april fools’ from the pa dep on bishop tube 


My my my. My late father always said a lot of real news was buried in the Saturday paper. And here we have it.

File under April Fools’ from the Pennsylvania DEP?

At this point I can’t decide who is sleazier,  can you? Developers with their perpetual sets of the emperor’s new clothes or the state agencies who are supposed to protect us?

I wonder what does the EPA think? I realize they are a Federal agency but do they care?  Or are residents on their own with TCE across the country and the damage it does? The damage TCE has done already?

So yeah, Pennsylvania DEP, people ARE watching you. Remember Limerick? Remember how people rose up and demanded the DEP actually do their jobs and not just push paper around?

And while we are calling people out on toxic Bishop Tube and the fact that way too many in authority have known for DECADES about this site, should we not call out State Representative Duane Milne and State Senator Andy Dinniman? 

This is a deadly, toxic site and it needs to be cleaned up properly. Those three hot spots which are the only ones that supposedly are going to get cleaned up are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg and the Pennsylvania DEP knows it, don’t they?

For more recent posts on Bishop Tube see:

bishop tube in front of east whiteland march 8

calling erin brockovich?

the delaware riverkeeper opines on bishop tube to east whiteland zoning hearing board

the delaware riverkeeper sends the pa dep’s hatzell a letter…about bishop tube!

east whiteland reporting bishop tube site is OFF planning agenda for 3/22

the tale of the bishop tube documents

Pay attention to the post containing documents above, old documents tell interesting tales don’t they?

As of now there is a meeting hosted by East Whiteland Township on Bishop Tube on April 19. Note the careful wording of the notice because they have invited all the below parties to show up and hopefully all the below parties will show up considering the fact that some of them are now contacting residents right?  I think this meeting is a demonstration of good faith on the part of East Whiteland Township. Here’s hoping all  invited show up to the party, can’t we all agree?

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bishop tube plan met with a packed east whiteland zoning boardroom

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The developers did not show up with very many copies of site plans.  I do not think they were expecting a completely packed room which included people standing for the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board meeting on February 27th.

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It was so amazing to see all the people turn out.  General Warren Village and General Warren Village supporters did an AMAZING job.

17078041_1462119317134348_485323212_nAnd they had a powerful and unexpected ally in the room: Maya K. van Rossum, The Delaware Riverkeeper.

The role of the Delaware Riverkeeper is to give the Delaware River, and the communities that depend upon it and appreciate it, a voice at every decision-making table that could provide help or do harm. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network that van Rossum leads is the only citizen action organization that works the entire length and breadth of the Delaware River and its watershed, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. Delaware Riverkeeper Network has its main office in Bristol, PA and can be found on the web at www.delawareriverkeeper.org. van Rossum’s blog can be found at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/blog/ – they have a Water Watch hotline and well, in an era of David vs. Goliath, they give “David” an edge.

Maya was an incredible addition  to last night, and I will get to that later. (she is FIERCE!)

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We did have one of the three supervisors in attendance last evening, which I found heartening.

East Whiteland also sent a solicitor to represent at the zoning meeting on Bishop Tube.

Here are some notes taken on the fly – so feel free to add to them or correct:

  • Board of Supervisors responded last evening via attorney to concerns. Township is closely monitoring remediation, impact of remediation, standards and monitoring of remediation etc etc.
  • Township wants safer environment. Township right now in opposition of variance according to lawyer unless certain conditions met with Township.
  • DEP has approved conditions*  BUT township reviewing. BOS is reviewing with EAC and then they will decide whether to object to variance request.
  • March 15 special meeting being asked for by Zoning. The meeting (hearing) was ultimately continued to March 15, 2017 at 7:15 PM  
  • * “Conditions” referred to above Developer expert is talking about conditions discussed with DEP- didn’t catch all – witness for developer was speed speaking:
    ~ Establish a separate environmental escrow associated with development $20 k
    ~ Non refundable deposit to future HOA
    ~ Applicant will remediate 3 major hotspots in accordance with scope of work submitted to DEP – digging out soil as per Act 2. But it isn’t Act 2
    ~No disturbance in 3 soil hot spots until remediation complete (New construction?)
    ~ Applicant will install vapor mitigation systems. Most stringent available designed by engineer. Review said systems, maintain?
    ~ Developer would obtain stormwater permit – county/state – did not catch acronym
    ~developer will provide access to DEP etc
    ~ utilities will be developed to prohibit vapor migration/ groundwater migration
    ~environmental covenant
    ~ developer will comply with local zoning
    ~ developer will document remediation
    ~ until 3 hot spots remediated no construction of residential units.
    ~ developer would submit demolition plans to township and DEP

(NOTE: very abridged version of above – expert was speaking so very quickly and I don’t take dictation professionally so I did my best – I know I missed one of the conditions – feel free to add or clarify in comments.  It would be helpful if media had covered meeting, but I did not see any media there at all.)

  • Something about collecting storm water and capture and release to stream? Not sure if I heard that right . ZHB has concerns about retaining wall and safety- 20+ storm water “systems” – all release to stream. What environmental impact does that have considering existing toxicity of site? How is water cleaned? Whose job will it be to stay on top of that?
  • Final stormwater discharge into / near emergency access so does that mean General Warren gets water?
  • GWV residents are pointing out a shallow stream expected to take developer’s stormwater. Is GWV in part going to be part of stormwater management plan? They say no construction vehicles on village way (developer)?
  • Maya (Delaware Riverkeeper) asking about volume reduction and other things relating to creeks. Asking about correspondence on sampling between developer and DEP. Asking about TCE staying in place?
  • Residents questioning stormwater retention basin(s) and retaining wall.
  • More questions on stormwater runoff into stream and does stream have capacity to handle it?
  • Vapor intrusion being discussed by older gentleman- potential cancer cluster – people with cancer in General Warren Village? (couldn’t hear all of it clearly)
  • ZHB kept quizzing on removing top soil, Remediation , etc
  • Elevation from General Warren Village to retention walls eye level according to developer witness? Residents asking what they would see from Village Way? Someone from General Warren remarked about being able to see from “bathroom windows”
  • Maya the Delaware Riverkeeper talked about the planting of trees and trees they were removing – good point as developers tend to remove and replace NOT with the same size plantings.  And they spoke of riparian buffers, but not what they consisted of or if they would be substantial.
  • Keith Hartman who worked at Bishop Tube is asking questions. He is extremely knowledgeable about site. He spoke about how they used to “dispose” of the toxic chemicals in one part of site in the old days (sounded like they just dumped stuff kind of wherever?)
  • Mr Hartman pointing out toxic hotspots – see dark grey areas – and asking about mineral salts.16997882_1656917767655212_7768959074626449609_n

 

 

  • Mr. Hartman asking about sampling near old parking lots that were near spill. Not sure but it might have been that 1981 incident?

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  • A gentleman (I guess investigator?) from PA DEP   visited Mr. Hartman recently – Marinelli or Martinelli? (Not sure but found a Martinelli listed HERE.)

16996122_1656917777655211_6973859171944418389_nHere are  articles where Mr. Hartman was in the paper – he knows the site SO well:

For Bishop Tube workers, danger lurked for decades

 By Anne Pickering Daily Local

 

Bishop Tube site possibly up for development

POSTED: 07/26/15, 6:47 PM EDT

“Don’t let them blow smoke up your tailpipe,” said Keith Hartman, “those mineral salts must be cleaned up.”

Hartman worked for Bishop Tube when the plant was still in operation. He, like many neighbors who attended the meeting, are concerned of possible health risks to potential residents if the site is not cleaned up properly.

 

In January there was a follow up article in Daily Local about Bishop Tube:

Plans to develop contaminated East Whiteland site resubmitted

POSTED: 01/25/17, 2:09 PM EST

…..When asked what kind of remediation the site needs to undergo before construction can begin, Virginia Cain, a DEP spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the former tubing plant will need soil and groundwater remediation in accordance with cleanup standards set forth in Act 2.

Act 2, also known as the Land Recycling Program encourages “the voluntary cleanup and reuse of contaminated commercial and industrial sites,” according to the DEP.

Cain wrote that the standards in Act 2 can include both statewide health standards and site-specific standards.

When asked if the site is considered a “Superfund” site, Cain wrote that “Superfund” sites refer to a federal program, but that the Bishop Tube site “is currently on the Pennsylvania Priority List and under the authority of the DEP’s HSCA (Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act) program, which is similar to the federal Superfund program.”

17022164_1656917744321881_1116283631204593680_nNow one of the most interesting parts of the meeting occurred between Maya The Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the developer witnesses (some sort of engineer I thought).  It was at the end of the meeting before they called it to continue March 15th.

I was taking notes like crazy and this one exchange was so interesting – I did my best to be accurate but again I do not take dictation and I am not a court reporter, although there was one there:

Maya: “I would have you speak to what in fact what is left for DEP to to review and decide upon and what process is still left?

Two – There also seems to be this suggestion that anytime additional contaminants are found that they are going to be cleaned up, and so this site is going to be cleaned up…and so  I would like you to speak to this issue of whether or not in fact when you are done at this site that all of the TCE and toxic contaminants will be removed, so people don’t have to be concerned about it, or in fact is that not true and you have specifically and carefully with all your  communications with DEP actually limited the scope of your remediation including not going to uhhh saturated soils for example, 12 feet below ground surface, etc?”

 

Witness for developer: “That’s absolutely correct.”

 

Maya cuts back in “You are not? You are limiting, you are capping how much work you will do and you will intentionally leave contaminants on the site and people need to know that.”

 

Witness “That is correct.  Allow me to explain in a way that is no way nefarious…”

 

He (witness)  goes on to explain liability and  an old consent order (??is that right???)  with DEP and state version of hazardous clean up – PRPs – potentially responsible parties.  He goes on into known contamination beyond the scope of their legal responsibility – about how they will clean up so much and then it seems it will be up to DEP to enforce clean up by PRP potentially responsible parties that I guess are former manufacturing occupiers of site?

 

Witness acknowledges issues, discusses how developer will be doing more beyond satisfying their part of old (?) consent order (?) and will excavate three known soil contamination issues of the site above water table, excavate, clean up according to most stringent PA standard, residential statewide heath standard…acknowledges caused contamination of groundwater on site that migrates off site, affects tributaries of Little Valley Creek.  They believe their  soil excavations will have a beneficial effect towards clean up.

 

I do not think enough monies being set aside by developer to pay for experts East Whiteland may need to hire are much because experts are expensive – environmental lawyers and environmental engineers. Monies quoted could disappear quite quickly – those experts bill expensively, right? And what about any monies for future HOA? How does East Whiteland know if THAT is sufficient?

Other questions that  I have include the fire department – as the plans are currently drawn up are there any indications from East Whiteland Fire Department about cartways and whatever you call them? Will all fire apparatus be able to navigate site?  I feel that this  is VERY important – it is not just abut emergency access from General Warren, but will ALL of their apparatus safely navigate the plans as currently available? Those big rigs need room!

A related aside – here are the LLCs on the developer side:

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As I said previously, O’Neill knows how to do brownfield developments, but what about Benson Companies? I can only find Benson on Houzzz, no current website.  No mention of Bishop Tube on O’Neill’s website so that is somewhat concerning and want to know why? Two words: Linden Hall. Remember when Benson was thought to have been the savior of old Linden Hall? If they received their approvals for townhouses at Linden Hall, how they were going to restore Linden Hall itself as a new office for them? What did we see instead?  Wasn’t it selling approved plans to Pulte and no rehabilitation thus far only minimum maintenance?

And then there is the issue brewing in Tredyffrin Pattye Benson alerted everyone to. Historic Howelleville being their location for yet a total community destroying cram plan? And what of how Radnor residents feel about Benson?  I have to ask can Benson actually be trusted here? Or will residents go through all the heartache and meetings to have these plans sold off to someone else?

I do not recall last evening that the developer’s attorney got into the whys of it all concerning WHY the developer is seeking zoning variances, so will it be the battle cry of “economic hardship”? Or, they can’t build without a variance which would increase density in an already dense plan? And why is any developer’s potential economic hardship a burden a community getting a plan inflicted upon them not by their desire in the first place?

This site is going to be developed, I am not arguing that.  I have never argued that.  But it is a very toxic site because of the TCE and whatever else was left behind and is lodged in the land, the aquifer. How the site gets developed has always concerned me and I ask again, is this the best use for the property?

What of impact on the school district?  How are a few more hundred to potentially few thousand kids from this plan combined with Atwater and any other development large or small going to affect the school district? Has the school district weighed in on this?

Traffic lights proposed?  Who is paying for that if variance is waived? The previous zoning is in place to help preserve open space or farms or industrial from being over developed.

And what kinds of complementary businesses will be added to the surrounding area to support these new homes? Will that zoning need to be changed too?  What is it costing East Whiteland residents in legal fees for all of this now (let alone the future)? Will this plan be one that is truly economically viable for East Whiteland or become another millstone around East Whiteland’s proverbial neck?

Why always townhouses instead of single family homes?  Lighting and noise? How will this development affect General Warren Village with regard to those issues?

I do believe that the Zoning Hearing Board is weighing this all carefully, but I would say that residents MUST keep up the pressure.  Packing the boardroom last evening was a great start.  But there is a while to go.

I have done my best to relay my meeting notes accurately.  Others may add to them.  Of course it would be helpful if the media took an interest. And it would be helpful to hear what development happy Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission thinks? Does he have an opinion?  He was around serving in Lower Merion when ROHO and O’Neill’s now defunct Rock Hill Road project came about, so realistically he knows a similarly dense plan THERE was horribly unpopular as was the B.S. developer driven zoning overlay that allowed it, doesn’t he?

And what of the PA DEP? Don’t they have an obligation to make the PRP (Potentially Responsible Parties) freaking clean up the Bishop Tube site???  After all the developer will not be responsible for all that should be done so why when discussion of clean up started here so long ago, it has never happened? Remember that Law360 article from 2014 in addition? Or the memorandum from the case that was in Federal Court over this site most recently? How is it a Federal judge did not get the gravity of Bishop Tube?

There you have it in conclusion – the worst part about Bishop Tube is the longer this goes on the more we have to ask ourselves how we got here and what exactly is the PA DEP going to do about it, let alone the EPA on a Federal Level?  Or what about state elected officials? Duane Milne and Andy Dinniman? Duane Milne was all Mr. Press Release in 2007 but what has he done for anyone lately?

Where is Erin Brocovitch and Tom Girardi when you need him? Call me crazy but I think General Warren Village and neighboring Malvern Borough residents deserve the best thing possible with regard to this plan, don’t you?

Sigh…to be continued….feel free to leave comments anyone who was in that packed room last night.

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bishop tube and o’neill in front of east whiteland zoning monday february 27, 2017

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It is once again, Bishop Tube season in East Whiteland. I last wrote about Bishop Tube this past January ( see toxic nightmare site bishop tube goes back to zoning…).

Well Bishop Tube was at Planning already this week, O’Neill is also speaking at an East Whiteland Business Networking event this evening – “Guest Speaker Brian O’Neill will provide insight on development in the East Whiteland area.”

Bishop Tube was postponed until February 27 Zoning, and somehow I doubt many residents impacted by Bishop Tube will be at the networking event this evening, but if I lived in General Warren Village I would go (but I digress).

 

zoning-2

 

Above is the legal notice for Bishop Tube in front of East Whiteland Zoning.  I will note there is NOTHING posted on East Whiteland’s website about this February 27th meeting yet…but hey why stay on top of sunshine on a sunny day, right?

Anyway, I am supportive of the folks in General Warren Village, and even the Malvern Borough residents who will be directly impacted by this plan, so I am posting the following information written by a resident over there:

 

On Monday, February 27 at 7:15 there will be a township meeting to discuss the Bishop Tube Site project. Here is a brief overview from what we have learned so far.

20337938589_16f0f784fc_oBishop Tube is the old manufacturing facility that is located at the end of Village Way and is accessed by Malin Rd and route 30, near the Giant Shopping Center. O’Neill Properties, who own this property now, wants to develop the site to include 228 town homes. They would be in rows of 3 to 7 in length and they are asking for a variance from the township for the rows that are greater than 6. In addition, they are asking for variances to change the natural slope in the land. This would be to excavate the area and provide an area for the new housing to be built. In order for the sloping to work they would need to add a retaining wall around the east side of the property, along the creek. The highest point of the retaining wall would be 18 feet. At the meeting, we couldn’t tell from the drawing how this would look or impact the residents on that side of the Village.

Within the property there are three areas where the previous owners reported the release of Trichloroethylene (TCE), which is a chlorinated solvent and is used commercially as an industrial degreaser. These areas would be cleaned up by soil excavation and would then become green areas. They discussed removing 6,700 cubic yards from the site as part of this cleanup effort. They also noted that the remedy for cleanup would be selected by DEP in 2017.

Another area of concern for Village residents is that they want to add emergency vehicle access from Village Way through to the new neighborhood. They are saying this would be needed because of the number of homes in the new development and because if there was a train derailment on the Malin Rd side, emergency vehicles would have to use Village Way to access this new neighborhood.

Please come to the meeting on Monday. Your presence will help us show a concern for our neighborhood and hopefully help the township make the right decision.
Here are some of the questions that we have so far…
Once that dirt is being excavated what is the impact to the air quality and ground water?

Will there be any additional ground testing to determine if other areas of the property have been impacted by contamination of TCE or other products?

What are the overall impacts to living in proximity to this cleanup effort?

How will the retaining walls look from our community?

Are we guaranteed that their will only be emergency access from Village Way?

 

So I wonder, are Benson Companies still doing the building? They are in spotlight in Chester County again, and not in a positive way for their planned development in Howellville in Tredyffrin aren’t they?   I also wonder why so many units have to be shoved into/onto a toxic site? What about the potential issues down the road? Building slab on grade with no basements doesn’t necessarily mean any leftover chemicals that escape clean up will be encapsulated, right?  And where are the DEP and EPA on this clean-up? Or is this all just going to disappear considering the new administration in Washington DC doesn’t seem to place much value on things that concern every day people?

Density. How much do we need? Do we live in Chester County so we can feel like we live in King of Prussia, Bensalem, and development ridden Mongtomery County up the 422 corridor???

None of this development is ever done with consideration to existing residents who pay taxes in an area.  None of this development is ever done with keeping all the OTHER plans in a municipality and neighboring municipalities in mind.  All of these developments show up on flat, out of context plans on a monitor at a zoning or planning meeting as if the are some sort of Valhalla complete with Elysian Fields.

Bishop Tube is no joke.  It’s literally a deadly toxic site.  So before they approve HUNDREDS of living units with variances that a lot of residents feel will further squeeze a getting over-developed township AND a school district and not for the positive, how about someone show folks that the place is cleaned up? Or publicly state (including to the media) exactly where the clean up is?

Yes, O’Neill has redeveloped many brownfields, built many units.  But should we forget Riverwalk Millennium in Conshohocken?  The multi-million dollar settlement to residents who lost everything and pets in that fire? Should we forget the battle in Massachusetts to keep him out of the Alewife forest? Sadly, in the end residents and nature lost that.  The silver maple forest was lost when approvals were given for the  Residences at Acorn Park, a $70 million, 299-unit apartment complex in the Belmont Uplands, which residents there did not want, did they? Or any of the developments in Lower Merion (Barker’s Mill and Rock Hill Road), a lot of which took years off the lives of residents attending meeting after meeting and what of the ones that never happened but stressed residents out?

And what about Portsmouth/Newport Rhode Island? Take a look at this:

Hard times for Carnegie Tower: Recession, soft market leaves luxury highrise in Portsmouth mostly empty

By Christine Dunn
 Providence Journal Staff Writer Posted Jul 24, 2015 at 7:31 PM

PORTSMOUTH — With their designer kitchens and baths, private elevators and balconies with soaring views of
Narragansett Bay, the luxury condominiums at the Carnegie Tower have undeniable glamour.

 But the 22-story tower, which opened in the summer of 2009, turned out to be a losing prospect for developer J. Brian O’Neill.
newport
The 79-unit tower opened when the housing market was in freefall, and in 2012, 77 of the condos remained unsold….Within a few months after the opening, several prospective buyers sued to get their deposits back. And in 2012, O’Neill had to refinance to avoid a planned tax sale of 77 tower condos by paying the Town of Portsmouth more than $2 million in back taxes.
The final blow came in January, when the Pennsylvania-based builder turned over an estimated 68 of the condos to his creditors in a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure transaction.

 

Ok so look at that tower? Remind you of anything else? Perched on 202 at 29 in East Whiteland  perhaps? Royal Worthington? Everything looks the same no matter where it is.  Myabe if I was a Stepford wife I would be more appreciative, but I am not.

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But what is more concerning is the occupancy as in truly how many live there and in other surrounding developments.  I also do not believe Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough is filled to capacity and what about that tower like thing on route 3 near Matlack? The Pointe or whatever? Any of the townhouse developments around? Atwater?

Pick a development. Pick a developer. There are so many, and that is kind of the point.  Is there a real need or an artificially created need? Look at an O’Neill development proposed for Haddonfield, NJ? Residential, mixed use, and a drug rehab? Look at the density of that plan. It’s not just here – at it’s most watered down, developers all have a formula for profit, they just keep applying the same formulas everywhere they go.  Toll Brothers is another example.  Pulte. Ryan. Benson. And so on and so forth

This is how the vision of completed Worthington goes.  Does this look like the Chester County you want to see? It looks like the King of Prussia mall!

This is how the vision of completed Worthington goes. Does this look like the Chester County you want to see? It looks like the King of Prussia mall!

All of these living units add people to our roads. They add kids to the school district.  And no one ever talks about how that affects residents…until it is too late and communities are faced with a crisis.

I have no problem with developments that are thoughtfully planned with an existing community in mind.  Only you RARELY see that.

Bishop Tube is a scary hot mess. And obviously there are still issues keeping the site secure because I just found a 2017 You Tube video about Bishop Tube. I never trespassed when I photographed. I shot from the street only.

 

 

The people who need to pack the room on Monday, February 27 are the ones with legal standing as this is a zoning matter.  So that is at it’s most specific,  General Warren Village residents, and on the border Malvern Borough residents.  But I also encourage anyone who can, to go out and support these residents. That is the best thing a community can do when not all have standing.  Packed board rooms send a message.

Stand up for your communities.  If you don’t you will always get the short end of the development stick.  Bishop Tube needs to be cleaned up before development occurs.  It also needs less density.

Here is the January notice:

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow. Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well?

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow.
Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well?

Look, O’Neill to an extent is a visionary…and a gambler. But I think to succeed where he has succeeded you can’t have one with out the other. And yes, he has been extraordinarily generous with East Whiteland’s fire company, but why is it no one in East Whiteland (much like Tredyffrin and elsewhere in Chester County) can seem to hit a pause button on development or to actually fight for residents so that development is not so painful?  Because residents are the ones who pay the piper after the first blush of ratables is concerned.  Residents deal with the traffic, infrastructure issues, basic services and first responder (police/fire/EMT) issues, overcrowding in schools.

There are so many developers, so many plans. But we live here too.  And it is time for municipalities to hear us.  Here is hoping residents totally pack the zoning hearing board on Monday February 27 at 7:15 PM at East Whiteland Township.  And I hope the residents of General Warren Village represent.

The bottom line is something is going to get built on Bishop Tube. It’s a gross, toxic eyesore.  But what gets built, how the remediation goes, and so on still has to do with how the community feels.  If residents do not turn out, they will lose one of the few opportunities they have left to have a say.

My opinion is O’Neill can do this if he wanted do it with less density. Or he could offer another use for the property that wouldn’t impact residents so horribly.  But people have to turn up and speak out. Because look at it this way: if this plan gets approved and sold to yet another developer, the community needs to lock in the plans to the best that the community can get and stomach.  And most importantly to ensure the remediation is done the best it can be, right?

 

development food for thought

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August 13, 2008.  O’Neill’s apartment buildings Riverwalk at Millennium go up in flames. It burned hard and fast and was awful.  A lot of the articles surrounding this have magically disappeared off of newspaper sites over time but for those of us who worked in Conshohocken during that time frame and watched them going from a dedication where then relatively new President Bush (as in George the younger) was at a brownfield ceremony to sign a piece of legislation known as The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act to a reality often have strong opinions about rapid development and so on.  This legislation was signed in Conshohocken PA in 2002. I know as I was there right in the first few rows watching it happen. My State Senator at the time gave me a ticket.

As the Inquirer article stated at the time:

The legislation that Bush will sign – the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act – creates a five-year program that can give states up to $200 million a year to clean up more than 500,000 polluted industrial sites, more commonly known as brownfields.

The act authorizes money for the cleanups and exempts small businesses from liability if they did not contribute a significant amount of the pollution. It also will create a public record of brownfields.

O’Neill Properties is one of the most familiar names when it comes to developments on sites like this.  Quite a few of the sites like this are actually in Chester County.  In East Whiteland. (Uptown Worthington or Bishop Tube anyone?)

2761103987_6629fc2f5e_oWhen Millennium went up in flames it was a crazy thing to watch, and SO many fire companies responded.  Here is what 6 ABC WPVI TV said at the time:

A multi-alarm fire was raged for hours Wednesday night in the 200 block of Washington Street in Conshohocken.According to Conshohocken Fire Department Chief Robert Phipps, 11 firefighters have been injured due to the multi-alarm fire at the Riverwalk at Millenium and three or four fire trucks have been damaged. The extent of the injuries is not yet known.

Officials also tell Action News that 80 fire companies from 5 counties helped extinguish the blaze…..”It’s surreal. People are just in shock; they don’t know what to do,” resident Hope Raitt said.

It was an emotional scene in the haze of smoke.

Residents were in tears.

Many made frantic calls on cell phones……The main concern for many was their pets.

The Riverwalk at Millenium allows animals, so many people arrived home from work only to learn their pets may be trapped.

 

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A little over a year after the fire, a settlement on it was reached (Click here to read about that).   In the fall of 2010 the project then completed was for sale (Click here to read about that.)  All of this occurred after a big huge article about the developer in Philadelphia Magazine.

After the fire there were enough articles to fell a forest. Again, most of them are no longer online, and who knows if they even exist in archives. Here’s a LINK to a related article having to do with the banking in 2012.) And today Riverwalk at Millennium has reviews on Yelp. A lot of the reviews aren’t exactly flattering. (However in all fairness reviews of Eastside Flats is not so fabulous either – see this and this and this and this.)

In 2010 a crazy lawsuit started in Federal Court about Uptown Worthington (where the Malvern Wegmans and Target and other things are today.) This thing burbled and spat fire for a few years until it was settled (one article about this available HERE.)

The food for thought here is simple: what can we learn from other developments? That is a valid question because if you think about it, no matter where we live around here in Southeastern PA we share the commonality of the same or similar pool of developers from place to place.  These developers are like old time mining prospectors – they get what they can get and pull up stakes and move on to the next community. That leaves the reality of these developments for the community to deal with.

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Let’s talk about Eastside Flats. How are they renting really? And why is it these Stoltz people and Korman people don’t seem to care about issues? Or basic things like trash? I was there the other day to have lunch with a friend and there was trash on the sidewalk, like it was a true urban area versus downtown Malvern. And the fake “brick” sidewalks? They look fake, are fake, and are more slippery than the real deal. And what about trucks? Why is it delivery trucks can just block the street, block the only driveways into the parking lots? And the landscaping? Or lack there of?

img_1840And at the end of the day one of the biggest problems with Eastside Flats is still human scale and inappropriate design for the area.  They tower over everything and citify a small town in a way that is architecturally inappropriate. And I would still like to know how fire trucks can navigate this site in the event of fire. How will they reach the rear for example? Via the train tracks? That is another thing that is potentially worrisome.

Development also causes other potential issues. Things like storm water management. When I lived in Lower Merion all you ever heard from the township is how on top of the topic they were.  Yeah right, and they own the Brooklyn Bridge too, right?

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3934298722_d09f391eba_oAbove was my old neighborhood and one photo from Pennsylvania Ave in Bryn Mawr.  I documented storm water management issues for years because even with a summer thunder storm the flooding was insane.  A lot of it had to do with the railroad tracks that ran elevated up their hills through the neighborhood, but not all of it.   We would even have power and Verizon outages from Lancaster Avenue from the water underground. On a few occasions, PECO actually brought in people to pump the water OUT from underneath the ground.

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And have you ever seen what happens when the Schuylkill River floods? Check out this photo I took in Conshohocken in 2007:

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Radnor Township often doesn’t fare better. Next are photos of Wayne a friend of mine took here and there over the past few years:

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Ok so yes, this is the Main Line. Not us here in Chester County. But we can LEARN from their mistakes if our municipalities would kindly wake-up.

Development is an ugly fact of life. No way to seemingly avoid it. And the pool of developers, our veritable land sharks isn’t so big. It’s basically the same ones hop scotching around.

We are Chester County. We were known for great open spaces and farmland and horses and our beautiful natural vistas. I use past tense because development project by development project what Chester County is or was known for is eroding. Fast.

Take for example a project in Willistown I did not realize was happening. Passed by it the other day on Devon Road. Chapel Hill at Daylesford Abbey. People have been upset about this for years….and it finally is starting to happen. (read about it in an old Inquirer Article.)

Or the old DuPont Estate Foxcatcher Farm now Listeter or whatever by Toll?  How jarring is THAT development? And how is it selling? Yes it is neighboring Delaware County but again, it is another example of “is that really what the community wanted or needed”?

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Whenever we read about these developments in the newspaper we hear the talk of “demand”. Whose demand and is it real or imagined?

It doesn’t matter where we live in Chester County, I am reminding all of you once again in 2016 that if we aren’t better stewards of where we live, what we love about Chester County will cease to exist and as we get more and more development we will experience more and more issues like from a lack of true storm water management much like our Main Line neighbors and so on.

Whatever happened to the SOS or Save Open Space initiative in Chester County from the what 1980s and 1990s?  In my opinion we need something like this more than ever. Or we will be seeing more ugliness like the last photo I am going to post. Taken from the Schuylkill Expressway headed west as a car passenger recently.  Not sure where the project is, but I think Lower Merion Township near the river?

Bottom line is we need more than lip service when it comes to development from planning, zoning, or elected officials. Doesn’t matter what municipality. We don’t exist in a vacuum and what happens where we live affects our neighbors and vice versa. If your idea of Chester County is well, Chesterbrook or Eastside Flats you will be steaming by now.  But I am betting most of you want more moderation and more land and open space and area character and historic preservation.  Saving land saves us all.

Thanks for stopping by.

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chester county and development…not so perfect together?

Today when the news came that Brian O’Neill was continuing with Uptown Worthington’s next phase, I was not one of the ones cheering.  First I thought of my former township (Lower Merion) and the O’Neill projects in moth balls and sites looking shabby. Then I started to think about the development I have seen since I moved to Chester County, and I am concerned.

No one wants to turn their back on progress, but at what price comes progress?  For example, let us not forget Malvern Borough’s $60,000 mistake on East King Street. You know? Eli Kahn’s New Urbanism Fairy Tale?  In July, Kahn and his partners David Della Porta and Gary Toll did the old soft shoe and a rah-rah ground breaking.

With regard to Malvern, I will say again, You know what I think Eli Kahn and Jack Loew’s project is going to be like when it is done?  A super-sized Charleston Greene.  And over the years, how has Toll’s Charleston Greene worked for you ,Malvern?

A friend said to me a little while ago “You can’t spend other people’s money and
generate prosperity. ” 

There is food for thought.  Also to think about quite seriously is what Tredyffrin did last night other than not apologize for cyber-bullying the delightful and devoted and hard working community champion Pattye Benson.   They approved the C-1 Zoning Change. Now, basically, a LARGE death farm, excuse me, senior assisted living facility will grow on a rather SMALL site on Lancaster Avenue.  You know, where Jimmy Duffy’s Catering Company used to reside?

Interestingly enough, this new development is from a Tredyffrin resident who put the residents of Bala Cynwyd through the ringer for another awkward site senior assisted living facility around 2009. Main Line Media News said at the time:

Further township discussion of a controversial Bala Cynwyd development plan has been postponed until next month.

Developer Ed Morris of Traditional Properties LP had hoped to take his new plan for an assisted-living facility at 27-33 Old Lancaster Road to Lower Merion commissioners this week….Morris got zoning-hearing board approval in late July of a special exception to build a “home for the aged” on the parcels, which today are occupied by two single-family homes. The stone colonial houses would be demolished.

The plan was a switch from development plans approved by the township in 2006 for a four-story, 21-unit condominium building. Morris has said that marketing efforts to sell units in the proposed building were not successful as the housing market stalled….A number of residents in surrounding neighborhoods in Bala Cynwyd and Merion objected to the change in direction, saying that the assisted-living facility is a more commercial use, out of character with the area.

Oh my goodness!  Is this not an eerie sense of déjà vu?  Don’t I remember original plans for the Jimmy Duffy site being different, albeit equally unwelcome to neighboring Daylesford residents? (And Ed Morris like Brian O’Neill was featured in an article a few years ago in Main Line Today called Condo Mania)

How many developments do we need?  Does Chester County want to end up a congested mess with limited open space like much of the Main Line?

I noticed on Malvern Patch that a lot of people are excited by the idea of MORE mall at Uptown Worthington based upon the comments.  I, on the other hand, am concerned.

It wasn’t too long ago that this developer was embroiled in nasty, nasty litigation over this site.  And how will this phase of construction affect people? Remember the first phase? And look at the 100 year PennDOT 202 project right there right now. It really isn’t a 100 year project, but given how PennDOT does business it might as well be.

Then there is the thought of how many malls and mall like places do we need?   Exton is but minutes away with the Exton Square Mall, Main Street at Exton and the countless other smaller strip malls in and around it.  King of Prussia is also fairly close with the giant King of Prussia Mall and all the other various and assorted strip malls and sub-developments in the vicinity. (And don’t forget that charming casino because you know nothing says U.S. history like a slots parlor next to where George Washington literally slept.)

In addition to these larger malls and newer strip malls are all the other strip malls and often funky shopping centers on Route 30, Paoli Pike, Route 3, pick a road.

Really Chester County, how much development do you want? How much development do we need as residents?  Are we actually getting new stores or are businesses just hop-scotching between retail developments, moving every few years to whatever the next sweetest deal is? And do you want a steady stream of fill-in-the-name-big-box-retailers and chains?  What of the independent local business where they know their customer base and might be your neighbors?

I saw the development of Chester County in a most unusual way on my 9/11 hot-air balloon ride.  I saw the development from the air.  From high up in the sky it looked like miles and miles of Legos – developments all cookie cutter.

Chester County on a county level needs to get a real grip on the future.  The economy is not recovering, and still these developments proceed.  Developers will say they bring jobs, but once you get beyond retail shift work and minimum wage, what is there?  And you need more than that to fill up the condos, town homes perched on formerly rural highways, and the communities of McMansions. (Don’t forget about the fact they are trying to supersize Birchrunville in West Vincent. And then there is other potential residential development in the future, right?)

Once the open space is gone, it is not coming back. Once the charming cross-roads towns are gone and the farms are gone, they are also not coming back.  That’s all. Just think about it.

My wish for Chester County is a revolution of common sense.