Lower Merion School District is front page news over Oakwell, next door to Stoneleigh in Villanova.
Why? Eminent domain….again
We shouldn’t be surprised because Lower Merion School District probably wields eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain more than any institution I’ve ever heard of. I could be wrong, I am sure there are some that do it more but in my worldview they are one of the worst offenders.
Lower Merion School District in my humble opinion has always abused eminent domain powers. It’s like they think they are LMSD and everybody should just bow down. ￼
In their vision quest with blinders they’ve gone after Stoneleigh, Ashbridge Park, etc. I think if they had bought this property with the intention of using the house as the administration building for the school district or something like that I wouldn’t care. But to so wantonly wish to destroy so much green space, so many trees, so much beauty for turf fields for middle schoolers is really kind of tone deaf in today’s world and it’s just wrong, pick a reason.
The house itself is super cool and historic. Things on the grounds are historic. There’s a teahouse with a beautiful giant old terra-cotta warrior who is just spectacular. It’s an amazing property, and once again it’s something that will be destroyed because of this school district if they aren’t stopped.
It doesn’t matter who the superintendent of the school district is, they just think if it’s something they want they can take it. Again, this is my opinion and I’m allowed to have it. I spent 30+ years living in Lower Merion Township.
Something else I find interesting is literally across the road is Delaware County and Radnor Township. How do they feel about this? How do their residents feel?
The whole Oakwell issue has been a slow burn that seems to have ignited. I don’t have a crystal ball on how it will play out, but I don’t think middle schoolers need turf fields and artificial turf as much as they need nature. Kids need to be able to be kids. A lot of kids today don’t want to be on organized sports teams. There are also field alternatives where they can share fields. But the problem with the school district is they don’t do anything nicely, sharing among them.
So once again we’re staring in the face of Lower Merion School District’s misplaced sense of entitlement.
The Philadelphia Inquirer did an amazing job on this article and I think everyone should read it.
John Bennett kindled the hearth on a recent day in what was once his 20,000-square-foot brick Tudor Revival manor replete with heavy wooden doors, wainscoted library, and Mercer floor tile.
The 72-year-old physician-turned-medical-device-entrepreneur recalled how he lost the home and its 10 acres off County Line Road in Villanova through eminent domain in 2018 to make way for middle-school athletic fields. The property, known as Oakwell, contains nearly 700 trees, some of which are thought to date back centuries.
“Everything happened so quickly that there was no way to save it,” Bennett said as he recounted stories about the house, including having a ghost exorcised.
The Lower Merion School District— one of the wealthiest in Pennsylvania —paid Bennett $9.9 million for the house and grounds in the condemnation with plans to clear-cut hundreds of the trees for athletic fields for newly opened Black Rock Middle School. Updated plans show it would keep the Oakwell mansion and a pool house, but a teahouse watched over by a terra cotta warrior, stone fencing, and a brick-walled garden complex all dating back at least 120 years would be razed. The $90 millionmiddle school opened this year. The district plans to start breaking ground for the fields in June…..
What is eminent domain?
The taking of Oakwell marks one of several district attempts to build athletic fields for the new school. The board faced an outcry in 2018 when it tried to condemn part of the Stoneleigh estate next door, which is preserved under a conservation easement. Efforts to use the nearbyAshbridge Memorial Park were halted by a long-standing deed restriction. An attempt to use another nearby property also fizzled, while other lots were deemed unsuitable…..
Eminent domain — or the ability of the government to pay landowners to seize their private property for public use — is a power “inherent to the government,” said Matthew Hovey, a municipal attorney with the High Swartz law firm that represents clients in the area.
Typically, Hovey said, the power is used as a last resort as it can prove “politically unpopular” and may lead to costly and lengthy legal challenges.
RANT ALERT. If you don’t want to hear it, turn away now.
Traveling back from whence I came, or visiting issues in Lower Merion Township is always amusing albeit somewhat disturbing to always be amazed at the blind devotion to Lower Merion School District especially when once again they are doing something destructive.
The comments from the blind faithful THIS time are over Lower Merion School Board plans to bulldoze a beautiful swath of woodland unnecessarily is truly something which will take your breath away. I am not giving those comments air time because they are always the same thing: when it is distilled and boiled down, Lower Merion School District is perfect.
If you disagree with Lower Merion School District cheerleaders no matter what they are trying to do you are at a minimum a bad person. Or you are NIMBY, which doesn’t apply unless it’s in your neighborhood and even then it is just a knee jerk pejorative term most of the time. These folks want to drive their status symbol green friendly Teslas, but when it comes to actually doing better the environment in other ways, or even just preserving an area to keep a bit of charm, that is far too inconvenient.
And OMG you would think Lower Merion School District was in dire peril if they don’t get their way every single time.
MISPLACED SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT. Lots of school districts excel and thrive on far, far less.
No Lower Merion School District is not perfect and it has decades of issues to prove that. And no I don’t think highly of them.
And Lower Merion Township has contributed to issues surrounding Lower Merion School District vis a vis development. Sure they are separate entities autonomous from one and other, yet they have a weird codependency since what they do as individual entities affects the other. And when you overdevelop and they come, it overcrowds the school district, correct?
A few years ago now, Lower Merion School District had a failed attempt to seize land from Stoneleigh, the 100% preserved property donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands to remain preserved in perpetuity for people (and nature) to enjoy.
Then when Lower Merion Township School District couldn’t get their greedy paws on Stoneleigh, they acquired the old Clothier Estate and it was happy bulldozing. Oh and I forgot, before they attempted to get Stoneleigh, there was that whole situation where they made a play to take Ashbridge Park. Yes a park.
So then there was the whole thing of they still need more land and that old disco song “More, More, More” comes to mind because with Lower Merion School District more, more, more is always their mantra. Nothing is ever enough.
As a school district they could have sent representatives to Lower Merion Township for years to express concern over infill development, but they didn’t. And once upon a time, they had other schools, that they closed. They closed Ardmore Junior High School around 1978, they let the Ardmore Avenue School (elementary) rot and eventually closed it (that caused redistricting back then didn’t it although it was also integration?) they closed Bryn Mawr Elementary School, and the Wynnewood Road Elementary School.
So in my humble opinion, Lower Merion School District has always had issues and always been a crappy neighbor. In the vein of that opinion, their still current and fractured relationship with neighbors over field lights at Arnold Field. And remember redistricting again in the not too recent past and the case Students Doe v. Lower Merion School District which made it to the U.S. Supreme Court although it was not heard?
So back to Villanova where the new middle school with the stupid name that means nothing but could have meant something if they had bent their absurd rigidity and allow it to be named after beloved educator, Sean Hughes. Anyway, Lower Merion swoops in and elbows out Villanova University using eminent domain once again to get 13.4 acres on adjacent sites to Stoneleigh at 1800 West Montgomery Ave. and 1835 County Line Rd.
Oakwell. 13 acres of old growth woods and heritage trees, mostly majestic oak trees. HUNDREDS of them. This property was in play for a while and I believe the former owners just dangled a juicy carrot until they had enough people salivating. First it was Villanova University (which would have been just as bad owning this property in my opinion.) But you know Lower Merion School District and their favorite billy club of eminent domain, right?
So now it is to be turf field city, the hell with trees and species like the great horned owl which remarkably DOES live there? This is also still a threat to Stoneleigh in my humble opinion. This is also an enormous environmental threat to the entire area and will affect not only Lower Merion Township residents, but Radnor Township residents who literally are on the other side of terribly narrow County Line Road. And of course one can’t help but wonder, does a new school mean the need for another outpost for first responders? Where would THAT go if so?
This is post is truthfully an addendum to a last-minute call to arms the other day for anyone who grew up in Lower Merion Township or lives there still today.
Please continue to send emails telling the Lower Merion School District to NOT bulldoze down many acres of a pristine old growth oak forest. They want to destroy a valuable natural resource that will affect Stoneleigh immediately adjacent, and neighbors in Lower Merion Township and Radnor Township just so middle schoolers can have a few turf fields.
FLOOD THEIR EMAIL!
I hate to sound as old as dirt but we had plain old grass fields and survived quite nicely. It’s middle school. Of course ironically it’s also the place in school where they teach or used to teach earth science and this property is like a giant living earth science lab complete with great horned owls.
The school board keep trying to do an end run around neighbors who want to have a zoning hearing board meeting on this issue. I think it behooves all of us to support the neighbors and environmentalists on the front lines of this issue.
This property they acquired adjacent to Stoneleigh is irreplaceably special. It has mature woodlands with all sorts of flora and fauna species as well as the oaks. Those old growth oaks in particular are extraordinarily valuable, and not just monetarily. They are also heritage trees.
This property has been evaluated by experts and it is a treasure trove of species. It is home to many, many migratory birds, etc.
Here is whom you address your email to (and YES include LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP):
Now including those email addresses because if you have been sending emails their comment email address keeps getting overwhelmed.
The zoning meeting got cancelled on this topic this week. It is rescheduled. Do not know exact date. Including Lower Merion Township in your email will probably be the only response you get. And it will be from the current Township Secretary and it will be terse and may even feel somewhat rude, but you have put your sentiments on the record which is important in any issue. Don’t expect great things from the Township Manager, Ernie McNeely, and if you don’t believe me just ask folks in West Chester Borough where he came from before he became socially upwardly mobile and moved to Lower Merion, right?
By all accounts, Lower Merion School District finally has a decent superintendent. But he inherited a legacy of bad decisions and bad apples in my humble opinion. This was set into motion by the previous superintendent who was even worse than the one he succeeded.
Middle school kids can play just fine on grass fields and the new middle school has field space too. They could have fields on this latest seized property and save the woodlands. Saving those woodlands gives them opportunities from other than turf fields. Kids could learn from actual nature, not what is projected on a screen as they sit growing like mushrooms while they are looking at their phones anyway. Nature gives kids room to be kids.
Middle school kids aren’t competing for the Heisman Trophy or Soccer World Cup, maybe less playing fields and letting kids still be kids at that age would be more productive? But then the soccer moms and dads in their expensive athleisure wouldn’t be able to drive their giant gas guzzling or environmentally appropriate SUVs through the Starbucks drive thru with casual disregard for other drivers and pedestrians only to scream and yell at the side of a field and because it’s Lower Merion expect others to clean up their Starbucks cups, right?
Hell yea I am on a rant. This is ridiculous. I don’t always agree with Lower Merion resident Phil Browndeis, but his thoughts posted with his video shared above, struck a chord:
This is the last winter for a stand of old growth trees in Lower Merion. The Lower Merion School District plans to clear cut the trees to build new athletic fields for the new middle school. So much for carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and all the other good that trees provide us.
Lower Merion Township is facing a great challenge which must be addressed with urgency: the Township is under tremendous development pressure which is being allowed to continue under old building and development and land use codes that do not protect and preserve the Township’s shrinking remaining environmental assets. This is a matter of grave concern: our tree canopy is under attack. Our waterways, already polluted, are being further compromised. Our cost to correct the adverse impacts of this type of development may greatly exceed whatever short term benefits may be derived.
An environmental tragedy is unfolding. Over 482 trees over 6” in diameter (which probably understates the number of mature trees) including 26 giant oaks, a magnificent oak savannah, and a densely treed mature woodland are slated for removal according to a proposal before the Township for their approval. It would be hard for this proposal to be enacted under the current zoning code, but this proposal is sadly grandfathered under old rules.
Due to an unfortunate set of events that occurred a few years ago, a wooded parcel was acquired by the School District for playing field development. This parcel is located at 1800 Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Rd in Villanova. The plan involves an almost complete deforestation of the parcel including a clearcutting of vast swaths of trees. Neighbors say it is a stopover for migrating birds including snowy owls.
At the same time that this project is moving forward, the Township is in a planning process to write and implement a Sustainability/Greenhouse Gas Reduction plan and is considering adopting a Net Zero Carbon Emission resolution. The destruction of the woodland would be a self-inflicted wound making it far more difficult and costly to achieve the sustainability and carbon reduction we so desperately need. In addition, the children cannot walk to the proposed playing fields. They will have to be bussed. So we hope another site could be equally viable.
We are simply asking the Township authorities and the School district to work together to exhaustively and completely explore all other options. We must be stewards for our children and our children’s children. We can do the right thing, its not too late.
I don’t hold out great hope here, I am a realist and this school district is always selfish and so are the majority of their narcissistic blind faith devotees. However, you just don’t know and if we can save these woods, it is so crucially important to the are and to nature herself.
Thanks for allowing the rant, you know I love my oak trees and owls and woodpeckers and other critters. Visit Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh on Facebook to keep up with what is happening. I guess I am a tree hugger after a fashion. And I definitely don’t agree with yet another bad plan by Lower Merion School District.
Maybe this in the end is just another Don Quixote tilting at windmills issue, but I still think it is something to talk about, and why not object to the plan? After all WHY couldn’t they preserve these woods and use other open space on property for fields? Why CAN’T they be part progress part preservationist? These trees are actually important and I am completely unapologetic to those who cannot see that.
Interesting reading on Lower Merion School District:
I can’t take credit for that funny cartoon above as it is circling the Internet. But it is too perfect to ignore and just sums up this strange year we’ve survived.
Yes I thought about a week ago I had written my last post for 2020 and then things happened. I learned those who claim to be Christian and pious aren’t always pleasant on social media. And while I really appreciate the pastoral leadership at Covenant Presbyterian Churchsending me an email to acknowledge my concerns, well, some of us discovered that we got word for word as in yes verbatim the same email. That made me a little disappointed in them, but it also made me realize that they just don’t get it (or don’t want to.) I still hope they abandon the fakakta idea for a 12 foot high LED sign in front of a historically charming church on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer. (And isn’t fakata just the most perfect word to describe so many things in 2020?)
And if we’re going to talk about giant electronics signs that look like movie screens and giant TVs come to life, it is worth remarking that West Whiteland has a planning commission meeting next week where yet another one of these giant digital billboards is being proposed. Yes, January 5th. And I predict much like East Whiteland and their “settlement agreement” which will face East Whiteland with a Sophie’s choice of where to put signs residents don’t want. And then there is Upper Merion Township. They have their own giant digital billboards issues. Same billboard company and same solicitor as East Whiteland. There is still a petition circling for them if you agree with all of the residents who don’t want zoning changed in parks to accommodate billboards. And in West Whiteland what is with the other billboard related LLC very close by to the one being discussed January 5th?
Other things on the hit parade of 2020 include another year of unending issues with the pipelines. Energy Transfer, Sunoco Logistics, pick a name they spent another year making a mess, putting residents at risk. One of my late fall favorites? Was seeing photos on social media of workers’ trucks parked in fire lanes at local shopping centers like they were big important people that couldn’t park in a spot, and what’s up with that FU to the community?
As we head into 2021 there is a story out of Lower Merion that no one’s talking about. It’s about that property adjacent to Stonleigh that Lower Merion School District “acquired” for playing fields after they bought the property on Montgomery Avenue (what once was the Clothier Estate) for the new school. OK so everybody knew that the County Line Road property was going to become playing fields. That’s not news at this point. But what bears pondering is exactly how many hundreds of trees is the Lower Merion School District going to take down in the end for these fields? This is a sizable property and it has heritage trees doesn’t it? It’s over 10 acres isn’t it? So that is a big chunk of property to deforest isn’t it?
Now I’ve heard neighbors over there in both Lower Merion and Radnor Township are very concerned about the trees of it all because this road straddles both municipalities in spots. Lower Merion School District’s Superintendent should give a rat’s fanny about the environment as involves the future of his students, right? One thing I have always wondered about this set of projects both for the school and the playing field is how is this going to affect skinny hilly windy County Line Road and some of the surrounding small streets near these projects? And aren’t first responders a little far away from both of these new education locations? So what does that mean in the future? Once again I reiterate how glad I am no longer on the Main Line and feel for my many friends who are still there.
Other things I won’t miss in 2020 is the conflicting ways people treat each other online in the same communities. Maybe it was because so many people were home and they spent way too much time on social media, but I think people have spent a lot of 2020 being miserable to each other in as much as others also have tried to lift each other up. I can tell you personally I am closing out 2020 feeling completely less patient with people. It is something I am going to work on for 2021, but I’m telling you right now it might be a struggle at times.
So how about the mask of it all? I am not going to get into the argument that has been almost the totality of the year of what stays open and what closes due to COVID-19 (including schools), but I am going to comment about what crap it is I think the people complain they have to wear a mask. I live an immunocompromised life. Elderly relatives live immunocompromised lives. I know so many people at this point personally and indirectly from all over the place (as in just not this area) who have gotten COVID-19 in 2020. And these were all people who were careful and wore masks.
I also think it’s crap with regard to the people who can’t keep their kids at home who then turn into super-spreaders of coronavirus at all ages and stages of life. No one has liked feeling as confined as we all have during the year 2020. No one has liked how it has affected our economy, our personal psychology, our sense of freedom. It has been a difficult year emotionally for everyone. Some people feel so isolated and alone. Even those of us who live with our families can have different times during the year where they could pinpoint feelings of loneliness and isolation.
We close the year with vaccines….finally. That will start up all the anti-vaxxers I’m sure, but I would remind them gently that this is no ordinary virus. And we have already seen in the past few years what an uptick of measles and other childhood diseases has done across the country. All I’m saying is, people please try to keep it together so we can get out of these various stages of quarantine and get back to life. It won’t be life as we once knew it as we are forever changed by 2020, but hopefully we can get there.
Another thing I will be glad to see in the rearview mirror is the ugliness of politics in the United States of America during the calendar year 2020. We have a new president to look forward to and that serial narcissistic sociopath who’s been living in the White House the past few years? I guess he’s going to be Florida’s problem isn’t he? He has continued throughout the holidays (including today) to try to make his case for anarchy and civil war while he discusses his imaginary voter fraud and “rigged elections”. Dude doesn’t get it that he was FIRED by the American people. FIRED. Here’s hoping that America’s political parties get their crap together so we don’t come this close to a dictator ever again, especially the Republican Party because they ALLOWED this to happen.
2020 was also the time of no longer tolerating racial injustice in this country and great sadness and anger as a result from coast to coast. People came together in the midst of a global pandemic over it. We should all offer up a prayer for a peaceful 2021 and meaningful resolution to some of these weighty issues. We the people as in all the people deserve as much.
2020 was a year of personal sadness for me. I said goodbye to people I really didn’t want to say goodbye to. And they didn’t lose their lives to COVID-19, but because of COVID-19 you couldn’t see anyone to say goodbye to those who were dying.
Other friends of mine faced heath crises that had to have been extra stressful every time they had to go in and out of a hospital setting. I know the two skin cancer procedures I dealt with had me holding my breath in and out and through the COVID tests before each procedure.
Now 2020 wasn’t all bad. I got to garden a lot and work on restoring my old quilts and that makes me happy. Fortunately for me I am more of a homebody than not so I have gotten through not seeing a ton of anyone at all but I do miss my friends and my family. FaceTime and Zoom just isn’t the same, but I will say I am grateful for the technology because being able to see someone when you’re catching up is a wonderful thing.
In 2020 we saw extremes all year long. Exhausting extremes at times. But hey, you know what? We are still standing. And that’s a good thing. We can do this. We can survive and get past this. We can see 2021.
For most this year, it will be a quiet New Year’s Eve. For us, pretty normal as we generally stay in. I keep seeing reality TV stars like Sonja Morgan flitting across Twitter and Instagram asking what we’re wearing for New Year’s at home. Not sequins. But I live in Chester County so I don’t think it would be sequins ever…haven’t really seen any live sequins since I moved here.
In my final reflection of 2020, I will freely admit that if we are honest with ourselves, 2020 taught us all things about ourselves and others. Some good things, some unflattering things. It’s all about human nature.
As we bid adieu to 2020 for sure it won’t be a fond, lingering goodbye. It will be an enough already move along nothing more to see here kind of goodbye.
Pope Francis said something this afternoon which has stayed with me: “We thank Good for the good things that have taken place during the pandemic, for the many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable.”
This afternoon we found out that Stoneleigh was safe. It’s like a Thanksgiving miracle of the very best kind. Finally, after months and months, the evil yes evil Lower Merion School District let go it’s death grip on the property they had no right to ever.
Here’s hoping that next time Dr. Melissa Gilbert is up for election people remember Stoneleigh when they go to the polls. Here’s hoping Dr. Robert Copeland will eventually be replaced.
Lower Merion School District has a crowding problem because of the infill development in Lower Merion Township. This is why more people wherever they live need to remember Stoneleigh and realize this is a cause and effect situation. The cause is development the effect is overcrowding. Maybe that’s just my opinion but I don’t think so.
(This is why we have to push our elected officials and our sorry excuse for a governor to do things like protect us from pipelines and while they’re at it update the municipalities planning code. The MPC as it goes by has not had a comprehensive update and decades! )
The MPC has to be updated for many things including how they view and guide municipalities regarding suburbs and exurbs. It needs to be updated with regard to open space and land conservation, historic preservation, and much more. The MPC is what guides municipalities, cities, boroughs in Pennsylvania and all of the planning and zoning and comprehensive plan processes.
What happened at Stoneleigh is going to continue to happen other places if the pace of development is not checked. Some may find me to be an alarmist, but it is in my opinion, the simple truth.
If it wasn’t for the heroic efforts of every day people who joined along with Natural Lands and Lower Merion Conservancy, we might not have had such an outcome.
What a wonderful thing for us to learn at Thanksgiving.
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Those set on preserving Stoneleigh Gardens versus the Lower Merion School District: It was a boil over this spring that has since simmered in the quiet summer months. But a final decision has yet to be made on the Main Line property that school officials identified in April for possible seizure under eminent domain. The announcement came at the same time the Gardens opened to the public and whipped up a firestorm.
“The Lower Merion School District still hasn’t taken Stoneleigh off the table and until and unless they do so, it’s still at risk,” said Oliver Bass, who is with Natural Lands, the non-profit organization responsible for preserving Stoneleigh.
On June 18, CBS3 filed an open records request with the Lower Merion School District for all emails about Stoneleigh between the superintendent and school board. A month later, the district responded.
It’s unknown how many emails traveled back and forth, but Lower Merion decided to keep virtually all of the electronic correspondence secret, based on attorney-client privilege and a real estate exemption, the denial read.
“Any time in the USA when we hear of government taking property, it strikes right at the core of our fundamental principles.”
Terry Mutchler, former head of Pennsylvania’s Open Records Office and a national transparency lawyer said Lower Merion has an obligation to be open — especially given the Stoneleigh uproar.
“I would think the district would want to be more in the sunshine than behind the curtain on this,” Mutchler said.
The released e-mails are naturally not earth shattering (but still interesting) , nor am I shocked that Lower Merion School District finds itself above sunshine. They have always flet themselves collectively superior to everyone.
Soooo, how would more people like to submit Rights to Know on Lower Merion School District? (Follow this LINK to files a right to know on super secret and unpleasant Lower Merion School District.)
If you live in Lower Merion Township, it’s time to dump the latest bad school Superintendent (Copeland) and it’s time to dump Dr. Melissa Gilbert and her merry band of Stepford Board Members off of the school board. Once upon a time I had high hopes for Melissa, but now she just believes her own press.
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?
The other day I wrote a post about Stoneleigh. I said then I thought that Lower Merion School District would not settle for 6 acres, that they would want all 42. My reasoning is simple: it’s expensive to wage an eminent domain battle so it would not make financial sense to go through everything for just 6 acres. (Not that doing things that make financial sense have ever been a hallmark of this school district, right?)
I grew up in the area, and the Haas family are amazing and wonderfully inclusive generous people who thought enough to want their land preserved for all to enjoy.
Lower Merion School District is NOT entitled to this land, just like they were NOT entitled to Ashbridge Park. I lived through one eminent domain battle in Ardmore years ago, so I know how ugly this is.
Also culpable here? Lower Merion Township Commissioners for all of the years of infill development. We went to so many meetings on unwanted development and asked for YEARS about future impact on the school district. Anyone who asked this was poo-pooed as being obstructionist of the future. (Yes Commissioner Liz Rogan I am thinking of you and others. firstname.lastname@example.org ) And the school district never,ever did a thing, never opened their mouths. The school board never did a thing. Who do all these folks serve at the pleasure of? Each other? Developers?
This is egregious and unacceptable. It makes me worry for places like Saunders Woods too. Any park or piece of land, truthfully as this school district and Superintendent Copeland seem to be suffering from a GIANT misplaced sense of entitlement.
Dr. Robin Vann Lynch
Comments for the former 6 ABC reporter turned LMSD talking head? Amy Buckman
Director of Community Relations Lower Merion School District
301 E. Montgomery Ave. Ardmore, PA 19003 Main Office: (610) 645-1800
Direct Line: (610) 645-1978 Email: email@example.com
Denise LaPera Executive Assistant to the Superintendent
Phone: 610-645-1930 Fax: 610-645-0703
301 E. Montgomery Ave., Ardmore, PA 19003
Going to Stoneleigh’s opening weekend this weekend? Either as a member for the special preview Saturday or opening day Sunday? I am sure that some of the Lower Merion Township Commissioners past and present will be there. No group of commissioners loves photo ops more than they do, so use the opportunity to give them an earful….but try to be polite as some of them are delicate flowers.
Is it polite to call Lower Merion’s School Superintendent Robert Copeland a scum sucking pig? Probably not. But I am.
This is PROOF that the Lower Merion School District does indeed intend to try to seize Stoneleigh via eminent domain, isn’t it? Do we think they will try to only take only 6 or 7 acres? In my opinion, which I am entitled to, that would not be cost effective for the school district, so instead I ask will Lower Merion School District instead try to seize the entire 42 acres?
Photo Courtesy Natural Lands. “In 1996, John and Chara Haas placed their beloved #Stoneleigh under conservation easement with Natural Lands, ensuring this special place—the home where they’d raised their five children—would be preserved forever. We hope you’ll join us for opening weekend May 12 & 13 to see this special place the Haas family so generously donated to Natural Lands in 2016.”
I have it on good authority that Natural Lands will OPPOSE any attempt by Lower Merion School District of an eminent domain taking. I and many of my friends from Lower Merion and elsewhere will stand with Natural Lands to #SaveStoneleigh .
This is a cautionary tale for every township approving development after development with little thought (or caring) about how this all affects school districts and school enrollments.
This serenely amazing and naturally beautiful 42 acres was donated by the Haas family so it would be protected. This is the terrifying reality of over development and communities. This is the terrifying reality that no municipality, no elected officials, no developers want you to know about.
Natural Lands Facebook photo. Carving by Marty Long of Phoenixville, PA
These developers do not give a crap about where we call home. We are just an area to make a quick development buck off of. They aren’t invested in our communities it’s all about what they can make and what the municipalities can get for the short term high of what they call “ratables.”
I lived in Lower Merion Township for over 30 years. I never once as an adult attending Lower Merion Township meetings (and given the eminent domain for private gain attempt in Ardmore circa 2005 I can tell you I attended a LOT of meetings), do I ever remember ANYONE from the school board or the school district coming to a township commissioners meeting and expressing concerns about the effect of all the development and proposed development on the school district.
The only thing I have seen Lower Merion School District do over the years is raise taxes and have their hands out. And well, Lower Merion School District seems to always have something not necessarily good going on. Here is some of the not so distant past:
Natural Lands Facebook Photo. “Stoneleigh: a natural garden, is home to several PA state champion trees, including this Ironwood tree, which is number one in the state! Located near the Montgomery Ave side of Stoneleigh, it’s a tree with grown-over scars and hollow places and yet the branches are still growing strong. It’s an old tree, likely over a century, and it’s rare to get old without taking on a few scars. This tree is a survivor, one that’s been cared for by the families who took care of this beautiful place for generations. Maybe not every piece of it is pretty, but it’s still our champion. “
There are so many articles about Lower Merion School District issues that it’s hard to choose a select list.
Ironically, the people mentioned in the article Philadelphia Magazine from the Penn Wynne area about stopping mega schools seem sadly o.k. with eminent domain at Stoneleigh. I find that disturbing. They weren’t overly fond of me when I suggested they offer their houses to the school district if they were o.k. with eminent domain. Sorry not sorry, but I do not get people like that.
Lower Merion School District also is eye-balling another site in Villanova….also owned by someone else other than them – 1860 Montgomery Avenue. The former Clothier Estate and now the Foundation of Islamic Education. That estate used to have some sort of service driveway if I remember right that was somewhere through those interior neighborhoods off County Line Road in Villanova, wasn’t it? So this whole debacle will undoubtedly concern Radnor Township in Delaware County because THEIR residents are right across County Line Road, aren’t they?
It is the sheer audacity of this school district which boggles my mind. This is not the first bad faith attempt at a land grab. There was the whole uproar in the fall with Ashbridge Park.
That Lower Merion is considering the popular park – even raising the possibility of using eminent domain – shows the seriousness of the classroom crunch in a district that, by raw numbers, is the fastest growing in Pennsylvania. While enrollment in the Main Line district had plunged to about 5,000 amid the “baby bust” years of the 1980s, parents lured by Lower Merion’s top academic rankings and a recent development boom have brought the student population back to nearly 8,600, and it’s expected to hit 9,300 in the next decade.
With the affluent Montgomery County district racing to make a decision on building a new school or adding to several existing ones by the end of the year, officials are sending mixed signals about the seriousness of the proposal to buy the 21-acre Foundation for Islamic Education for a new school and use Ashbridge Park for a track and athletic fields.
So like fleas on a hot brick they move right from Ashbridge Park to Stoneleigh? I am not sure what the end game is with Lower Merion School District, but I encourage people to take a stand for Stoneleigh and open space. It’s not the school district’s to take.
I am SO glad I no longer live in the hot mess known as Lower Merion Township. But as a member and supporter of Natural Lands, I am appalled that the school district would think they are so omnipotent that they can just steal dedicated and conserved open space.
Want to tell Lower Merion School District how you feel? This is what I was able to rustle up:
Comments for the former 6 ABC reporter turned LMSD talking head? Amy Buckman
Director of Community Relations Lower Merion School District
301 E. Montgomery Ave. Ardmore, PA 19003 Main Office: (610) 645-1800
Direct Line: (610) 645-1978 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org