thanksgiving miracle: stoneleigh is finally safe

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.

If you wish to support Natural Lands or Lower Merion Conservancy please visit their respective websites. We are so lucky to have them in our communities.

lower merion school district is having stoneleigh sunshine issues?

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Oh CBS3 I think I love that you love “sunshine”.  What am I talking about? Oh my, check out the CBS3 video about Stoneleigh in Lower Merion.

I am going to let CBS3 tell the story:

CBS3 Emails Reveal Private Tour, Internal School Board Conversations As Stoneleigh Gardens Controversy Continues
By Joe HoldenAugust 1, 2018 at 11:36 pm

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.

CLICK HERE TO READ EMAILS OBTAINED BY CBS3

Here are the emails released by CBS3:

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.)

Stoneleigh is NOT safe although Lower Merion School District bought or is buying the Clothier Estate. Don’t be lulled into complacency. They are greedy snakes in the grass and until there is a public and irrefutable statement that Stoneleigh is off of the table, it’s just not.

Governor Wolf signed the Stoneleigh eminent domain bill into law because he’s up for re-election , BUT again, Stoneleigh is NOT off the Lower Merion School District dining table.

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.

Support Natural Lands. #SaveStoneleigh

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#savestoneleigh : the school board meeting and more questions

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As I mentioned last evening, hundreds showed up for Stoneleigh last evening at Lower Merion School District.

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?

We all know where I stand on Stoneleigh and yes that was my column in the Sunday Inquirer and running  in the Delco Times.

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.

My next question may seem strange but  is the Democratic party of Lower Merion and Democratic Party of Montgomery County FOR eminent domain here? I have not fallen and hit my head, the question is prompted by an on camera interview given to 6ABC and reporter Annie McCormick last night:

marie beresford“While I appreciate how precious Stoneleigh is, I believe really strongly in a public education and that we provide the kids with the facilities they need,” said Lower Merion Parent Marie Beresford.

So, the reason I am confused is was Ms. Beresford speaking solely for herself, or in her positions (plural) within the Democratic party? Yes, she holds a position on the Lower Merion Democratic Party as Regional Vice Chair – Central Region (Wards 3, 4, 5, 8 and Narberth) and as First Vice Chair of said aforementioned party in Montgomery County?

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)

But sadly, I guess I do  NOT really know either her or Dr. Melissa Gilbert any longer, and check this out from the Inquirer in the letters to the editor:

dialogue 2

dialogue 1

Now Dr. Gilbert has risen in her world. (Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University no less?) She was just starting out when I met her years ago, and again, I liked her very much.  Sadly, I liked her enough to try to help get her elected to the Lower Merion School Board in the first place. Her letter co-scribbled with Dr. Robert Copeland the Autocrat in Chief of Lower Merion School District just doesn’t sit right, does it?

Dare I say it that they sound like communists here?  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???

And they refer to being “rebuffed” at their attempt in the fall of 2017 to steal Ashbridge Park? It is a park. A park with deed restrictions and oh yeah some other generous person’s final wishes that went along with it too, right? Ashbridge Park wasn’t Lower Merion School District’s to take, was it???? Allow me to quote an article written by a friend of mine, Cheryl Allison in 2014 for Main Line Media News:

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 Lower Merion School District is out of control.  And must be stopped legally.  I think lawyer Arthur Wolk is right. Lower Merion School Board should be removed. And Dr. Robert Copeland.

Sign me disgusted with these people.

showing up for stoneleigh

HUNDREDS have turned out to make a point with the eminent domain loving Lower Merion School District. The meeting is in progress

Photos are courtesy of the Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden Facebook page.

Dr. Robert Copeland, Dr. Melissa Gilbert and the rest of Lower Merion School District can you hear us all now?

#SaveStoneleigh

#savestoneleigh (I really hate being right about eminent domain happy lower merion school district)

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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?)

 

saveI 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.

1st letter

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.  2esrogan@gmail.com ) 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? 

Arthue Wolk, Esq may be right and the entire school board should be removed. Robbery err Robert Copeland should also be removed (without his pension).  Hmmm I think Robbery Copeland has a nice ring to it, don’t you?

 

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.

 

Check out  www.savestoneleigh.org

Sign the petition:

Save Stoneleigh from Condemnation

Want to tell Lower Merion School District how you feel? This is what I was able to rustle up:

Comments for the Board?  Your email will be distributed to the School Directors: communitycomments@lmsd.org

Here is who is on the school board:

Dr. Melissa Gilbert – President -(She is Professor
gilbertChair, Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities.  Sadly, years ago I helped her get elected to school board in the first place)

 

 

 

Mr. Ben Driscoll – Vice President

Ms. Laurie Actman

Ms. Diane DiBonaventuro – she is among other things a coach at Shipley  (Shipley has a long established Haas connection)

bio

Mr. David Federman

Ms. Debra Finger -also works for Shipley (and again school has a long-established Haas connection -see Main Line Media News from March 2017: )

proof

Ms. Virginia Pollard

Ms. Subha Robinson

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: buckmaa@lmsd.org

Mr. Robert Copeland Superintendent of Schoolscopeland@lmsd.org  (also this e-mail shows up on the Internet copelar@lmsd.org )

Denise LaPera Executive Assistant to the Superintendent
Phone: 610-645-1930  Fax: 610-645-0703
Email: laperad@lmsd.org 
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.

 

lower merion school district superintendent copeland says YES to eminent domain of natural lands’ stoneleigh in villanova ON CAMERA?

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?

Copeland responded to an audience question on eminent domain ON CAMERA with an “absolutely”, so will they claim this is “fake news”? It’s been in the media.  Click HERE for one article. Click HERE for another article.

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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.”

 

Stoneleigh was donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands to be preserved in perpetuity.  Not to be selected and stolen like a juicy plum so Lower Merion School District could take it. And I think Lower Merion School District wants more than a few turf fields, don’t you?

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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.

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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.

And it does happen. School districts will go to land development and related meetings and express concern.  As a matter of fact, West Chester Area School District a year ago, appeared at a Westtown meeting on Crebilly, expressing more that a little bit of concern of what that proposed development would do to 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:

Doe v. Lower Merion School District

Amicus Brief Pacific Legal Foundation STUDENT DOE 1, et al.,
Petitioners, v. LOWER MERION SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent.

Parents file civil rights suit against Lower Merion School District (MLMN Richard Ilgenfritz May 2009)

Doe v. Lower Merion School Dist., 689 F. Supp. 2d 742 (E.D. Pa. 2010)

New lawsuit by tax activist seeks to have entire Lower Merion School Board removed
By Richard Ilgenfritz, rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com, @rpilgenfritz on Twitter (Delco Times/MLMN October, 2017)

High School Redistricting Will Sting For a Long Time
The school district gets rewarded for racist policies but the little guys learn some lessons.
By Kate Galer, Patch Poster | Jun 19, 2012 2:14 am ET

Huffington Post: TECH 12/11/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011
Lower Merion School District Settles Webcam Spying Lawsuits For $610,000

NBC10 Philadelphia: 56,000 Photos Taken in Student-Laptop Scandal
Parents of other students will get to view the webcam images of their children.
By Vince Lattanzio

Appeal in Lower Merion tax lawsuit tossed out, original Montco judge’s order stands
Cites district’s failure to file post-trial motions; original Montco judge’s order stands
By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Apr 24, 2017

Sued once over school tax increases, Lower Merion calls for another hike above state cap
Updated: APRIL 25, 2017 — 1:06 PM EDT 
by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer @Kathy_Boccella | kboccella@phillynews.com

Lower Merion School District: Battle over taxes, spending on lawyers and sushi continues By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com
@rpilgenfritz on Twitter Nov 4, 2016

Philadelphia Magazine: Lower Merion Parents Outraged Over “Mega School” Plans
Some schools in the elite school district are bursting at the seams, and there are big concerns over proposed solutions.
by CLAIRE SASKO· 9/28/2017, 12:12 p.m

Philadelphia Magazine: Lower Merion Teachers Are Highest Paid In State, But They Want More
The average salary for Lower Merion School District educators is just shy of $100,000 – but that’s not enough, the teachers’ union says.
by JOE TRINACRIA· 9/5/2017, 4:23 p.m.

 Philadelphia Magazine: Adderall Abuse at Lower Merion High School Is the Focus of a New York Times Piece
by MIKE BERTHA· 6/12/2012, 12:02 p.m.

 Philadelphia Magazine: Accused of Sex With Student, Fired Lower Merion Teacher Sues District
Yes, another lawsuit for the Main Line school
by VICTOR FIORILLO· 12/20/2011, 10:50 a.m.

Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, outdoor and nature

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.

Here is a snippet from the Philadelphia Inquirer article from October 2017 by writer Kathy Boccella: 

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 Board?
Your email will be distributed to the School Directors: communitycomments@lmsd.org

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: buckmaa@lmsd.org

Mr. Robert Copeland Superintendent of Schools     copeland@lmsd.org  (also this e-mail shows up on the Internet copelar@lmsd.org )

Denise LaPera Executive Assistant to the Superintendent
Phone: 610-645-1930  Fax: 610-645-0703
Email: laperad@lmsd.org
301 E. Montgomery Ave., Ardmore, PA 19003

#SaveStoneleigh