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 S.O.S. 2004 Year End Update
 

                                      

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Zoning Hearing:  At the Aug. 17th, 2004 zoning hearing, the Supervisors approved a developer’s request to change 80 acres of land zoned light industrial to allow high density housing. WHY? The following statements will clarify some misconceptions regarding this decision: 

MYTH: Only two options existed for this property.  Option one would keep the property zoned Light Industrial.  Option two would allow this property to be rezoned to allow construction of a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), a planned community of high density housing. 

FACT: It is within the supervisor’s authority to make changes to zoning. Although the supervisors claimed to have no other choice, they could have changed the zoning from light industrial to allow single family homes on average size lots (1/2 to 1 acre) instead of the developer’s plan which will combine 69 condos, 140 townhomes and 252 single family homes on 137 acres, some with lots as small as 5,000 sq ft. Despite concerns voiced by residents at multiple public meetings, the supervisors chose not to explore any other options, nor explain why they felt the zoning needed to be changed.

MYTH: The supervisors were between a “rock and a hard place” when considering Arcadia Land’s requested zoning change to allow a TND instead of a large apartment complex. 

FACT: By changing the zoning, the Supervisor’s created their own proverbial “rock and hard place”. As some of you may recall, at a zoning hearing in Dec, 2003, the supervisors voted to increase the density allowed in Sadsbury’s R2 (high density) district from 6 to 10 units per acre. This change was made at the request of another developer, JYF Partners, and was hotly contested by over 100 of our neighbors who attended. 

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S.O.S. Note: This decision is significant because until then it would probably not have been economically feasible to build only 264 apartments on the 44-acre parcel zoned R2.  Housing would likely have netted more profit for a developer, which was the intent of the original zoning.

MYTH: The supervisors spent a lot of time investigating their options, holding over 28 public meetings to discuss Arcadia Land Company’s proposal.

FACT: Much of the public meeting time was allocated to Arcadia, who repeatedly presented their proposal and findings from the economic study and traffic estimates they had paid for. The supervisors asked no questions and difficult questions raised by concerned residents went unanswered. In contrast, the Sadsbury Township Planning Commission logged well over 1,000 hours over the 3 years it worked on the Zoning Ordinance that was approved in Nov. 2001. Since Dec. 2003 this Board of Supervisors has changed 8 zoning ordinances, most of which allow higher density housing.

 

Sadsburyville Village Enhancement Plan: On Oct. 30, 2003 Arcadia Land facilitated an application on behalf of Sadsbury Township for a federal grant to implement a “Village Enhancement Plan” along business Rt. 30 and South on Old Wilmington Road. This Plan is available for review at the township building and/or Sadsburyville.com. It includes the following:

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4 1/2-ft. sidewalks along Lincoln Hwy and on parts of Old Wilmington Road (with a 5 ft planting strip where possible);

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Crosswalks at Lincoln Hwy and Old Wilm Rd intersection and across from the post office;

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Street trees;

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On-street parallel parking on Linc. Hwy. and other “traffic calming measures”

MYTH: The primary purpose of the Sadsburyville Village Enhancement Plan is simply to improve pedestrian safety and to beautify Linc. Hwy. in Sadsburyville through the introduction of sidewalks, crosswalks, street trees and traffic calming elements.

FACT: Although sidewalks may help to make the village of Sadsbury more pedestrian friendly, the real reason Arcadia suggested these enhancements is to serve as a marketing tool for their proposed TND. Joseph Duckworth, Partner in Arcadia Land admitted in a public meeting that the village enhancement concept was important for Arcadia to market their TND.

MYTH: Sadsbury residents strongly support the Enhancement Plan.

FACT: In response to a question on the grant application that asks whether the Plan is “Subject to controversy or public opposition”, the township responded “Although the township supervisors and a majority of residents are in favor of this plan, a few affected residents oppose it”.  In fact, at several public meetings held to discuss the proposed sidewalks and on-street parking, many of the affected residents attended to voice their opposition. Contrary to the Township’s claim in the application, the overwhelming majority of the affected residents opposed the Plan. Even residents who were not directly affected by the proposal opposed the sidewalks in support of their neighbors whose homes, some with only a few feet of front yard, abut Linc. Hwy. If 4 ft of this land is taken to accommodate a sidewalk, some residents’ front doors will be nearly on top of pedestrians walking by.

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S.O.S. Note: The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission representative who presented the terms of the grant at a township meeting stated that they (DVRPC) are interested in hearing comments from the public before this grant is made final.  If you are interested in submitting your opinion to DVRPC, please send your comments to:  Ryan Gallagher, Project Implementation Coordinator, E-mail: rgallagher@dvrpc.org; Fax: 215-592-9125, or call Mr. Gallagher at 215-238-2881. This is your opportunity to let your opinions be heard!

MYTH: The grant awarded will pay for all the proposed enhancements (sidewalks, traffic calming, planting strips, crosswalks, etc).

FACT #1: The estimated total cost of this project is $686,250.  $436,250 will be paid for with grant monies, while the township’s share will be as much as $250,000 (a quarter of a million dollars of your money!).  The total cost of this project ($686,250) must be paid by Sadsbury Township with the $436,250 grant monies to be reimbursed to the township periodically, throughout the duration of the project, as construction is completed. When asked at a public meeting where in the township’s budget the $250,000 portion was coming from, Mr. Doratt answered that he didn’t know, despite the fact that the township had indicated in the application that the funds are, in fact, available.

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S.O.S. Note: The township will be required to come up with as much as $250,000 up front (not to mention having to pay the other $436,250 to be reimbursed periodically) – where is this money coming from?  Will the township need to obtain another loan and pay additional interest costs?  What other important projects and overdue road improvements will continue to be delayed because our tax dollars are going to be used to finance a developer’s marketing plans?

FACT #2: The affected homeowners will be responsible for normal maintenance of the sidewalks (snow and ice removal) and planting strips (mowing and general landscape maintenance) and will bear any additional liability that sidewalks impose.  But all of us will pay for maintenance of the remainder, which is estimated in the grant application to be approximately $10,000 per year.

 

S.O.S. – What’s Our Purpose?: It seems some residents have the idea that S.O.S. opposes all development. That is not the case.  S.O.S. supports responsible development that preserves the rural landscape and maintains the quality of life we all have come to enjoy. S.O.S. supports the zoning ordinance adopted in 2001 and opposes all the recent changes because they have led to high density development, which does not uphold the rural character of Sadsbury’s neighborhoods, nor do they comply with the current Comprehensive Plan. The main focus of S.O.S. is to get the facts out to you, the resident, so you can make your own judgments and voice your own opinions. S.O.S. has no financial interest in the outcome of the zoning decisions.  We donate our time, talents and money to benefit you, our neighbors.

S.O.S. – Are We Credible?: Some of you have contacted the supervisors regarding previous S.O.S. publications and were told that our statements were false.  As a matter of fact, Chairman Garris even publicly accused Tammy Pawling of being dishonest at the Aug. zoning hearing when she summarized the results of the survey S.O.S. conducted regarding zoning changes. Mr. Garris was quickly corrected and shown that his accusation was incorrect and unfounded.  This is just one of many examples of the disrespectful way concerned residents are treated at public meetings by the supervisors. Here are just a few additional items that prove our ethics are intact:

FACT: S.O.S. opposed the zoning change from 6 to 10 units per acre in Dec. 2003, stating that it would encourage large apartment complexes and add congestion on our roadways.  Two of the supervisors (Mr. Doratt and Mr. Garris) ignored our comments and passed the zoning change.  This is exactly what put them in the “rock and hard place” position of choosing between 450 apartments (10 units per acre) and the TND Arcadia Land Co. wanted. With this decision, the Supervisors gave away any leverage the Township had to limit the size and scope of this proposed development, deliberately stacking the deck in Arcadia’s favor.

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S.O.S. Note: Of the undeveloped pieces of property this zoning change affected, one is owned by Supervisor, Doug Doratt, who voted in favor of the zoning change. When a concerned resident asked at the Dec. 2003 zoning hearing how this change would benefit residents of Sadsbury Township, Mr. Garris responded “I can’t answer that”.

FACT: S.O.S. claimed that changing Light Industrial zoning to allow high density housing would be less beneficial to the Coatesville School District tax base and drastically add to the number of children attending area schools, thereby increasing the tax burden on area residents. S.O.S. also claimed this zoning change would eliminate the creation of new jobs, create more traffic and be an irresponsible economic trade-off.  We urged the supervisors to consult area experts to examine the consequences of this zoning change. The Supervisors (Mr. Doratt, Mr. Garris and Mr. Hensel) ignored our comments and did not even take the time to investigate whether our claims were true.  They chose to approve the zoning change at the Aug. meeting.  Less than 1 week after that meeting, Gary Smith, President of the Chester County Economic Development Council was interviewed for an Aug. 22nd article in the Daily Local News.  Here are some excerpts from that article:

bullet “Oh no” – That was Gary Smith’s reaction to the news that the Sadsbury Board of Supervisors had voted unanimously to turn 92 acres of land from light industrial into traditional neighborhood development.

Mr. Smith was then quoted in the article as saying:

bullet “I’m real disappointed that local governments, many times, don’t include organizations like ours before making their decisions on changing land uses.”
bullet “Your area needs “ratables”, that is, development that brings in tax revenue for the school district. This is especially true in the Coatesville Area School District, where taxes are going through the roof. Business development provides tax revenues for the schools without requiring the services Traditional Neighborhood Developments do.”
bullet “Your area needs jobs. Light industrial operations provide the kinds of incomes and benefits that support families”.
bullet “Think traffic is bad now?  Just wait, if the county continues to see industrial land being used for residential development. If people are moving further and further out, they will need to drive further and further to get to their workplaces. Especially since there will be no place nearby to work. They’ll be living on these parcels of land.”
bullet “Light industrial parks often morph into high-end corporate parks, a la the Great Valley Corporate Center.”

         S.O.S. Note:  The full Aug. 22nd article entitled “Area could rue lost land for business” is available for your information at Sadsburyville.com. Gary Smith is one of the leading experts on economic development in Chester County; his statements are nearly identical to those that S.O.S. had independently raised previously, proving again that our concerns were well founded. 

FACT: S.O.S. stated in our Feb. 2004 update that the supervisors were being vindictive when they required Stephanie Silvernail and Terry Franciscus to submit resumes to keep their positions on the Planning Commission after their terms expired in Dec. 2003.  After submitting resumes and indicating they were willing to continue serving, the supervisors eliminated their positions rather than reappoint two of the members who had consistently questioned their plans for high density development.   The supervisors claim this charge was not true, and noted instead that the positions were eliminated in order to reduce the Planning Commission size from 9 to 7 members.  When a Planning Commission position was recently vacated by a member moving out of the Township, neither Stephanie nor Terry (each with at least 8 years experience) was contacted to fill this vacancy. Instead, another resident with no previous Planning Commission or zoning experience was appointed. The supervisors themselves have proven what S.O.S. already said: that Stephanie and Terry were eliminated because they consistently questioned the wisdom of the zoning changes sought by the supervisors.

The supervisors are quick to say our statements are false, yet they do not dispute our comments with any facts of their own.  Why do you think that is?  The supervisors have repeatedly been asked in public meetings to justify their decisions and explain to the residents why they feel these zoning changes are warranted and they repeatedly choose to be silent. The Aug. zoning decision was made with virtually no deliberation or explanation. Based on the information in this newsletter and the previous behavior of our supervisors, residents can decide for themselves who is the credible source of information.

 

 Is This The Way You Expect Your Elected Officials to Represent Your Township? 

Supervisors challenge loyal 20+ year employee in court and you’re paying for it! Road crew foreman, Doug McGuigan was dismissed from his employment in August.  Many of you know Doug – he was the “go to” guy for any and all problems in the township and worked tirelessly to help the residents.  A driving member of the Pomeroy Fire Co for 40 years and a lifelong resident of Sadsbury Township, Doug filed for unemployment compensation after being dismissed, but his request was denied based on the Townships’ allegation that he was dismissed for insubordination surrounding a supposed safety violation (Doug has had yearly safety training as a volunteer fireman). Mr. McGuigan appealed the decision, which was overturned, because the Township could not produce sufficient evidence to justify such a charge. Now the Township has filed an appeal, and Sadsbury taxpayers are footing the bill of the legal costs since our tax dollars are paying the Township attorney’s fees.  Why are the Township Supervisors so intent on denying unemployment compensation to a 20+ year employee with an excellent record, both a resident and public servant of the Township? 

Supervisors publicly reprimand volunteer fire company: At the October 5, 2004 meeting, the Supervisors publicly berated Jeff Sellers, Chief of the Pomeroy Volunteer Fire Company, for his team’s “failure” to appear at this year’s Community Day Event.  In response to a letter previously sent by the Supervisors, Mr. Sellers read a prepared statement outlining the reasons that the Pomeroy Fire Company was not represented that day. Mr. Sellers pointed out that, in fact, the Township had never extended an actual invitation to the fire Company; more importantly, he reminded the Supervisors that the Fire Company is staffed by volunteers who donate their time to the community all year. Adding insult to injury, the supervisors proceeded to reprimand the Fire Chief, reminding him repeatedly of all the money that the Township donates annually to their Company.

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S.O.S. Note: The Township only donates $6,000 per year to each Fire Company (Sadsburyville and Pomeroy), a small fraction of their total operating budget.  Any additional monies are provided either by government grants or private donations.  The amount the township donates to the fire companies has not increased in years, even with the added development that has increased the financial burden placed on the fire companies. Furthermore, someone might want to remind the Supervisors of the meaning of the word “volunteer”, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as “acting or serving in a specified capacity willingly and without constraint or guarantee of reward”. Why would the Supervisors reprimand the Fire Company for not attending “Community Day”, rather than thank them for donating their time to protect Sadsbury residents?  Our volunteer firemen generously donate their services to our Community EVERY DAY. The fire companies desperately need volunteers.  Why would anyone want to jeopardize their safety for such a thankless attitude?  This is not good news for such a quickly growing community and is a poor representation of the gratitude of Sadsbury’s citizens.

 

The future of Sadsbury Township is being sold off bit by bit: A vehicle “donated” by one developer, $35,000 from another developer, a supposed new municipal building and for what? Once the rural character of our Township disappears, it can NEVER be brought back – it will be gone forever. What is that worth to us? Our survey indicated that 97% of the 475 residents polled opposed this development, which Arcadia Land estimates will increase Sadsbury Township’s population by approximately 1,300 (nearly 50%). Are we willing to trade our quality of life for a new police car, a supposed new municipal building and $35,000? Instead of managing development in our township intelligently and responsibly, the supervisors pit developers and residents against each other in a power game that puts the township’s long term interests last. This makes one wonder, if it’s not the residents, whose interests are being served?

Contact your Township Officials:  If you’re as disturbed by the information included in this newsletter as we are, please take the time to call the supervisors and let them know of your displeasure.  The phone number for the Sadsbury Township office is 610-857-9503. 

 

 

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S.O.S. wishes you and your family a happy holiday

and a safe and joyous New Year! 

God Bless our Troops!!!

 

 

 

 

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