….let the blogging begin

Right now you’ll find information and my opinion on different borough goings-on, tidbits that interest me, and random musings. It is my hope that soon this site will provide access to public information that continues to be quietly tucked away outside of the public’s view.

Kardon Park has been saved!

In June 2017 the Pa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kardon Park, but there was one sticky detail that the Commonwealth Court needed to fix.  There’s a whole backstory to that, but it’s convoluted and confusing.  Suffice it to say that the re-visit to Commonwealth Court never happened, and now it’s over once and for all.  The final verdict is: THE BOROUGH CANNOT SELL OR LEASE ANY PORTION OF KARDON PARK.  Period.

The entire park is protected by the Donated and Dedicated Property Act, the Public Trust Doctrine, and our own Pa Constitution Article I, Section 27 (thank you to Peter Talbot for that).

What will Borough Council do from here, you ask?

Well, so far Borough Council has refused to start mowing the open fields, they’ve refused to remove the bogus “contamination” signs, and it certainly doesn’t look like they’re on board with accepting the Supreme Court’s decision and moving forward with restoring the PUBLIC’s park.  Instead, it appears that the Borough is continuing to purposefully neglect the park.

Did you know that the Borough and the developer played a major role in helping Pa Fish & Boat, DEP, and PennDOT…

demolish the dam (in the Brandywine Creek)

that diverted water into the historic mill race,

which was the primary source of water to the ponds?

That’s right.  The historic millrace had been operational since before Downingtown was incorporated as a town.  Think about it…the family that built it in the early 1700s were British, because America wasn’t founded, yet.  Now it’s gone.  Destroyed.  And now the ponds have no fresh water.  Will the ponds fail?  Perhaps that’s what the Borough is hoping for.

Was destroying the dam legal?  Nope.  Not by a long shot.  So how could that happen??!  Collusion, perhaps?  Conspiracy?  Fraud?  If you knew the details, you’d probably come up with a few other descriptive words.  Can the mill race and dam be restored?  Sure, but it would probably take another lawsuit.  Raise your hand if you’re game!  There are other administrative things that need to be done, too (like deleting the “Kardon Park Redevelopment District” from the Borough Code), but don’t hold your breath.

We need a borough council that wants to move forward and serve the citizens by embracing Kardon Park and restoring the park to its prior beauty.  It’s probably too much to hope for a council that would restore the water source to the ponds again, but that’s what the people deserve.

Kardon Park is Heading to the PA Supreme Court!

After 7+ years, the Kardon Park battle is heading into the final stretch!!! The Supreme Court of Pa will hear the appeals of both sides (Friends of Kardon Park/Feldman/Kim Mfg vs. Borough/Developer). When will this happen? Maybe in September or maybe not until next year. There will be a volley of four legal briefs (bad guys, good guys, bad guys, good guys). The first is due March 29th along with multiple copies of the ginormous reproduced record, then each brief is due 14 days after the preceding one is filed.

Folks, Friends of Kardon Park needs donations. Hopefully, the next time Friends requests donations it will be to help restore the park to its pre-litigation beauty! Until that time, money is needed for this final push. Let’s help Friends out so they WIN! By supporting Friends, that will send a message to the Government (Borough Council, in this case) that they DON’T rule over the people. They’re here FOR the people, and if they can’t figure out how to serve, they need to GET OUT..

Visit the Friends of Kardon Park facebook page or www.savekardonpark.com to make a donation online or send your donation via snail mail to PO Box 401, Downingtown, PA 19335

Hostile Takeover, Cronyism, Favoritism…same old routine

At the Dec 16, 2015 council meeting, the Borough Council appointed the mayor and two council members to the Water Authority in order to take control. Council also created an $1,800/mo consulting job or retiring police chief McGowan (see McGowan consulting agreement 12-2015).  Council prez added two things to the meeting that were not on the agenda. And, just to make sure the covered all of the illegal, unethical bases, they passed a KPark amendmemt 12-2015 in which they refund $250K of Peck’s deposit, among other things. It’s sickening.

How low can they go?

At the Nov 4 public Council Meeting, the Borough’s special solicitor for Kardon Park, Pat McKenna, read the proposed 2015 Amendment to the Agreement of Sale.  This is an amendment to the Dec 2011 Agreement, which was a complete do-over of the Aug 2007 Agreement (that had two amendments of its own).  How much money have all these revisions cost the taxpayer, not to mention the cost of continued litigation?  A simple Right to Know Request should reveal the total legal fees over the past 9+ years (RTK forms can be found here).  And, why have there been so many revisions?  The 2011 do-over lowered the price of Kardon Park by approximately $80K in order to offset the legal fees the developer had incurred.  How would the taxpayers benefit from Council reducing the agreed-upon price by over $80K??   Also, even though the Developer would pay the Borough’s legal fees up front, the total would be deducted from the sale price at closing, so the taxpayers would lose even more.    A lot has happened since December 2011, and now the Developer wants Council to make even more concessions that will be at the taxpayers’ expense.  How low will Council agree to go?  We’ll find out on December 16th or sooner.

Guest Post #3 of 3: If X supports Y and Z=Y, did X support Z? Answer: Yes, unless you live in the Borough.

It gets even worse! 

The posted agenda on the Borough’s website does not mention either public hearing, even though both had been re-advertised in the DLN twice in August stating there would be at the Sept 2 Council meeting.

That’s an awful lot of money wasted on advertising. It’s also enough to make a lot of residents VERY upset that their tax dollars are being wasted. It’s even worse if residents DO go to the meeting ready to speak their mind and…they say it’s not gonna happen???

And so it goes from worse to….absolute horrible.

In the New Business portion of the agenda, it states that there will be an AWARD to the ONLY developer that responded to the Request for Proposals (RFP) and is the same developer who showed the Council the plan several months ago. The Developer called it “Union Place”. How nice. It’s the UNION PLACE AWARD.

If you take a look at the photo below, the developer is holding up an artists rendition of his Union Place that would be located next to the former Minquas fire station and exactly where there is currently a parking lot with 66 spaces available. I found the photo at DowningtownMainStreet facebook page. There is more information about the building here on DowningtownDaze. There is also a link to an article from the DLN just above the photo. The last sentence: “The building is proposed at 75 feet tall. This would be about the same height as neighboring buildings, including the former Molly Maguire’s and the Dane Décor bell tower building on Lancaster Avenue.”  Is the reporter BLIND or just writing what DMSA told her to write?

TAKE A LOOK AT THE PHOTO, folks!   This 8-story building towers over the old Minquas fire station and the building on the other side.  This oversized monster is twice as tall as the 2 buildings on either side and does NOT add to the historic value of this section of Downingtown that IS in the National Register of Historic Places.

   Please read the other blogs here and come out to the council meeting and let them know you don’t want this in our borough!

https://www.facebook.com/DowningtownMainStreet

Downingtown Main Street Association

August 20 at 5:55am · Edited ·

DMSA Board of Directors vote unanimously to support Union Place, a seven-story structure with 72 condo apartments, retail shops and public parking. Pictured is Andy Hicks, owner and president of Tripoint Properties, Inc. of Downingtown, with a concept design for the $14 million project. http://bit.ly/1PqFsso

ANDY HICKS IS A MEMBER of Downingtown Main Street Assoc.

photo of Andy Hicks

http://www.downingtownmainstreet.com/who-we-are

Guest Post #2 of 3: Real men don’t follow rules

There is something REALLY rotten in the Downingtown Borough Council!

Below is the Agenda for the Sept 2 Council meeting.  The agenda, found on the Borough’s website does NOT mention the public hearings that had been re-advertised in the DLN in August!  What’s under “Deferred Business”  mentions the Ordinance for the Woodbine Overlay District – but not as a public hearing where residents could voice their opinion of it. There is NO mention of the public hearing for the amendments to the Comprehensive Plan.  It WAS re-advertised in the DLN AND mentioned in the Suburban Realtors Alliance online news briefs.

http://www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com/news/news-brief-archive-august-31-2015/

Borough of Downingtown to amend Comprehensive Plan

The Borough of Downingtown will hold a public hearing to consider approval of amendments to the Borough Comprehensive Plan. The proposed amendments relate to the land use categories in Chapter 3: Future Land Use & Housing Plan Categories; and Chapter 5: Economic Development Plan of the Comprehensive Plan. The hearing will take place on September 2, 2015 at 7 p.m. at Downingtown Borough Hall, located at 4 W. Lancaster Avenue. A full text copy the Comprehensive Plan Amendments are available for public inspection, and/or copies can be obtained for a fee, at the Downingtown Borough Hall.

Source: Daily Local; 08/25/2015

 AND BOROUGH COUNCIL OMITTED IT COMPLETELY FROM THE AGENDA????

Oh, no.  There WILL be citizens to be heard on this one.  The votes that were taken at the August 5 Council meeting are NOT valid. The Public Hearing MUST take place again. “The Council will consider the ordinance and take public comment at the hearing and will decide whether to enact and pass the ordinance….on the same night.”

   If the Comprehensive Plan amendments are not voted on this Wednesday evening, there can’t be a vote on the Ordinance titled  “Woodbine Overlay District”.

http://www.downingtown.org/Council%20Agenda%20-%20Minutes.html

AGENDA
BOROUGH COUNCIL MEETING
SEPTEMBER 2, 2015
7:00 P.M.

  • 6:00 p.m. Executive Session
  • 7:00 p.m. Call to Order
  • Prayer & Pledge of Allegiance
  • Recognition/Awards
  • Approval of Expenditures (Period Ending August 31, 2015)
  • Approval of Council Minutes (August 5, 2015)
  • Citizens to be Heard
  • Deferred Business
    • Ordinance 2015-04 Amending Chapter 287 Zoning Establishing the Woodbine Overlay District and Amending Chapter 256 Establishing Design Guidelines for the Woodbine Overlay District
  • New Business
    • Union Place RFP Award
    • Union Place Sale Agreement
    • Resolution 2015-10 Release of Mortgage Security Agreement and Fixture Filing by ConorDeclan LLC in Favor of the Borough
    • Resolution 2015-11 Confirming Provisions of Resolution 2008-19 Remain in Effect (115 & 119 W. Lancaster Ave.)
    • Municibid Auction Bid Award (2007 Ford Expedition)
  • Mayor & Council Updates
  • Adjournment

Guest Post #1 of 3: No more Sunshine (Act) and a History Re-Write

The following is a post from a special guest:

Is the Downingtown Borough Council trying to bluff their way through a sunshine act violation???

In July, there were 2 Public Notices in the Daily Local News. Each was advertised twice stating there would be public hearings at the August 5 Council meeting.   “The Council will consider the ordinance and take public comment at the hearing and will decide whether to enact and pass the ordinance….on the same night.”

BUT there were only 3 council members and the mayor at the August 5, 2015 meeting along with some residents who had something to say on several topics on the Agenda.

First question: Is it a legal to have a meeting with only 3 of 6 council members in attendance? (Answer:  No)  The Council members and the mayor looked at the Council Solicitor. One of the vacationing Council members was in a ‘conference call’ via the Mayor’s phone listening in.  AND THIS IS LEGAL? Solicitor said it was. (Solicitor was wrong)

Comments and questions from the audience were made and asked. According to Council Prez, Council members do not have to respond to questions presented at Citizens to be heard. In most cases, Council flat out ignores direct questions from citizens.

    A couple residents – including a former Council member – opposed the plan to add parking meters where there were never meters before.  One person spoke up about the poorly written, unedited and approved Comprehensive Plan. (More on this later) A couple residents opposed the Ordinance titled “Woodbine Overlay District” (including the former Council member!)

The Woodbine overlay district Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan alteration were voted on and approved by the 3 council members present and 1 council member on speakerphone.

BIG question: WHY were the same public hearing notices advertised in July re-advertised in August ? Each notice, published twice in August stating there would be public hearings during the September 2 Council Meeting are exactly the same as the ones done in July. Only the Council meeting date was changed.  Oh…so having only half the council members in attendance is NOT legal. 

    The good news is that we still have the opportunity to speak out and correct the Comprehensive Plan.

* Kardon Park was omitted as a public park.  It doesn’t matter if the properties are in litigation. It is STILL a public park and must be included in the current Comp Plan.

*In fact, the most recent decision by the Commonwealth Court clearly states that the front two parcels (bordering PA Ave and containing the Victims’ Memorial) are public parkland and cannot be sold.

* Various maps within the Plan omit waterways through certain areas of the Borough. The Mill Race that flows through Kardon Park and its lakes was not included as a waterway. On the other side of town, some maps show just Beaver Creek and some show just the RACE that goes to the Roger Hunt Mill. The race goes above the baseball fields on Manor Ave. The Creek flows below the fields and is just above Mary Street.  It is what regularly floods the area. Little Parke Run was omitted as was the stream that goes through Kerr Park. They tend to flood too.

   I believe that, with the obvious omissions, instances where opinions were written that change the actual history of the Borough, this version of the Comprehensive Plan must be corrected and properly edited for typographical and sentence structure errors.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!

Do you know some basic information about our government? Find out by taking this 21-question quiz.

While you’re enjoying a happy and safe 4th of July, take a moment to consider WHY fireworks are part of today’s celebration. Imagine for just a minute the sacrifices of the men, women, and families 239 years ago in their quest to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” for themselves and future generations.  Don’t let it be in vain.  Keep fighting to protect our freedom with YOUR VOTE.  It’s every American’s right AND duty!

If you aren’t registered to vote in PA, download and print a Voter Registration form here.  You can find out about the Presidential candidates at this site www.ontheissues.org.  Their mission is:

to provide non-partisan information for voters in the Presidential election, so that votes can be based on issues rather than on personalities and popularity.

More Borough Building Blunders?

Molly’s went belly-up in only a year.  The borough managed to get the $75K out of escrow and using the money to put in the parking lot that Molly’s was supposed to complete prior to opening.  Interesting that Molly’s got their certificate of occupancy and borough approvals to open for business when they didn’t have any parking.  This blog isn’t about Molly’s, though.  That was just the opening act.

For their next act, the borough is selling the 66-car public parking lot next to Molly’s so it can become an eight-story behemoth (seven stories above and one below ground level) complete with 6,540 sq ft of retail space, 72 “upscale apartment units”, and a parking garage that supposedly provides 83 public parking spaces.  The number of public parking spaces is artificial.  Read on to see why.

You can click on the following links to see the Tripoint Union Place proposal, the parking lot as it exists today, as well as the Daily Local News write-up.  Before going any further there are a couple of things to say up front.  Changing the municipal parking lot into a mixed use development isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, Georgio had a remarkably similar plan that he presented to the Planning Commission a few years back.  Georgio’s plan also offered mixed use and quite a few more public parking spots.  But, certain people in the Borough don’t like Georgio.  Perhaps they’re jealous of a man who immigrated from Greece as a teenager, didn’t know any English, wasn’t from a privileged background, and yet went on to become a very successful business and property owner.  Not surprisingly, the reception to Georgio’s idea was chilly.  A member of the Planning Commission responded by telling him to go build his “empire” somewhere else.  Ah, but now that someone they LIKE presented a similar plan, it’s a super idea and front page news!

Let’s look at what the Borough Code says about required parking:

1.  According to the Borough Code, apartments must provide TWO spaces PER UNIT.  So, 72 units equals 144 required parking spaces.  But, the proposed plan provides ONE parking space PER BEDROOM.  There are 14 two-bedroom apartments and 58 one-bedroom apartments.  How convenient.  Instead of providing 144 parking spaces as required by the Borough Code, the developer would only have to provide 86 spaces.  Are all 58 “upscale” one-bedroom apartments going to be occupied by only ONE person with only ONE car (and a really good salary in order to afford the upscale apartment)?  Unlikely!

2.  According to the Borough code, retail businesses must provide one parking space for every 250 sq. ft. of retail sales space.  To make the math easy, let’s assume 1,540 sq. ft. will not be used for retail sales, which leaves 5,000 sq. ft. of sales area.  That means 20 parking spaces are required to support 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space.  The proposal has ZERO spaces allocated for the retail locations.  In fact, the bottom of page 3 states, “Retail customers will be able to use the easily accessible public parking lot in the building’s parking garage.”   Council  has been (and still is) schizophrenic, particularly when it comes to parking.  Fee-in-lieu charges have varied from $250 to $2,500 per parking space.  Off-site parking is allowed for some but not others, etc.  It keeps things interesting.

3.  IF COMPLYING WITH THE BOROUGH CODE, the number of parking spaces required to support 72 apartments and 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space is 166 parking spaces.  If you add in the existing 66 public parking spaces, the total would be 232 parking spaces.  The proposed development would provide a total of 171 parking spaces, which is a LOSS of 61 public parking spaces.

Another point of interest with the parking is the money.  First of all, Council (except Feldman) recently voted to spend $115K on parking kiosks.  What will happen to the kiosk planned for this particular lot?  Can the Borough get their money back?  Second, the developer (Tripoint Properties owned by Andy Hicks) proposes that the profits from the public parking fees would be split with the borough 50/50.  50% of the profits, not 50% of the gross receipts.  The costs of the parking “arm” and maintenance would be deducted first.  The borough currently receives 100% of the parking fees (and violations) of 66 spots.  Unless parking fees are raised, the borough sill lose money on the parking.

Just for fun let’s walk through one possible scenario.

John and Jane Doe are young professionals ready to start their life together.  They decided to rent an “upscale” apartment instead of buying a home and building equity.  The one-bedroom apartment is a bit pricey, but they can swing it with two incomes.

Problem #1:  They have only one designated parking spot, which John insists is for Jane to use (chivalry is not dead).  There are no overflow spots, so John has to use one of the public parking spots, which creates an additional monthly expense for the young couple.

Problem #2:  The retail locations on ground level, the new restaurant next door (that also lacks adequate parking), the local businesses, and the new McDonald’s are fabulously popular now that the Borough has an “upscale” and “urban” feel.  That’s great, right?  Not for John.  It’s 5:30 on Friday, and John has been sitting in local traffic for 45 minutes along with the other tenants in their quest to get home before bedtime.  John finally gets to the garage only to find that it’s full.  Now what?  There are no options other than to park in another lot illegally (and risk getting towed) or park on a nearby street.  John’s glad it isn’t winter and icy…yet.  Jane doesn’t add to the traffic congestion, since she’s a nurse and works odd hours.  John and Jane are pretty smart and have figured out how to ensure they’ll always have a parking spot.  Whenever possible, they use Jane’s car from their reserved space and leave John’s car in the public lot.  Their neighbors do the same.  Hey, public parking is first come, first served, and John (and the other 71 tenants) were there first.

Problem #3:  John’s turning 30!  Happy birthday, John!  Jane wants to invite a few friends over to see their new place and to celebrate John’s birthday.  See Problem #2 and multiply it by the number of guests invited.

Problem #4:  John finds a spot in a far corner of the lower level that is often open, and happily parks there.  He takes the elevator up to his and Jane’s lovely new apartment and looks forward to a weekend of relaxation.  Then the rain starts.  The light rain quickly turns to a major storm, and Downingtown is flooded once again.  John and others who parked on the lower level file their insurance claims on Monday.  The good news is that John and Jane don’t need that second parking spot anymore.  The money they used to spend on public parking is now being saved to buy a new car for John.