NO? They said NO To Brian O'Neill?

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carla's picture
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LM planners deal blow to O’Neill’s development
Published: Wednesday, May 6, 2009
By Cheryl Allison

Despite presentations that took up several hours over two nights,
the Lower Merion Township Planning Commission decided this week that there are,
as co-chairman Teri Simon put it, “too many unanswered questions” about a major
new residential development on the Schuylkill riverfront.

It voted 4-0 Monday night to recommend that the board of commissioners deny an
application by the O’Neill Properties Group for conditional-use approval of the
nearly 600-unit apartment project in Bala Cynwyd.

It will be some time yet, however, before the board makes its decision. About an
hour was to be set aside Wednesday night for continued testimony in a formal hearing
on the request. In addition, the board has scheduled a full evening May 27 to
complete the hearing.

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LMT Observer's picture
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Tuning back in about 3 years later to the day:   They said "no" again and "no deal."  

 

                                "O'Neill riverfront project denied in fiery meeting in Lower Merion"

 

And the famed titan himself, Brian O'Neill, being in the Township Boardroom replied "see you in court" while exiting stage left, according to Cheryl Allison's article about the latest, and stirring, act in this tale of sound and fury in our local hamlet. 

Main Line Times

May 10, 2012

By Cheryl Allison

 

Might someone try to help make this a mutative, instructive tale for the hamlet by reviewing now how Brian O'Neill's development plan application for the dense--and even dangerous in some ways--Righters Ferry apartment complex came to be?  

For example: 

  • Do any current and past members of the Board of Commissioners deserve special credit for working with O'Neill Properties to shepherd the developer's visionary dream for Righters Ferry to fruition?*  
  • That is, sort of like how the City Avenue Special Services District's fave rezoning ordinance, tagged with windfall new development rights for commercial property owners in the District worth $$$,$$$,$$$. was loyally--doggedly one could say--shepherded forward on behalf of the District's Board members/commercial property owners/developers and also, of course, on behalf of our hamlet for the unquestionable good of all serfs by:   George Manos, Bruce Reed (with full loyalist follow-up by former (former?) lobbyist, Brian McGuire), Elizabeth Rogan, and also reliable supporting cast members like Paul McElhaney, Jane Dellheim and Steve Lindner?   The latter three all made cameo appearances in the Boardroom to provide the number of votes needed to pass, step-by-relentless-step, approvals that culminated in the players' winning their prize about 2 weeks ago.     

       *If yes, were any of them re-elected?

        Might Doug Cleland also deserve some special credit for helping O'Neill's Righters Ferry ulta dense (read: $$$$$) apartment complex vision get to where it got before Mr. O'Neill exited the stage last night while calling out his multi-million dollar law suit threat?  

 

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carla's picture
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WOW! I heard the meeting was crazy...

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Mr. O'Neill seems to have had a busy May so far along the Northeast Corridor talking about law suits and threatening to cut down forests in municipalities in which he has development rights.*

 

Can't help but get more curious:   Do any Lower Merion Commissioners, past or present, get special credit for courting Mr. O'Neill and encouraging him to buy certain sites in Lower Merion, e.g., by promising him special zoning ordinance amendments or anything like that?  maybe for flood plain features or "stoney land steep" http://www.lowermerion.org/Attach/ords/ord_stonysoils.html

What about our Township's Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development?   Should Angela Murray get some special credit for the fact  that Brian O'Neill owns property he can develop in Lower Merion?  Did she play an instrumental part in attracting Mr. O'Neill to our hamlet? 

     

*From the Friends of the Alewife Reservation website:

http://www.friendsofalewifereservation.org/2012-05-oneill-trees.htm

Brian O'Neill, developer at the Uplands declares he is taking down the trees
Article by Friends of Alewife Reservation
The Lorax story comes to the Belmont Conservation Commission
added to website May 6, 2012

Lorax story revisited at the Belmont Conservation Commission:

Mr. O'Neill flew to Belmont on May 1st to assure the Belmont Conservation Commission and the Selectmen that he would prevail against the silver maple forest ( Belmont Uplands) law suit of the Commission, still pending; and he will remove the trees of the forest, which also include a small section of Cambridge. The Plaintiffs recently re-appealed against the Superior Court stating the likely failure of the developer's designed storm water system in a flood zone. The Interveners on the Commission's side also appealed wildlife replication plans of the developer, and due process throughout the 2009 DEP hearings, which did not include the evidence of the plaintiff's professional witnesses.

The highly popular film of Dr. Seuss, "The Lorax" story features the "Once-ler", who finds an idyllic paradise of "Tuffula" trees for birds and animals. However, he is unable to enjoy nature, and begins to calculate personal benefits from future destruction and production of trees for "Sneeds" (scarves) ; hence chops them all down and devastates the land and wildlife and creates the need for a bubble over the city for clean air.

At the environmental Commission, known as town agency of environmental compliance, Mr. O'neill repeated his proclamation that the silver maple trees will be chopped down, implying with or without permits. He offered substantial money to the town once they agree to drop the charges. Civility reigned, but without comfort in the tense room with O'Neill, president of his company, and Sr. Vice President, Stephen Corridan.who attended the Hearings during 2009 and 2010.

 

What's that about a law suit up there in Massachusetts involving an O'Neill storm water system plan in a "flood zone"?  

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Carla  Is this not a less than civil way of discussing this issue?

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carla's picture
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Bob, I have no idea what you are talking about, but if you do not like the post and comments, you don't have to read and comment. Considering how many take offense at what you post and comment, the irony is indeed rich.

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                 "O'Neill: 'If my plan isn't approved, they don't get the trail, nor the bridge'"

 

Main Line Media News, May 16th, 2012

By Cheryl Allison

 

 
In an interview Tuesday morning, however, a representative of the developer said there have been no meetings or other movement to bring parties together . . ..

[O'Neill Properties'] preliminary plan is predicated on a settlement agreement, which would include numerous concessions on plan elements by both Lower Merion and O’Neill. Thus, a majority of commissioners said last week they had no choice but to recommend denial.

In the published agenda [of the Board of Commissioners' Building & Planning Committee, May 16th], that recommendation is now bolstered by a long list of requirements of a 2009 conditional use approval for apartment development that the preliminary plan does not meet.

In the interview, a less angry but still adamant Brian O’Neill, the Lower Merion resident who leads O’Neill Properties Group, was intent on spelling out the riverfront improvements that will not occur, if his plan does not go forward – and the costs he would incur to provide them.

First, and probably most prominent among the features which O’Neill said the township itself has been touting, is construction of a riverfront trail and landscaped areas ($2 million).

“For four years, the township has been bragging about how it is connecting to a trail network in Philadelphia via the Pencoyd Bridge” on his property, he said. “If my plan isn’t approved, they don’t get the trail, nor do they get the bridge.”

Restoration of the old rail bridge, including fitting it with a new pedestrian walkway that would be open to the public, will cost an estimated $3.5 million, O’Neill added.

Perhaps less talked about, “We are cleaning up the largest environmentally-impaired site, . . . the largest brownfields site, in Lower Merion Township,” he said. The cost for that work he set at another $2 million.

The settlement agreements call for O’Neill to install a new regional sewage pumping plant ($1 million) that could also serve several homes on Righters Ferry Road and Penn Real Estate’s parcels, where there also may be future residential development. “We have the only connection to the Philadelphia treatment plant” via the bridge, he pointed out.

Added to the list are new stormwater management, new public gathering spaces, recreational facilities for apartment residents, and planned future off-site traffic improvements.

“When you add it all up, we have agreed to do $10 million in public improvements,” the developer summed up.

It is true also, however, that some of the improvements are either required by the township’s M (Manufacturing) District zoning, which was written to make residential development like O’Neill’s apartments in mind, or a trade-off for the density of development he is seeking.

Some among the board of commissioners have also pointed out that Lower Merion would also be giving – and giving up – much, under the proposed settlement agreements. Not only would the township be granting numerous waivers and departures from zoning code, but there are board members who have been outspoken in their concern about the density of development in O’Neill’s plan.

Those concerns are exacerbated, given the challenging site, where much of the land lies within the Schuylkill River floodway fringe, and there exists only one road access through two narrow tunnels under the Schuylkill Expressway and the Norfolk-Southern freight rail lines.

Some on the current and previous board have tried unsuccessfully to persuade O’Neill to build fewer, taller apartment buildings in a plan that would provide more green space. Architecture of his proposed five, five-story buildings raised over surface parking has improved, they acknowledge, but it doesn’t thrill everyone.

That is the setting in which the board will take its formal action Wednesday night. From here, assuming the committee votes are confirmed, the path seems surely to lead to court. O’Neill told commissioners as much last week.

The meeting will be held at the Township Building, 75 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, beginning at 8 p.m.

 

Tonight, Wednesday, May 16th. Commissioners' Building & Planning Committee meeting 

Agenda: http://www.lowermerion.org/index.aspx?page=51&recordid=3688&returnURL=%2findex.aspx
 

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Hugh Gordon's picture
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Sounds like a good case for the legitimate exercise of eminent domain. 

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And now they said yes.  The settlement with O'Neill and his land development application were approved last night.

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Uh oh, I wonder what another major development is going to to do to the school district demographic projections.

http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/7207/harriton-enrollment-overtake-lmhs

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Well I wonder if the now yes of it all has anything to do with the O'Neill team bringing in Joe Manko to "negotiate"? Can it be said Liz Rogan owes her job and political spot to him? Doesn't Jane Dellheim owe her political spot to him? One way or the other doesn't the majority of the majority owe their political lives to him? Of course so much of his statement years ago about not representing clients in front of the board, right? Or was that another commissioner?

Read HERE:

Rogan, in the later interview, confirmed word that has been circulating in the township this week that she and other commissioners had been contacted on O’Neill’s behalf by an important voice from the past: former commissioner and board president Joseph Manko. Rogan said she and several others had met with Manko at his law offices in Bala Cynwyd, while O’Neill and members of his development team were there in another room. The township’s group and O’Neill did not meet face to face, she said.

Contacted Thursday, Manko, who lives in Philadelphia now, said his environmental law firm does other work for O’Neill, but has not been involved in the development process for the Righters Ferry Road parcel. “I got a call from Brian [asking] ‘Do you think you can be any help?’” he said.

Manko said he made it clear to both groups, “I am biased on both sides, and with that understanding, I think they were comfortable.”

The goal of the six-hour meeting was to find terms on which the township might be prepared to sign at least a two-party agreement, he said.

As to whether he was paid for the work, Manko said he had “kept a record of my time” but had not yet billed his client, O’Neill, and has not decided whether he will.

“When I left Lower Merion, I said I did not intend to represent clients before the township,” and he has held to that rule, Manko said. He said his interest in this case is that “It’s my old ward. I spent 27years trying to get the sewer issue on Righters Ferry Road resolved, and I couldn’t.”

It always comes down to relationships and development in Lower Merion, doesn't it?

Of course, but another example of why some of these commissioners need to be jettisoned.

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No doubt about it.  

Also O'Neill was threatening to sue them personally for civil rights violations.  Moral is, threaten to sue the commissioners personally and have the bankroll to back up the threat and you will get what you want.  And also, they would have given him just about anything he wanted for sake of the trail along the river and across the Pencoyd bridge, something they could have obtained at relatively low cost by the appropriate exercise of eminent domain without having to run a railroad car through their own zoning ordinance.

I always remember Mr. Environmentalist Joe Manko for the time, as a sitting commissioner whose legal practice had Brian O'Neill as a client, he viciously lambasted Mike Weilbacher for objecting to a proposal that would have run a sewer line through one of, or perhaps the only one of,  Lower Merion's old growth forests.  This was for the Barker Mill project that was supposedly such a great historic preservation coup -- the project has never gone forward and the building will probably fall down soon. 

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Just when you thought Joe Manko, who supported what SAC was founded in opposition of – eminent domain for private gain – had skulked away to live in Philly, we all the sudden see him popping up.

Just recently he shows up at a township meeting with past crony commissioners to speak in support of Cleland’s insanely absurd $238,000 salary package (a 457b can be taken as salary without penalty as pay each year unlike a 401k) with the next closest township manager salary in the state being $180,000 – on par with the mayor of Philly and the governor at $180k. But no, Cleland has to be paid more than Supreme Court justices and the highest ranking members of Congress when these blogs are littered with posts on how poorly Lower Merion is managed. And Manko, a resident of Philadelphia, publicly supports this in a township meeting. Easily said when Cleland’s pay is not coming out of his pocket in the form of township taxes (also makes me wonder what skeletons Cleland is hiding from the Ettleson/Manko days. Hush money, perhaps?).

Now Manko is involved with brokering closed-door development deals with his favored developers where this environmental lawyer appears to have had no problem with running a sewage line through a pristine LM forest on a previously proposed O’Neill development back when Manko was your typical commissioner who catered to developers and township administration – and could have cared less about citizens or bread and butter small businesses in Lower Merion from my viewpoint.

So has anything really changed with how things work in the township building since Manko/Comisky/Ettleson/Davis et. al. were commissioners? Obviously not, and boy did they have bipartisanship between the two parties and secret government down to a science in screwing the citizens of Lower Merion back then.

I personally had other issues with this coward I won’t get into, but I will say nothing good can come from Manko getting back involved in closed-door meetings with commissioners and staff.

This arrogant asshat could care less about citizens and small business owners in Lower Merion from what I saw of him as a commissioner.

He has some nerve showing his face or voicing an opinion about anything involving Lower Merion.

You now live in Philadelphia, Joe. Do us all a favor and stay there. That city just may be big enough for your ego, but I doubt it. One thing for sure, the citizens of Lower Merion certainly do not need you harming them any more based on what you did as a commissioner.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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