Borough Council Initiates Strategic Planning Process
(Editors note: The following includes two releases from the Borough Manager's office followed by a response from Bill Scott, Council Member, 1st Ward)
West Chester, PA | March 20, 2015
Michael A. Cotter, Borough Manager
At its regular meeting on Wednesday on March 18, 2015, West Chester Borough Council President Jordan Norley announced that the Borough Council would begin a strategic planning process in order “to understand and proactively address the challenges facing West Chester”, according to Mr. Norley.
Mr. Norley stated that “These challenges include inclusive, values-based governance; the economic development of the Borough; the stability and growth of our neighborhoods; the quality of life of our residents; and the re-development of our Town Center and community.”
He further stated that “Council must create an effective, high performance organization, one that:
1. Possesses and acts through its mission, vision, values, goals and outcomes, which are based on community values and culture stakeholder consensus;
2. Engages in resource stewardship, which involves acquiring the human, organizational, political, social, informational and financial resources necessary for successful governance and administration, and leveraging limited resources wisely; and
3. Evaluates results in order to improve performance.
In order to achieve these result, we, as a community of stakeholders, must determine mutually agreeable goals and outcomes.”
Mr. Norley stated that “Borough Council needs to take a balanced approach that intertwines the technical, the political and the cultural strands of the organization and community. Cognizance of the community and organizational culture, human capabilities, and political realities will help us create the effective, high performance organization ready and able to proactively face the challenges before our community.”
Council directed that Borough Manager Michael A. Cotter to propose and outline the specifics of a strategic visioning and planning process for Council review at its April Kaizen Committee meeting.
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West Chester, PA | March 20, 2015
Borough Council directed Borough Manager Michael A. Cotter to address what Council believes are the seven major issues impacting development in and directly adjacent to the Borough’s Town Center zoning district, from a strategic and holistic perspective:
f. Public Space
g. Revenue Generation
There are currently four major projects proposed for the Town Center, or directly adjacent to it:
1. The Mosteller Building Project (Gay and Church Streets)
2. Uptown Entertainment’s redevelopment of the Amory site (Washington Street);
3. The redevelopment of the F&M Building (High and Market Streets);
4. The redevelopment of the former Rite Aid site (Gay and Walnut Streets)
“Borough Council believes that these projects, and projects yet to be proposed for the Town Center, will have a significant impact on it and the community”, stated Borough Council President Jordan Norley. He further stated that “In order to provide guidance and direction to all involved and impacted by the proposed development and re-development of parcels in the Town Center, Council believes it’s in the interest of the community at large to develop a consensus on these issues and how they inform the development process.”
Council directed Mr. Cotter to report back to it with options and recommendations regarding the interrelation the seven major issues on development within 3 months.
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April 3, 2015
First Ward Member of West Chester Borough Council
West Chester’s Borough Manager issued two press releases on March 20 claiming that the Borough Council had embarked on a wide-ranging process of what can be described as a reevaluation of everything about West Chester. Council never took such action. It was never discussed. Nothing of the sort has ever even been on the Council Agenda.
The press releases are high sounding and include references to concepts that, on their face, seem difficult to contradict – such as consensus building. But when the content is closely analyzed, serious problems appear, especially the needless calls to repeat work and studies that have already been done. That is not good government.
It is said that building height is a major issue in the town center. This indicates an unawareness of the decades of debate, public meetings, substantial public involvement, research, manuscripts, experiences, work and passion that have gotten us to where we are now. The height limit is 60 feet. That’s the exact height of the Green Tree building at the Northeast corner of Gay and High.
Preservation is said to be a major town center issue yet Council spent thousands of dollars on and unanimously adopted The West Chester Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan in 2011. It is on the Borough website (west-chester.com). Likewise, design is not a town center issue in that Council has approved DESIGN GUIDELINES for the WEST CHESTER HISTORIC DISTRICT (also on the website). An award for developing that document was given to Council at the annual Preservation Pennsylvania ceremony in Harrisburg.
Council has already approved funds to develop a comprehensive parking plan and policy this year. And the Borough wide, state mandated Comprehensive Plan that is now being developed with public input will deal with the other issues.
With respect to the named development projects, each is moving through the regular course of mandated public hearings. The Rite Aid/James Spence development was the subject of a many-session public hearing and the matter is now on appeal, has been briefed and argued and is awaiting a judge’s decision.
There are phrases used in the releases that raise red flags, such as “the re-development of our Town Center and community.” People are flocking here because of how well West Chester is regarded. Neither our community nor our town center needs redevelopment. The Wyeth/Pfizer site does. Chester, PA needs redevelopment. Another troublesome phrase is “growth of our neighborhoods”. While reference is made to the stability of our neighborhoods, growth is not what is needed. No one in West Chester is saying that his or her neighborhood needs to grow. Our town and neighborhoods are built out. In-fill development is all that most of them can sustain.
The process contemplated in the press releases is unnecessary, duplicative of previous efforts and wasteful of time at best, and at worst, poses the possibility of being counterproductive and harmful to the character and integrity of our town. Before this endeavor proceeds on its own without approval it should be put to a halt so that, if it is to be pursued, it may be scrutinized by Council and the public.
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Contact Bill Scott at email@example.com.