The Commissioner Report: April 8, 2019

Morgan Wisehart and Estelle Atkinson

On the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month from September to May, the seven Radnor Township Commissioners meet in the Radnorshire Room of the Township Building at 6:30 PM to discuss the pertinent issues facing our community — namely parking and sewage!

Atop a raised platform and against a backdrop of dark wood and a giant, golden Radnor emblem, the commissioners sit, left to right: Richard Booker, Sean Farhy, Lucas Clark, Lisa Borowski, Jack Larkin, Jake Abel, and John Nagle.

The crowd is packed; a group of several concerned neighbors fill in the last two rows, a few regulars are interspersed throughout the back half of the room, and, front and center, sit the Radnorite’s Commissioner Correspondents with empty rows separating them and the concerned neighbors.

The first thing on the agenda tonight: public participation. A woman, who resides in Raven’s Cliff, spoke about her displeasure with the proposed deployment of small cell towers to improve mobile phone service in the area. Representing a group of 41 neighbors, this concerned citizen cited possible unknown health effects of small cell integration, such as the degradation of neighborhood aesthetics and subsequent decline in property values, as well as an irksome, humming sound as reasons why better cell service just isn’t worth it: “While some of us stand to gain from improved cell service, we stand to lose much much more.”

Next up, Sarah Pilling, who was instrumental in recently passing Radnor’s “Ready for 100” initiative, showed up in a celebratory t-shirt to talk about upcoming environmental events in the area. For all the budding environmentalists out there, this Thursday, April 11, there will be a lecture by leading glaciologist Michael Mann at 7 o’clock in the Connelly Center Cinema at Villanova University. On Wednesday, April 24, Villanova University will be hosting a sustainability fair and market behind the Connelly Center from noon to 2 o’clock. And finally, on Friday, April 26, Media is hosting a rally for the earth open to all the people of Delaware County; if you’re interested, meet at Borough Hall at 6 o’clock.

Following public comment, Robert Zienkowski, Township Manager, commended the police department and Superintendent Flanagan for handling the Sugartown Road Wawa shooting efficiently and professionally. He added, “Our sympathies are with the family and friends of Stephanie,” and concluded with, “I want to recognize the men and women in our police department for the work they have done.” Commissioner Farhy, Ward 7, echoed his sentiment and added, “This township building, and hopefully other township buildings throughout the area, can and should be used a safe space […] when you’re meeting someone that you don’t know who it is […] Hopefully we’ll never have anything like this happen again. Not only in Radnor, but everywhere.”

The first item on the agenda pertaining to the Parks and Recreation Department was Resolution #2019-34, Authorizing the Purchase of a Comfort Station for Emlen Tunnell Park, which, put simply, means there will now be a bathroom on the property. This project has been in the works since 1998; Commissioner Farhy said, “It’s about time that there is a suitable place where both little boys and little girls can use the bathroom.” This ordinance passed unanimously.

Pertaining to the Public Works and Engineering Department, the meeting rolled into a “Discussion and Possible Motion regarding the corner area landscaping, tree replacement, and paving of adjacent street parking in the Wayne Business Overlay District.” Township Engineer Steve Norcini outlined the plan, which partly consists of replacing 60 existing street trees with 60 Cleveland Pear trees. Commissioner Larkin, Ward 1, proposed tabling the question of street renaming and reschedule cost discussions until the 29th. This was met with vehement opposition from Commissioner Booker, Ward 2, who’d much rather authorize however much money was needed and move on. Assistant Township Manager and Finance Director William “Bill” White protested, saying that they had $25,000, but not for this project. Interjecting, Commissioner Booker stated, “I expect RET [the Radnor Enhancement Trust] will pay for this in the end.”

Sarah Pilling returned to the podium for public comment on this issue. She hoped that the proposal would be sent to the Shade Tree Commission, which Commissioner Borowski, Ward 4, assured it would be. She had some qualms with the specific type of tree–Cleveland Pear–that was to be planted. Pilling asserted, “they’re a poor choice,” because a monoculture of trees would be susceptible to blight. She cited a case in which this had happened to a group of Cleveland Pear trees; they were struck by a blight and developed “tight crotches.” At this remark, Commissioner Farhy and Commissioner Booker absolutely erupted into laughter. Commissioner Farhy managed to contain himself enough to shrug at the two Radnorite Correspondents directly in front of them, but Commissioner Booker was unable to get a grip. The final motion was to approve up to $25,000 to support this plan, and it passed unanimously.

Falling under the Personnel and Administration Department, Resolution #2019-22–Adopting the Goal Setting Report of The Organizational Resources Group Dated March 20, 2019–discussed the finalization of goals established in an executive session. The title of this particular meeting was a source of great contention. Commissioner Farhy and Commissioner Booker were adamant that this session was an “exercise,” or “training session,” and most certainly did NOT invite an official resolution. Commissioner Booker had issues with the fact that it was not done in public and voiced support for a potential forum. He asked Commissioner Larkin, “Are you opposed to getting public input on our goals?” to which Commissioner Larkin responded, “I’m opposed to delay, and that seems to be something that you’re fond of.” Further bickering ensued until Commissioner Clark, Ward 3, weighed in: “We’re voting on something that doesn’t even [bind] us to anything, by the way. I could vote for infinite traffic. What’s going to happen? NOTHING!” This did not satisfy Commissioner Farhy, who felt that this should be a discussion held at a later date to ensure that each commissioner could properly represent their constituency. Commissioner Borowski, slightly fed up at this point, retorted, “Are you suggesting that you did not adequately represent your constituency?” Ultimately the issue was put to a vote, and failed 5-1. Commissioner Borowski was the only dissenting vote, and Commissioner Nagle, Ward 5, had already left. Borowski quickly added, “I’m not going to lie, I’m a little disappointed that we can’t pass a couple goals for our township.”

Following the Resolution, a “Discussion of Emergency Communications” began. Police Superintendent Flanagan detailed the advancements in communications technology occuring at the local and county levels. Delaware County has recently conducted a study of radio communications to ensure the system is as efficient as possible. Commissioner Booker inquired as to whether or not control of the communications system should reside with the county, but Superintendent Flanagan assured him “Radnor Township has radio systems that we control, so that we can continuously provide service” should there be an interruption of service provided by Delaware County.

The last item on the agena, falling under the Community Development Department, was the “Solicitor Review of the CICD.” The CICD, Comprehensive Integrated College Development, ordinance, mandates what additional facilities can be built on local college campuses. Its application in this instance is fora new restaurant being built on the Villanova Campus, which has become a point of contention in the community. The CICD allows for a “bistro” to be built, but the restaurant–The Refectory– is set to be much larger than the average bistro. The public and multiple commissioners, particularly Commissioner Farhy, had major concerns regarding parking and traffic. People around the room argued slightly over the number of seats in the new restaurant, settling on the number 181. Commissioner Booker said, scandalized, “I just want to reiterate that there would be a 181 seat bar at a restaurant for Villanova.” Commissioner Farhy eased his worries: “It was 218 and now it is 121, but I don’t know what the breakdown is between restaurant and bar.” Either way, apparently, but not certainly, this would “zero out” the parking on campus. Commissioner Farhy asked Township Solicitor John Rice, “how many additional parking spots does Villanova have left?” Solicitor Rice responded, “They’re pretty much capped out,” but, “I am not your zoning officer.” However, Kevin Kochanski, Director of Community Development, has “crunched the numbers.” The infamous Kevin was mentioned many times throughout the discussion as people went back and forth about parking and how there was just no way this restaurant could happen unless Villanova added more parking. Unfortunately, more parking is not an option; Commissioner Farhy stated, “[another] five story garage [would be] extremely unsightly.” The discussion went on forever, but everyone agreed that Mr. Kevin would prepare a letter, because he “has a pretty good handle on it.”

Before the meeting came to a close, Township Manager Zienkowski had one final concern: “we get woken up at 3am if the national weather service wants to tell us that there is going to be a flash flood tomorrow morning.” He suggested that this feature be removed from the township alert system. Commissioner Borowski answered, “you can go into the website and turn that off.” To this, Commissioner Booker asked, “Can individual participants turn it off?” Commissioner Borowski replied, “Just log into the website, you can turn it off.” Commissioner Booker sided with Manager Zienkowski: “I would agree with you to take it off our feed so that people don’t have to take that step.” Commissioner Farhy, in a most sarcastic tone, interjected “Can we have a goal setting [meeting] on this?”

As the meeting finally came to an end, Commissioner Abel had some new business to address: “When is the next planning commission meeting?” It became clear that there were two meetings scheduled for one night: a special meeting and a regular meeting. Commissioner Clark stated, “I understand the 13th is a special meeting.” Commissioner Booker wondered, “so will we have the special meeting on the 6th then?” To which Commissioner Clark replied, quickly and emphatically , “NO!”

Only one motion was left to vote on: the motion to adjourn. Commissioner Booker was very eager to propose the motion. It passed, unsurprisingly, unanimously. Commissioner Borowski, amused, exclaimed, “Oh look, I don’t vote alone on that one now, do I?”