more thoughts on malvern borough

malvernWho has the most to gain from development in Malvern Borough? Who will get the most out of TOD or Transit Oriented Development? Some have suggested that I narrow my question scope to what will Woody Van Sciver, Malvern Borough Council President gain from all this proposed development in Malvern Borough? (And I was reminded that Woody is a developer too at some place called Monument Management Corp.)  I think after some thought, the answer to this question in as far as who will GAIN from cram plan developments is not the residents or neighbors of Malvern Borough, but Borough officials and developers, and can’t you agree?

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When I wrote about Malvern’s growing pains last week it unleashed a flurry of comments. I was accused of writing a post with racist undertones and all sorts of stuff.  I had people say I was being hysterical, which most easily translated is women shouldn’t have strong opinions on anything and should leave all the big decisions to the men folk. Well I am not exactly a women’s libber but I feel passionately about local governments who give away communities and their ingrained character and history and charm for the nearest buck.  I find it to be like a political lap dance.

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I will keep writing about Malvern Borough’s foolishness.  Because it is foolishness.  I believe small town politicians are corruptible and forget who and why they serve.  In this case they see the Emperor’s New Clothes and can’t see the forest for the trees on what the intrinsic value and charm is of Malvern remaining a small town.  These elected and appointed officials driving the development bus to nowhere don’t even *get* that developers all over the country try to recreate small towns like Malvern Borough.

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Henry Briggs has written another column on this.  I am  looking forward to his column next week, too.  That one is about why Malvern residents are NOT being heard about their own future.

8457330900_c69d4fa589_cLook, please don’t waste your breath leaving me comments that I should basically have no opinion here.  With all due respect, I have a brain and I am not afraid to use it. I am not against growth.  What I am against are these giant one size fits all plans that are the proverbial square peg in the round hole.  This is a small town, emphasis on small.  And Malvern is often quite precarious financially, and the current economy in which we find ourselves in all across this country should cause local governments to exercise caution, not throw caution to the wind.

If Malvern Borough wants to grow, do it responsibly. Allowing developers to shove in developments on small parcels and in a small area so everyone is crammed in like lemmings is IRRESPONSIBLE.  Planning needs to be a partnership between community and government, not government and developers.

Enjoy Henry’s column.

Henry Briggs: Say hello to Malvern Transit Oriented Development

Main Line Suburban Life > Opinion

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013

Malvern, Pa., once a storybook small town like many around the country, is being beefed up like cows in a holding pen by three different special interests: developers, business people, and governments.

It started at a breakfast in 2008 hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce where Barry Seymore of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission was holding forth.

Woody Van Sciver, Borough Council president, really liked what he was hearing. The subject: TOD – Transit Oriented Development – adding density to areas within half a mile of transit hubs….Around the same time, Eli Kahn, a developer in West Chester, started courting The Malvern Business Association….Kahn’s plan for the biggest development Malvern had ever seen was like free beer at a frat party….Van Sciver, a developer himself, had headed the Malvern Planning Commission  before joining the council and had been heavily involved in drafting Malvern’s Comprehensive Plan, a multi-year effort to define where and how future building and development was to occur…..Because of this background, and the fact that he was Council President, the council decided Van Sciver should lead the negotiations with Kahn.

One developer negotiating with another.

…Malvern is now home to a four story, 45-foot-high behemoth of 190 apartments and a number of stores and restaurants. It stretches nearly a fifth of a mile along the eastern approach to Malvern. When you walk by it, you feel like you’re in Philadelphia…..One recommendation from a recent market study financed by the borough and TOD interests calls for a 12-story, 600 “dwelling unit” high-rise near the SEPTA station….The council has approved plans of another developer for five big houses on a one-acre lot. Still other developers are working on “infill projects,” cramming large, money-making houses and townhouses into whatever bits of land they can find.

Malvern, once a Norman Rockwell small town, has lost it’s magic, irrevocably, at the hands of its own business community, its own government, and developers.

 

 

do you live in zip code 19355? read this.

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Ahh yes, another post about Malvern Borough. I could post more photos of the tiny small town that it is, but I will stick with a photo of the town mural and a couple of photos containing well worded graffiti on overpasses from elsewhere in Chester County.

Malvern Borough is a small town.  It is surrounded, by rural, industrial, commercial and residential in the genre of exubrbia. Malvern is not and never will be the Main Line.  Malvern shouldn’t want to be the Main Line, either.  If Malvern wants to be like anyone, how about St. Peter’s Village or Narberth? Those are cute places who aren’t afraid to be the little home towns that they are.

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Malvern historically has always had an identity crisis. Settled originally by Welsh immigrants in the 17th century, it was the site of the Paoli Massacre in 1777, it was a tiny little area that never had a name until 1873 and wasn’t even incorporated as a borough until 1889. It has always been small with King as the main road off the beaten path.

Malvern should be fine with who it is, but it seems part of the history of Malvern is a history of government issues.  You might say it is one of Malvern’s long-standing traditions.

Malvern said yes to a relationship with Eli Kahn and gave birth to the yet unoccupied behemoth of a mixed use building.  You know, because Malvern needs to be so urban.  That building is perched unattractively right on the road with no care or thought to human scale let alone a design compatible to the SMALL TOWN surroundings.  You can’t unring the bell on that project.

But Malvern and people around Malvern need to wake up to what is coming down the pike if they are not careful. T.O.D. or transit oriented development.  Clever speak for cram those units in developers!

I have written about T.O.D. twice in 2013:

the emperor may have no clothes on when it comes to t.o.d. in Malvern

if septa is considering cutting service past paoli, why does malvern need T.O.D.?

T.O.D. is no joke and at the most simplest of explanations won’t fit in Malvern Borough.  We’re talking at least 600 residential units. I used to say that T.O.D. stood for Total Of Dumbasses. I still do.  If Malvern Borough, as in the Mayor and Borough council are not stopped, it is not just the residents of the borough who will be impacted.  Any other municipality that has borders will be impacted.  I think East Whiteland will be impacted the most.  And her residents will have no choice in the matter as this is Malvern Borough’s proposed stupidity.

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What has provoked me to write again about this?  Henry Brigg’s brilliant and ever so sad column in Main Line Media news today.  It should be required reading it is that good.

He mentions a lady named Betty Burke who staged an uprising via a sit in on Christmas Eve in the 1970s to get rid of a corrupt local government.  Well that fascinated me so I did a little research.  Betty Burke died in 2011.  I just read two things about her and it brought tears to my eyes. Now there was a woman I would have liked to have known.

Here, refresh your memories:

betty burkeRemembering Betty Burke By Henry Briggs

Published: Wednesday, March 09, 2011

M. Elizabeth Burke, 91, a Malvern activist

By Sally A. Downey, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: March 17, 2011

Burke Park is named for Betty and her husband Sam. A lot of what has made Malvern a cool place in the past 3 or 4 decades is because of this woman’s persistence.

So are there enough people who knew Betty and her husband Sam still around that they might stop and think about what is lurking for Malvern “is this what Betty would have wanted?” Or would Betty have told people to toss the elected officials out again?

Again, I never knew Betty. But wow, what I have read about her is amazing so I think she would be very sad for Malvern right now if she was alive.

Of course it is not too late if people wake up now.  And don’t depend on local media to keep you abreast of things. Residents are going to have to do it the old-fashioned/old school way: pay attention and go to meetings. Use your power of the vote and change the faces of who govern you.

Stop the craziness in Malvern.  Read Henry Briggs column:

Main Line Suburban Life > Opinion

Henry Briggs: Say goodbye to Malvern, RFD

Published: Wednesday, October 02, 2013

This is a story about a storybook small town, one that could exist anywhere in the country, one that is being left open to attack by the very people who should be defending it.

It is 1.3 square miles with tree-lined streets…..lying between bucolic expanses of gentleman horse farms in Willistown and the corporate parks and exurban sprawl of East Whiteland.

Originally, when the whole area was working farm land, Malvern was a commercial hub, a place to buy supplies and sell the fruit of their labors…….Malvern has one traffic light, three little league fields, five churches, and, until a couple of years ago, one bar. The administrative office and police department are in the repurposed school house…..Traditionally, residents of small towns are quick to defend them.

When the town council turned corrupt in the early ’70s, Betty Burke, a nurse, mother, and political novice, led a bunch of other mothers in a Christmas Eve sit-in and coup that threw the bums out. Frank Capra would have loved it.

Traditionally, residents of small towns understand and cherish their unique qualities…..Malvern is at the bottom of a hefty political pyramid.

In recent years, special interests from that pyramid – with cooperation from leaders of the Malvern Council – decided that Malvern is just too small for the 21st century. They have been joined by developers who, like hawks in a summer sky, spot vulnerabilities that those on the ground never suspect.

Henry Briggs has written many a column that was like a love letter to Malvern.  This is one of those letters. Except it is so achingly sad because it is like he is saying good-bye to an old, dear friend.

Malvern Borough residents old and new, will you save your town? Please?

Post Script: Thanks to local columnist and former Malvern Borough Council President Henry Briggs, I have two more columns about Betty and Sam Burke to share…in the hopes that remembering these simple people who worked so hard will inspire Malvern residents to shake off the cobwebs and save their small town before it becomes another Eagle or some plastic coated Toll Brothers-esque mess wrapped in Tyvec.

The Scribbler Proud member of the Betty Burke Party

The Scribbler My Best To You

just tacky

I used to live in Lower Merion Township.

Growing up, it was a marvelous place.  Nice people, clean streets, pretty houses. It was safe.  Kids could even ride their bikes on their neighborhood streets and play kick the can and other games with neighborhood kids on warm summer nights.

“Back in the day” as they say, there was still big money living there, only it wasn’t so tackily or arrogantly displayed.  I mean, you knew there were people with lots and lots of money, only it was considered somewhat déclassé to discuss it and to be so showy.

Well, anyway,  that all  has long since flown out  the window as a policy of polite behavior in polite society, and it is part of the reason why a lot of people are leaving the Main Line.  Yes there are rubes to still buy into the myth, but there are a lot of people leaving and considering getting out of dodge.

Yesterday I saw something that literally left me slack-jawed.   A press release out of my former township basically bally hooing that they have more money within their boundaries than anyone else.

In an economy where people are struggling to make ends meet, losing their homes, losing their jobs, I find such an announcement somewhat staggering.  Also interesting to note is as much as Lower Merion would like to ignore it, they have a fair amount of Sheriff Sale action in the Magic Kingdom too, and not just in the low rent district.

But in Lower Merion they have long denied this economy was a problem.  Just look at the crazy salary and benefit package they ended up giving the township manager, Douglas Cleland.  Look at the taxes all the way around. Everything is relative, and while they are patting themselves on the back, the simple fact remains that a heck of a lot of residents feel like they work to support the township.

And for this great amount of wealth they support and applaud in Lower Merion, one would think they could do the basics like keep the roads in good repair.  But they don’t.  And when you go into the business districts, well there seems to be a lot more trash around than there used to be and sometimes you can smell  certain smells on the street like you do in more urban areas. And there is crime they don’t want to talk about and a school district always teetering on disaster.  (LMSD seems to be having contract issues too, and they just made another large land purchase too.)

There are a lot of lovely places where people can choose to make their homes along the Main Line and into Chester County.  And they don’t have municipalities that feel the constant need to point out the top 2%.  And of course there is the thought process that  maybe Lower Merion should think about these residents with vast resources who don’t feel like being pointed out.

Lower Merion, you aren’t the Hamptons.  Here’s the press release:

Lower Merion Near the Top of CNN Money’s Top-Earning Communities in America

Township ranked fifth for median family income and home price  Posted Date: 8/21/2012 5:05 PM

CNN Money, an online combination of CNN, Fortune Magazine and Money Magazine, has ranked Lower Merion Township near the top of its recently published “Top-earning Towns” list – part of its ongoing “Best Places to Live” series.

Next to a photo of a student entering Pembroke Hall on the campus of Bryn Mawr College, CNN Money puts Lower Merion’s median family income at $153,309, and the Township’s median home price at $553,498.

“Part of Pennsylvania’s wealthy Main Line corridor that popped up along the rail line of the same name, Lower Merion got its start when railroad executives built massive summer homes here,” the online newsmagazine wrote. “Today, it’s an elite suburb of Philadelphia and dotted with colleges, including women’s liberal arts school Bryn Mawr, which is also one of the township’s largest employers.”

Overall, Lower Merion is ranked 5th among the 25 national locations listed.

“We have a terrific community here in Lower Merion, and a wonderful quality of life,” said Lower Merion Township Manager Doug Cleland. “Our residents already know that, of course, but it is nice to see the national recognition.”….

“Residents bring lawn chairs and blankets to twilight concerts at the Bryn Mawr Gazebo all summer long and enjoy their pick of sledding hills in the winter months,” CNN Money wrote about the Township. “The area’s 682 acres of parkland and top-rated schools in the state form a well-rounded nest for well-heeled Pennsylvanians.”

Lower Merion is the only Pennsylvania community ranked among the top 25. Ranking 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, are the towns of Greenwich, Conn., Palo Alto, Calif. and Newport Beach, Calif.

There are lots of places with outdoor concerts in the summer around the area, not just next to a very contentious library re-build at Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr inhaling car and truck fumes from Lancaster Avenue.  And you could of course consider they might be speaking of sledding on the roads since Lower Merion is not always so speedy with the snow plow.

Anyway, did not mean to go off on a tangent outside of Chester County, but I just found this whole thing distasteful.  And predictable.  Personally, I prefer communities that don’t have to brag about things like how much money residents have.  I prefer communities that have local governments that just do a decent job.

Can’t say that about Lower Merion.  After all, how many years later, and there is still no new train station in Ardmore or a real “redevelopment” there is there?  Wouldn’t it be best for all concerned if Congressman Jim Gerlach who gave Lower Merion $6 million for a transit center just took the money back?  Over half has been spent, there is no station and yet little boroughs like Malvern can complete a train station makeover complete with pedestrian tunnel and Paoli can get a shovel in the ground?

Face it when it comes to dollars and cents, some local governments may see dollar signs but have no sense.