Today social media groups on the Main Line are all abuzz about a particular development plan. It is proposed for Bryn Mawr. I think it’s awful.
It is the same developer apparently as the “Berwyn Square” that Eastown just said no to. Which was truly remarkable because Eastown never says no to anything.
I didn’t just connect the dots to all these development plans, Savvy Main Line did it for us (CLICK HERE FOR SAVVY)
Too. Damn. Much. Development.
The Bryn Mawr plan is shocking. Having grown up on the Main Line, and especially because where I went to high school was Shipley which is in Bryn Mawr, I spent a lot of years in Bryn Mawr. And I can tell you a great deal of the wonderful “village” feel disappeared when Bryn Mawr Hospital supersized. But a plan like this? I think it would kill what is left of the small town Main Street kind of vibe.
Obviously I no longer live in Lower Merion so even though I sent the commissioner for the ward that contains Bryn Mawr an email, I know my opinion doesn’t matter, I just gave it anyway. I figure he owes it to me to listen since way back when he wanted to become a commissioner in the first place a group I was part of helped him get elected.
The other reality of this plan and if you look at the last screenshot in this post it shows a rendering of sorts, and it also totally doesn’t show you what that Lancaster Ave (Route 30) intersection in Bryn Mawr is really like. It is an extraordinarily busy and accident prone intersection. It’s where Morris Avenue ends and Bryn Mawr Ave. begins. It’s where Ludington library is, the main and original branch of Bryn Mawr Trust Company is there. It’s where the train station is and a block or so from where the hospital begins.
The above photo was taken in 2007. One of the many accidents at this intersection. This particular accident I believe resulted in the fatality of the driver in the car in front of the bus. I also had another friend who was hit pushing her babies across the street in a stroller on a pedestrian walk signal at this corner. At that time, there was an NBC10 report on that accident.
No one is going to say that the building currently on the corner where they are proposing to put this apartment development is attractive. It’s never been attractive. But every development that is proposed is overly dense no matter where you live and whichever township or county you call home.
The above photo is a development in progress in Downingtown. Another massive development. And none of these developments are particularly distinguishable from each other. Which is why I find great humor in the “brynmawr square“ and “Berwyn Square” development proposals
Above you see the development often discussed in East Whiteland. I don’t understand how the people who are paid to do the planning for these townships as well as elected officials have no vision.
At the end of the day this is why we desperately need to update the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This amount of development is not sustainable. And I will never believe the emperor’s new clothes fairytale that it is.
It’s very sad that it has come to this, but pick the township, town, and county and there’s always a bad development plan or several bad development plans. We are the ones that live in these communities and it’s time for elected officials to start listening to us.
Wandering back to Lower Merion Township today. Yes, I do that on occasion, although these days it’s mostly virtually. I know some people who read my blog and visit the blog’s Facebook page are occasionally outraged when I don’t write about either Chester County or whatever they think I should be writing about. But life journeys are individual, and kind of like my writing journey, yes?
Growing up in Lower Merion, one of the things I loved most were the homes and the gardens. Stately, modest, actual estates, twins, cottages, mansions, and everything in between. Back in those days, the history of the area mattered. And the gardens were glorious whether large or small.
But then, October 1, 2009, Addison Mizner’s La Ronda was demolished. I was there with many others outside the gates. I documented it in photos. She was such a gorgeous structure. So historic. Part of the history of the area, yet even as a historic resource, she was torn down and exists only in memories and photographs.
When La Ronda was demolished, I knew deep down in my heart that Lower Merion was no longer the place for me. It had completely at that moment become about people and how much money they had, and not much else. When La Ronda came down I realized no property was safe or valued there. It was a sad realization.
Over the years I have continued to document notable properties. People have the right to sell to whomever they choose. People have the right to demolish homes great, large, wonderful, small, whatever. But I still lament the people who can’t see the value of the architectural history of an area, and the impact it has. Well another home popped up on a mental endangered list (as in my mind and opinion, I don’t know if it is on an actual list anywhere) because of a Historic Commission agenda in Lower Merion for February 22nd:
Sigh. 651 Black Rock Road. They say it’s Gladwyne, but it’s actually Bryn Mawr. I knew who lived there although they were not friends. Of course people wish to downsize and move on. But for this house to be facing the fate of the wrecking ball is just so tragic. This house is spectacular, with mature gardens and an amazing property and pool.
If you look at all the photos, ok the kitchen is a little dated, and perhaps the bathrooms to the taste of some, but this property and home are spectacular. Quite literally, they don’t build them like this anymore. And the gardener in me wonders about plants that may have been there since the house was built.
So according to Lower Merion’s website, this is in Commissioner Scott Zelov’s ward? He was a champion of saving Stoneleigh and once upon a time against eminent domain in Ardmore (it’s why he got elected originally and I know, I was there), will he have an opinion on this if it proceeds to demolition? But will it matter?
Nope. It won’t. People have the right to demolish. Sadly.
Historic preservation can’t just be a vague idea, it actually has to happen. It has to matter. And in Lower Merion, starting way before La Ronda got bulldozed, it ceased to matter. Lower Merion’s current manager was West Chester Borough’s Manager before ascending to the plum position of Lower Merion Township Manager. And although I have nothing against the man personally, he always appeared to me to be pro-development over other things. And the current Director of Building and Planning is someone I watched climb the ladder at Lower Merion. And I have always found him pro development over anything else. He won’t like me for mentioning this but I sat through YEARS of meeting watching him flip his hair like Farrah Fawcett and present developer’s plans like he worked for them, does anyone else remember?
Anyway, the house is still standing as of now, but this is on an agenda and according to Lower Merion there is a demolition permit. What will happen when all of the old and historic houses and their gardens are gone? In Lower Merion and elsewhere?
Historic preservation isn’t really going to matter until it matters to all of us consistently across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And I do not believe every old house can and should be saved, but when you see houses like this one you have to wonder because beautiful places like this is what drew people to the Main Line in the first place. Until then, why preserve when you can demolish?
Thanks for stopping by and stay safe, roads are icy.
Would you tear down this house? Well somebody is. An email this afternoon takes me right back to where I am from for a lot of my years on earth: Lower Merion Township. This house is possibly attributed to the famous architect William Price as per a historian who messaged me.
I found an old video from 2018 (watch it soon this post might make it disappear):
Ok this house is freaking fabulous and an amazing property at Morris Avenue and Waverly Road. Remarkably, I cannot find this listed as a historic resource in Lower Merion Township but that doesn’t surprise me since this was the township where Addison Hutton’s La Ronda was torn down.
This is not a post about Chester County it’s about orphaned and other bridges in need of repair in our area, state, country.
The bridge in the photo opening this post and throughout this post is the orphaned railroad bridge on Pennswood Road in Bryn Mawr, PA. It’s in Lower Merion Township. This bridge has been falling apart for decades quite honestly. I started photographing it in 2007.
It takes far too long for unsafe and run down bridges to be repaired in this country. I photographed the deterioration of this Pennswood Road bridge between 2007 and 2012. I think I had some other photos once upon a time but I can’t find them.
This bridge had holes that you could see through to the railroad tracks and rattled like all get out. Underneath this bridge runs Amtrak and SEPTA trains. The bridge is on the orphaned list like many others that were built by railroads and then orphaned – original railroad companies go out of business successor railroads disavow responsibility. I don’t quite understand how it all works but that seems to be how it works.
What happens is the federal government will pay for most of this repair, the state will pay for some of the repair, and the final bit will be the responsibility of the local municipality. In this case, Lower Merion Township. After the bridge is rebuilt it becomes the responsibility of the municipality.
I have to give credit here to the local commissioner in Lower Merion (Scott Zelov) who has been at this since he became a commissioner in 2006. It’s absolutely ridiculous that it took so long to get to this point. And the bridge was failing long before he took office. It’s been failing since I was in high school.
This is a definite problem across the country. I have seen programs on news shows that run nationally like network news on orphaned and dangerous bridges. In 2019 Pennsylvania was still on the short list of states with the worst bridges. Our state was number 2 in the country according to the CBS news affiliate in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post Gazette also covers the topic.
When I saw the news break I thought it was one of those celebrity fake news death hoaxes. When I began to realize the news wasn’t fake and shared a media report on my Facebook timeline, one of my friends had the same reaction “This is a JOKE RIGHT!!???”
It’s just sort of inconceivable. He was only 41. And he came from the area I called home for decades, Lower Merion Township.
I am not some giant professional sports fan as my friends and family will all tell you and laugh. It’s just not me. But even I followed Kobe Bryant because he went straight from Lower Merion High School to being a professional basketball player. If you lived in Lower Merion Township , his career was always just kind of part of all of us because he grew up here for a while.
We all loved the prom photos years ago. He took Brandy and they just looked so cute together:
That is a screenshot I found on Google. You didn’t often have a high school kid with a bona fide celebrity prom date. It was a lovely prom fairy tale even for grow ups. After all when you are in high school you always want your prom to be something magical, right?
I kind of would follow him via my local paper (Main Line Times/Main Line Media News) because long time news photographer Pete Bannan covered him throughout the years. (Click here to check out the photos on Main Line Media News.)
Life is so short and precious as we are reminded once again. Like millions of others, I didn’t know Kobe Bryant. But he was from where I used to live. He never forgot that which I respect enormously. He was generous and gave back.
Read this column in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I kind of loved it. And don’t take life for granted.
So where were you? What were you doing when that sickening trickle of news started to drip, drip, drip into your mind and heart? Kobe Bryant … dead? That can’t be. Kobe is strong. Kobe is always smiling…So now, do me a favor, and do yourself a favor, and do someone you love a favor. If you’re reading this, shut off your phone, close your laptop, or put the paper down. Go to your wife or your husband, or your mother or your father, or most of all your son or your daughter, and give him a hug. Give her a hug. Call them. Visit them. Tell them you love them.
In 2009, lots of people (myself included) started going to billboard hearings in Haverford Township. And in Lower Merion Township. Sometimes we numbered in the 150+ per meeting.
We all also used to protest regularly. The two townships and their solicitors and commissioners were solidly with the community too. They didn’t want these billboards anymore than the residents in these locations.
My friends in small Haverford Township neighborhoods were the most imminently threatened, like my pals on Penn Street, Dayton Road, Lee Avenue, San Marino and more (there are multiple locations in Haverford Township, these were just the streets near me.)
However, my own neighborhood which stretched out behind Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Lower Merion was potentially affected. And even worse? Where I lived was in a HISTORIC DISTRICT! (Which is why The Lower Merion Conservancy is alerting people to the court hearings beginning today in Media! It’s STILL a historic district!)
Then after a few years of attending meetings which seemed monthly if not more, my life changed. First breast cancer, followed by a move to Chester County, and I thought well at least I don’t have to worry about those ugly billboards anymore, right?
Phoenixville, Charlestown Township, West Whiteland, Tredyffrin now headed for county court, and a lot of them planned for East Whiteland Township.
I get that the billboard company owner wants to sit in traffic and look at his signs￼, but they are his signs. They don’t belong to the community at all. Which is why you see elected officials in Lower Merion and Haverford Townships still fighting for the residents and starting today, if y’all want you can join them in Media:
Also this week? The billboard company is doing a presentation at the Desmond in Malvern on what they want to do in East Whiteland. See this flyer (which I personally did not create but I am sharing):
‼️Is this Chester County or Las Vegas? Good question. ‼️
It’s no secret how I feel about these billboards. I think they’re simply awful. I don’t think they have a place in our communities. I don’t think they do anything positive for our communities. It’s all about somebody else’s sense of capitalism. And while on a certain level I begrudgingly respect their desire to make a buck, they shouldn’t do it at the expense of people in communities everywhere should they?￼￼
The media has not really picked up on billboards in East Whiteland. They should as it is just another in a long long line or list of communities facing the same company.
And why is it that these billboards have to be everywhere? Or anywhere? Let us not forget there are FOUR states in this country that do not have billboards and they seem to live just beautifully.￼ Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine—have prohibited billboards.
The protest photos you are seeing were taken by friends in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania yesterday. This morning I wish my friends who are headed or in court already in Media best of luck￼￼.
As communities near and far we are #StrongerTogether. #NoBillboards
A friend of mine sent me this today because they were up in Quakertown, PA.
This is the company that Haverford Township goes to court with this week after many years of no activity. This is the billboard company that Lower Merion Township has gone to court with and Tredyffrin Township is currently in court with as well￼￼. This is the billboard company that has been to West Whiteland, Phoenixville borough, Charlestown Township, and now is beginning a journey with East Whiteland Township￼.
I think this is like the best of tacky Vegas and that’s not where we live is it? I think it’s even worse than I 95. But that’s just my opinion.
What is your opinion on the signs out there in blog reader land? I am honestly interested in your opinions. Feel free to leave a comment.￼￼￼
Back to billboards. Happy Holidays affected residents, the issue that never seems to go away is back again.
May, 2009. That was the first billboard hearing about billboards in Haverford Township.
This includes the two ginormous billboards proposed for Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr across from the Bryn Mawr ACME and Our Mother of Good Counsel Church. Two ginormous billboards that would cast a ginormous shadow on lovely small neighborhoods in the vicinity.
Now mind you this was only one site proposed for Haverford Township, there were multiple sites. All in the shadow of churches, schools, small businesses, neighborhoods. And don’t forget the issue at five points in Bryn Mawr, which while technically in Lower Merion, also affects Radnor and Haverford Townships as this is the literal point where two counties and three townships meet. (To see articles about this topic, go to Main Line Media News and search “billboards, Bryn Mawr“.)
Well here we are at the end of 2019 and billboards are back as you can see above. This letter was sent out by Haverford Township 5th Ward commissioner Andy Lewis￼￼.
📌As per the attached letter, the hearing on the application of the Bartkowski Investment Group to install billboards in four locations in Haverford Township, including two along Lancaster Avenue at Old Lancaster and Penn Street, is scheduled to commence on Tuesday, January 21st and continue for three days. Please save the dates📌
I never know what the media is going to cover or not cover, and they have been quite devoted over the years to the residents potentially affected by these billboards. However, I have a lot of friends that still live near these billboards sites so I am posting this because how could I not? Back in the day I went to every billboard hearing until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2011￼.
I saved lots of photos from these old Haverford Township hearings and I’m posting a few of￼ them here. I want people to see things like when the firetruck shot their ladder up in Haverford Township above houses to show how tall the billboards would be￼. Or when residents in Haverford Township made a mock-up using big blue tarps of the actual size of a billboard screen being proposed.￼ and photos of residents taking to the streets over this issue.
I no longer live in or near the areas of Haverford Township being threatened, nor do I live close by to the proposed site in Tredyffrin in Paoli. But as a citizen of this country until they revoke it, I still have my First Amendment Rights… which interestingly enough has always seem to be one of the arguments for why these billboards should be allowed and I’ve never understood that and can you understand that?
#NoBillboardsInTheBurbs pass it on. Please support the residents of Haverford Township, Lower Merion Township, Tredyffrin Township, and any other township who objects to these monstrosities in their communities.
I will also note that four states—Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine—have prohibited billboards. Yes, they banned them. So why can’t we say no?
I wonder would the folks from the billboard company want BIG digital billboards on their front lawns? Probably not and I doubt their neighbors would either, right? So why shouldn’t these communities be able to say “no thank you”?
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:
It doesn’t take a bloodhound led by Sherlock Holmes to figure out sadly who appears to be back:
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:
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!
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:
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 afterSuperior Court, this went to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and even THEY said no:
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.”
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
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 email@example.com).
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….
From Gladwyne Civic Association (including photos):
River Road is closed-it will be closed all day! Coast Guard reports that River will not truly crest until 10:30am, so the worst is yet to come. Photos below are from this morning. DO NOT DRIVE INTO ANY WATER!
THIS IS FLAT ROCK PARK AND RIVER ROAD!
I have friends who live on BOTH sides of the river here – Gladwyne and Philadelphia side.
I think municipalities in South Eastern PA need to redefine “hundred year storms” and so on. This is climate change in action. We used to only get these storms and downpours once in a while and now it’s like they are becoming a far too common occurrence.