little pink house is coming to town, and why you need to see this movie

Little Pink House is coming to town. I got this e-mail today inviting me to a screening.

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer and New London, Connecticut.

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house around 2008 (I think) – It has been a long time since I looked at these photos. Scott Mahan photo.

And all of a sudden, I am taken back years.  I see faces I haven’t thought of in years; hear voices and snippets of long gone conversations.  Ardmore, PA to Washington, DC and Virginia.  What a long strange trip it was.

Dick Saha of Coatesville (left), Scott Mahan (center), Nancy Saha of Coatesville (right). I took this photo in June of 2006 down in DC/VA at an Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition conference on Eminent Domain.

My friends and I were ordinary people who became accidental activists via the Save Ardmore Coalition.  I resigned my position at Save Ardmore Coalition (“SAC”) in 2011 when diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not know if the organization still exists at all or not, truthfully. I am not there any more. My friends and I have all moved forward into our lives, and now we are mostly like local folklore.  Normal people who went to Washington to fight eminent domain and hang out with people like Susette Kelo.  But it’s not folklore, or urban legend as we did all that and lived through all of that.

Scott Mahan (left), Susette Kelo (center), Ken Haskin (right). Scott Mahan photo (again circa 2008 or thereabouts)

It was a long road for those of us who were the original SAC and we paid heavy prices for our activism at times (it was not pretty), but I would do it all over again as it was the right thing to do. We were part of the Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition’s eminent domain fighting communities.

My friends from Ardmore and I (the original Save Ardmore Coalition)  went to Washington once upon a time as I mentioned when Susette Kelo and others (like Long Branch NJ and the Sahas of Coatesville, PA and the other New London, CT /Fort Trumbull folks) were fighting eminent domain for private gain. We lived this with the Institute for Justice as we fought (and won) Ardmore’s battle.

They were crazy times and I am proud of what we did in Ardmore back then. I am honored I got to spend time with Susette Kelo and the other amazing folks from other cities and states along with the people from the Institute for Justice.

Here is the Institute for Justice Press Release:

Little Pink House Movie Hits the Big Screen, Seeks to End Eminent Domain Abuse

Biopic on Supreme Court’s Landmark Kelo Ruling Shows How Eminent Domain for Private Gain Destroyed Lives and an Entire Community

  • Eminent domain creates strange political bedfellows: Once-developer and now-President Donald Trump, along with liberal justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, came out against ordinary homeowners and in favor of the government and private developers.
  • But for the government’s use of eminent domain, corporations would be powerless to take someone else’s home.
  • The release of Little Pink House provides a rare opportunity for political unity. It should unite the Left, which wants to limit corporate influence on government, and the Right, which wants to limit government power over property.

Little Pink House is both a major motion picture and a cautionary tale that shows what happens when the government teams up with powerful private interests to take an entire working-class neighborhood for a glitzy development—a project that 13 years later is nothing but barren fields.

Starring two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener and Emmy nominee Jeanne Tripplehorn, Little Pink House opens on April 20 and will be screened in theaters across the nation.  It tells the true story of Susette Kelo (played by Keener), a small-town paramedic from New London, Connecticut, who buys her first home—a cottage—and paints it pink.  When the governor and his allies plan to bulldoze her little pink house to make way for a development benefitting the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Kelo fights back, taking her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although national polls at the time of the Kelo ruling consistently showed that the public overwhelmingly rejects the use of eminent domain for private gain, the issue made for strange political bedfellows.  It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices who made up the majority that ruled against Kelo and in favor of the government, and when the Kelo ruling was handed down, developer Trump said, “I happen to agree with it 100%.”  Trump had earlier sought to employ eminent domain to take a widow’s property in Atlantic City for his private use.  After becoming President of the United States, he said, “I think eminent domain is wonderful.”“As the Atlantic City eminent domain battle showed, unless the government abuses its power of eminent domain, private corporations are powerless to take someone’s property; they must negotiate because they cannot use force,” said Institute for Justice Litigation Director Dana Berliner, who successfully represented the widow at the heart of the Atlantic City lawsuit and who argued Kelo’s case before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As documented in the film, after Kelo lost her U.S. Supreme Court case, her struggle sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse that today helps millions of Americans better protect what is rightfully theirs.  The Supreme Court used the Keloruling to radically expand this government power—allowing eminent domain for the mere promise from a developer that it might pay more taxes if given someone else’s land, rather than for an actual public use, as required by the U.S. Constitution.  Because of the grassroots backlash at the state level against eminent domain abuse, however, the Kelo case is justifiably seen as a situation in which the government won the battle, but lost the war.  Still, the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo, stated that more reforms are still needed if the abuse of this government power is to be ended once and for all.

Little Pink House wonderfully captures what the fight for property rights is all about,” said Institute for Justice President Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “A house is typically someone’s most valuable asset, but the value of a home goes well beyond its mere monetary worth.  For so many, it is an extension of who they are and what they value.  It is where a person might raise a family, grow a small business, celebrate, mourn and grow old.  Eminent domain abuse, as depicted in this film, is not only unconstitutional, it is profoundly wrong.  Little Pink House vividly documents the heroic struggle of Susette and her neighbors to not only fight for their homes but for the constitutional rights of millions of others in America and throughout the world.”

Little Pink House should unite those on the Left who want to limit corporate influence on government, and those on the Right, who want to limit government power over property, said Bullock.  Eminent domain abuse disproportionately strikes poor and minority communities, and there is often a giant gap between the promises made by redevelopment supporters and the promises such plans actually deliver.  In just a five-year period, there were more than 10,000 instances nationwide where eminent domain for private development was either used or threatened by the government.

Government officials and the developer promised that the project that replaced Susette Kelo’s tight-knit blue-collar neighborhood would thrive and would make New London tax-rich.  Now, 13 years after the landmark Kelo ruling, all that remains there are barren fields; nothing lives there now but weeds and feral cats.

“It was all for nothing,” said Susette Kelo.  “The government put us through all that torture and now, more than a dozen years later, they have literally nothing to show for it.  But even if they turned what was my home into an emerald city, that still wouldn’t have made it right.  The government and their corporate confidants destroyed our neighborhood and our constitutional rights.  We need to keep fighting this until we end eminent domain abuse once and for all.”

Eminent domain hot spots remain around the country.  For example:
In Garfield, New Jersey, the town’s redevelopment agency is using a bogus blight designation to take a zipper manufacturing warehouse, along with its neighbors’ homes, for a private developer to build private retail and housing.
Cumberland, Maryland, is trying to bulldoze a number of homes to make way for a chain restaurant.
The Bae family left Korea and built a successful dry cleaning business in East Harlem, New York. But city officials want to demolish it so a developer can build an entertainment complex.

Little Pink House has been lauded by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, among others.  In addition to attracting stars Keener and Tripplehorn, Little Pink House features the original song “Home Free,” written and performed for the movie by rock legend David Crosby.

The independent film was directed by Courtney Balaker and produced by her husband, Ted Balaker.  It will open on screens across the nation with more screenings being added each week.  In those markets where Little Pink House is not being shown in theaters, the public can follow a simple process to bring the movie to their hometown theater or enter an email address at littlepinkarmy.com and a representative from the film will walk them through the process.

Courtney Balaker said, “Eminent domain abuse is a fancy term for legalized bullying.  It happens when insiders take advantage of outsiders.  Developers and politicians promise more jobs and more tax revenue, so it sounds appealing to lots of people.  But all the high-minded talk obscures what’s really going on—they’re forcing people out of their homes.  If you own your home and you want to keep living in your home, you should be able to stay in your home.  Eminent domain abuse happens far more often than most people realize, and it rarely brings the kind of economic development its supporters promise.  It should come as no surprise that poor and minority communities are especially likely to be targeted.”

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

My friend Si Simons with Susette Kelo, June, 2006. My photo.

And we hit roadblocks. Although eminent domain had become a national issue when Susette Kelo took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Philadelphia area we discovered it was hard to get media attention from anyone other than the local papers. Eminent domain wasn’t sexy enough—it was just “a local issue”. We were called NIMBY and castigated publicly by certain local elected officials at public meetings, who referred to us as “a small group of mean spirited individuals.”

When someone told us in a letter if we didn’t like how government was run we should “change the face of who governs us,” our resolve as a group was strengthened. We decided to change literally the faces of those who were governing us. We had an upcoming election. We didn’t back one candidate in particular but decided they should all adopt our position and take IJ’s pledge against the use of eminent domain for private gain.

We were successful. In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

February, 2006 walking Congressman Sensenbrenner (left) around Ardmore. Scott Mahan (right). I am behind them on the left with then Congressman Jim Gerlach on the right)

In February 2006, then Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner came to town with Congressman Jim Gerlach to discuss eminent domain. In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

For me, there was also the fact that I hid my activism from my employers.  I was working for then Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo), and while not officially forbidden, such outside activities were seriously frowned upon.  We were supposed to be good little examples of Corporate America at all times, no matter what our position.

Susette Kelo is and always will be one of the most courageous people I have ever met. I have been waiting for this movie to be finished. (See Little Pink House Movie website too!!)

This is a story that still resonates.  See:

The Volokh Conspiracy    The story behind Kelo v. City of New London – how an obscure takings case got to the Supreme Court and shocked the nation
By Ilya Somin May 29, 2015

LAWNEWS
Dreams Demolished: 10 Years After the Government Took Their Homes, All That’s Left Is an Empty Field
Alex Anderson / @alexanderJander / Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / June 23, 2015

Eminent domain still under fire

June 23, 2017 by NCC Staff

POWER PLAY
Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case
Published March 20, 2014 Fox News

The Kelo House (1890)

March 20th, 2009 Posted in Folk VictorianHousesNew LondonVernacular

Visit The Institute for Justice website. There is a Kelo vs. New London timeline.

Seriously….see this movie.  This can happen to anyone.  It happened to people I know and people I met.  And if you follow the current pipeline debacle, how do you think Sunoco has gotten land from Chester County residents? It certainly wasn’t candy and chocolates, it was the threat of eminent domain, wasn’t it?

And you can try to get Little Pink House played where you live by contacting the filmmakers HERE.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

chester county at risk: historic birchrunville

I love being in Chester County.  Before I was a resident, anytime anyone wanted to take a leisurely drive and explore, I was all for it.

Birchrunville was one of those places.  Quiet and charming, consisting of small country roads.  Farms. Horses, as you can actually still ride your horse on the road which you won’t be doing if this development happens. Great old country architecture and some incredible old houses.  The real deal of charm.

It is NOT a place where developers should come in with their Emperor’s New Clothes grand plans for supersizing a small hamlet.  The residents should not allow it, and quite frankly, any elected or appointed official who likes a plan like this should be voted out as soon as possible.

We are, after all, talking about West Vincent Township.  And for West Vincent Township to go from needing/wanting eminent domain for private gain at Christmastime 2011 to this plan now, well it is so very Lower Merion Township that I can’t stand it.  And I can tell you how the story turns out: it doesn’t.

Once upon a time Lower Merion made a bid for eminent domain for private gain.  Then they put people through the pain of grand redevelopment plans.  All people wanted was a train station.  What they got was heartache, headaches, and nothing. Well nothing except a lot of money spent on plans, plans, and more plans.  A lot of the money spent was part of $6 million dollars that your Congressman Jim Gerlach got so Ardmore could have a new train station/transit center.  So much of that money has been squandered that I just don’t get why Jim Gerlach hasn’t pulled the money back yet.  But maybe he will and it will serve Lower Merion right.

And don’t let Supervisor David Brown tell you he had no idea of what went on in Lower Merion.  He was too entrenched in the politics for too many years not to know.  Via his own online political resume you can see: Republican Committee of Lower Merion & Narberth Committeeman 1976 – 1990, Counsel to Committee 1990 – 2004, Member Executive Committee 1990 – 2004, Former Solicitor to Montgomery County Controller,Gladwyne Civic Association, Former Director, Former Vice President.

See this synopsis from The Castle Coalition in Washington DC where I will highlight some dates in particular (although I encourage you to read it all):

….a letter in February 2004 informing him that Lower Merion Township had targeted his property and those of his neighbors for eminent domain acquisitions, he was devastated and uncertain about how to proceed….

In September 2004, the Township hired an independent consulting firm to study Ardmore and assess the extent to which economic redevelopment really required condemning their properties, as local officials contended. The Urban Land Institute, an outside organization that specializes in land use and has no financial connection to the business owners or the Township, conducted a comprehensive study of the downtown business district slated for demolition, and strongly urged against the plans proposed by the Planning Commission. Instead, the Institute submitted a number of alternative approaches to the Township, all of which protect property rights and promise the same benefits the municipality sought without condemning the Ardmore properties.[3]

“We kept coming up with alternative plans, but the Township kept ignoring us,” Mahan said.

In December 2004, the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners overwhelmingly approved the most destructive redevelopment option of all the plans submitted for its consideration. The proposal submitted by Hillier Architects called for the demolition of Ardmore’s entire historic district—even though Hillier simultaneously concluded that all of the buildings were in restorable condition…….the Save Ardmore Coalition continued fighting, attending all civic meetings, speaking against the proposal and especially against the abuse of eminent domain, and pursuing practically every grassroots avenue available.

“We’d march to the meetings, carrying signs and making statements. We’d have 300 people on our side, and 100 of them spoke out against the Hillier plan,” he said. “We just kept gaining momentum and the SAC kept growing and growing.”

 

These plans fermented for years prior to 2004 being the year eminent domain came full out in the public eye.  And during that time there were commissioners on the board in favor of this, including one Ken Davis and there is no way David Brown did not know him. Ken Davis represented parts of Gladwyne and was a fellow Republican and member of Gladwyne Civic.  Trust me, not that big of a sphere.

And if David Brown is for this development of Brichrunville, then he should go as soon as his term is up, but if Ken Miller and Clare Quinn are up first, vote them out.  If you do not change the face of who governs you in West Vincent, you will not achieve what you need to achieve.  I know because because I was part of a group who did it.   We flipped five of the seven commissioner seats up in elections, and the people who came in had adopted our group’s mission to defeat eminent domain for private gain.  You see, we endorsed no one.  We had a position: no eminent domain.

But after we defeated eminent domain and the fractured community came together once again, we were faced with re-development plans.  We should have said no.

And if you don’t believe how the land can be raped and pillaged by development that is not truly necessary, take a ride down King and check out the mega mess in Malvern.  They got sold a New Urbanism Fairy Tale and they will rue the day when all is said and done is my prediction.  I am not anti-progress, but I am anti-supersizing it on the theory of build it and they will come because it is not true.  All this hoo ha over transit oriented development.  It’s suburbia, people will always drive, always have cars. Duh.

Malvern got themselves a nice new train station, and if this current development being built was much smaller and in a scale actually in keeping with a very small town?  Well we might be having a different conversation.  Instead, West Vincent, you are being presented with cautionary tales.

But residents, I and others can talk about it, offer opinions from the sidelines and write articles, but you have to pull a real We The People and rise up with pitch forks if necessary.  You have to not just talk about it but actually fight.  Accept it will get nasty and dirty tricks will abound.  To me, it should all be important enough to preserve your way of life. As well as your property values.  (C’mon you think you are going to find it easy to sell a property if West Vincent keeps up indefinately with the West Vincent of it all?)

Rise up, support folks like BirchrunvillePeople who are trying to do good.  And if you feel your government is not quite right and not quite ethical, hello it is a MAJOR election year.  Your congressman needs more than checks from fat cats to survive, he needs votes.  Get him to come around an you show him what you are trying to preserve.   Go to the state.  Surely the Attorney General’s office and ethics board are there for a reason?

But you have to do it for yourselves.    This video like the one up top is awesome.  Kudos to whomever did that.  It literally shows people what you are talking about.

None of this will be easy, but you defeated eminent domain for the time being, so keep on keeping on and save Birchrunville too.  After all, you may or may not realize that developers as much as they love to destroy small towns, also love to recreate them.  You have the real deal.  Preserve your way of life.

And don’t be swayed by “oh but look we can improve our roads.”  Beg to differ.  If your roadmaster actually took the proper care of the roads you would be fine.  But what will happen with road improvements if development occurs?  It will look good for a while because it is new and then it will be back to mainteance business as usual so what is the difference?

This historic school house could be easily sold and preserved from what the video says.  It is YOUR community.  Make that happen.  YOU are the taxpayers.  YOU are the voters.

Once a way of life is destroyed, it is gone.

Lecture over.

 

 

just say no.

Oh good lord!  I forgot this guy was running for Congress in the 7th (that would be Pat Meehan’s current seat.)

George Badey thinks he’s a politician, or thinks he might want to be a politician (I’m not sure.)  His only appeal, truly, is with Radnor Township Democrats, and I hear they are pretty split on him. Truthfully, the Democrats in Radnor I know who think he is ineffectual and silly far outweigh those who are enamoured (and there is no accounting for taste.)

George Badey ain’t exciting and being a bigwig with the Radnor Democratic Committee isn’t enough in my book to consider voting for him. Yes , he lives somplace like  Chamounix Road so he must have a couple wooden nickels to rub together, but really?  What has he done?

Yawn.

He is like Vanilla Junket.  If you like Vanilla Junket, by all means, vote for him.

As for myself, a new voter in the 7th?  I don’t want this guy representing me. He doesn’t currently adequately represent a lot of the people I know in Radnor who are of a Democrat persuasion, so why would I extend that reach knowingly?

This is a Main Liner who needs to stay home.

The Democrats should truthfully be embarassed that this is all they can dig up to run against Pat Meehan.  And I thought who they run against Jim Gerlach is usually pathetic. And I am saying this as someone who doesn’t have a dog in the race.  Only met Meehan a couple of times and he would not know me from Adam’s house cat.

Look, it’s an easy choice: if you have loved the last four years in this country, think the economy is fabulous, and love big government getting bigger and up in your business while they contemplate their collective navels and get nothing done, well then, Badey is your guy.

I am an inveterate ticket splitter.  I will consider candidates because of who they are and what they have done, not because I am some zombie who does as they are told.  I form my own opinions, donate money to zero campaigns.

Some boring and bored Main Liner who has not been a shining light is just not someone I am going to vote for.  He’s concerned about jobs, healthcare, and the economy?  That is quite Obamariffic of him, but not particularly original.  And for the record, saying you are concerned about something and actually having a track record of doing things that are positive for the community is something entirely different. And as far as Democrats being a “majority” in Radnor Township, check the numbers – that distinction is not by a landslide, it is by but a handful of votes – a couple people dying or moving or whatever, could completely tip the political scale back the other way.

And there is a third person running in the 7th as far as I can tell.  An indie named Jim Schneller.  Also from Radnor Township.  Google him.

Of course, the other way to look at this is the choices are so pathetic that it will make it all the more easy for Meehan.

Main Line Suburban Life > News

Badey opens Congressional campaign office

Published: Friday, June 08, 2012

Democrat George Badey opened his Congressional campaign office at 711 E. Lancaster Ave, Villanova, on Wednesday night, with hoagies, cookies, bottled water and the latest polls that show Democrats doing well. Badey is running for the 7th District  of Pennsylvania seat currently held by Republican Pat Meehan.
Several dozen people filled the office’s three-or-so rooms, then listened as Badey as he discussed numbers and issues.
Badey, a lawyer in private practice, who lives in Radnor Township, has health care, jobs and the economy at the top of his list of concerns and on his platform. His Web site refers prominently to “the hopes and dreams of 7000,000 working people in the 7th District.”

well, when you hire what coatesville ejects, what do you expect phoenixville?

So the other day I wrote a post about Phoenixville and their governmental quest for a Platinum-clad multi-million dollar borough hall.

And today as I am reading an article in Phoenixville Patch, a name literally leapt off the page: Phoenixville Borough manager Jean Krack .  As in former Coatesville Redevelopment Authority head and  acting city manager then City Manager of Coatesville Jean Krack.

Lordy how do these old Coatesville people keep getting jobs?  I started to pay attention to Coatesville years ago when under Paul Janssen they tried to sieze the farm of my friends Dick and Nancy Saha via eminent domain for private gain. (Don’t remember? See Save Our Farm’s website.)

Now I thought it was bad enough when Radnor in the midst of the Bashore drama thought about bringing in Paul Janssen in 2010 as a then temporary township manager.

So if my memory serves, didn’t Jean Krack fill in as acting city manager of Coatesville when Paul Janssen went buh bye?  First they hailed him as the second coming of something or another, and then wasn’t their some fuzzy math about some $7 million borrowed from some sort of trust fund to keep Coatesville going circa 2005? And then there was some sort of blame game in Coatesville in the first few months of 2006? And then on March 14, 2006 the Times Herald reported under Ann Pickering that Jean Krack was fired as Coatesville’s City Manager? And then he turns up again in Phoenixville in 2008?

OMG it all makes sense now.  When will people stop hiring people Coatesville gets rid of??? I mean let’s get real, for years can it be said that Jean Krack talks a good game but doesn’t quite have the follow-thru in the end?  He is good at spending money, however. Haven’t taxes gone up under Krack? Wasn’t it reported in The Phoenix at the end of 2011 that taxes were going up 19%? And the year before that didn’t the Phoenix report a 24% increase?

(Oh and as a Phoenixville aside don’t forget about those condos that did not sell.  They get auctioned off on April 15th as per the Mercury.)

Now part of the discussion surrounding this new Phoenixville Borough Hall isn’t just the cost but the stormwater/flooding concerns.  Remember the thing in the Inquirer in September about water stuff?

Sleep in not in the forecast for borough officials in Phoenixville, which is braced for more flooding and steamed over inaccurate rumors about its water supply.

“We have not had this level of water in recorded history,” said Borough Manager Jean Krack. He said residents who have never had water in their basements before do now, and some trees have toppled because the ground holding them is so saturated. The Schuylkill is expected to continue rising after dark, but Krack said the borough is as prepared as it can be. “We’ve got a great emergency crew,” he said. “When you have a creek (French) going east and west, and a river (Schuylkill) going north and south, you have to take this sort of thing seriously.”

So they are taking this all so seriously now that they are moving forward with the Phoenixville Pagoda? Nice.

So back to Phoenixville in the news.  Here’s a little article from 2008  I found amusing on a couple of different levels:

Planners: Limit public comments?

Published: Saturday, August 16, 2008

PHOENIXVILLE — The relationship between Borough Council and its Planning Commission has been tested — and testy — over the last months, marked by multiple divergences of opinion and procedural snares.

But Borough Manager E. Jean Krack came before the Planning Commission Thursday evening with initial proposals for organizational reform.

“There’s a relationship that’s a little fractured,” Krack acknowledged. “If you allow me to participate as a conduit” between agencies, he said, “I may be able to foster the symbiotic relationship that should occur between bodies. “I was seven years in that role” in Coatesville, he said, “and I was able to shortcut a lot of things” because of it.

“There are some ideas I want to put on the table,” Krack said. He was concerned first with “my responsibility to the budget,” ….”The Municipal Planning Code requires open meetings but does not require public participation. The governing body [Council] is required to have public participation, not you.”
The issue, he said, was efficiency of public decision-making. “You all are here to do a job; I want to get you involved in what you need to, not what you don’t. With the exception of the magnitude of issues like the Master Plan, French Creek, you may want to limit public participation.

How very West Vincent of him, or maybe this was another place West Vincent looked for inspiration on the public comment debate? It doesn’t really matter – what matters is in my opinion government officials who seek to limit public comment are immediately suspect for that alone.  Of course in this case, I am amused by his touting his tour of duty in Coatesville since in the end they fired him as per all media reports, right?

But I digress.  My whole point is Phoenixville hired one of the managers that Coatesville fired.

Now I know Jean Krack like most municipal talking heads would like to take credit for all of the renaissance which has occurred in Phoenixville, but I think a lot of credit needs to go to the small business owners and residents themselves.

But back to Krack and his quest for a Platinum-clad Phoenixville Pagoda – check out the latest coverage in Phoenixville Patch:

New Borough Hall Causes Heated Discussion/Several council members express concerns over accessibility and office layout.  ByAlyson D’Alessandro  Email the author  5:45 am

Tuesday’s Phoenixville Borough Council meeting was punctuated by some serious discussion on the design of the new borough hall at 351 Bridge Street.

The subject was opened for debate because council needed to act to approve or deny the building’s Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) application. The issues also came up during committee reports, where it was mentioned during the infrastructure committee report….The motion before council was to hold a public meeting and open house, with renderings of the new building, in order to further discuss the project.

Council president Richard Kirkner and Council member Dana Dugan both expressed dismay……

Mayo gave an example of the layout of West Chester’s borough building. “You have to go up or down stairs to get to the offices, and not only that you have to cross a very busy street just to get there,” she said.

“With all due respect, this isn’t West Chester,” Dugan countered…..Borough manager Jean Krack said that in the most recent plan, that side of the building now has two windows….

“The interior is built on workflow, and to have people on different floors is wrong. This was built around working as a team,” Krack said.

Krack expressed concern that the council had set a finite budget amount for the building and that six thousand square feet had already been cut from the plans in order to stay within that budget.

“If we change anything, it will be several hundred thousand dollars [in cost],” Krack said…..Krack also said that holding another public meeting would push back the schedule of the building ….

Seems to me that Krack seems a little desperate to get this building shoved through?  That in and of itself is enough to make residents want to hit pause in my humble opinion.  I also think that Phoenixville needs to remember that the residents are the taxpayers and they in essence pay the Borough Manager’s salary.

I will say again I do not understand how Phoenixville’s Borough Manager and council people can justify the expense of this new borough hall in this economy. It was reported mid March by the Phoenixville Patch that they were considering cutting the police force. I don’t know about you, but if I lived in Phoenixville I would rather have the right sized police force, the necessary services, repaired roads (Phoenixville has lots of missing street signs and a lot of pot holes) versus a ginormous municipal building in an area they say floods.   Also at that meeting, Patch reported concerns from residents over a couple of development plans. (and don’t forget  that auction of  condos April 15th as per the Mercury.)

Well maybe it’s just me, but the design of this building isn’t much better than the giant Acme Market being built on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr.  But what do I know?  I am just a mere mortal and a female….now see if I was in Phoenixville I would talk to the folks in Radnor who inherited the mess of THAT too super-sized municipal building.  I am pretty sure they seem to think NOW that they built too large a temple of excess there too a few years ago.

No one wants a butt ugly municipal building.  But there should be a common sense approach as to what can really be afforded and a happy medium between a quonset hut and something along the lines of the Taj Mahal.

Now is not the time to build the Taj Mahal.  It’s a shame they can’t do an adaptive reuse of an existing building – or even part of that old steel site now being developed. (in that case, wouldn’t it have made an interesting argument to see what the developer who is doing the steel site development would have been willing to do?)  But again, I am but a mere mortal and a female on the outside looking in.

 

up in smoke: historic bloomfield in villanova burns

I believe I was in 9th or 10th grade the last time there was a fire at the historic Radnor Township mansion known as Bloomfield.    Bloomfield was built at the turn of the 20th century in the Radnor Township portion of Villanova on the bones of a Victorian Estate built for  Albert Eugene Gallatin in the 1880’s.  Bloomfield was built by Horace Trumbauer and her gardens were designed by the Olmstead brothers.

This place in my opinion was like Radnor’s La Ronda and it was a marvel it had survived this long without being torn down or bastardized.  It looked like a French Chateau with fabulous gardens and a graceful, grand presence.  It was being rented by a Canadian family at the time of the fire – which began mid-afternoon yesterday.

I went today to the site and when I got out of my car there were some news vans at the estate entrance on S. Ithan and the air smelled heavily of smoke.  As I went to take my photos I also glanced up the street shows the gaping, ravaged land where private school Agnes Irwin had been reportedly blasting this week.

There were many gapers and gawkers on the driveway and the road when I arrived and I wandered around with a local reporter from Radnor Patch  (Sam Strike) taking photos.  We got up the driveway to in front of the fencing now surrounding the site where we were met by a Radnor police officer who was none too happy to see us and asked us to leave.  He also threatened to take my camera.  He was just doing his job.

So we left, and we got some good photos, and as we wandered back down the driveway, there were yet more gawkers, so I would not be surprised if they did not soon post a police car at the foot of the driveway.

People are driving up and down S. Ithan hoping for a glance of the scene, and I found others back around Trianon Lane, where you can see glimpses of the gardens, house, and pool from behind wrought iron fencing.

NBC10 is reporting that investigators are trying to find a cause.  The state police fire investigator is now reported to be in charge of the investigation.  I was told that around 175 volunteer fire fighters responded from several companies from all over the area to fight this fire.  (This as a related aside is why everyone should support their local first responders and on the Main Line and in Chester County they are a predominantly volunteer force.)  First responders came from  Radnor, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Gladwyne, Penn Wynne, King Of Prussia, Manoa and Newtown Square.

They say the slate roof made it hard for firefighters to break into the roof and battle the fire.  I am also told some firefighters may have suffered some issues due to the heat, etc of the fire.  God bless them for what they did, because truthfully, I know many people near the mansion who had fears of the fire jumping via the trees surrounding the property.   With wind and fire, you just never know how it will travel.

The mansion was most recently owned by Jerald Batoff, son of a former Democratic fundraiser heavyweight, William “Bill” Batoff.   I looked at Delaware County property records yesterday and Batoff had only owned it a few years.  I am told by neighbors that although it had renters, the mansion had been for sale.  Apparently a movie soon to be released called “Safe” was partially filmed there in 2010 – the mansion was a film double for New York City’s Gracie Mansion.

I think this is an incredibly sad loss if this mansion ends up not being rebuilt (I am sure residents will now be nervous that the mansion will be razed and the land sold for some sort of development because that would be a natural thought process after a fire of such devastation), and it is but for the grace of God that people weren’t killed because of this fire.

Here’s the coverage:

Radnor Patch: History Goes Up in Flames at Radnor Mansion:Bloomfield was home to historic architecture.  By Bob Byrne and Sam Strike  Email the authors  5:51 am

When fire tore through the mansion named Bloomfield on South Ithan Avenue on Wednesday, it not only repeated history, but also destroyed it.

Watching with a crowd of neighbors as Bloomfield burned, real estate agent and home builder Jeff Bader lamented what he was seeing.

“It’s a shame. They don’t build them like that anymore,” Bader said about the home with 19 bedrooms, a 25 by 35-foot ballroom and six-car garage.

“You can’t replicate the workmanship and design,” Bader told Patch as firefighters moved into the third hour of fighting the flames.

Historic Main Line mansion falls to fire

By Bonnie L. Cook and Robert Moran  Inquirer Staff Writers

A historic Main Line mansion in Radnor Township was gutted by a fire  Wednesday afternoon.

An automatic alarm was triggered shortly before 2:30 p.m., and by the time  firefighters arrived, flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the  three-story structure on the estate known as Bloomfield, said Township Fire  Marshal Don Wood.

A man and woman who were renting the property got out safely with their two  dogs and a rabbit in a cage, Wood said. Three firefighters suffered minor  injuries.

The fire, which started in an area between the main house and an adjoining  garage, was declared under control before 6 p.m., but fire crews were still  putting out hot spots well into the night, Wood said.

About 10 companies and 175 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was the  equivalent of four alarms, Wood said.

As they battled the towering flames, the mansion was veiled in white smoke  that would occasionally clear enough to reveal the charred remains….The estate was originally the site of the Victorian home of Albert Eugene  Gallatin, which was built around 1885.

George McFadden Jr., a cotton tycoon, acquired the estate, and in the early  1920s he hired famed Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to remake the main  residence ….It became known as Bloomfield, the name of a branch of the family, the  historical society reported in a 1988 newsletter article.

McFadden died when he was electrocuted by a steam cabinet in a bathroom, the  article said, but the estate remained in the family until 1984.

In late 2010, the 5.87-acre estate served as a double for Gracie Mansion, the  official residence of New York City’s mayor, for the Jason Statham action movie Safe…Bloomfield, listed for sale last year at $6.9 million, had 19 bedrooms and  nine full baths in its 22,000-plus square feet of living space, officials  said.

County records show the property is owned by Jerald Batoff, the son of the  late William Batoff, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser.

NBC10: No Cause Yet for Main Line Mansion Fire/State authorities take over investigation into massive Villanova mansion fire

By   Dan Stamm and  Rosemary Connors
|  Thursday, Apr 5, 2012  |  Updated 2:56 PM EDT

On Thursday all that was left of a once a sprawling Main Line Mansion was the charred remains and stone walls.

Just a day earlier flames broke out at the historic Horace Trumbauer-designed mansion at 200 S Ithan Avenue in Villanova, Pa….On Thursday the State Police and state fire officials took over the investigation into the cause of the multi-alarm blaze at the 22,000-plus-square-foot home as authorities remained quiet as to what could have caused the massive blaze.

Neighbors told NBC10 that renters were apparently inside when the fire started…A few firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.

Delaware County assessed the property for nearly $2.25 million in August 2006 but the historic home, built more than 100 years ago, could be worth more.

The property is valued at nearly $5 million on Zillow.com….According to the home’s property record, the three-story, single-family home was built in 1905 and includes 19 bedrooms, 12.5 bathrooms, nine fireplaces, a full basement and a pool.

Fire struck the house once before. In 1978, flames consumed a large portion of the upper level.

Jerald Batoff bought the home in 2001, according to Delaware County records. The home was up for sale in the Fall for $6.9 million, a real estate source tells NBC10. It doesn’t appear it ever sold.