Friday, March 14, 2008

Residents Revolt And Defeat Upper Providence Trail Plan

The Establishment strikes back, Upper Providence Township council votes down the adoption of their Trail Plan.

Email Communication from DVBC member and Bicycle Coalition Volunteer Woody Kotch:

I attended the Upper Providence Township Council meeting tonight. It was the biggest crowd ever at a township meeting. I'd say three hundred residents came out to rant at the council on the poor job they did on communicating with the community on this project and urged them to vote down the entire proposal, which they did.

The speakers from the audience called the report by the consultants a waste of $80,000.00 that was poorly done (Note: this was federal money). The arguments of higher taxes, undisclosed expenses, security issues, and eminant domain concerns, that the township would take land from property owners highlighted the opponents points. Only three people spoke out in favor of the proposal. 30 or so against.

A lot of work went into this plan and it is a shame that it seems to have been killed by the inclusion of trails that would have been built on or behind private property many years in the future. In this case it might have been better to start small with just some designated streets and extended sidewalks. That might have been downed too. The venom in the room was that thick.

Sounds like another populist revolt in the burbs, apparently the reality of $4 a gallon gas, an obesity epidemic and climate change doesn't translate to support for bicycling and walking.

Danish Urban Planning Guru Jan Gehl noted similar opposition in the 1960's when Copenhagen decided to prioritize bicycling and walking over motor vehicles. The city's solution? Take baby steps every year. Now 1/3 of all commuter trips taken in Copenhagen are by bicycle.


John Boyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What happened here was that several residents whose properties were crossed by the trails in Phase 4 of the plan placed petitions with a fair amount of misinformation in mailboxes across the township and even retained an attorney who happened to live on their street to threaten litigation against the Township should the plan move forward.

Emails also went out to residents across the township to attend this meeting to protect the security of their homes. Phase 4 which included the improbable trail around Springton Reservoir closed by Aqua to the public since 9/11 and trails along Ridley Creek across many residents back yards was used to rally the troops against the entire plan.

John Boyle said...

From the February 14th Township Meeting Minutes:

Executive Session was held prior to meeting to discuss litigation.

Public Forum

Kathy and James Z, S. Feathering Road, voiced their opposition to the proposed trail plan that would run through the rear of her property. She stated concerns with stream erosion, maintenance of the trail, environmental issues, and the fact that it would be constructed in a known floodplain where she was told she would never be able to build. Added concerns are those of privacy and safety. A large poster size photo of the proposed trail plan on S. Feathering was presented showing the area completely submerged. Mr. Zurbach said it would be an environmental nightmare to construct such a trail in this area.

Dan K, S. Feathering Road, stated that he opposed the proposed trail plan that would be constructed at the rear of his property. His concerns are those of privacy, protection of the area, sanitation, and environmental issues. He stated that his pool would be 15`-20` from the proposed path. He feels that Council has a responsibility to vote no to Stage 4 of the proposed trail plan.

Sue K, S. Feathering Road, she stated that she loves her home. She said that the front of her property (the road) is presently used for parking for the many people who are using Ridley Creek State Park and implied that that is enough. She doesn’t feel that a trail path in the rear of her home is needed. She added that constructing a path of any kind at the rear of her property would not be financially feasible.

Jim S, S. Feathering Road, requested that all documents regarding the trail plan be updated and posted on the Township website for the public to view and a 90 day period for public comment be allowed. He questioned the development of the plan. He asked if engineering reviewed the plan, and indicated that the cost estimates for the plan understate the true costs in the industry. He proposed that Council delete all of Phase 4 and any other Phases of the plan that adversely effect the environment. One area noted was Phase 1 N. Feathering Rd., through a forested area. He voiced concern that the 3 to 1 slopes on that plan will cause erosion and increase storm water issues.

Ellen S, S. Feathering Road, asked what the next steps are following the November 29th meeting. She added that the information from that meeting was not posted on the website. She questioned why the trail plan was submitted to the State without their voices. She asked that Phase 4 be removed from the proposed trail plan. She asked that the neighbors be part of the process and would like to be notified of any upcoming meetings.

Brad M, N. Ridley Creek Rd., addressed the neighbors in the audience stating that he fought about drainage issues with the Township and didn’t get a favorable response. He asked if the trail plan was a want or a need idea. He also questioned the cost of the project and the need for such a project with State Park offering trails.

Karen A, S. Feathering Road, voiced her opposition to the proposed trail plan. She has concerns about the layout of the path, pollution, negative impact on the wildlife, and erosion. She stated that the post card sent by the Township was inadequate to inform the residents, especially those neighbors who would be directly impacted by such a trail. She asked if the Township would be purchasing their property, who will protect the trail plan, would additional police protection be needed, who covers the liability, and how much of the cost would be covered by grants? She said that she doesn’t want a tax increase due to the implementation of a trail plan. She added that a path is not needed. She presented Council with a petition from the neighbors on Allysa Drive, Camby Chase, and S. Feathering who are opposed to the trail plan.

Jim W, S. Feathering Road, thanked Council for donating their time. He stated he would like to echo his neighbors concerns regarding the trail plan. He asked why if the Township has $6 million dollars do they still have septic systems and not public sewers. He urged Council to use the money wisely.

John N, S. Feathering Road, stated that he did not receive the post card announcing the trail plan public meeting. He voiced concern about the fact that according to the map much of the property in the rear of his property appears to be in Middletown Township. He stated that the area floods, it is environmentally sensitive, and this plan would negatively impact property values. He requested that the trail be removed from the plan. He added that he has a video of the area proposed for the trail.

Don T, S. Feathering Road, stated that the trail would potentially encourage people from all over to use the plan and he doesn’t want it in his yard. He added, give them public sewers.

Answers to Public Forum
Mr. Cashman responded to the neighbors stating that there are many critical issues that need to be addressed from his district. He added that this is only a proposal and has not been voted on or going ahead at this point. He stated that one of the principles of the concept plan is that no owner would be required to take it on. Mr. Cashman stated that if neighbors don’t want it, it wouldn’t happen.

Marion S, Allysa Drive, asked who suggested the plan, how and why this plan was considered.

Mr. Clinton discussed the history of the trail plan and thanked the residents for coming out. The purpose of the proposed plan is to connect Upper Providence with itself and to the communities around us. He added that DCNR supports the program and is currently reviewing it and after their review Council will consider it and move forward with it. He said that Council is considering what kind of committee to form for the trail plan. He also stated that sewers are the most pressing issue facing Council, as is traffic.

Mr. Visek added that the trail plan is a concept and could be decades away from implementation. He added that the Township is trying to join CDCA in an effort to move forward with sewers for the Township.

It was also stated that residents often come forward to the Township with problems, an example being drainage issues, and it is on their private property which makes it a private problem rather than a Township issue.

Mr. Hamaday stated that the entire plan will be posted on the Township website and it will be updated as changes occur. He suggested that residents call him directly if they have any questions or concerns. He added that a copy would also be sent to the library.

Mr. S, S. Feathering, requested that since 90% of the neighbors oppose the trail plan could it please be removed from the plan. He requested that the line indicating the proposed plan be completely removed.

Mr. Cashman stated, “I will ask that it be removed from the plan.” Mr. Bierling said that he would support Mr. Cashman and the neighbors to have it removed.

Kathy M, Foxdale Road, stated that none of her neighbors are aware of this trail plan. She stated that she would get a petition from her neighbors opposing the trail plan. She asked that it not be saved even as a conceptual plan.

Mr. Cashman thanked everyone for their input and stated that if the 5th districts residents don’t want it he won’t support it.

Mr. Cashman called for a recess at 8:40 PM
Mr. Cashman reconvened the meeting at 8:50 PM

12:32 AM