This column was submitted to Radnor Patch by Rich Booker, a Radnor Township resident and Republican candidate for Second Ward Commissioner.
Here we are again.
Several years ago, there were major improprieties by Radnor Township official(s). The problems stemmed from secret self-dealing, activities that were purposely hidden from public view. We now see the same type of back room, secret deal making being undertaken by the Radnor Board of Commissioners.
The first of several secret deals relates to the development of the Adrossan tract. Based on statements by the developer during zoning hearings this week, the fact that they (the Commissioners) have recused themselves from making a determination on the development of the historic property, and the repeated references to the purchase by the Board President, Elaine Shaefer, it is obvious that they are in the process of making a deal to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to acquire a “view shed” at Newtown Road and Darby Paoli Rd. The rumor is that they are rushing to spend $11 million or more taxpayer dollars to subsidize the very wealthy family that wants to develop the property.
Why are Ms. Shaefer and the Commissioners dealing in secret on this? Why are they rushing to make a deal for this property without any public input, or even a discussion as to what they are going to spend the taxpayer dollars on? It appears that a smart developer has gotten the best of our Commissioners, and is using millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to develop his property and line his pockets. Our Board of Commissioners are apparently planning to spend taxpayer money to purchase wetlands, steep slope areas and riparian buffers on the site – why are they spending taxpayer money, to purchase property that could never be developed? This is poor stewardship, and displays a shocking lack of transparency in government that is un-paralleled since the firing of the Township Manager some years ago. The public should be outraged by this activity, especially in light of the recent scandals at the Township.
I am calling on the Board of Commissioners to hold public hearings on exactly what land they want to purchase at Ardrossan, and executing any deal with the developer until it can be determined, in the public light, that the money they want to spend would be used only to acquire property to maintain open space in areas that would otherwise be available for development. We should not spend taxpayer money for unusable land.
Ardrossan is not the only current example of back room, secret deals between a developer and the Township. Another developer of the former Wyeth site on King of Prussia Road, made a “gift” of $50,000 to the Township Commissioners some months ago. By an amazing coincidence, that developer (BioMed) has just received a key approval to develop and re-purpose their site, at a density level that is unprecedented in Radnor Township.
In addition, their development will also provide for a new 225,000 square foot sports facility, on open space land that the Township is going to give to the developer! So Ms. Shaefer will spend $11 million of taxpayer money to buy 30 acres of undevelopable property at Ardrossan, at the same time giving away open space land in Radnor’s second ward! Again, this is an outrageous misuse of the public trust and resources, and should be stopped.
This week, the Township Director of Community Development Kevin Kochanski, had enough contempt for the intelligence of the residents, as well as the Planning Commission, to show the BioMed site as containing 27 acres. He knows that the BioMed site is only 19 acres (see also the Delco public access database). He showed the higher figure, because it included the adjacent Township parcel of 8 acres, which almost certainly will be given to the developer for the development of the sports facility. At the Planning Commission meeting on October 8th, Kevin refused to explain how he arrived at the 27 acre figure for the site, but he did include a sports facility land use, in his model ordinance for the development of the site. Kevin also refused to state for the record, that the site would not be used for the facility. Further, the developer’s lawyer, Nick Caniglia, stated at the zoning hearing, that the adjacent Township parcel would be used for the sports facility. The Radnor Township bureaucrats and Commissioners think that the public and Radnor Planning Commission can be duped into approving the development based on inaccurate figures, and misleading statements.
Why is the Township keeping their deal with this developer out of the public view? Again, in this case, the Commissioners took a gift of $50,000 from the developer, and they now refuse to let the public know what deals they are making behind the scenes, until it is too late. This is just the type of activity that lead to prior Township malfeasance, and should be immediately stopped.
Finally, the Township Commissioners are imposing a new storm water tax on the residents of Radnor. It is ridiculous that the township has known about and studied stormwater issues for years, but never did anything about it. The Township never even finished the stormwater project in Wayne that was the companion to the Radnor Middle School development (I was on the Radnor School Board at the time, and am familiar with the project). In fact, they have allowed over development of the Township, exacerbating the stormwater problem. Now, they can only fix it, by imposing a new tax on the residents of Radnor!
The Commissioners could not even complete a major stormwater project in Wayne, that they committed to doing in 2008, and now they want us to trust them to do several potential new projects over the next year or two? They have not shown that they can complete the work, and do not have a plan for anything but taxing the constituents. Radnor residents should not stand for it.
The Commissioners of Radnor are back to making secret, back room deals with developers at Ardrossan and 145 King of Prussia Road, and using tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to buy so called “open space,” but they can’t find $2 million to work on needed stormwater infrastructure projects?! They insist on sticking the every-day Radnor taxpayers with that bill.
Let’s see -- $11 million and 8 acres of public land for private developers, a 10% tax increase to Radnor taxpayers. Radnor residents deserve, and must insist on better.