old paoli at risk in tredyffrin and what’s up in mt. pleasant?

Sadly, these are the four “Seven Sisters” houses on Chestnut Road slated for demolition to make way for a multi-story apartment building. ~Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

Sadly, these are the four “Seven Sisters” houses on Chestnut Road in Paoli slated for demolition to make way for a multi-story apartment building. ~Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

My friend Pattye ended her post today with a sentence I would have led with:

Please do not misunderstand; I support economic redevelopment if thoughtful and well-planned.

 

I concur, but the sad truth is we rarely see thoughtful and well-planned redevelopment or infill development (are you listening or hearing anyone yet Brian O’Leary and Chester County Planning Commission???)

So the other day I wrote a post about more bad development planned for Tredyffrin Township. My main focus was Benson’s plan for Howellville (he’s the guy who said he would restore Linden Hall in East Whiteland if he was allowed to build townhomes, but all he did was sell his approved plans to Pulte who is still cramming them in on Lancaster Ave in Frazer ….And yes everything is Malvern now much like everything further west is Chester Springs even if it isn’t, but I digress.)

Anyway, there were a couple of other things on Tredyffrin Planning, including a cram plan for shoehorning in an apartment building on Chestnut Road in Paoli.

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Wonder where this is?  Here is a Google aerial view to help:

chestnut-aerial

Paoli, as a village, was larger but similar to places like Ardmore with residential neighborhoods which were planned and existed off Lancaster Pike (Lancaster Ave).  People still live in them today, and on Chestnut there are quite a few restored houses.

Tredyffrin like East Whiteland has no historic preservation ordinance in place and in spite of near losses like that of the Covered Wagon Inn (which if it wasn’t for my friend Pattye would be a pile of rubble), there seems to be no discernible forward movement in this area.

I wonder, is Murph Wysocki listening?  I seem to remember what he said when running for supervisor around 2013:

…My vision for the future of TredyffrinTownship is to preserve again what we have here that’s all good –our neighborhoods, our open spaces….

Chestnut Road in Paoli is still a neighborhood even if you also find mixed use and commercial in and around it. So what about these neighborhoods? Not fancy enough to save? What happens when all the inventory of starter homes and downsizing homes are gone?

This is why I have several philosophical differences with those who run and govern Tredyffrin and neighboring townships like East Whiteland.  The zeal for development and ratables combined with a lack of real community planning that communities actually want mixed with a disregard for historic preservation is just a big problem.

Paoli’s orginal roots were 18th century and Joshua Evans’ Inn – General Paoli’s Tavern – named after a Corsican General Pasquale Paoli. General Paoli also inspired the American Sons of Liberty.  Paoli is also famous for the Battle of Paoli/Paoli Massacre  (battlefields stretch into Malvern as we all know).

Where we are talking about is not 18th century Paoli, but 19th century Paoli.  19th century Paoli grew out of the railroad. First the village grew with the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, which became the Pennsylvania Railroad and their famous “Main Line” which ended at Paoli….you know why we still say the Main Line ENDS at Paoli? Paoli was the western terminus.

Paoli has quite a few small neighborhoods like this and it terrifies me that they could all just cease to exist through a lack of historic preservation and proper planning.

And the most terrifying thing of all?  THESE PROPERTIES ARE ALREADY UNDER ONE OWNER which means unless stopped, this plan could move FAST!

This is where I let Pattye’s post take over, and I will join you for a last word about continuing issues in Tredyffrin’s panhandle adjacent to Radnor Township.

Trading in four 19th century houses in Paoli for a new multi-story apartment building … is this progress?

The four houses to be demolished are individually included in the 2003 Tredyffrin Township Historic Resource Survey book.  For the township’s survey, the houses were surveyed and photographed. The historic consultant described their architectural style as “gable-end Colonial Revival cottage” and dated the properties to 1895.

Through local history, the neighborhood of the seven 19th century homes on the east side of Chestnut Road was known as Paoli’s “Seven Sisters”.  Now one hundred and twenty-two years later and four of the ‘sisters’ are on the brink of demolition. Single family homes of the 19th century to be replaced by 21st century multi-family apartment building. Destruction of local history in the name of progress …?

Although the four 19th century homes are included in the township’s historic resource book, the identification is meaningless as Tredyffrin remains a municipality without a historic preservation ordinance of protection.  Without historic protection and the property’s inclusion in the Town Center zoning district, the proposed apartments are a permitted use. Chestnut Road Apartments will join the other new apartment plan in Paoli – Station Square on the corner of N. Valley and West Central.

Close-up of Colonial Revival cottage, c.1895 house on Chestnut Road that will come down for the proposed new apartment building.

Close-up of Colonial Revival cottage, c.1895 house on Chestnut Road in Paoli that will come down for the proposed new apartment building.

…The proposed Howellville Road townhouse plan returned to the Planning Commission. No Tredyffrin resident spoke in favor of the project and several in the audience voiced opposition……Neighbors spoke about the existing traffic issues on Howellville Road and the negative impact of this proposed townhouse on the community. Others, including myself, spoke of the historic significance of the village (and the old winding country road) and the changes the project will mean to the character of the area…..These proposed townhouses should not be marketed as a downsizing option – we were told each unit is 3,000 sq. ft.!  (READ MORE BY CLICKING HERE)

A reminder, this is the way Howellville could look:

howellville-road-townhome-plans
This is what it looks like now:
Pattye Benson photo

Howellville today. Pattye Benson photo

Tredyffrin, like neighboring East Whiteland needs to slow their development roll.  George Washington sure wouldn’t want to sleep there today, would he?

Now the last word.  Historic Mount Pleasant.

Mt. Pleasant is a historically important part of Tredyffrin adjacent to Radnor Township in Tredyffrin’s “pan handle”.

Because Tredyffrin also did not deal with student rentals for so long, this is also where student housing slumlords have set up quite the slumlord student rental shop, and well suffice it to say, the college students who rent there have historically treated an entire historic area like animal house.

I have a friend who lives there and the stories over the years have been appalling.  Things like urinating on children’s toys in some someone’s yard. Beer cans and party debris littering the streets. Out of control parties. Residents being shall we say, intimidated?

As my friend said around 2009:

I would like Tredyffrin to take a look at the historic value of Mount Pleasant.

The Carr House on the corner of Upper Gulph and Radnor Street Road was built c. 1774. The Carr School was built in 1833. My house, according to the deed was built around 1789. 961 Mt. Pleasant Avenue was built around 1810. 941 Mt. Pleasant was built around 1860.

And what about the significance of Mount Pleasant over the past 100 years as a historically african-american neighborhood?

As was said in 2010:

The Mount Pleasant neighborhood is located on the north side of Upper Gulph Road, across from St. Davids Golf Club…. several unsettling changes taking place in their neighborhood – the influx of investors converting family homes into student housing, and developers buying and razing properties to build new housing…..

Another issue troubling many in Mount Pleasant is the amount of land that has been snatched up in the past few years by developers. The demolition of homes and clear-cutting of land are viewed as detracting from the history and character of this predominately African-American community.

One developer reportedly clear-cut trees and shrubs despite a development plan that spared mature trees. In the process, some private property was cleared without the homeowners’ permission. Another developer demolished a house at 958 Mount Pleasant Rd., leaving the lot debris, trash and weed-filled, attracting rodents. This mess has sat unattended for over a year.

Maisie B Hall house 210 – Photo courtesy http://www.ttdems.com

The property under development at the foot of Henry Avenue appeared recently tidied and covered with erosion-control netting. However, at least three homes marked for demolition at this site continue to sit abandoned and a danger to neighborhood children. One is the century-old home (shown left) of revered community leader and civil rights activist, Mazie B. Hall.

 

Now this where I have always been puzzled about Tredyffrin.  They have bragging rights to Mazie Hall since she lived in Mt. Pleasant. I think they named a park after her. So why not honor her 103 years on this earth by trying to preserve the community she fought for and called home? Every time I hear anything about Mt. Pleasant I feel like they are trying to erase it.

Here is what Ryan Richards, who used to write for the Suburban, wrote about Mazie Hall upon her death in 2005:

Obituary: Civil-rights activist and educator Mazie Hall dies at 103 Date: 2005
Suburban and Wayne Times

By Ryan Richards

Mazie B. Hall – educator, mentor, civil-rights activist, community leader and friend to many – passed away Sunday evening at age 103.

She was affectionately known simply as “Miss Mazie,” and until only recently she called the Mt. Pleasant section of Tredyffrin her home since her birth in 1902. According to those who knew her, Miss Hall left a legacy of caring and compassion.

“She lived her life and she lived it greatly,” remarked Kevin Stroman, a native of Mt. Pleasant and close friend of Miss Hall. “She was just a living legend; her legacy was how many lives that she touched, not just through education but personally.”

“She was an inspiration and beacon to us all through educational, civic, horticultural contributions to the Main Line community, and especially her beloved Wayne,” said Mrs. Arnelia Hollinger, a Wayne resident of nearly 35 years and former chair of Radnor Township’s Community Awareness Committee…..Yet, according to Rector, she was humble, not “stuffy,” and modestly talked about her life. She fondly recalled her luncheon visits to her Mt. Pleasant home, where Miss Hall was a genteel host. She baked a special dessert, Sally Lunn cake, a slightly sweetened teacake, reminisced Rector, serving it with the proper silverware and glasses. The gracious host also took her guest on a tour of the grounds.

“She showed me trees that her father had planted,” she remembered.

Miss Hall graduated from the former Tredyffrin-Easttown High School and then graduated from West Chester Normal School (West Chester University). Until her death, she was the university’s oldest graduate. The school maintains a scholarship fund in her honor.

She taught school for many years in New Jersey’s Camden School District. Her career as an educator also included serving one year as principal at the former Mt. Pleasant School in Tredyffrin in the 1930s. When schools in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District became segregated, she was involved in the movement for desegregation.

She teamed up with long-time friend Margaret Collins to crusade for fair-housing practices on the Main Line during the 1950s. Their efforts influenced the formation of the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Act, the basis for federal fair-housing laws.

READ THE REST HERE

Now I knew Miss Collins as I called her. I used to wait on her when I worked at Bryn Mawr Feed & Seed a million years ago. She loved to garden.  She would show up in her crazy beat up old station wagon and I was the one who would wait on her.  I worked there at that nursery after I stopped working in New York. I was totally disenchanted at that time by the financial services industry and decided to explore my passion for gardening professionally. (Suffice it to say working for the widow who inherited and eventually shuttered the business almost killed my joy of gardening for a while, but that is a story for another day.)

Miss Collins, by the time I met her was a very old lady like her friend Mazie Hall.  But what a career they had.   Read about some of what they did on the website Housing Equality Center of PA.  Also the papers of Mazie Hall are curated and archived by Temple University, while her friend Margaret Collins’ papers are at Swarthmore College.

So sorry for going off on a tangent, but when I think of Mazie Hall and all that she accomplished, I think of Miss Collins.  And when I think of Mt. Pleasant, I think of Mazie Hall.

Back to Mt. Pleasant.  It still suffers from off campus student housing and now it also apparently suffers from developers who get away with crazy stuff.  Like this photo I am about to show you:

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Mt. Pleasant has been photographed in the past HERE and HERE. I am wondering if it needs to be photographed again? (Residents can feel free to message the blog’s Facebook page with any photos they care to share)

If you lived in a neighborhood of small homes, would you want this thing next to you? And how is that garage a basement?

Tredyffrin has zoning and development issues.  They are hardly alone in Chester County with this as I have mentioned before. Developer driven zoning and zoning overlays eats communities one road at a time like an army of Pac-Men.  Community input should actually be taken into consideration, not just paid lip service to.  And these smaller neighborhoods like you see in Paoli being threatened are often representative of a community’s more affordable housing.

I am sorry but not sorry in my thought that people do not move to Chester County to live crammed in like lemmings in overpriced squished together townhouses and apartments.

Here’s hoping townships like Tredyffrin and East Whiteland which share borders, history, and apparently developers learn to hit the pause button before what makes each of these municipalities special is eradicated one bad plan at a time.

#SlowDownChesterCountyPADevelopment

be glad you live a little off the main line…

…I know I am.  

Sure, every area has issues.  No local government is perfect, and yes, there is always something to complain  about, but seriously?  I moved out of a township that prided itself on being “first class”, yet it in essence required an act of Congress to accomplish something as basic as filling a pothole.

Yes, Lower Merion Township.  The Magic Kingdom as it is known (sarcastically) in some circles, isn’t what she used to be.  You have a political majority that believes they know better than everyone, and as a resident you feel as if you work to support the township.

Where do a lot of these negative feelings stem from?  A lot of them have to do with all the crazy infill development plans and the fact that it has been over 30 years since Lower Merion had a completed Comprehensive Plan update.  Some land planner told me once that as per the Municipalities Planning Code in PA municipalities are supposed to do this every couple of years.

When I used to wake up in Lower Merion, although a high rent district, the cacophony of sound that assaulted my senses on a daily basis was quite urban.  Construction and other noises often way too early.   Here when I wake up, I hear birds.  You have NO idea how marvelous a sound that is unless you have experienced the other.

Development plans in Lower Merion, suit the developers, not the residents.  For example, the development begun in my old neighborhood by a wannabe developer, architect Tom Hall, and then turned over to Cornell builders was shoe-horning in thirteen townhouses in barely over an acre.  But the houses are “green” and you can spit at The Haverford School, which was perhaps the most uncaring neighbor in my neighborhood.   You have no idea what it is like to live with an institution as a neighbor in close quarters.  We existed to be their overflow parking lot and speed thru cell phone mommy/nanny zone.  The nicest thing about that school are some of my friends’ sons.

In Ardmore, the neighboring town, mostly in Lower Merion, for years not so long ago, small business owners had to fight eminent domain for private gain.  Ardmore residents and business owners are still suffering because although no one can spend money like Lower Merion Township, they still can’t get the Ardmore Redevelopment Plan off the ground.  Of course, many feel, that those on township staff who put forth the infamous plans A & B that contained eminent domain for private gain for years should have just been removed from their jobs.  But they stayed and the six million dollars  that a couple of commissioners went to Washington DC many years ago to get has basically been frittered away, and while places like Malvern and Wayne have a new train station, all Lower Merion has are plans.

Read here about Ardmore’s and other Lower Merion development woes in this week’s Main Line Media News.

Also in Lower Merion, there is crazy zoning being planned for around City Avenue.  So if you think it’s fun now when you get caught in traffic around there, just wait.

Lower Merion loves infill development plans.  The more congested the better.  When I was a child growing up there, like I do now here in Chester County, then I also heard birds and nature as my waking sounds.  It is so much less stressful to hear birds versus construction.

Radnor is not so problematic since they got a new Township Manager and some new commissioners.  Of course, their current president, Bill Spingler is more like old school Delco politics and we’ll leave it at that….hopefully he won’t be president too long.  But Radnor’s new manager,  Bob Zienkowski, as opposed to the old one who made headlines and got relieved of his duties (Dave Bashore), is an accessible advocate for his residents.  It makes a huge difference.  Which is why I am hopeful that Radnor residents will be heard fairly as Villanova attempts to supersize the university (read about Villanova’s expansion plans here ).  It won’t be easy since one commissioner has had to recuse herself, and given Bill Spingler’s cozy personal relationship with the attorney on this project, should this in fact be the commissioner who recuses? After all sometimes isn’t it hard to feel secure around a career politician like Spingler, who offered once upon a time to write a reccomendation letter for the manager the township fired (Dave Bashore)?

One thing that bears watching in Radnor are residents taking up their proverbial pitch forks against storm water issues in North Wayne. (Check out this YouTube from a recent meeting.) What cracks me up here is the woman with dark hair and pony tail.  She wants to sue, sue, sue and all the storm water issues stem from AT&T in Wayne and so on.  While the storm water issues are indeed large and increasingly problematic, truthfully they don’t even realize how people have been working for years on this.  She isn’t breaking new ground so to speak.

In February of 2009, a situation created by the railroad in North Wayne bugged me enough that I wrote an editorial for Main Line Media News about it. The end result was, a Septa engineer high on the food chain contacted me, and without even having to deal with Radnor’s old regime, they actually built some storm water management into the station makeover in Wayne.

It’s not perfect, but better than it used to be.

And this woman who did the presentation at the Radnor commissioners’ meeting (Channel 30 on FiOs FYI)  and a neighbor who says she lives next to a field and the Gulph Creek (wonder if she’s the one who built an addition to a carriage house where the outside door in the rear basically looks like if you open it the creek can just come on in?) who are in this meeting tape, well I get why they are upset, as I have seen first hand the flooding in North Wayne, but as they rant and rail against Radnor, they also need to consider a neighboring municipality.

Ahhh, there is some Chester County of it all in this post, isn’t there?

I am talking about Tredyffrin.  Tredyffrin is upstream on the Gulph Creek from this flood zone in Radnor.   Now Tredyffrin is also in the paper this week talking about some focus group and needing storm water solutions. Fabulous!  However, while the article talks about the need to make sure the storm water stuff is tough enough when it comes to Joe Duckworth’s plans for the Richter tract, nowhere have I seen Tredyffrin talk about the trickle down effect of their prior poor planning in neighboring municipalities.  I am talking in part about Church of the Savior in Tredyffrin.    A lot of issues occur UPstream.  Just check out this document I found from 2000 about storm water.

I guess from the Church of the Savior’s perspective and Tredyffrin’s it is holier to flood your neighbors?  Now granted, I find Church of the Savior to be in the category of religiously creepy, so some could say I have a bias, but Tredyffrin to me always seems a little kooky on the development front and in some other areas.  And if they can’t see it from the township building windows in Tredyffrin, more the better.  Just look at how long it took Tredyffrin to deal with things like off campus student housing.  After all, they couldn’t see historic Mt. Pleasant from the Township Building, could they?

I guess what I am saying is, I have seen and lived what poor development and land planning causes communities (along with the politcs of political favoritism and one party rule run amok), so maybe once in a while, I might point them out.  After all, would you rather listen to birds or bulldozers? Wouldn’t you rather hear about politicians and officials that care about their communities and not just during election cycles?

If you are a person interested in issues Tredyffrin, please check out my pal Pattye Benson’s blog Community Matters.  She also happens to be innkeeper at The Great Valley House of Valley Forge.  She wrote about the recent stormwater meeting that includes discussion of the latest New Urbanism Disneyland Joe Duckworth might do.  If you are interested in the Richter Tract plans put Richter in the search box on her blog. A post she wrote on conflict of interest is well worth your time in addition to other posts.

Above all else, take an interest in where you live.  It’s a good thing.