once again, lower merion school district and her cheerleaders can’t see the forest for the trees….so why not just clear cut the forest?

May be an image of tree, outdoors and text that says 'SAVE THIS FOREST!'

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):

communitycomments@lmsd.org
publiccomment@lowermerion.org
shouchins@lowermerion.org

drmumin@lmsd.org

mcgloia@lmsd.org

shaferm@lmsd.org

Now including those email addresses because if you have been sending emails their comment email address keeps getting overwhelmed.

Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board Meeting Cancelled 1/25/22

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.

Allow me also to share verbiage from a petition about this (and sign that too while you are at it!):

THIS PETITION IS SPONSORED BY CLIMATE ACTION LOWER MERION (CALM) https://www.climateactionlm.org/ contact us at climateactionlm@gmail.com

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.

Photo Courtesy of Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh.

Interesting reading on Lower Merion School District:

Inquirer: “Stoneleigh garden may be saved from Lower Merion school district by new law”
June 25, 2018

By Natural Lands

WHYY ‘Disconcerting to be a taxpayer and not be heard’: Lower Merion residents rebuke school district in open space battle
By Kenny Cooper October 14, 2021

6 ABC Save Stoneleigh supporters storm Lower Merion School Board meeting
By Annie McCormick

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philadelphia Magazine: Lower Merion Schools: OK, We’ll Leave Most of Stoneleigh Alone By Claire Sasko 2018

Inquirer: “Is Stoneleigh safe? Lower Merion district buys nearby property for middle school”
July 20, 2018
By Natural Lands

LMHS Newsroom
UPDATE ON PROPERTY ACQUISITION (2019)

UPDATE ON PROPERTY ACQUISITION (2018)

MOI: A Closer Look
The Moment of Integration – Project Description

http://www.lowermerionhistory.org/photos/wynnewoodnew.html

Lower Merion The First 300: Public Schools

Postmortem: Redistricting battle in Lower Merion
A week ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear Students Doe v. Lower Merion School District, ending the legal debate over the Lower Merion School Board’s redistricting plan
.

by Adam Bredenberg
Published Jun 28, 2012

NOVEMBER 16, 2021 Lower Merion community wants new middle school named after late principal Sean Hughes
Students and parents have started an online petition to honor the longtime educator, but district policy explicitly prohibits naming buildings after people
BY HANNAH KANIK

PhillyVoice Staff

IT run amok: Pa. school allegedly spied on students via webcams by Bill Detwiler in TR Dojo, in Hardware on February 19, 2010, 6:03 AM PST

Great Horned Owl Nest. Photo Courtesy of Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh.

is the billboard baron trying to return to lower merion for a do-over?

pizap-com15055790913921

I am stepping out of Chester County to write about something I still hate: BILLBOARDS.

I grew to truly hate billboards while living in Lower Merion Township. (You can read all the old Main Line Media News articles by hitting up their search archives.)

I received a phone call in 2008 I think it was: “How do you feel about billboards because there is an imminent threat to Bryn Mawr?” When I heard the location, I was astounded. When I heard the proposed size of the billboards, I was also dumbfounded because I was told there were to be two proposed, with sizes of approximately 672 square feet each. That’s I-95 huge on  the equivalent Main Street.

Back then one day I was sitting in a neighbor’s garden and  I thought about those billboards. You see, gardens no matter how small are one of life’s great gifts. But what if billboards became the view? Because for a few small neighborhoods on the Main Line I felt that would be just awful.

We fought those billboards for years between Lower Merion and Haverford Townships.  The billboard cases are STILL pending for Haverford Township I was told a few months ago, but I thought the issue was dead for Lower Merion Township until this afternoon when someone sent me this:

billboard groundhog day 2billboard groundhog day in lmt

It doesn’t take a bloodhound led by Sherlock Holmes to figure out sadly who appears to be back:

catalyst 3catalyst 4catalyst 5catalyst 6

Oy vey, it must be billboard groundhog day right?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When you’re talking about beautifying our communities, how are the billboards beautiful except to the guy fattening his wallet with them?

When these billboard issues are challenged it always seems as if the billboard companies think their First Amendment rights are being denied which I never get. Did our Founding Fathers help create the First Amendment so billboard-company owners could erect billboards in our communities? I believe this is an issue of public health, safety and welfare, yet here we are stuck on “need” versus “want” parading around in a constitutional-rights costume?

And can we all admit light pollution is real and digital billboards have the potential to be EXTRA distracting to drivers?

This same company has billboard nonsense still pending in Tredyffrin for Paoli where they wish to plunk their GIANT digital billboard down at 252 and Route 30 where the Okie Clockworks building is at present. My friend Pattye wrote this summer on her blog about it:

A “Community Not Divided” – The Fate of the Digital Billboard Rests With Zoning Hearing Board – Final Decision October 24
July 26, 2019

Thank you to the many residents who filled the seats of the township building or stood in the back of Keene Hall last night for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. Thank you to the many residents who last night (and at the two previous Zoning Hearing Board meetings) eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.

As the last resident to speak in opposition to the digital billboard last night my words were simple, “we are not a community divided”! For eleven months, since Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first came to the township with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks building and install two large digital billboards and a reflecting pool, the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want the digital billboard. Period….

So where do we go from here?  After much discussion between the Zoning Hearing Board members, its solicitor and attorneys from the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, a timeline for legal responses from both sides was established. Much of this discussion was difficult to follow but at the end, I asked two questions for clarification; (1) when would the residents who sought ‘party status’ know if it was granted and (2) when would the Zoning Hearing Board make their final determination.

There will be a special meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday, October 24 (presumably at 7 PM but not announced). At that meeting, the public will learn which residents receive party status and we will know the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board.

As I said last night to the members of the Zoning Hearing Board, the final decision rests with them– the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to them to uphold and support.  The public has spoken … this is not a community divided!

Even State Senator Andy Dinniman dislikes the idea of billboards in our communities:

But we are talking about Lower Merion again here.  I am somewhat gobsmacked that they are trying again given the last time they challenged Lower Merion Township on billboards. See article from December 2012:

State Court rejects Bryn Mawr billboard appeal
By Cheryl Allison
callison@mainlinemedianews.com

That space on a wall facing Bryn Mawr’s Five Points intersection will remain blank, following a state court’s rejection of a billboard company’s appeal of a violation order in Lower Merion Township.

On Wednesday, a three-judge Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel upheld an Oct. 14, 2010, decision by the township’s zoning hearing board that an 8 ½-by-34-foot vinyl-wrapped sign on a building at 762-766 Old Railroad Avenue was illegal.

AdSmart Outdoor Advertising Inc. had appealed the zoning board’s decision to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which in February affirmed the township order. The company immediately took the matter to the higher court, but in March removed the billboard while the appeal was pending…..

The court found that AdSmart had not demonstrated good faith “in failing to seek any type of zoning approval” before erecting the sign, and rejected its request for the award of costs and fees.

Citing case law, Simpson wrote, “A person who completely disregards the requirement of securing a building permit cannot acquire any vested right in the structure.”

Mind you after Superior Court, this went to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and even THEY said no:

PA Supreme Court: Five Points Billboard Will Stay Down
The court rejected (another) appeal last week.
By Tom Sunnergren, Patch Staff
Jun 4, 2013 10:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 5, 2013 8:10 pm ET

The Five Points Intersection billboard will stay down.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Adsmart Outdoor Advertising‘s petition for an allowance of appeal, putting what looks to be an end to the longstanding controversy over the billboard that was removed last spring.

“It’s the final nail in the coffin for the Bryn Mawr billboard,” Lower Merion’s Ward 10 Commissioner Scott Zelov told his constituents in an email. “This is another victory against unwanted billboards that don’t belong in our suburban community.”

 

So OMG it IS  LITERALLY groundhog day at least in Bryn Mawr and the other location? WHY?????

Appeal No. 4473
Applicant: 766 W. Railroad Outdoor, LLC
Property: 762, 764, & 766 West Railroad Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
known as tax map parcel nos. 40-00-48496-00-1; 40-00-48500-00-6; and
40-00-48504-00-2
a.k.a. 762, 764, & 766 Old Railroad Avenue West, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(Election District #10) C 2 Commercial District

The Applicant proposes to install a billboard sign on the exposed party wall between 762 and 764 West Railroad Avenue and is challenging the substantive validity of the Zoning Ordinance, in accordance with the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) sections 909.1(a)(1) & 916.1(a)(1).
The Applicant contends that the Lower Merion Township Zoning Ordinance improperly restricts the development and use of land in the Township for billboards (i.e. off-site premises signage); specifically that 1) §155-93.3 E of the Zoning Ordinance limits the placement of billboards to properties only within the Manufacturing and Industrial zoning district, along with the dimensional requirements for billboards are a) unreasonable, arbitrary, unduly restrictive, exclusionary, and
not a valid exercise of the Township’s police powers, and b) unreasonably infringe upon an affected landowner’s constitutionally protected right to freely use and enjoy the landowner’s property for a billboard, 2) the provisions of §155-93.3 E, when taken together, make it such that there is no area within the Township where a billboard sign would be permitted, 3) §155-93.3 E is illusory in that it gives the impression that billboards are permitted but takes that ability away
with the imposition of the restrictions found in its provisions, and 4) §155-93.3 E is contrary to the MPC and PA case law as to billboard signage. The Applicant also challenges the ability of the Township to require the Applicant to fund an escrow account that reimburses the Township consultants and its legal counsel to provide services in opposition to this challenge application.

The Applicant requests that the Zoning Hearing Board find that §155-93.3 E of the Zoning Ordinance is invalid.  Anyone interested in reviewing the application and plans may review this information in the Building Regulations Division at the Township Building, between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday
through Friday. Anyone requiring special accommodations for the Meeting or the Hearing should contact this office at least three days prior to the hearing (610-645-6172 or  mwylie@lowermerion.org).

It’s that location again years later? WHY????

And who owns the building now? (I never knew back then.)   Once again, everything old is new again…sigh. I no longer live in Lower Merion, but this is craziness in my humble opinion and I had to point it out. I will also note that not only is there the billboard issue in Tredyffrin I pointed out earlier in this post, there is whatever happened to the billboard issue in West Whiteland  for Route 100 that would be next to where there was that fire recently and where does THAT stand?

Billboards are still blight upon our communities.  We have enough screen time every day as it is that we don’t need them supersized and along our roads and in our communities, do we? Yet….

Buckle up Lower Merion and get out the popcorn.

4473 – application – Validty challenge Billboard W Railroad Ave Bryn Mawr

4473 – 766 W. Railroad Outdoor, LLC 762-764-766 West Railroad Ave Bryn Mawr memo 9-19-2019

ZHB notice 9-19-2019

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