Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sensible Garage Naming comes to WC

The garage that will be built at the corner of North Walnut and East Chestnut streets will not be called the "Joe Norley Garage."

On Wednesday night, borough council was trying to figure out what to name the garage.

Joe Norley, the South Walnut Street resident who goes to almost as many West Chester meetings as I do, and who, at these meetings, talks way more than any other member of the public, made to council this offer:

"I'll give you $500 to name the garage after me."

Councilman Jim Jones responded:

"How about a trash can?"


Anyway, for more than a year the borough has been referring to the new garage as "The Mosteller Replacement Garage." The new garage, you see, is replacing the Mosteller Garage, which was just demolished.

Luckily, council members apprehended that appending this appalling appellation to the new garage would be, well, not very apropos.

Borough council on Wednesday decided to call the new garage "The Chestnut Street Garage." If you name it after the street it's on, Councilwoman Holly Brown reasoned, people will have an easier time finding it.


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zukin got conditional use approval

West Chester Borough Council gave Zukin Realty conditional use approval tonight to build a 126-room hotel at North Walnut and East Gay streets.

Zukin, however, has a bunch more hoops to jump through before the hotel can be built.

To read about the Zukin hotel approval, see this article.

This is the second hotel project that the current borough council has approved. The first is that of Brian McFadden, which gained approval in February 2008.

The borough currently has no hotels. It could suddenly have two.

Hotels, however, are not unprecedented. They've been here before.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Zukin Decision Tomorrow Night

Tomorrow night, West Chester Borough Council is likely to decide whether or not to give Zukin Realty conditional use approval to build a 126-room hotel at East Gay and North Walnut streets. Whatever council's decision is, a hearing that has gone on for more than two years will end.

So how does this affect you?

Well, Zukin will be one step closer to building this hotel. Conditional use approval is not, however, the last hoop Zukin must pass through.

The hearing is at 6 p.m. at borough hall. But, according to some West Chester municipal land use experts, even if Zukin gets approval, it will be two to three years before construction of the hotel gets underway.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bold statement of this week

I'm sporadically trying to keep up with the bold statement awards.

This week, the winner is Tim Regan, the developer who wants to tear down and build anew the College Arms student housing facility at High and Rosedale, in West Chester Borough.

When Borough Council gave Regan approval to rebuild College Arms, it required that Regan's new building be LEED certified. Getting LEED certification isn't easy, I've been told. Anyway, Regan, who appears to be thinking hard about what he can do to make sure he actually does obtain LEED certification, approached borough council's PZBID Committee this week to ask for permission to put awnings on the new College Arms.

Awnings, Regan said, will block out some sunlight, thereby cutting down on the use of air conditioning. This, he said, will help him get LEED certification. (He is required to ask for permission to install awnings because the College Arms building design that borough council approved last year did not show awnings.)

The PZBID Committee, as is to be expected, had sundry questions about the awnings. (PZBID stands for Planning, Zoning and Industrial Development. Councilpersons Jim Jones, Carolyn Comitta, and Scott Smith serve on it.)

Councilman Jim Jones worried (perhaps correctly) that students would climb out their windows and attempt to hang off the awnings.

Councilwoman Carolyn Comitta (the mayor-elect) worried that the students would be deprived of natural light, and would, in order to study during the day, be forced to turn on lamps.

Council President Sue Bayne (who does not serve on PZBID but was at the meeting anyway) suggested that Regan put awnings on the West Chester Commons, another student housing facility his company owns. (Regan dodged this suggestion. Awnings, it appears, are more expensive than you would think.)

Anyway, Regan eventually informed council, regarding awnings:

"This feature's been around for thousands of years."

And that's why he wins the bold statement of the week award.

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bold statement of last week

The award goes to Gordon Woodrow, a lifelong WCB resident who opposes Stan Zukin's plan to build a 126-room hotel at North Walnut and East Gay streets.

Woodrow, who obtained party status to the Zukin Hotel Conditional Use Hearing (this means he can call witnesses and can enter exhibits into the record), delivered a speech during last week's 7.5 hour round of the hearing. (Read about night one of the hearing here, and about night two here.)

Woodrow wins the Bold Statement award for boldness and for eloquence. Rarely at a zoning hearing does someone deliver a speech you actually want to listen to.

Here are some excerpts from Woodrow's speech:

* * *

I think it fitting to remind you at this time of year of the Frank Capra film “It’s A Wonderful Life.” West Chester is Bedford Falls, and George Bailly’s nightmare of Pottersville is what we are becoming. I have seen this wonderful family town become an every-weekend Mardi Gras destination for countless numbers of avid partiers, even once personally coming close to having to defend myself against several drunken, testosterone-fueled boy/men because our host failed to park fast enough for their convenience. AND IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.

* * *

I assure you that a hotel built on top of a pharmacy may be a business model that works for an investor, but it is not one that predicts a first-class hospitality center for West Chester . . . What you will have is a huge, challenged building, with no scale in relation to the street, that includes clip-on ornamentation more fitting for Disneyworld. Simply put: an affront to the rich history of West Chester and not inspiring to other investors wanting something more in line with a small, vibrant, architecturally-interesting venue.

* * *

We have also been told this evening that the devil is in the details. I see many devils. Ladies and gentlemen, there are more audible calls in this deal than on any given NFL Sunday. Mr. Zukin knows how to call them, and our defense is good intentions? I submit to you now is the time to force the issue. Once you grant conditional use as requested, you will be setting precedent for the Mosteller block and for every other development plan that comes before you.

* * *

You can read Woodrow's entire speech here.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

After the night meeting . . .

Earlier this year, when looking through The Daily Local News Stylebook, a dusty, tan binder that somehow landed on my desk, I discovered an interesting document. It was written by Jim Callahan, our former assistant city editor. I believe it dates to the late 1990s. The document tells new reporters how to file a "live" story on a night meeting. (Filing a "live" story on a night meeting involves sitting through the meeting, speeding, at its close, back to the newsroom, and composing a story on said meeting.)

Here's the text of this document. (I've retained the grammar and style errors that appeared in the original.) If you want to read the original, you can download it here.

night meetings - Because of deadline concerns, we currently are not filing many night meetings "live." If not being filed live, the reporter should do his or her best to make the story seem like a feature on the issue being reported, and not merely a recitation of agenda items.

If you are "live," the following are suggestions to help you file quickly, accurately and to the point. Note that these tips are NOT taught in journalism school and define the difference between practical newspapering and a bunch of eggheads who don't know the working end of a pencil.


An editor once told me "I can train a seal to cover a night meeting."

You can start barking now.

- Decide the ONE item you are interested in. Research it.

- The lede should describe the action or inaction of the meeting. Nothing more. The SUBJECT is the acting body, the PREDICATE is the activity, the OBJECT is the ONE item, and the modifier at the end describes the ONE item.

Under no circumstances should the lede be more than 30 words, 20 words is better.

e.g. WEST CHESTER - Borough Council Wednesday night rejected a proposal to ban student housing.

- In your second graph announce the vote and what it means.

e.g. The 5 to 4 vote means West Chester University will withdraw its threat to move to West Goshen


The 5 to 4 vote means West Chester University students can continue to get bombed in bars and throw up in gutters up and down South Walnut Street.

- The third graph should have a quote from the winning side.

e.g. "All right, everybody party like it's 1999," said Councilwoman Mary D. Zimmerman.

- The fourth graph should have a quote from the losing side.

e.g. "I am ashamed of council tonight. West Chester's long nightmare with those hooligans posing as students will only continue," said Councilman Shannon Royer.

SPECIAL NOTE: Even if the vote is 150 to 1 ALWAYS get the one. It is the reporter's obligation to get the dissenting side. It should be high up.

- Throw in a couple graphs of either quotes or paraphrases on the action. If people were yelling and screaming or cheering you might want to throw that in paragraph five.

e.g. A group of 15 fraternity brothers sitting quietly in the back row erupted in cheers and clapping when the vote was announced.

"Way to go council! Hey, Mary, wanna go dancing," yelled Nick Blade, 21, a senior in the Barpha Scarpha Blotto Fraternity.

- Get yourself another six or seven graphs on something to do with the issue. Paraphrase stuff, ladle in the history of the issue (should be back-taked).

- Shut up and file. Should be done in 20 to 30 minutes. TOPS. No excuses.

-Leave office. Quickly. You have received a tip that you must check out immediately: Someone has informed you the draft beer at the Square Bar is very cold.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dr. White was right

It's true. West Chester Borough spends more on its library than on its roads.

At least, in 2010 it might.

Robert White, a dentist, West Goshen Supervisor, and frequent utterer of controversial statements, told me last month that his township has no intention of giving an annual contribution to the West Chester Public Library. Then, he delivered this zinger:

"West Goshen decided to spend its money on active recreation and fixing roads. The borough must just spend its money on the library, because its roads are atrocious."

Afterwards, he said something like, "And you can quote me on that."

Well, Dr. White was right about the borough's spending priorities. In its 2010 proposed budget, the borough has set aside $105,000 for the library. However, citing Great Recession-related financial difficulties, borough officials tentatively canceled $99,000 worth of road milling and resurfacing projects. This brings the total money the borough will spend on milling and resurfacing to $0.

I'm not saying the borough is wrong to support the library or to cancel the road repairs. West Chester's roads don't bother me. And, if I had to enumerate the things that give my life meaning, books would make my list. Smooth roads wouldn't. (Rough roads might ... but I'm not sure I can succinctly explain why.)

The borough's 2010 budget contains $156,000 to purchase two dump trucks. These will be used to replace the worn out ones that now collect garbage, plow roads, and, if I'm not mistaken, spread road salt. So it's not as if the borough is spending nothing to make its roads easier to drive on. And if Borough Council President Sue Bayne gets her way, the borough might forgo purchase of one of the trucks and use the money to instead complete a few paving projects.

Re: the library funding, Dr. White said that West Goshen provides to the greater West Chester Area ample parkland and $300,000 a year worth of recreation programs. And, he said, residents already pay to support the county library system. Therefore, he said, no contribution to the West Chester Library is necessary.

The West Chester Public Library asks the municipalities in its service area to contribute a dollar annually for each of their residents. West Chester Borough, which has 18,000 permanent residents, contributes more than $100,000. West Goshen Township, which has 20,000 permanent residents, contributes nothing. The county also assesses a library tax, but revenues from this tax go primarily to the big library in Exton, not to the smaller libraries throughout the county.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 30, 2009

Four Days Till Elections!

In the last week, the West Chester Area School Board race, already contentious, has heated up. The rest of the races in my beat (West Chester and environs) are quiet. There are, however, murmurs in the borough's fifth ward. Independent Dave LaLeike is running a vigorous write-in campaign for borough council against endorsed Democrat Tom Paxson. And in Westtown, political unknown John Haws, a Democrat, is trying to unseat Republican Board of Supervisors Chair Carol DeWolf.

All week, my inbox filled with political e-mails. Most were from WCASD Democrats. A whole bunch included a link to a YouTube video that features Republican Candidate Sean Carpenter participating in Chester County Victory Movement rallies. Some included links to this column and this column, by Henry Briggs, a former Malvern Borough Council President and Republican Committeeman. The Democrats are also making a huge deal out of the fact that the Dem WCASD candidates brought ad time on cable television.

The Republicans have been really quiet. Few e-mails. No recent rumors of attack ads. No time on second-tier cable TV stations. This is about the only stir they've caused.

Back to the YouTube video. First, it's cheezy. Second, Democrats (and a few Republicans) asked me, "Isn't it shocking? Aren't you shocked by it?"

No, I'm not. I've covered plenty of Victory Movement rallies. The video appears to have been compiled from footage taken by Chester County Peace Movement regular John Beitzel. It is intended to place Carpenter among the more raucous Victory Movement demonstrators. All it does, however, is weave together images of Carpenter participating in Victory Movement rallies and images of other VM demonstrators yelling, screaming, and holding questionable signs. (OK - Carpenter is holding questionable signs too.)

The video tries to make it seem like Carpenter was demonstrating with the Victory Movement on the day when something like 200 motorcyclists came one of its rallies. I covered the rally, and though I looked for Carpenter, I didn't see him. (He rides a motorcycle with A Hero's Welcome and Warrior's Watch.)

(I regret now that my coverage of motorcycle day was so tame. I didn't mention the guy with the jacket that read "Sons of the Confederacy, Mechanized Cavalry Division." Nor did I mention the Confederate flags, perhaps because I found them so disgusting. One biker tried to fight me. I would've lost.)

Anyway, I hear that school district residents are at this moment being bombarded with campaign mailers. Some of them, apparently, feature quotations from my articles. Please, scan and send me whatever nonsense you get in the mail. You can reach me at I'll put them on the blog.

(BTW - The most ridiculous Chester County attack ad I've seen so far is this one. It goes after Democratic Tredyffrin Supervisors Candidate Eamon Brazunas for having been married less than two years. He's in his mid-20s.)

Sigh. It's 12:22 a.m. on Saturday morning. I'm still at work. I've filed 2,734 words today. I should be out at Halloween parties.

For your entertainment, here's my 2007 Halloween costume. Only the tattoo is fake.

Here's what I normally look like (late at night on a cell phone camera):

Going home!

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Powerpoint Presentations

This is kind of crazy: towards the end of a seemingly endless Wednesday night meeting, members of West Chester Borough Council voted unanimously to subject themselves to an hour of Powerpoint presentations. These presentations will take place next month and will supposedly help council members decide which architect to hire to design the $3.3 million police station expansion (hasn't anyone heard of, you know, quietly studying site concept plans?)

Who votes to watch Powerpoint presentations? They're awful. They induce sleep, or worse, the desire to see how far you can stick your finger up your nostril before you do yourself permanent damage. But Powerpoint presentations happen on computers, and people think that everything that happens on computers is good.

Remember overhead projector transparencies? They were pretty hard to make. Powerpoint slides are way too easy to make. They sponsor excessive slidemaking, just as keyboards sponsor excessive writing.

Back to my point: Borough council members, knowingly, willingly, and unanimously voted to subject themselves to an hour of Powerpoint presentations.

To be fair, this wasn't plan A.

Borough council had just voted to build a $3.3 million police station expansion, and they were now trying to select an architet to design said expansion. It was past 10 p.m. In the audience were three architects, a police chief, and a local reporter (Joe Norely, I think, had left). The architects were from two firms: Kimmel Bogrette and the Spiezel Group. The architects wanted to know which firm would get the job. So did the local reporter, who had to write about it, and the police chief, who would have to live with the results.

Now, borough council's public safety committee met earlier this month to watch powerpoint presentations given by four architectural firms (I was there, contemplating the nostril experiment). Of these four firms' presentations, the committee liked the Kimmel and Spiezel presentations the best. At a later meeting, the public safety committee voted 2 to 1 to recommend that borough council hire Spiezel (Note, when I say "borough council's public safety committee" I am referring to the three borough council members - Carolyn Comitta, Holly Brown and Chuck Christy - who make up this committee. West Chester's committees are subgroups of borough council - they are not independent of borough council).

The public safety committee's meeting, though, didn't seem to carry much weight. At the lengthy meeting borough council inflicted last Wednesday night on architects, the press, and law enforcement, council members just could not decide which firm to hire.

Seeing where things were going, they made a motion to table architect selection until next month. This motion failed. Then they made a motion to hire Kimmel Bogrette. This motion also failed. Then they made a motion to hire Spiezel. Again, this motion failed. Their fourth motion was to to table the discussion - and to make all council members watch the Powerpoint presentations that thus far only half of them had seen. This motion passed unanimously.

So, next month, late in the month, borough council members will again watch the Spiezel and Bogrette presentations. As will Police Chief Scott Bohn, Daily Local News Reporter Dan Kristie, and dutiful member of the public Joe Norely (I'm sure he'll be there). A half hour has been allotted to each presentation.

Why should the public care about all this?

Because some borough council members and borough administrators recognize that construction costs are currently very low. If the police station expansion goes out to bid while the economy is still in a slump, the borough is likely to get a pretty good deal. By waiting a month to select an architect, borough council is delaying construction by at least a month and running the risk of getting a less favorable deal. If this happens, taxes could go up.

(The fiscal conservative: They shouldn't be spending all that money anyway! The realist: Face it - they're building that police expansion, one way or another. Let's see how.)

Here's Council President Sue Bayne on what the borough should do (Note, Bayne said this at 10:45 at night. Hence the spirited tone):

"We have a construction economy now that allows us to do what we want to do the way we want to do it. We can get these projects ready now and really hope like hell the bids start coming lower than expected ... we fell on our tushes when the the Mosteller bids came in, and I think we need to do that again. If the bids come in too expensive, we can always say no."

(Note: the Mosteller Replacement Garage was expected to cost $17 million. The bids have put the price around $12 million. The bad economy is responsible for this $5 million discount.)

Labels: , ,