so easttown…really…”pursuing other opportunities”?

easttownI will admit I am intrigued.  I was perusing my friend Pattye Benson’s blog “Community Matters” when this post jumped out at me about the sudden exit stage left by Mike Brown, Easttown Township’s Manager.  I have to ask is it really “pursuing other opportunities” when an employee is being escorted from the building?

Seems to me that Easttown Township has some ‘splaining to do, huh?  Wonder what that means for that poor barn?

Questions about Easttown Township Manager’s Sudden Departure – Gene Williams Called out of Retirement

After serving Easttown Township for 40 years, it was hard for many to believe that township manager Gene Williams was retiring.  But retire he did. At the end of 2011, Williams retired and was succeeded by the township’s assistant manager Mike Brown.  Brown was on the job for about 18 months as the assistant manager, brought on to take over once Williams retired.  Williams retired and Brown took over in January 2012.  Barely a year later, we now learn that Brown was escorted from the township building last week and Williams is brought out of retirement to fill in temporarily until a new township manager can be hired.  Why? Clearly, there is something behind Brown’s sudden departure….For now, here’s the official press release  and we are left to wonder what happened.“Easttown Township is pleased to announce that Gene Williams will be serving the township as temporary interim manager, under and subject to consideration and action by the Easttown Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Tuesday, February 19th.  Mr. Williams previously headed the Easttown staff for more than 30 years.  Gene will assist during the transition period following the departure of Mike Brown to pursue other opportunities.  Easttown Township also announces the commencement of a search for candidates to more permanently fill the manager position.”

If someone was really escorted from the building, then there is a heck of a lot more to this story, isn’t there?

tredyffrin has hired a new manager…

So, Tredyffrin has a new manager.  I still have a bad taste in my mouth from what the exiting manager Mimi Gleason and VP of the Board of Supervisors John P. DiBuonaventuro did to fellow blogger and friend and all around awesome lady, Pattye Benson who authors Community Matters.

Tredyffrin has hired one of their hometown boys, Bill Martin, formerly of Radnor Township fame and the Bashore years.  Not that Bill Martin was a particular fan of Bashore’s (I was told he wasn’t), he was just from that truly unfortunate era.  An era which took the fortitude of some persistent residents, commissioners, and others who were on the up and up to correct.  It was not, however, without blood shed.

Bill Martin went from assistant township manager (and vartious other positions) in Radnor to interim township manager in Radnor in early 2010 when Radnor was saved from the debacle of almost hiring problematic ex-Coatesville manager Paul G. Janssen Jr. as interim township manager.  Martin, however, was ultimately passed over for the permanent manager position when Bob Zienkowski was bought in from Ohio.

I will tell you honestly I am of the Radnor Bob Zienkowski fan club and with good reason – he is amazing. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.   That man walked in to a hot mess, rolled up his sleeves, and got busy.

As an aside, some timely news about Radnor as it relates to Chester County is Bob Zienkowski suggested at the October 15th, 2012 public meeting that Radnor consider studying to leave Delaware County and to join either Chester or Montgomery County.  Yes, municipal secession (see Radnor meeting on You Tube for 10/15/12 and start listening just before 9 minutes 42 seconds to catch this.) The irony is I have always felt Radnor Township had more in common with Chester County versus Delaware County,  but I digress.

Ok back to Bill Martin.  After Radnor, he went to Bridgeport – a very tiny municipality in Montgomery County.  He has been there about a year as per newspaper article I found. Of course, Bill Martin joins another mid level Radnor refugee of the Bashore era, Matt Baumann, who is Tredyffrin’s current Director of Planning and Zoning.  Matt helped me when I got the historical marker for the Wayne Natatorium.  He’s a heck of a nice guy.

Bill Martin is also a nice guy from what I have always heard told.  But truthfully, Tredyfrrin as I see it is a municipality in need of serious remediation ASAP.  And choosing a manager who may or may not be a politically connected local resident may not be the way to go here.  I am actually going to disagree somewhat with my esteemed blogging colleague Pattye Benson ever so slightly.

Pattye comments that this is the first time a Tredyffrin Township Manager is a  Tredyffrin resident and lives in the township.  Now I agree with the residency part, and I think the departing and in the end disappointing Mimi Gleason is actually a West Chester area resident.  What I do not agree with is choosing someone who lives in Tredyffrin now as a manager.  I think the best thing that could have happened to Tredyffrin would have been a new Township Manager coming in from waaaay outside Tredyffrin and the area, truthfully.

I hope I am wrong, but I wonder if Bill Martin will have the chops in the end to take on what needs doing in Tredyffrin.  Tredyffrin has historically been subject to whispers – people are afraid of retribution. And before you poo poo me here, look what happened to Pattye Benson when she spoke up?  That still does not sit right with me, and I still believe that troll of a supervisor John P. DiBuonaventuro as well as Tredyffrin Township’s administration owes her an apology, don’t you?  In true lettergate fashion, I say a written apology.

Insular politics and politics of one party rule without much balance is bad for a community – just look at the snarl of tangled politics that is Lower Merion Township.

So I will be looking for Bill Martin to be an independent voice, beholden to no one.  I hope he can accomplish that.  I hope after what he saw and experienced at Radnor Township during the Bashore years that he can bring a different tone to Tredyffrin.

Congratulations Bill Martin, but my oh my you have a large job ahead of you.

Tredyffrin Appoints New Township Manager/Something about the new manager is very different than his predecessors.

ByBob Byrne  Email the author  5:56 am

Community Matters and TE Patch Blogger Pattye Benson reports that Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors has appointed a new Township Manager to replace Mimi Gleason, who left the position in September 17 after ten years with Tredyffrin Township…..What sets him apart from Gleason and others who have served as Tredyffrin Township Manager is that Martin is a resident of the township.

Full details on the new manager can be found here on Pattye Benson’s Community Matters/TE Patch Local Voices blog post.

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.