West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Aug. 20, 2021

Soaking up those last days of summer. Everhart Park.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, August 20. Let’s call this week the calm before the storm. West Chester University students begin their return on Monday followed by what promises to be a contentious School Board discussion on whether or not students will need to wear masks when they return to class on August 30. We also get our first look at the preliminary land development plan for the 142K sq. ft. Amazon warehouse planned for E. Nields Street and a start date for the Everhart Park playground project. Woohoo!

“As long as the Borough Council stays focused and does not make concessions by granting variances around our legislation, then the project should be a net success with plentiful jobs within walking distance or SEPTA bus line for many.” 

Gillian Alicea, Chair West Chester Sustainability Committee

Amazon delivers its plans for a new Nields Street warehouse

Under the revised site plan, developers will look to preserve the street trees where they can.

More details emerge this week around the Amazon warehouse project planned for 611 E. Nields Street. After several rounds of back and forth with Borough engineers, the Planning Commission, the Tree Commission and the Sustainability Advisory Committee, Borough Council approved the revised preliminary land development plan for a retail shipping facility, associated parking and loading docks on the brownfield site once owned by Wyeth pharmaceuticals. 

Early concerns centered primarily around two areas – traffic and flooding.

Traffic flow

According to the representatives for the project, the majority of the heavy traffic will enter and exit via S. Bolmar Street.

Several questions were raised by residents regarding how the world’s largest retailer plans to direct its massive fleet through the borough’s tiny streets. Fortunately it looks like the majority of the traffic will be directed to and from 202 avoiding the downtown area. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Parking spots: 331 associate, 730 van parking spaces are planned; the van parking areas will be run with conduit to readily accommodate a future fleet of electric vehicles.
  • Traffic strain: 42 truck trips will be made each day – 21 in and 21 out – many occurring overnight; in addition expect 300+ van trips starting at 9:30 a.m.  

Traffic  pattern: The majority of the truck traffic to the facility will come down 202 exiting at Westtown Road. They will come down Autopark Boulevard, then turn north on S. Bolmar Avenue and make a left into the facility. There will be no left bound out of the facility. Vehicles exiting the facility will be forced to make a right onto S. Bolmar street (they will not be able to go left towards Market Street). 

Public transportation: There is currently no public transportation access to the site. The nearest stop would be along Market Street however, there are no sidewalk connections between the bus stops and the site. While no solutions are available at this time the applicant has indicated they will be meeting with SEPTA and the Borough to discuss.

Flooding and water management

As anyone who has tried to cross from the westside to the east during a rainstorm knows, the area south of Market Street is prone to flooding due to the covered Goose Creek that flows below that section of town. So the seven waiver requests centered around the parking area and stormwater management raised a few red flags. In their report to the Planning Commission the Tree Commission voiced their concern over the site’s lack of interior plantings. 

“The TC was concerned that all this additional impervious coverage within the Goose Creek watershed will exacerbate the already serious flooding problems in this drainage area,” the team wrote. 

These concerns were not addressed directly by the site as no additional interior planting are currently planned. However, in place of the landscaped islands in the parking area, the developers will be planting 205 new trees around the perimeter of the property in addition to preserving existing street trees where they can.

The developers also asked for exemptions from three stormwater management requirements due to conflicts with the site’s environmental remediation plan for the site. Instead the site will utilize a series of lined basins underground. Stormwater, as well as any Goose Creek flood waters, will be diverted to these basins and several biofiltration areas mainly around the perimeter of the property. 

“I am keeping in mind that this land is highly contaminated and would cost millions of dollars to remediate in a way that would make it safe for residential or usable green space, making those highly unlikely options,” said Sustainability Advisory Committee chair Gillian Alicea. “As long as the Borough Council stays focused and does not make concessions by granting variances around our legislation, then the project should be a net success with plentiful jobs within walking distance or SEPTA bus line for many.” 

Developers will be back in front of Borough Council to present final land development plans at which time we should have more details about the buildings themselves.

New Everhart Park playground is coming! Woohoo!

“When we are done it’s going to be a beacon for West Chester.”

-Keith Kurowski, West Chester Director of Parks & Rec
Soon all that will be left of the aging Everhart Park playground is the swings.

This week West Chester Borough Council authorized the just under $185,000 necessary to break ground on the ballooning Everhart Park playground project. The playground project which was originally allocated $130,000 by Borough Council in 2019 is now well north of half a million dollars. While the bulk of this extra money has come from a serious grant fundraising effort undertaken by the Friends of Everhart Park, unexpected costs related to stormwater management upgrades and material inflation have tacked onto the project’s bottom line.

The starter funds which will help cover upgrades to the park’s storm management system will be coming out of the American Rescue Plan under a provision that allows local governments to use the money to make investments in water infrastructure. This week Borough Council allocated the project use of up to $230,000 in rescue plan funds on applicable costs. This money will replace the original $130,000 promised by the borough.

As Mike Perrone told the Public Works committee last week with federal funds now available, “it would be foolish to take $130,000 out of the general fund.” 

About the new Everhart Park Playground

Bird’s eye view of Everhart Park’s new playground as originally drafted.

What: All playground equipment (except the swings) is being removed from the park and will be replaced with a new kid-designed custom all-inclusive playground area.

When: Groundbreaking is scheduled for Aug. 23

Where: The new equipment will be located where the 6-10 year old equipment is now (big slide, infinity loop, rock wall, dragon).  

The playground project was originally designed with the help of students from neighboring Hillsdale Elementary and promises to be a destination for local families. This news is made all the more exciting after a year when park play was one of the few ways a kid could escape. Now after patiently waiting through two years and a pandemic kids may finally be nearing that payout.

“If Mother Nature’s on our side we might be fully done right around Halloween,” Park and Rec Director Keith Kurowski told council members last week.  

West Chester Mayoral Race: And now there are three

Aren’t there supposed to be fewer candidates after the primary? Well, not here. The West Chester race for mayor just added a new name. This week the Libertarian Party announced that Beth Ann Rosica, a local activist and business consultant, will be running as their candidate for West Chester Mayor. 

Beth Ann is not completely new to the position of Mayor earlier this year she petitioned for the job of interim mayor. However, she was passed over by Borough Council in favor of current interim Mayor Jordan Norley after it was noted Ms. Rosica along with Donald Urbanic is suing the borough and former Mayor Dianne Herrin. The lawsuit is in response to a decision last fall by the mayor to issue an executive order limiting the number of people that could freely gather together including in one’s home. The order was given to limit the spread of COVID-19 but the plaintiffs argue the order restricted their “freedom of association and assembly, right to privacy, and right to control their private property.” 

According to the press release, Beth Ann pledges to put liberty over bureaucracy. “A non-elected mayor has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on pet projects that will go nowhere,” she said. “It is time to face reality, be fiscally responsible.”

She joins Democratic nominee Lilian DeBaptiste and Independent Eric Lorgus, who made his own campaign announcement this week. The Lorgus campaign garnered a major endorsement from former three-term West Chester mayor Tom Chambers. Mr. Chamber’s cites Eric’s “experience, qualifications and leadership” as the reasons for his support. 

***

Pausing here to let that all sink in and to remind you to follow the blog for updates on everything West Chester – often before it hits the news sites. Plastic ban update? We chatted about that last week. Ok, recovered? Back to your update.

***

The warnings

Jewel Thieves

Big Jewelers on Gay Street was a site of a robbery last weekend.

Last Friday at just before 9 p.m. two men forced their way into Big Jewelers at 15 W. Gay Street and made off with some of the store’s merchandise – six still images from the stories video feed are being circulated by the West Chester Police Department. The images show two black men in their mid-40s to late 50s. 

Description of the persons in the photos as provided by the WCPD.

Black male, 50-60 years old, about 6” 0” tall and approximately 220 pounds.  He was wearing a dark blue Jeff cap, blue surgical face mask, a blue polo style t-shirt with white strips, dark colored khaki shorts, and black shoes.  This male was also wearing gloves that resembled golfing gloves and a compression sleeve on his left arm that had, “ER fit” towards the wrist, which is likely the brand of compression sleeve.

Black male, 45-55 years old, about 5″8″ to 5’10” tall and 190 pounds.  He was wearing a dark blue baseball hat, black framed reading glasses, a brown t-shirt, yellow gloves, white socks, and light blue New Balance shoes with a white sole.

If you have any information about the incident, contact the WCPD at 610-696-2700.

Bill & Ted’s Not So Excellent Gay Street Adventure

Also, this week WCPD are on the lookout for two white men wanted in connection with the theft of patio furniture from Taco Mar and the destruction of property in the surrounding area on the 100 block of W. Gay Street. The furniture was removed from the open Gay Street Open Air Market after the market closed on Friday night sometime between 11 p.m. and 10 a.m. the next morning. These fine-upstanding citizens are also suspected of destroying additional tables and chairs, smashing an air conditioner unit and banging up a car. Contact the West Chester police if you know anything about this incident.  

The Accolades.

Congratulations to former West Chester-resident Zeeko Zaki on not only following his dreams but making a difference doing it. The Unionville grad has been acting professionally since 2012 but is currently enjoying a breakout role as Omar Adom “OA” Zidan on CBS’s FBI, Vista Today writes. The role, which was originally scripted for a Latin Detective, is proving a nice break for the Egyptian native. 

“I have a lot of Arab-American actor friends, and everyone is sick and tired of playing terrorists and crying mothers,” he is quoted as saying. Zeeko is hoping his depiction of the OA will help broaden the roles for those of Middle East descent.

Also, with summer coming to an end, let’s take a minute to give a few shout outs to some standout spring and summer athletes. West Chester had 14 athletes representing 7 sports, land on a Daily Local News all area team:

Softball, First Team

  • Pitcher: Jess Gomez, Sr. West Chester East. Money under pressure. She will be attending Emerson in the fall.
  • Second base: Kayla Burleson, Sr. Henderson, defensive powerhouse
  • Outfield: Amanda Gomez, Sr., West Chester East, record breaker hitter

Baseball, First Team

  • Pitcher: Eddie Smink, Jr. West Chester Henderson, best in league
  • Infield: Dean O’Neill, Jr, Henderson, robust hitter

Girls Lacrosse, First Team

  • Midfield: Katie Chisholm, Sr., Rustin, all-round player. She will be attending The Ohio State University in the fall.

Boys Lacrosse, First team

  • Attack: Owen Murray, Sr. Rustin, record shattering scorer. Owen is headed to Quinnipiac this fall.
  • Midfield: Marek Seaman, So., Rustin, two-way throwback

Tennis, First team

  • Rowan Degnan and Sam Page, Rustin, boy’s doubles.

Boys Track & Field, First team

  • 100 meter dash: Drew Gallen, Sr., Rustin, comeback kid
  • Shot put: John Shallo, Sr., Rustin, sure shot at shot put

Girls Track & Field, First team

  • 3200 meter run: Jenna Mulhern, Jr. Henderson, state contender
  • 3200 meter run: Ellie Keefer, So, Rustin, future star

Hello. 

Say hello to a new restaurant festival. No, there are still no plans to hold the Chester County Restaurant Festival this year, but to help fill the void Main Line Today and Today Media are hosting their first ever Main Line Today Restaurant Week and they have invited all of Chester, Montgomery and Delaware Counties to join. The tri-county event begins on Monday and runs through September 5. As of now 33 restaurants are listed as participating, unfortunately, only two are from West Chester. 

Participating West Chester Restaurants:

  • Ram’s Head 
  • Stove & Tap

Ok, so that’s not the 75 options we are used to but it could be a good opportunity to try Stove & Tap if you haven’t yet and Ram’s Head is always solid.

Participating restaurants will offer special three-course prix fixe menus for lunch ($24.95, plus tax, beverage and gratuity) and dinner ($36.95, plus tax, beverage and gratuity). Restaurants can choose what works best for them, offering lunch, dinner or both—dine-in or takeout.

I was told there are a few other West Chester locations that are currently tentative. Staffing the event is reportedly a concern for some restaurants. You can follow the event website for an up-to-date list of participating sites. 

Also a warm welcome back to Ms. Jennifer Southmayd. After years with the West Chester Area School District Ms. Southmayd left for an assistant principal position with the Garnet Valley School District but she will be back this fall as the new principal of Fern Hill Elementary.

Finally, say hello to complimentary attendance to the Brandywine River Museum. The West Chester Public Library announced this week they have a new pass for the museum. To reserve your tickets, call the Children’s Department at 610-696-7985. This museum pass grants free admission for up to four guests (adults and/or children).

Goodbye.

West Chester students return next week.

Say goodbye to having downtown to yourself. In a sure sign summer is nearing its end, West Chester University students move in next week. After a year of the virtual instruction for West Chester University you may have blocked the week of front yard beer-pong, rooftop house parties and flooded bars and restaurants from memory, well, it all returns Monday. 

West Chester University did issue updated guidance this week asking that students be prepared to submit proof of vaccination to the University or submit to random campus COVID-19 testing. Masks too will be required on campus when indoors unless in a closed office or behind a Plexiglas barrier. They won’t however, be required off. 

Also, for all you active duty service members – and borough employees – say adios to accruing vacation time while on active duty. This week Borough Council voted to close a loophole in the employment policy that allowed active duty service members to continue to accrue sick, vacation and holiday time while away. 

This change in benefits will bring the Military Leave policy in line with the Family Leave policy.

“Consistency is very important. So we should be applying the same for both policies,” Karen Armstead, the borough’s Human Resources Director told the Administration, Communication and Technology Committee last week. 

Pay it forward. 

Need firewood? Have an idea for a funky bullseye craft project? Stumpy’s has broken boards for the taking. Perhaps, we should put them in tough with our local Buy Nothing Project?

Also, spread the word to your high-risk neighbors. Chester County Health Department is now administering third doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine to people with weakened immune systems. This is for individuals that received the Pfizer or Moderna doses initially. Not sure if you need a third dose? Discuss with your doctor before scheduling your shot. 

If you are working on any community fundraising initiatives, drop me an email. I would love to help spread the word.

The freakin’ weekend. 

Friday night dance lessons.

What are you up to this weekend? We are getting ready for our last hurrah of the summer. We are heading up to Maine for a few days. I have never been but someone recently said that time just seems slow down up there. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds lovely. 

If you are sticking around here, we hit the Uptown! Popup Hip Hop DJ event last Friday. It takes place right in front of Jack’s Corner at 44 West (next to Sedona Taphouse). We grabbed a six pack from Saloon 151, cheesy breadsticks from Couch Tomato and had a blast watching the kids dance for an hour. And it’s back tonight. I recommend it, especially if you are looking for something to do but not really.

Also, I really want to try the fairytale eggplants available this week from the Grower’s Market. Oh, and Artillery Brewing’s Wedding Cake Stout is brewed with trimmings from neighbor Master Baker. I can’t decide if that sounds amazing or disgusting but I am willing to withhold judgement until I give it a try. 

Finally, take note there is an electronics recycling event being held this Sunday on Carter Drive. Not only is pitching electronics illegal in PA, it’s morally questionable. Electronics are made with a whole number of toxic minerals that can leak into the ecosystem. Plus, the event is free. Time to clear out the junk draw.   

Mark your calendars:

  • Aug. 20 – Uptown! Pop Up DJ, Jack’s Corner at 44 West Gay St. 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Aug 21 – Underground Railroad Walking Tour, starts at Chester County History Center, 11 a.m., Tickets $15.
  • Aug. 22 – Free E-Waste Drop Off Day, 207 Carter Drive Ste E,  11 a.m. – 1 p.m. drop off your old tvs, printers, computer, phones and more   
  • Aug. 22 – Aug. 29 – WCU Campus Move-in, West Chester Campus, Keep an eye out for parking and traffic restrictions. 
  • Aug. 26- Dueling Pianos, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $20 in advance; $23 at the door
  • Aug. 30 – First day of school, West Chester Area School District
  • Aug. 30 – First day of classes, West Chester University

Stay safe. Stay healthy. I am off next week but I will see you here in September.  

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

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