West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Wildflowers in bloom all around West Chester.

With so much going on around town. Catch up on what you may have missed.

It’s Friday, July 17. It’s getting hot in here. As Governor Wolf restricts indoor dining, we get an update on West Chester’s plan to close Gay Street; West Chester Area School District dashes hopes for a full fall return; and Borough Council confronts a new student housing development. Plus, welcome to Council, Ms. Dorsey. Grab yourself a slushie, and let’s get started.

“I want to make sure voices that haven’t been heard, get elevated.”

-Lisa Dorsey, Borough Council Representative, Ward 7
West Lafayette Street, Borough Ward 7

Welcome to Borough Council. This week Borough Council welcomed a new member, Lisa Dorsey. By a vote of five to one (for Rabbi Doctor Elyse Seidner-Joseph), she was voted then immediately sworn in as a member of Borough Council. Lisa, a 28-year resident of the Borough and 12-year President of the Board of the Melton Center, beat out a highly qualified group of seven candidates. She will be filling the space vacated by Councilwomen Denise Polk, who tendered her resignation in protest over Council’s support for the plan to close Gay Street. 

However, Lisa’s victory may be short-lived. Borough Council also agreed to a special election scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020 to fill the vacancy for the longer term.

Candidates: • Tariq Akbar • Kevin Barrett • Joshua DiNunzio • Lisa Dorsey • Christian Dubbs • Ethan Healey • Dale McClure • Rabbi Doctor Elyse Seidner-Joseph

With indoor dining reduced this week to 25 percent capacity, the ability to serve outside is becoming increasingly important to businesses.

Speaking of Gay Street, we also have an update on just how things are progressing on the Main Street Strong Project, aka, the plan to close 4-blocks of Gay Street for the summer and fall. Before any work can be done, PennDot must review the plan and approve the proposed safety precautions. The plan was submitted to the transportation authority at the end of last month but despite expectations for a quick turnaround the plan has been held up by state reviewers. Mayor Dianne Herrin told Borough Council this week that her team would be reaching out to U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan for her help in expediting the matter.  

In the meantime, the task force is working to tie up some project loose ends. The Building Improvement District (BID) is working on signs clearly outlining the new traffic patterns; the Art Commission has hired professional artists to paint the jersey barriers; the Public Works Department is investigating the process to re-stripe Chestnut Street and packets are being delivered to all businesses outlining what is expected from them under this plan. 

With the details being worked out now, things should move quickly once approvals from PennDot come in. 

Want to support the project? West Chester Main Street Strong t-shirts are now available for sale.

Let’s wait to rumble until the spring. Last week, West Chester University announced it was suspending its plan to return students full time this fall and instead continue with remote learning through the fall semester. This week we learned fall sports would be cancelled as well. On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, of which WCU is a member, voted to suspend all athletic competitions until December 31 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “From day one, our priority has been the health and safety of our student-athletes,” said WCU Director of Athletics, Terry Beattie in a statement. He also went on to say the University is looking for a way to provide a championship experience for fall athletes in the spring. I guess, that’s something. 

“All the revenue generated by the development will be won by West Goshen, and all the burden will be borne by the Borough of West Chester.”

-Michael Galey, Borough Council President
All quiet on the university front. Food trucks shuttered outside of West Chester University.

Who’s taking the kids? For the past three years, West Chester and West Goshen have been working on a Planned University Campus District. A joint area that would treat University land as a single district that spans two municipalities and in theory allow for both municipalities and the University to better manage campus growth long term. However divisions emerged this week, after Borough Council learned that West Goshen made amendments to its ordinance that would allow property manager BET to build a second Edge apartment complex on its property at 205 Carter Drive.

Borough residents that live in neighboring Ward 4, have made it clear they do not want any more students living nearby. However with Borough Zoning codes making it virtually impossible to have another student house approved in the Borough, neighboring West Goshen seems like the next logical alternative and pressure will continue to mount to put the students somewhere.

For now, a decision on the Borough’s participation in the plan is being delayed until September after the final version of the West Goshen has been approved. 

Pay up. The County of Chester has been renting 60 spaces in the Chestnut Street Garage at a discounted rate. However, since the agreement was originally made demand for the spots has grown and now Parking Services has a waiting list for those spots. Last night Borough Council agreed to raise the rent for the spaces for the County to market rate. If the County agrees to the price increase, the Borough will see $21,600 a year in additional revenue. If not, those on the parking waitlist may see a spot sooner than expected. 

Borough Council also agreed to extend the County’s lease on spots it’s renting at the Hannum Avenue lot for two more years. Originally there had been discussions to use this space to build another parking garage, but it sounds like that project will have to wait.    

Can I get that in a sentence? This week the West Chester Area District introduced a new term – “hybrid” scheduling. Under a hybrid model students would attend one day in person and the next day remote. The official switch came after Pennsylvania released new guidance strongly encouraging schools to maintain six feet of distance between students. Under the hybrid model the district can meet the six feet requirement, something that just wouldn’t be possible if all students return full time. 

The District began testing networking capabilities to have the “home” kids zoom in to class lessons. One piece of feedback the District heard from parents this spring is, if remote learning does return, they would like to see more synchronous learning.

Many details of exactly what this hybrid model will look like are still being worked out. A public presentation of the re-opening task force recommendations is scheduled for July 29. 

Where retail locations and restaurants require reusable bags and opt-out of straws will now be a the discretion of the establishment. Of course, you are always welcome to bring your own.

Paper or plastic? It’s your call. It’s official, the Borough’s single-use plastic ban is now the Borough’s Single-Use Waste Opt-in program. Last summer Borough Council voted to ban the use of single use plastic straws and bags in the borough. That ban was set to take effect this month but implementation of such bans has been delayed by the state until July 2021 at the earliest. 

So instead of a mandate, the Borough is now going with the opt-in plan and will ask businesses to voluntarily stop using single-use plastic items including bags, straws and styrofoam.

The Borough is planning to begin outreach to businesses in September.

The warnings. Beware of porch bandits. Keep an eye on that tracking, there were more reports of missing packages this week and one bandit caught on tape. 

You look hot. West Chester Area Police Department and the National Weather Service are warning of an extended heatwave set to begin this weekend and continue through the middle of next week. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms – excessive sweating, feeling faint or dizzy, nausea or vomiting, rapid or weak pulse or muscle cramps, seek shelter in a cool place, drink plenty of water and use a compress or cool shower to lower your body temperature. 

And remember, pets get hot too. Be sure to take precautions when walking or if leaving Fido or Puffy outside.

West Chester in an picture. Photo by Olesya Middleton. Follow Fig West Chester on Instagram to see all the photo winners.

Accolades. Congratulations to Juah Toe The West Chester University Rugby star was recently nominated for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year award. In addition to helping the Golden Rams to a 15-0 season last year, Toe served as secretary of the Abbe Society, Vice-President of Omicron Delta Kappa, and a member of the selection committee for the West Chester University 1871 Award.

A little “wha, wha!” to this year’s Henderson Valedictorian Vijay Anne. Vijay placed first in the poli-sci division of the FBLA National virtual leadership competition. That was first out of 8000(!) students that participated.   

Finally, high fives to Olesya Middleton, her beautiful image of the Borough (seen above) won this month’s Fig Photo Contest by answering the question, “West Chester in one image?”  

Hello. To a new art gallery. The David Katz Gallery recently opened at 128 East Gay Street downtown. The gallery features the works of Mr. Katz who is known as the “Sky Painter” (if you view his collections you’ll know why) as well as a selection of well-known regional artists including – Leander Fontaine, Sarah Baptist, Lynnette Shelley, Kathryn E. Noska, Monique  Kendikian-Sarkessian, and Frank Depietro. The gallery is open every day but Monday. Appointments are welcomed but not needed. Masks are required. Hours on the website

Also welcome Thomas Dougherty who officially joined the West Chester Planning Commission this week and James Sargent and Jason Levinn, your new members of the Committee to Re-establish Rail Service to West Chester. If you see them, don’t forget to congratulate them and share all your ideas for improving the Borough. 

Finally say bonjour to a new way to order your favorite pastries from La Baguette Magique. Just give them a call at: 484-947-5024.

Goodbye. To the missing the bus. Remember if you are able to provide transportation for your student this fall, the transportation opt-out form is due today. (Of course, the switch to the hybrid model will likely impact this too.)

Pay it forward. Humans aren’t the only ones hurting during the pandemic. So the next time you are out on a grocery or pet run grab and extra bag of dry food or pet treats. Girl Scout Troop 434 is holding a food drive for dogs, cats and fish. Donations can be dropped off at Gryphon Cafe downtown through July 20. 

Also in need of a hand, Uptown Theater. Taking in 72 percent of its revenue from ticket sales, the theater has been hit hard by the pandemic. To help it get through the next year, Uptown has launched an ambitious $500,000 fundraising campaign. The only way they succeed is with help from the community. If you believe live local theater makes West Chester a richer community, maybe you’d like to pitch in?  If so, here’s the link

Happy birthday, Jamee. Hope it was a great one!

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We are keeping it low-key this weekend. We are still digesting the news that schools will be going to a hybrid model and trying to figure out what that reality will look like for our family. That said, we are about halfway through National Ice Cream Month, and we have yet to properly celebrate. So I think a trip to Gemelli’s or Scoops ‘N’ Smiles is needed. (Before I start a gelato war, love D’Ascenzo’s too, just a farther walk for us.)

Also, the Split Rail Tavern is having live music on the sidewalk every Thursday from 7 – 10 p.m. We missed it this week, but I think that would be a nice escape for a minute. 

The Youth Speaks Coalition and the West Chester Alliance for Social Justice is holding a Black Lives Matter protest and march at the Courthouse on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

And Drunks of West Chester released their ranking of best adult slushies in town, depending on which way you see this weekend going.

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest updates from West Chester. If I’m missing something, and I probably am, send me an email.

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