Thursday, August 8, 2013
I don't think I have ever been more disappointed and discouraged than I was last night at Borough Council's meeting. I was waiting to sit there for more testimony and questions that could wait for the conditional use hearing, but thankfully that record was closed and the meeting continued. However the rudeness, hubris and ignorance that abounded afterwards was of epic proportions.
The Comprehensive Plan was next on the agenda and a gentleman from the Urban Research and Development Corporation was there named Paul and I am certainly remiss in not hearing his last name. This gentleman had about as much finesse as a bull in a china shop and was rude on all fronts. In fact at one point he had to tell him self to take a chill.
The Comprehensive Plan is a document that is primarily used for the obtaining of grants and other such things for the borough. It is also to be a guide for which we continue to move forward with projects etc. Mr. Sullins at one point said, "Who really reads the Comprehensive Plan?" My question then is why did we even pay over $17,000 for something that is not going to be utilized as it properly should? The planning commission in conjunction with the borough just cost the taxpayers money for a document that is not really going to be used according to the borough manager.
Back in February there was a public meeting where comments and issues were addressed by the constructors of the document and the planning commission and we the public should have expected that NONE to very few recommendations made by anyone were going to be added or subtracted due to the attitude of those present from the planning commission and the creators of the document that night.
The Downingtown Historic and Parks Commission, after much study of the Comprehensive Plan of 1994 and the Open Space Plan of 1993 along side with the current draft of the Comprehensive Plan submitted their additions and suggestions in writing to both the Urban Research and Development Corporation and the planning commission. The H&P is an arm of the Borough and as such should carry as much weight in their suggestions and recommendations, however that is not the case. During the meeting last evening when a representative from Historic and Parks asked to be recognized and proceeded to ask Paul why the recommendations to the Comprehensive Plan were not added, he nastily asked Tamara if these were different concerns than were submitted before. When Tamara said no and that not only were these the same ones, but these were also the ones that had been submitted to council with a formal letter (which Mr. Sullins told council that they were not the same that were in the letter that was drafted and he purposely did not use the title of or the arm of the borough that the suggestions came from, so that they would seem less important.). He told Tamara that all recommendations were brought before the planning commission and they were given a yay or nay. Which is fine however, the very fact that one arm of the borough other than council over riding the recommendations of the very entity that is tasked with preserving the parks and historical buildings in the borough is hubris and is not their responsibility within the codes of this borough. Just as the Historic and Parks Commission makes recommendations to the Council so does the Planning Commission. While there are many educated individuals on the Planning Commission there are just as many on the Historic and Parks who have done their homework, compared maps and are truly concerned with the esoteric and infrastructure of the borough and to hold fast to the historical balance and flavor of this town.
One of the more serious issues that H&P had with the Comprehensive Plan is that from the 1993 Open Space Plan to this plan there are 11.1 acres missing from Johnsontown Park. Councilor DeStephano suggested that mistakes can be made for which we can concede however, not an 11.1 acre mistake. No one could explain how a park went from 25 acres to 13.9. Another concern which was voiced was the fact that no contingency plan was written if a project or court case would go the way that the borough hoped it would not. Councilor Winkler brought this very thing up in part. But what was most ignorant on the part of this Paul gentleman was that if a man was speaking to him he used a tone that was slightly less obnoxious and repugnant and was more amenable to their suggestions than if a woman was speaking other than Council DeStephano because she is on the Planning Commission.
To blatantly ignore recommendations from a corresponding arm of the borough is presumptuous and downright disrespectful to those who volunteer their time just as others on various committees and commission do.
But the fun did not stop there. A business in Downingtown took it upon themselves to paint the outside of their building without ascertaining from neither codes nor the Historic and Parks Commission, since the building is in the Historic Overlay whether they first could do what they wished and secondly if the color that was chosen was historically correct and corresponded with the rest of the historic overlay. Council decided that was not important and over rode both Tom Yuhas and the Historic and Parks without any consideration and Chip Gazzerro was completely and utterly rude and disrespectful in how he spoke to Councilor Feldman when she attempted as H&P liaison to explain the intent of H&P in this matter.
It is becoming more and more clear that council needs an influx of new blood. People who don't have an agenda who are not on the planning commission and will fall in lock step with them, but ignore other arms of the borough. A wish is that the mayor who is supposed to be the face of this town to actually stand up for those who have no voice or little input because they are considered to be beneath consideration instead of rocking back on his chair and laughing and respect given for ALL who give their time and talents to the borough.