s homes, bulldozed them, and handed it all on a silver platter to Pfizer (it really makes you despise big  B.S. development plans all over again after seeing this movie.)

In 2009, Pfizer left New London. Yes, left.  People’s lives and homes were destroyed for them.  These were every day working and middle class people.  The heart of their community was bulldozed into oblivion. Stolen by eminent domain for private gain.

Here is a New York Times article about Pfizer’s final bad act in this play of misery and human suffering:

N.Y. / REGION
Pfizer to Leave City That Won Land-Use Case
By PATRICK McGEEHANNOV. 12, 2009

From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

The announcement stirred up resentment and bitterness among some local residents. They see Pfizer as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run.

In Chester County, many of you should remember the case of Coatesville trying to steal the Saha farm for a golf course and whatnot.  That was eminent domain for private gain and I saw the Sahas often during the time we were fighting eminent domain in Ardmore.  Dick and Nancy Saha were wonderful folks.  I have not run into them since moving to Chester County, and hope someday our paths will cross again.
Here are a couple of articles that will refresh your memory on the Saha case:

During the two-hour hearing, much of the testimony referred to the battle between Dick and Nancy Saha and the city of Coatesville.

Prior to the hearing, Sen. Jim Gerlach, R-44th of East Brandywine, who is chairman of the committee, said he wants to establish whether one municipality can condemn land in another municipality without that municipality’s approval and whether eminent domain can be used for nontraditional uses such as for recreation centers.

The testimony which began with Greg Lownes, the nephew of Dick and Nancy Saha….

“We are not against the revitalization of Coatesville. What Coatesville does with their property, we don’t care. Dick (Saha) has a business in Coatesville. He has a vested interest. But we object to the city taking the Saha’s land for a for-profit business,” Lownes said.

In his testimony, Lownes said he would like laws to be passed that would not allow one municipality to condemn land in another municipality without that municipality’s approval.

The Sahas beat city hall quite literally. But is was a long, ugly, drawn out legal battle.

Also note the 2013 article in the Daily Times where the land acquired that the Saha land was supposed to be added to. The land was being auctioned off.  Here is the article from then:

Chester County land sale marks end of long battle for Saha family, Delco natives

By Ginger Dunbar 8/13/13

The Saha family – Delaware County natives – rocketed into the headlines a decade ago when they dug in to fight a municipal land grab in an eminent domain case that sparked national headlines.

The Sahas’ struggle with the City of Coatesville centered over the city’s desire to use a part of their family farm for a golf course development.

The Sahas, who came to Chester County from Drexel Hill, decided to fight City Hall. And they won.

They stopped the golf course plan. Elected officials from Coatesville pushing the project were ousted by voters. The city administration was replaced.

An auction Tuesday hopes to dispose of the property surrounding the Saha tract that were acquired in efforts to build the golf course and related projects.

A city property in Valley township is 22.5 acres of land with old stone farm home and is zoned as conservation land. The property is at 175 South Mount Airy Road. The property, officials said, is ideal for agricultural uses.

The city property in West Brandywine township is 63.5 acres of vacant land that is zoned as agricultural and residential land. The property is located off North Manor Road (Route 82).

Dick and Nancy Saha moved to their farm on Mount Airy Road in 1971. They said they worked hard for 15 years to make their home live able and added heating and plumbing. They raised five children on the farm.

In April 1999 they said city officials knocked on their door with legal papers for the intention to take their 38 acre farm land through eminent domain. For the six years that followed, the Sahas said their fight against the city cost them more than $300,000 in legal fees.

There are stories like the Sahas’ from coast to coast. Eminent domain for private gain has been addressed on a state level in many states, but not on a federal level.

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

We won our battle in Ardmore and the Sahas won in Coatesville, and Long Branch, NJ won….because Susette Kelo lost the U.S. Supreme Court Case by one vote. This of course also demonstrates what happens when administrations stack the United States Supreme Court, doesn’t it?

Seeing this movie on Sunday, and listening to Scott Bullock and Susette Kelo again, brought all of this back.  Susette and I spoke before and after the movie and I said I thought she was so brave and amazing to keep telling her story but I imagined it was incredibly hard some days to sit through showings of this beautiful film.  She said it was.

Recently I wrote a post about Lower Merion Township and Main Line Today Magazine and an article I found to be quite the piece of revisionist history. It was another fluff piece on Ardmore.

Main Line Today March, 2018

As Ardmore Prepares for a Revitalization, Some Residents are Hesitant About the Change
Will additions like One Ardmore Place disrupt the town’s way of life? Many locals are divided.

BY MICHAEL BRADLEY

Excerpt:

📌None of this is Angela Murray’s fault. Not the giant crane that hovers over the Cricket Avenue parking lot, its American flag billowing in the breeze. Not the 110 apartments rising from a giant hole in the ground. Not the upheaval for residents and business owners alike. Not the possible traffic congestion. None of it.

“People have blamed me,” says Murray, who’s been Lower Merion Township’s assistant director of building and planning for 16 years. “But I think it meets a need that was pressing.”….The allocated state money was supposed to go for the station, but when Amtrak balked at allowing apartments so close to its tracks, the plan—which included replacing some buildings along Lancaster Avenue south of the station—lost momentum. Meanwhile, the Save Ardmore folks filed lawsuits and protested the idea mightily. “Amtrak didn’t want people living so close to the rail line because it didn’t think it would be safe,” Lower Merion’s Murray says. “They were concerned about people throwing things out of windows onto the track.”📌

So….this is quite the piece in favor of Ardmore development. I don’t know who the writer is but my, he was sure led by the nose down a primrose development path.

I also take issue with the latest attempt at glossing over eminent domain in Ardmore. But then I also do not quite understand the article love affair with Angela Murray of Lower Merion Township, but perhaps she had a hand in the placement of the article?

Lower Merion Township can not unring the bells of the past.

Back in the day, as a member of the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition, Ms. Murray was awful to us. She was not nice, she was perennially unpleasant. However she wasn’t alone. You were either with them or against them. If you were against them, well then you were the enemy.

Those of us who reunited from the original Save Ardmore Coalition on Sunday remember what it was like.  It was at times, awful.

But also on Sunday we realized what we were a part of with Susette and all of the other folks who the Institute for Justice helped back then.

Also see the huge interview on Megyn Kelly on Today.   44 states changed their eminent domain laws as a result of the Kelo Case.  So many people’s lives have been destroyed by eminent domain.  Real people. Nothing in the abstract.  It almost happened to my friends in Ardmore.

Ironically today, the current governor of Connecticut announced jobs coming to Connecticut…including New London. But it won’t bring back the houses and displaced lives.

I will note that the whiff of eminent domain is once more in the air in Lower Merion Township. Why? because Lower Merion School District is searching for land they can beg, borrow, or steal to expand.  Why? A story for another day but the Cliff Notes version is all of the development there has caused the schools to (shocker) get over-crowded, right? One place mentioned in a recent Main Line Times article is Stoneleigh. Otherwise known as the Haas Estate in Villanova that was given to Natural Lands to preserve the open space.

Also don’t forget the attempted (and failed) eminent domain taking by a prior administration of West Vincent Township. Of Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show. It was real. It happened. And because of the path Susette Kelo laid down by going to the United States Supreme Court, this also was a failed taking attempt.

See 2012 East Coast Equestrian: Township Tries, Fails to Take Ludwig’s Corner Show Grounds by Eminent Domain

WNPR: ‘Little Pink House’ Hits The Big Screen, Reviving New London Eminent Domain Saga
By HARRIET JONES • APR 24, 2018

A landmark Supreme Court case over eminent domain and people’s right to private property is back in the headlines with the new movie “Little Pink House.” It tells the story of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London, which was the scene of an epic struggle between a municipality that wanted to take property for the purpose of economic development, and the homeowners who resisted every step of the way….“You go to work every day, you pay your bills, you’re a taxpayer, you’re a law-abiding citizen, you keep your yard clean, grow your vegetables in your little garden, raise your family — and to have this happen to people who were just trying to be simple people and live their lives was really wrong,” said Kelo in a recent interview with Connecticut Public Radio.

 

If you are interested in learning more about what the Institute for Justice does, check out their website. IJ.org  .  Also check out the Little Pink House website to find our where the movie is playing or if you can get a screening where you live.

Little Pink House is more than a movie. It happened.

Related image

 

little pink house is coming to town, and why you need to see this movie

Little Pink House is coming to town. I got this e-mail today inviting me to a screening.

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer and New London, Connecticut.

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house around 2008 (I think) – It has been a long time since I looked at these photos. Scott Mahan photo.

And all of a sudden, I am taken back years.  I see faces I haven’t thought of in years; hear voices and snippets of long gone conversations.  Ardmore, PA to Washington, DC and Virginia.  What a long strange trip it was.

Dick Saha of Coatesville (left), Scott Mahan (center), Nancy Saha of Coatesville (right). I took this photo in June of 2006 down in DC/VA at an Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition conference on Eminent Domain.

My friends and I were ordinary people who became accidental activists via the Save Ardmore Coalition.  I resigned my position at Save Ardmore Coalition (“SAC”) in 2011 when diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not know if the organization still exists at all or not, truthfully. I am not there any more. My friends and I have all moved forward into our lives, and now we are mostly like local folklore.  Normal people who went to Washington to fight eminent domain and hang out with people like Susette Kelo.  But it’s not folklore, or urban legend as we did all that and lived through all of that.

Scott Mahan (left), Susette Kelo (center), Ken Haskin (right). Scott Mahan photo (again circa 2008 or thereabouts)

It was a long road for those of us who were the original SAC and we paid heavy prices for our activism at times (it was not pretty), but I would do it all over again as it was the right thing to do. We were part of the Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition’s eminent domain fighting communities.

My friends from Ardmore and I (the original Save Ardmore Coalition)  went to Washington once upon a time as I mentioned when Susette Kelo and others (like Long Branch NJ and the Sahas of Coatesville, PA and the other New London, CT /Fort Trumbull folks) were fighting eminent domain for private gain. We lived this with the Institute for Justice as we fought (and won) Ardmore’s battle.

They were crazy times and I am proud of what we did in Ardmore back then. I am honored I got to spend time with Susette Kelo and the other amazing folks from other cities and states along with the people from the Institute for Justice.

Here is the Institute for Justice Press Release:

Little Pink House Movie Hits the Big Screen, Seeks to End Eminent Domain Abuse

Biopic on Supreme Court’s Landmark Kelo Ruling Shows How Eminent Domain for Private Gain Destroyed Lives and an Entire Community

  • Eminent domain creates strange political bedfellows: Once-developer and now-President Donald Trump, along with liberal justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, came out against ordinary homeowners and in favor of the government and private developers.
  • But for the government’s use of eminent domain, corporations would be powerless to take someone else’s home.
  • The release of Little Pink House provides a rare opportunity for political unity. It should unite the Left, which wants to limit corporate influence on government, and the Right, which wants to limit government power over property.

Little Pink House is both a major motion picture and a cautionary tale that shows what happens when the government teams up with powerful private interests to take an entire working-class neighborhood for a glitzy development—a project that 13 years later is nothing but barren fields.

Starring two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener and Emmy nominee Jeanne Tripplehorn, Little Pink House opens on April 20 and will be screened in theaters across the nation.  It tells the true story of Susette Kelo (played by Keener), a small-town paramedic from New London, Connecticut, who buys her first home—a cottage—and paints it pink.  When the governor and his allies plan to bulldoze her little pink house to make way for a development benefitting the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Kelo fights back, taking her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although national polls at the time of the Kelo ruling consistently showed that the public overwhelmingly rejects the use of eminent domain for private gain, the issue made for strange political bedfellows.  It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices who made up the majority that ruled against Kelo and in favor of the government, and when the Kelo ruling was handed down, developer Trump said, “I happen to agree with it 100%.”  Trump had earlier sought to employ eminent domain to take a widow’s property in Atlantic City for his private use.  After becoming President of the United States, he said, “I think eminent domain is wonderful.”“As the Atlantic City eminent domain battle showed, unless the government abuses its power of eminent domain, private corporations are powerless to take someone’s property; they must negotiate because they cannot use force,” said Institute for Justice Litigation Director Dana Berliner, who successfully represented the widow at the heart of the Atlantic City lawsuit and who argued Kelo’s case before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As documented in the film, after Kelo lost her U.S. Supreme Court case, her struggle sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse that today helps millions of Americans better protect what is rightfully theirs.  The Supreme Court used the Keloruling to radically expand this government power—allowing eminent domain for the mere promise from a developer that it might pay more taxes if given someone else’s land, rather than for an actual public use, as required by the U.S. Constitution.  Because of the grassroots backlash at the state level against eminent domain abuse, however, the Kelo case is justifiably seen as a situation in which the government won the battle, but lost the war.  Still, the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo, stated that more reforms are still needed if the abuse of this government power is to be ended once and for all.

Little Pink House wonderfully captures what the fight for property rights is all about,” said Institute for Justice President Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “A house is typically someone’s most valuable asset, but the value of a home goes well beyond its mere monetary worth.  For so many, it is an extension of who they are and what they value.  It is where a person might raise a family, grow a small business, celebrate, mourn and grow old.  Eminent domain abuse, as depicted in this film, is not only unconstitutional, it is profoundly wrong.  Little Pink House vividly documents the heroic struggle of Susette and her neighbors to not only fight for their homes but for the constitutional rights of millions of others in America and throughout the world.”

Little Pink House should unite those on the Left who want to limit corporate influence on government, and those on the Right, who want to limit government power over property, said Bullock.  Eminent domain abuse disproportionately strikes poor and minority communities, and there is often a giant gap between the promises made by redevelopment supporters and the promises such plans actually deliver.  In just a five-year period, there were more than 10,000 instances nationwide where eminent domain for private development was either used or threatened by the government.

Government officials and the developer promised that the project that replaced Susette Kelo’s tight-knit blue-collar neighborhood would thrive and would make New London tax-rich.  Now, 13 years after the landmark Kelo ruling, all that remains there are barren fields; nothing lives there now but weeds and feral cats.

“It was all for nothing,” said Susette Kelo.  “The government put us through all that torture and now, more than a dozen years later, they have literally nothing to show for it.  But even if they turned what was my home into an emerald city, that still wouldn’t have made it right.  The government and their corporate confidants destroyed our neighborhood and our constitutional rights.  We need to keep fighting this until we end eminent domain abuse once and for all.”

Eminent domain hot spots remain around the country.  For example:
In Garfield, New Jersey, the town’s redevelopment agency is using a bogus blight designation to take a zipper manufacturing warehouse, along with its neighbors’ homes, for a private developer to build private retail and housing.
Cumberland, Maryland, is trying to bulldoze a number of homes to make way for a chain restaurant.
The Bae family left Korea and built a successful dry cleaning business in East Harlem, New York. But city officials want to demolish it so a developer can build an entertainment complex.

Little Pink House has been lauded by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, among others.  In addition to attracting stars Keener and Tripplehorn, Little Pink House features the original song “Home Free,” written and performed for the movie by rock legend David Crosby.

The independent film was directed by Courtney Balaker and produced by her husband, Ted Balaker.  It will open on screens across the nation with more screenings being added each week.  In those markets where Little Pink House is not being shown in theaters, the public can follow a simple process to bring the movie to their hometown theater or enter an email address at littlepinkarmy.com and a representative from the film will walk them through the process.

Courtney Balaker said, “Eminent domain abuse is a fancy term for legalized bullying.  It happens when insiders take advantage of outsiders.  Developers and politicians promise more jobs and more tax revenue, so it sounds appealing to lots of people.  But all the high-minded talk obscures what’s really going on—they’re forcing people out of their homes.  If you own your home and you want to keep living in your home, you should be able to stay in your home.  Eminent domain abuse happens far more often than most people realize, and it rarely brings the kind of economic development its supporters promise.  It should come as no surprise that poor and minority communities are especially likely to be targeted.”

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

My friend Si Simons with Susette Kelo, June, 2006. My photo.

And we hit roadblocks. Although eminent domain had become a national issue when Susette Kelo took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Philadelphia area we discovered it was hard to get media attention from anyone other than the local papers. Eminent domain wasn’t sexy enough—it was just “a local issue”. We were called NIMBY and castigated publicly by certain local elected officials at public meetings, who referred to us as “a small group of mean spirited individuals.”

When someone told us in a letter if we didn’t like how government was run we should “change the face of who governs us,” our resolve as a group was strengthened. We decided to change literally the faces of those who were governing us. We had an upcoming election. We didn’t back one candidate in particular but decided they should all adopt our position and take IJ’s pledge against the use of eminent domain for private gain.

We were successful. In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

February, 2006 walking Congressman Sensenbrenner (left) around Ardmore. Scott Mahan (right). I am behind them on the left with then Congressman Jim Gerlach on the right)

In February 2006, then Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner came to town with Congressman Jim Gerlach to discuss eminent domain. In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

For me, there was also the fact that I hid my activism from my employers.  I was working for then Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo), and while not officially forbidden, such outside activities were seriously frowned upon.  We were supposed to be good little examples of Corporate America at all times, no matter what our position.

Susette Kelo is and always will be one of the most courageous people I have ever met. I have been waiting for this movie to be finished. (See Little Pink House Movie website too!!)

This is a story that still resonates.  See:

The Volokh Conspiracy    The story behind Kelo v. City of New London – how an obscure takings case got to the Supreme Court and shocked the nation
By Ilya Somin May 29, 2015

LAWNEWS
Dreams Demolished: 10 Years After the Government Took Their Homes, All That’s Left Is an Empty Field
Alex Anderson / @alexanderJander / Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / June 23, 2015

Eminent domain still under fire

June 23, 2017 by NCC Staff

POWER PLAY
Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case
Published March 20, 2014 Fox News

The Kelo House (1890)

March 20th, 2009 Posted in Folk VictorianHousesNew LondonVernacular

Visit The Institute for Justice website. There is a Kelo vs. New London timeline.

Seriously….see this movie.  This can happen to anyone.  It happened to people I know and people I met.  And if you follow the current pipeline debacle, how do you think Sunoco has gotten land from Chester County residents? It certainly wasn’t candy and chocolates, it was the threat of eminent domain, wasn’t it?

And you can try to get Little Pink House played where you live by contacting the filmmakers HERE.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

reject the mariner 2 east pipeline

reject

Reject the Mariner East 2 pipeline! (click on hyperlink to go to Sierra Club initiative)

Normally I do not pass these things on. But I hate Sunoco (and am not enthralled by the other gas line companies either, but they are more polite to deal with if you have to call and ask questions like I did today). Out here we are on wells and they put us, our families, our pets, our neighbors, our wildlife, our environment, our drinking water and more at risk.

Sunoco thus far seems to bully, lie, and intimidate their way through Chester County and elsewhere, raping the landscape as they go.

21784458790_3b3b49f6a6_oNone of use should  want them stealing any more land belonging to anymore individuals thru their B.S. Eminent Domain practices because they are not doing any of this for us….ever. With big oil and big gas, it is always and always will be….about them.

They put toxic, highly flammable, and highly combustible products too close to homes, and they are NOT protecting water sources or wildlife, let alone people.

This is NOT about us and our energy supply. They are just stealing it for other people. They don’t even adequately compensate people for what they do if you want to make it solely about money and it is so much more than that. And thus far the majority of local officials just bend over and give it up without much of a fight.

In the past two days I have had conversations with people from East Goshen and West Goshen Townships who both do not know each other and their experiences as related to me were virtually identical.

They were threatened with eminent domain and they felt they had no choice but to give them an easement; and both hired attorneys that cost many thousands of dollars!

21349816844_28eba2ef09_oThey feel the worst is yet to come as they haven’t started the pipeline invasion yet. They have heard that townships may give them rights to work 24 hours a day, which if true is insane!

So much for East Goshen and West Goshen townships… These folks both tell tales of strange men and women with Texas and Louisiana car plates on their properties TRESPASSING before they even had legal easements.

It just isn’t right and the elected officials are of no help at all.

One said to me (and I quote):

What many don’t know is how in the end our property values will be affected and it is my belief that my property value ( and all on the pipeline path) will go down because of the easement… But the same monies will be needed to support the town budget so everyone else’s taxes will go up to provide the same tax base . We are all losers.

 

We are all losers.  Yup.  I received a pamphlet recently from Spectra Energy about pipeline sapipelinefety.  I have not previously received any pipeline info before where we currently live.  So I called.  I spoke with a very nice man named Don in Gas Control.  And wow, we do not have a gas line on our property or in our immediate neighborhood, but wow, pretty darn close.
Another election year issue on a national scale.  Please sign the above petition and add your voice.  And for those of you tired of trespassers, call Andy Dinniman’s office in West Chester .  There should be rules as to when they can access easements and they should provide advance notice.

Anyway, that’s it. I hate pipelines and I hate what they are doing to our area.  And for what?

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EMINENT DOMAIN ALERT CHESTER COUNTY: SUNOCO

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UPDATEyou can check out all the Sunoco filings with the Public Utility Commission by going to the PUC website and plunking in the case number which is P-2014-2411966

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I said I wasn’t going to write any longer about Sunoco and their insidious infiltration of Chester County due to certain personalities behaving counter-intuitively, but screw it, this is important.

I might be a relative newcomer to Chester County, but I am not a stranger to fighting eminent domain. I fought eminent domain all the way to Washington DC . I was one of many people who joined the Institute for Justice and their Castle Coalition arm and fought eminent domain a few years ago. This was all when a lovely woman named Suzette Kelo was fighting to save her little pink house. Suzette Kelo took her case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

The case was Kelo vs. New London. This case captured the attention of the nation and took nasty eminent domain out of the shadows and into the full glare of public scrutiny.

Yesterday two articles came out and I thought about my original hypothesis. First an article came out I saw that said Sunoco was withdrawing their zoning thing in West Goshen.. Then an article appears about how Sunoco was just going to appeal to the Public Utility Commission.

So I sat there last night and read the articles and came back full circle to my original thought: EMINENT DOMAIN FOR PRIVATE GAIN cloaked as EMINENT DOMAIN FOR PUBLIC PURPOSE.

You see, if Sunoco can get public utility status from the Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) they can ride over the heads of any homeowner and municipality can’t they? With their public utility status comes the power of eminent domain, doesn’t it? They say power corrupts, and can we agree in this case it will indeed?

And then there is that other interesting Sunoco bit of news: a makeover in progress for the Marcus Hook refinery.

As per The Philadelphia Inquirer:

It is out with the old and in with the new at the 500-acre waterfront facility formerly known as the Sunoco Marcus Hook Refinery, now the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex.

Workers last week ripped down aging petroleum-processing equipment, part of a labyrinth of machinery that has produced gasoline, diesel, and kerosene for more than a century. Other crews built cryogenic storage tanks more than 130 feet tall with three-foot-thick walls that will hold the future: new fuels from the prolific Marcellus Shale region.

Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P., a pipeline company that bought the property for $60 million last year from its sister company, Sunoco Inc., is converting the site into a major center for processing and shipping natural gas liquids.
It In August, Sunoco Logistics won PUC approval setting the stage to convert its cross-state pipeline for ethane. PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson endorsed the move.

“Mariner East not only links producers with new markets, but it also represents a link between the commonwealth’s citizens, well-paying jobs, and a more independent domestic energy future,” he said.

Now Powelson may be asked to play a role in a key vote on whether Sunoco’s plans can move forward. in a key vote on whether Sunoco’s plans can move forward.

So Sunoco was previously just shipping this stuff out of Pennsylvania, right? So if they start peddling the product to residents of Pennsylvania instead of just sucking it out of people’s back yards and corn fields and forests it looks better before the the PUC, right?

Even Moveon.org has gotten involved this is getting so bad. If you live in Chester County or in Pennsylvania, have you signed their petition ? (HINT: you can find it at the bottom of this post.)

The Inquirer has also published an article speaking about environmental groups intervening in Sunoco pipeline case. (And see this thing Sunoco filed the other day.)

As per the Inquirer environmental groups responding thus far are the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Clean Air Council, the Pipeline Safety Coalition and the Mountain Watershed Association.

Now if I were Sunoco, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network alone would make me nervous. Which brings me to something I heard. Is it true that Sunoco has retained the former Philadelphia head of the D.E.P or something like that? Some guy named Michael Krancer now with Blank Rome?

A man I know and respect, the former head of the Lower Merion Conservancy Mike Weilbacher wrote about this guy last year in Main Line Media News:

Mike Weilbacher: Michael Krancer’s life after DEP Published: Wednesday, July 03, 2013
By Mike Weilbacher
Columnist

For two years, Bryn Mawr’s Michael Krancer sat on arguably the hottest seat in Harrisburg during one of its hottest times. Until April 15, he was secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, charged with, among other things, pushing forward with Governor Corbett’s election promise of full-speed-ahead fracking.

And he has been unabashedly pro-fracking, writing in a November op-ed piece that the “Marcellus shale formation is the global superstar of natural gas formations and… a key driver in true American energy independence.”

The fifth high-level Corbett official to leave office at the time—another, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources chief Richard Allan was asked to leave only two weeks ago—Krancer often clashed with the state’s environmental interests, the word “controversial” attached to his name in many headlines over the last two years.

I caught up with the former secretary, looking decidedly relaxed, last week in Saxby’s, hoping to probe the last two years with him—after all, it’s not too often a neighbor gets appointed to DEP chief. My goal was to let him tell his story in his words — not argue the merits of his policies, not debate fracking, not ask him the same questions he’s been asked by thousands of other reporters, but instead to find out his current and future plans, including a possible run for Pennsylvania Governor in 2016….On fracking, the core of the controversy, I observed that few Lower Merion residents likely support the practice, Southeastern Pennsylvania being a hotbed of anti-fracking fervor. “Once people go out and see it (fracking),” he replied, “it becomes de-mystified. The drilling rig is only there temporarily, and before, during and after the process you don’t even see the rig. And when it’s done, all that’s left is a piping mechanism.

“I maintain now,” he continued, that it can and has been done safely and carefully—that’s what regulation is about. We have to be careful. Like any operation, the environmental impact has to be managed—and people who do it spend a lot of time managing the environmental impact.”

This is a big article and I found it fascinating. And if this is Sunoco’s new white knight, how does that happen? Or is the DEP not so environmentally sensitive any longer? In just 2008 the PA DEP was filing suit against Sunoco and now this to contemplate? And do you remember what that suit was about? Wasn’t it a crazy 12000-gallon gasoline spill from a ruptured pipeline in Westmoreland County, PA?

So I have to ask was Michael Krancer ever really one of the good guys? And sadly what I heard is indeed true and has been verified by the Philadelphia Inquirer which said in an article today April 30:

Sunoco also filed notice Monday with the PUC that it had retained the Blank Rome L.L.P. law firm to represent it before the PUC. The Blank Rome team is headed by Michael L. Krancer, Gov. Corbett’s former secretary of environmental protection.

(So in case you wanted another reason why no one should vote for Tom Corbett ever again, here is yet another reason, right?)

Everyone should indeed sign the MoveOn.org petition linked below. But people in general need to raise hell with Harrisburg. Our state government is a cesspool of toxic waste water and no matter what our political beliefs, we need to act now. Remember all the horrors we have heard over the years about strip mining? Can it be contemplated that will be a walk in the park if Sunoco gets their way with the PUC? After all if they are changing up lawyers and changing strategy they are hunkering down to fight by any means possible aren’t they?

Eminent domain for private gain is heinous. And eminent domain for private gain cloaked in fake public purpose is even more evil.

Sunoco is digging in Chester County. Time to bring it.

Check out websites like The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, the Institute for Justice (and they have a form you can fill out about eminent domain abuse), and locally the hot eastbootroad website, and Just The Facts Please on Facebook.

And if you want to contact the PUC they have this convoluted website, but here is the equivalent of the “office directory“:

Chairman & Commissioners

Chairman Robert F. Powelson Phone: 717-787-4301
Fax: 717-783-8698
Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Phone: 717-772-0692
Fax: 717-787-5620
Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer Phone: 717-783-1763
Fax: 717-783-7986
Commissioner Gladys M. Brown Phone: 717-787-1031
Fax: 717-783-0698
Commissioner James H. Cawley Phone: 717-783-1197
Fax: 717-783-9845

The Executive Offices

Jan H. Freeman, Executive Director Phone: 717-787-1035
Director of Regulatory Affairs Phone: 717-783-8156
Lou Ann Hess, Administrative Officer Phone: 717-783-8156
Fax: 717-787-3417

Office of Communications

Bureau Director’s Office

Tom Charles, Director Phone: 717-787-9504
Lori Shumberger, Executive Secretary Phone: 717-783-9998
Jennifer Kocher, Press Secretary Phone: 717-787-5722
Community Relations Phone: 717-787-5722
Fax: 717-787-4193

Office of Administrative Law Judge

Bureau Director’s Office

Charles E. Rainey Jr., Chief Administrative Law Judge Phone: 717-787-1191
Pokim Park, Executive Secretary Phone: 717-783-9959
Fax: 717-787-0481
Legal Division

Kim Hafner, Legal Division Supervisor Phone: 717-705-3822
Herbert R. Nurick, Mediation Coordinator Phone: 717-783-5428
Cindy Lehman, ADR Mediator Phone: 717-783-5413
Susan Hoffner, Case Control Officer Phone: 717-787-4497

I would also say people like Duane Milne, Dan Truitt, and Andy Dinniman need to be contacted. And if no one calls you back from their offices, contact them again. Elected officials work for us, not the other way around. And again, sign the MoveOn Petition.

If you have media contacts or contacts with any other property rights or environmental groups, contact them. Use social media. Don’t be shy. This affects all of us in Pennsylvania if Sunoco has their way with the PUC, not just Chester County.

CLICK HERE for MoveOn.org Sunoco Petition 

 

will it be eminent domain and pipelines, sunoco?

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A group in West Goshen is fighting mad and battling Sunoco Logistics and its plan for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

W. Goshen residents upset with gas pump station proposal By Jeremy Gerrard, Daily Local News POSTED: 03/30/14, 7:47 PM EDT |

WEST GOSHEN — Township residents are organizing against the construction of a proposed natural gas pump station, voicing outrage over possible health and safety issues from the facility.

“This doesn’t just affect West Goshen, but every community from here to Marcus Hook,” resident Tom Casey said.

Sunoco is requesting a variance from West Goshen at an April 3, 2014 zoning meeting to build a pipeline pump station with 34 foot ‘flare stack’ in a neighborhood at Boot Road and Route 202. Sunoco has similar requests in 31 municipalities across Pa as it transitions a cross-state petroleum pipeline to ethane, butane, propane liquid gas use.

Apparently one of the big fat sticking points per my sources is the flare stack proposal. I learned about the Just The Facts Please group from my friend Tim at Panewz:

Panewz.com: Gas pipeline wants fast track on expansion, pump station, flare stack approval in Pa

….Many pipelines across Pa were established with easements to carry petroleum when much of the Pa landscape was farmland. Today these pipelines pass through suburbanized communities.

Additionally, many residents are concerned about the conversion of the former petroleum pipelines to highly pressurized liquid gas and its combustibility. In some cases, residents aren’t aware that a pipeline, installed many years ago, runs through their neighborhood….One concern for residents is the pump or compressor stations that must be built along the gas pipelines to push the gas through. Some of these stations can be quite large, depending upon terrain and distance from the next station… Sunoco Pipeline is also applying for status as a Public Utility in Pennsylvania. See the application and a list of all Pa Townships involved in the Mariner East 2 pipeline expansion by clicking here.

If approved, the pump and valve control station buildings, above, that Sunoco says it would install on the sites, would be ‘exempt from any local zoning, subdivision and land development regulations’.

The company is also requesting that the applications be expedited because ‘full potential of Pennsylvania shale gas remains hampered by limited pipeline infrastructure’. The company has requested approval of this legal designation prior to the Public Utility Commission’s meeting of June 19, 2014.

The company’s application says the buildings and expedited service are needed for the ‘convenience and welfare of the public’. It also does not want one township’s denial of construction to hold up the entire pipeline.

A judge has already ruled in York County on Sunoco’s Motion for Survey Rights and efforts to condemn property in Eminent Domain. Read about it by clicking here.

Pa eminent domain blogger and Harrisburg attorney Michael Faherty has written ten reasons why, he believes, Sunoco will not succeed with the PUC in gaining Public Utility status and the power of eminent domain.

Alrighty then. The other meat of it? Sunoco apparently has a request before the PUC to be classified as a ‘Public Utility’ so the company can bypass all local zoning regulations and use eminent domain to take additional lands along the existing pipeline route? Apparently they are not a public utility when it comes to gas or something? So does that mean then they want carte blanche eminent domain powers? Sounds like it right?

The Facebook Page, Just The Facts Please, is trying to get more people to the meeting.

I think that eminent domain for private gain shrouded in a cloak of eminent domain for public purpose is what will occur if eminent domain for properties is attempted. I was told but have no proof that some are already are having to deal with whispers of eminent domain and to them I say FIGHT. I am somewhat astounded to hear how reluctant property owners are being bullied and isn’t that awful?

Look, our homes are our castles and our personal American dreams and personally I wouldn’t want big oil or the government to have a piece of my dream. (And I hope homeowners facing eminent domain know about groups like the Institute for Justice
in Washington, DC. They are a tremendous resource and much more.)

I used to be somewhat ambivalent towards this whole pipeline issue. But now, because of what I have heard happening in West Goshen and my former community of East Goshen I’m not so sure. And if big oil came knocking on my door I don’t think I could say yes. I am not going to judge anyone who has said yes, and I know some who have in the past, but I don’t think this is for me either.

Do we as Chester County residents get benefits of allowing drilling as we live in a state whose governor doesn’t have a tax (or much of a tax?) on the big oil companies having to do with what they drill? Ironically most of us don’t even have access to natural gas for heating because there aren’t a heck of a lot of those kinds of gas lines, yet they have been running an insane amount of pipelines. We are also on wells out here, so what happens to our drinking supply if they screw up?

I know you can’t take on everything but this is something at the very minimum worth going to a meeting to learn. After all a good portion of municipal meetings in Chester County are not televised.

I guess where I am on this is I hate government bullying. I hate eminent domain. I hate businesses attempting what Sunoco is attempting. I think I might even buy gasoline for my car elsewhere now. Wawa has better prices anyway. And most of all I hate that residents can’t just say “no thank you” if they don’t want a pipeline in their yard.

So if you have concerns, please don’t wait, go to this meeting this week. April 3, 7 pm, West Goshen Township Building. 1025 Paoli Pike, West Chester.

Judge Rules that Sunoco Pipeline Does Not Have Eminent Domain Power by Michael Faherty on February 28, 2014 in Pipeline Construction

The Top Ten Reasons Sunoco Pipeline Does Not Have the Power of Eminent Domain by Michael Faherty on January 22, 2014 in Pipeline Construction

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MORE media is covering barn-gate in upper uwchlan! save picking in rural chester county!

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I have been horribly sick all week so I completely missed the fact that The Daily Local has also picked up on The Smithfield Barn!

I am thrilled. The article is fair and unfortunately (once again) Upper Uwchlan doesn’t really sound so nice, do they?

Upper Uwchlan, farmer at odds over barn sales Daily Local By Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News POSTED: 01/09/14, 5:49 PM EST |

UPPER UWCHLAN – The Smithfield Barn, a spot where residents can pick through antiques, toys, furniture and collectibles at barn sales, has been asked by the township to stop the sales.

According to Phil Smith, owner of the Smithfield Barn at 425 Little Conestoga Road, the township made the request at the end of November because it said he was running a business on a property zoned residential.

Smith said the barn sales are held occasionally, once or twice a month in the spring and fall, and should not be considered a business.

“There’s no heating or air conditioning, it’s a barn,” said Smith.

However, the township disputes the claim that sales are held only “occasionally.”

Township Manager Cary Vargo said it had become apparent the sales were happening more frequently.

In October, Vargo said, the township’s zoning officer spoke with Smith and advised him “it was a retail establishment.”

“It was clearly a successful business,” said Vargo, who added the township believed sales were held nearly every weekend.

The meeting was followed up with an official letter in November telling Smith to stop the sales or be fined $500 a day, Smith said.

Smith said the barn sales, which he said are similar to garage sales, have been going on for nearly five years without objection from the township.

I have only posted an excerpt. Read the whole article and comments.

All of the people leaving comments on this have been IN support of the barn except for a poster named “Elizabeth McGill”. Her comment profile on the Daily Local shows a photo of an older lady who looks like a cookie baking, scarf knitting grandma. Her profile description says she became a widow in July after being married fifty years. Her comments, however, are negative and also untrue. She says (and I quote):


I was there last summer looking for unique antique treasures. All I found was junk obviously obtained through “dumpster diving.” His garage sale/store is open to the public every day in fair weather….What if your next door neighbor turned his house into a strip club, gas station, or retail store? This man is operating a store in a residential area. If anything goes, and everyone is allowed to do this, fine. But don’t blame the township for ‘sticking their nose’ into THEIR business which is enforcing the rules

Since when are their rules for yard sales, garage sales, and barn sales? And wow has this lady every been to the super fabulous and super popular Clover Market? You go there and you will see sometimes priced at hundreds of dollars things like the ones you might find at the barn for literally pennies.

How can you compare a barn sale or garage sale to a strip club? Unless of course designer stripper poles are developer add on options in these “communities” gobbling up farm land in Chester County LOL? And how can this woman outright fib and say the barn is open “every day in Fair weather”? The Smith family lives on that property and just because a barn door is open, it doesn’t make it a barn sale day does it?

It’s like the rumor that was heard when this barn-gate issue first surfaced that a complaint was supposedly made from Green Valley Road. At first I could not figure out what road this was. Then I looked at the map. It is the little spit of road that is in front of the barn, but isn’t Little Conestoga Road. It sort of dead ends a bit past the edge of the Smithfield Farm property. It looks like it runs to the Frame property. But the thing is this, those are the most immediate neighbors of the barn, aren’t they? And these are the people who are supportive of the Smith family so who would start such a rumor?

But back to this whole negative comment thing.

When I asked Kristin at the barn if she knew who this woman might be, do you know what she said? Not what you might think for someone who is in a sense under siege from the township she calls home. What she said to me was (and I quote):

We live in a world filled with hatred and poverty and crime, but someone attacks the barn for in essence recycling. That makes me feel bad because I feel sad for her.

You see, that is a prime example of the kind of people the Smiths are. They are good people who even now when someone is literally casting stones at them would turn the other cheek and feel badly and feel concern for this person leaving comments like this.

Good people like the Smiths deserve better than they are getting. The residents of Upper Uwchlan deserve better.

Barn sales and yard sales are part of Chester County life and a lot of fun. Picking is as American as Apple pie and fireworks on the 4th of July! They should be allowed to continue. And this is a very nice family that I feel is being victimized by local government most unfairly.

Please help Save The Barn! Barn Picking hurts no one. And again I say there are a lot of very poor people in parts of Chester County who need places like the Smithfield Barn so they can just get stuff for their homes – you know the basics like a kitchen table and chairs that aren’t over priced?

Save picking in rural Pennsylvania. It is as American as Apple Pie. Contact Upper Uwchlan or your favorite TV station or heck even American Pickers or the Institute for Justice and tell them the Smithfield Barn and their OCCASIONAL barn sales should live on just the way they are until the Smith family doesn’t want to do it any more.

The Smithfield Barn is not a retail store and if you suddenly need a zoning variance for yard sales, garage sales, and barn sales wow so Big Brother and how is that even American?

Upper Uwchlan

Guy A. Donatelli Chairperson 78 Stonehedge Drive Glenmoore, PA 19343

GDonatelli@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Catherine A. Tomlinson Vice-Chairperson 788 North Reeds Road Downingtown, PA 19335

CTomlinson@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

Kevin C. Kerr Supervisor 16 Heron Hill Drive Downingtown, PA 19335

KKerr@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

140 Pottstown Pike Chester Springs, PA 19425 Phone: (610) 458-9400 Fax: (610) 458-0307
Cary Vargo Township Manager (610) 646-7008
cvargo@upperuwchlan-pa.gov

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chester county at risk: historic birchrunville

I love being in Chester County.  Before I was a resident, anytime anyone wanted to take a leisurely drive and explore, I was all for it.

Birchrunville was one of those places.  Quiet and charming, consisting of small country roads.  Farms. Horses, as you can actually still ride your horse on the road which you won’t be doing if this development happens. Great old country architecture and some incredible old houses.  The real deal of charm.

It is NOT a place where developers should come in with their Emperor’s New Clothes grand plans for supersizing a small hamlet.  The residents should not allow it, and quite frankly, any elected or appointed official who likes a plan like this should be voted out as soon as possible.

We are, after all, talking about West Vincent Township.  And for West Vincent Township to go from needing/wanting eminent domain for private gain at Christmastime 2011 to this plan now, well it is so very Lower Merion Township that I can’t stand it.  And I can tell you how the story turns out: it doesn’t.

Once upon a time Lower Merion made a bid for eminent domain for private gain.  Then they put people through the pain of grand redevelopment plans.  All people wanted was a train station.  What they got was heartache, headaches, and nothing. Well nothing except a lot of money spent on plans, plans, and more plans.  A lot of the money spent was part of $6 million dollars that your Congressman Jim Gerlach got so Ardmore could have a new train station/transit center.  So much of that money has been squandered that I just don’t get why Jim Gerlach hasn’t pulled the money back yet.  But maybe he will and it will serve Lower Merion right.

And don’t let Supervisor David Brown tell you he had no idea of what went on in Lower Merion.  He was too entrenched in the politics for too many years not to know.  Via his own online political resume you can see: Republican Committee of Lower Merion & Narberth Committeeman 1976 – 1990, Counsel to Committee 1990 – 2004, Member Executive Committee 1990 – 2004, Former Solicitor to Montgomery County Controller,Gladwyne Civic Association, Former Director, Former Vice President.

See this synopsis from The Castle Coalition in Washington DC where I will highlight some dates in particular (although I encourage you to read it all):

….a letter in February 2004 informing him that Lower Merion Township had targeted his property and those of his neighbors for eminent domain acquisitions, he was devastated and uncertain about how to proceed….

In September 2004, the Township hired an independent consulting firm to study Ardmore and assess the extent to which economic redevelopment really required condemning their properties, as local officials contended. The Urban Land Institute, an outside organization that specializes in land use and has no financial connection to the business owners or the Township, conducted a comprehensive study of the downtown business district slated for demolition, and strongly urged against the plans proposed by the Planning Commission. Instead, the Institute submitted a number of alternative approaches to the Township, all of which protect property rights and promise the same benefits the municipality sought without condemning the Ardmore properties.[3]

“We kept coming up with alternative plans, but the Township kept ignoring us,” Mahan said.

In December 2004, the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners overwhelmingly approved the most destructive redevelopment option of all the plans submitted for its consideration. The proposal submitted by Hillier Architects called for the demolition of Ardmore’s entire historic district—even though Hillier simultaneously concluded that all of the buildings were in restorable condition…….the Save Ardmore Coalition continued fighting, attending all civic meetings, speaking against the proposal and especially against the abuse of eminent domain, and pursuing practically every grassroots avenue available.

“We’d march to the meetings, carrying signs and making statements. We’d have 300 people on our side, and 100 of them spoke out against the Hillier plan,” he said. “We just kept gaining momentum and the SAC kept growing and growing.”

 

These plans fermented for years prior to 2004 being the year eminent domain came full out in the public eye.  And during that time there were commissioners on the board in favor of this, including one Ken Davis and there is no way David Brown did not know him. Ken Davis represented parts of Gladwyne and was a fellow Republican and member of Gladwyne Civic.  Trust me, not that big of a sphere.

And if David Brown is for this development of Brichrunville, then he should go as soon as his term is up, but if Ken Miller and Clare Quinn are up first, vote them out.  If you do not change the face of who governs you in West Vincent, you will not achieve what you need to achieve.  I know because because I was part of a group who did it.   We flipped five of the seven commissioner seats up in elections, and the people who came in had adopted our group’s mission to defeat eminent domain for private gain.  You see, we endorsed no one.  We had a position: no eminent domain.

But after we defeated eminent domain and the fractured community came together once again, we were faced with re-development plans.  We should have said no.

And if you don’t believe how the land can be raped and pillaged by development that is not truly necessary, take a ride down King and check out the mega mess in Malvern.  They got sold a New Urbanism Fairy Tale and they will rue the day when all is said and done is my prediction.  I am not anti-progress, but I am anti-supersizing it on the theory of build it and they will come because it is not true.  All this hoo ha over transit oriented development.  It’s suburbia, people will always drive, always have cars. Duh.

Malvern got themselves a nice new train station, and if this current development being built was much smaller and in a scale actually in keeping with a very small town?  Well we might be having a different conversation.  Instead, West Vincent, you are being presented with cautionary tales.

But residents, I and others can talk about it, offer opinions from the sidelines and write articles, but you have to pull a real We The People and rise up with pitch forks if necessary.  You have to not just talk about it but actually fight.  Accept it will get nasty and dirty tricks will abound.  To me, it should all be important enough to preserve your way of life. As well as your property values.  (C’mon you think you are going to find it easy to sell a property if West Vincent keeps up indefinately with the West Vincent of it all?)

Rise up, support folks like BirchrunvillePeople who are trying to do good.  And if you feel your government is not quite right and not quite ethical, hello it is a MAJOR election year.  Your congressman needs more than checks from fat cats to survive, he needs votes.  Get him to come around an you show him what you are trying to preserve.   Go to the state.  Surely the Attorney General’s office and ethics board are there for a reason?

But you have to do it for yourselves.    This video like the one up top is awesome.  Kudos to whomever did that.  It literally shows people what you are talking about.

None of this will be easy, but you defeated eminent domain for the time being, so keep on keeping on and save Birchrunville too.  After all, you may or may not realize that developers as much as they love to destroy small towns, also love to recreate them.  You have the real deal.  Preserve your way of life.

And don’t be swayed by “oh but look we can improve our roads.”  Beg to differ.  If your roadmaster actually took the proper care of the roads you would be fine.  But what will happen with road improvements if development occurs?  It will look good for a while because it is new and then it will be back to mainteance business as usual so what is the difference?

This historic school house could be easily sold and preserved from what the video says.  It is YOUR community.  Make that happen.  YOU are the taxpayers.  YOU are the voters.

Once a way of life is destroyed, it is gone.

Lecture over.