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It’s Friday, Sept. 16. This week West Chester Borough went to court to defend its right to impose a fee and collect some money from West Chester University. Sounds good to me – but will the state judges be persuaded? Plus, rumored development could be the answers to our retail dreams – if it’s true, the inside scoop on this weekend’s Restaurant Festival and pumpkin cheesecake is back. Who’s ready? Grab something sweet and let’s catch up.
Restaurant Fest Returns
Skip breakfast, barter your extra parking space, and get ready – the Chester County Restaurant Fest returns on Sunday for the first time since COVID-19 shut things down. It’s also the first time it is a one-man show. The event, which is the largest event outside of the Christmas parade to be hosted in the Borough, is being pulled together by Keith Kurowski, the sole member of West Chester’s Park and Rec Department.
To be fair, he does have some college volunteers coming in Sunday morning to help with setup. (I’m not worried. Are you worried? Is Keith worried?) This week I spoke with the Borough’s Parks and Recreation Director about his anxiety levels, the best place to park – and why, if he’s the one doing all the work, is it called the Chester County Restaurant Festival?
HWC: Tell it to me straight – is West Chester ready to return Restaurant Fest to the people?
KK: I don’t know if I’ll ever officially be ready. I’ve been running this event since 2004 and I’ve always had a team. This time I am doing it alone but things are going relatively smoothly and I think it’s going to be a good day. We have 41 restaurants participating. Around 80 percent are local but we have some from Downingtown, Phoenixville, Lancaster, and one from Kennett Square. There are restaurants, food trucks, and specialty vendors. We have a nice, diverse array of food.
HWC: What is new this year?
KK: The fact that it’s back. We also changed, slightly, the layout. In 2014 we added Market Street to ease some congestion. This year, since we don’t have the staff, we eliminated Market Street.
HWC: Speaking of congestion, how many people are you expecting?
KK: We have done some light research and we think we can expect between 20,000 and 25,000 people. There could be 6,000 to 7,000 people on the street at any given time. For West Chester, this event is second only to the Christmas parade.
HWC: Where is the best place to park?
KK: It’s going to be tight. There is a flat $10 Event Parking fee in both garages from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Surface lots and metered spots are free on Sunday but they will be hard to find. I am telling my friends and family coming from out of town to park three or four blocks away and walk into town. You’re more likely to find a spot and it’s easier to get out as well.
HWC: Why is it called the Chester County Restaurant Festival, not the West Chester Restaurant Festival since the Borough puts on the event?
KK: That’s before me. The original Parks and Rec Director Kathy McBratnie took this event over. It’s historically been known as the Chester County Restaurant Festival, I think, to make it seem bigger than just West Chester.
HWC: What are your predictions for this year?
KK: When the Eagles don’t play on that Sunday we always have a good turnout. And the Eagles are playing on Monday this year.
So there you have it food, bands, vendors, and not an Eagles’ game in sight. The festival runs from 12 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Restaurants will be set up on Gay Street from Matlack to Church Streets with bands on both ends. Vendors, nonprofits, and other tabling organizations will be on the cross streets (Matlack, High and Church.) The Church Street Wine & Beer Garden will be on Church Street. Keith’s advice? Don’t over-think it. “Come out, enjoy, have fun,” he said.
Borough of West Chester v. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
A few weeks ago I was lamenting the lack of taxes paid by the University and one reader suggested, it’s not about the taxes. It’s about the fees. Well this week, five judges on Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court took up that very distinction.
Wait, why was the Borough in court? Yep, I’ll get to that but first, the context. In 2016 the Borough enacted a Stream Protection Fee, the money from which would be used to help manage the stormwater flowing through the Borough. As most residents are aware, the fee is based on an assessment of the impervious ground cover on your property. The more coverage, the more you pay.
As a state university, West Chester University is exempt from paying taxes, a situation, as my friend pointed out, is not likely to change. It does, however, have to pay its fees but in the case of the Stream Protection Fee, it has refused. So, the Borough took West Chester University and the whole PA State System of Higher Education to court.
And why won’t WCU pay? The University is arguing the fee, is not a fee at all but rather a tax in disguise. In the eyes of the law a fee: must only be applied in specific cases and be used for a specifically defined purpose to the express benefit of the individual paying it. This week Borough lawyers maintained this is the case as the fee pertains only to those properties with impervious coverage. It is used specifically to address the stormwater issue and it provides a direct benefit to the payee as it would be a much greater burden if the property owner had to manage these issues alone.
The University, as you can expect, disagreed. They argued the impervious requirements covered too many properties to be specific. Instead, they compared it to income tax. While income tax applies to all, if you don’t make any income, you don’t pay the tax. They also argued the fees were not just being used solely for stormwater management but that argument seemed to make less of an impression on the judges. Their final argument – that they were not receiving a benefit specific to them rather the benefit of managing the Borough’s stormwater was a benefit to all – seemed to make more of an impression on the court.
“We do not contend the university doesn’t get a benefit but we don’t get a specific, tangible, marketable benefit,” the University’s lawyer argued. “The benefit here is not targeted to those who are paying. The benefit is to everyone.”
For the borough’s part, they ended simply by putting the burden of showing that they were not receiving a benefit on the University. “The burden of proof rests with the party challenging the fee,” the Borough lawyer argued. “ I submit they have not done that. I maintain they can not do that.” Now it is up to the judges to decide. When we can expect that decision, I do not know yet but if someone with a better understanding of court procedures wants to let me know. I would be happy to spread the word.
Rumors and speculations
This week rumors spread fast and furiously on some of the West Chester Community’s favorite social media outlets as to who West Goshen Shopping Center’s new tenants could possibly be. We already know an Aldi’s and Popeye’s Chicken will be added to a new complex planned at the site of the old Spellman building on Paoli Pike. Now, several people think they know what’s going into the old Kmart and a proposed stand-alone restaurant that would be added toward the front of the property (near the old park and ride or Photo-mart depending on your era of reference).
“Target? Could it be true?” Mike Smith the admin of the Facebook group Wonderful West Chester wrote on his page. The prompt was greeted with many comments, a lot of wishful thoughts, and several confident agreements.
“I heard that it was a definite!” one respondent wrote. “It’s true!” agreed another.
And there is precedent… “This happened in Devon when that Kmart left. This would be so wonderful to have in our town!” added another.
Similar rumors are being shared on Nextdoor. And while it would be nice, very, very nice, nothing is being confirmed yet.
“Unfortunately, at this time I cannot provide comment on, confirm nor deny any tenant that seeks to utilize the space you are referring to in West Goshen Shopping Center,” West Goshen Township Supervisor Ashley Gange shared via email. However, if something were to be known it would come first through the Planning Commission. “If a tenant chooses to move forward in this process, you may expect an initial submission to be presented to the Planning Commission,” she added.
Until then, keep those fingers-crossed.
It’s baaaack. After originally agreeing to then denying the petition to remove five West Chester Area School District board members over their support of a policy that required students to wear masks in school during the height of the pandemic, Judge William Mahon has again agreed to advance the case. The Judge denied the petition in July after petitioner West Chester-resident (and non-lawyer) Beth Ann Rosica failed to conduct the required court discovery process. Beth Ann apologized and stated the botched discovery was based on the fact she was not a lawyer and asked for a second chance. The District naturally opposed the do-over but without success. A non-evidentiary hearing will be held on September 23.
Note: school mask requirements were lifted in March. There is currently no plan to reinstate them.
Take one, not $960 worth, and call me in the morning. West Chester police are looking for assistance in identifying two women wanted in connection with the theft of over $960 worth of over-the-counter medications from the Giant in Bradford Plaza. If these images ring any bells give West Chester PD a call at 610-696-2700.
Flu season is here. Yep, it’s that time of year again and now there are regular flu and COVID boosters so, fun. To make it easy, Chester County Health Department has organized a series of vaccine clinics across the county including one at Fugett Middle School on Oct. 22. Flu shots and COVID boosters will be available at the same time but the session is just one day from 9 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. I would register early unless you have backup plans or don’t mind traveling.
Turn off the light. It’s not often you get a PSA from a downtown bar and on bird migration of all things, so I thought I’d share. This week Jitters Sports Bar is reminding us Sept. 6 – Oct. 6 is peak migration time for local song birds and they are asking you to turn off the lights during this time. According to the post, night-time light pollution causes the birds to get confused. Turn off your lights if you can. If not, look for motion-sensored or hooded lights. The more you know.
Cheers this week to Unite for HER which will soon have logged a decade of races. In two weeks moms, grandmoms, sisters, daughters, nieces, and their supporters will once again lace up their shoes and roll through town like a hot pink wave. Started ten years ago in Kennett Square’s Anson B. Nixon Park as a way to diversify fundraising, West Chester-based Unite for Her moved the race to downtown West Chester in 2015. Since then it has grown into an opportunity to show support while making a unified statement of defiance against two diseases, breast and ovarian cancers, that affect more than 270,000 women in the United States.
“We literally run the town into a sea of pink,” said Unite for Her Director of Communications Corianne Schrim who expects more than 2,000 participants this year. “I just get chills. It’s such an emotional thing,” she says of the visible community created by the race.
This year the race will be held on Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. on the corner of Church and Market. Registration is $35 and can be done here. Besides the 5K run and accompanying 2K walk, there will be a 50-yard dash for kids and a post-race celebration complete with music, face-painting, a champagne bar, and perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for survivors to share their stories (see here, here, and here).
And speaking of ten years, a round of applause to the Warner Hotel which celebrated ten years on High Street this month. Remember when West Chester didn’t have a hotel? I do. That was not good.
Also, congratulations to West Chester University on another ranking. New US News’ college rankings are out for 2022-2023 and there is seemingly something for everyone (99 different PA schools made the list). According to the latest rankings, the Golden Rams tied for 250th best national university in the country out of 443 ranked in this category. For those looking at colleges, note US News editors categorized the schools before they ranked them so West Chester can’t be compared (at least using these rankings) against most other schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education as the others are considered “regional” rather than “national” colleges. So, yay, I guess.
And now a couple of sports shoutouts. High fives to the Golden Rams’ Field Hockey team which is off to a 4-0 start and is currently sitting atop the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Coaches Poll. We’re #1. We’re #1. Fist bumps to Rustin Football which clinched inter-West Chester bragging rights early. First heading north to take down Henderson. Then east last week to silence East 35-12. And lastly, kudos to East’s Ellit Manning who was named the Max Preps PA Athlete of the Week after leading the Viking Volleyball team in four consecutive wins – and while we are here, congrats to the East girls’ volleyball team on a very solid start.
Finally, a shout out to Saloon 151 your 2022 Wing King. The Gay Street whiskey house edged out Split Rail Tavern in an epic battle that started with 16 borough-based contenders and saw more than 1,800 people weigh in on the final match.
P.S. Don’t say I didn’t tip you off about those wings.
Get out the calendars. This is going to be the fall it all returns and I couldn’t be more excited. Sunday we have the Restaurant Fest. In two weeks runners in pink will flood downtown for the 10th annual Unite for Her 5K. Then on October 9, the Rotary Club of West Chester’s West Chester Chili Cookoff returns for its 20th year of smoking hot chili. Per usual it will be an all Sunday affair with the booths opening at 10:30 a.m. and the all-you-can-eat main event beginning at noon and running until 3 p.m. But the real beauty this year? You can buy your wrist bands now, saving time and $5 at the door.
Also, kids, say hello again to free school breakfast. Or like we call it in our house, second breakfast.
Finally, a nice to meet you to a new millionaire among us. This week we learned a PA Lottery Payoff scratch-off ticket worth $3 million was sold at the Gay Street Wawa. If you are a fan of the $30-a-ticket scratch-off game, check those pockets. So far no one has claimed the prize.
Westtown residents must decide how badly they want – and how much they are willing to pay – to say goodbye to development on Crebilly Farms. After years of fighting a proposal put forth by high-end home developer Toll Brothers that would have seen 317 homes built on the 312-acre lot, Westtown now has the opportunity to preserve the land – or at least 206 acres of it. But that, of course, comes at a cost. This week Westtown resident met as a collective and discussed their options.
In April Westtown Township agreed to purchase the land for $20.6 million and preserve it as park land. With the help of Natural Lands, the township is hoping to float 75 percent of the cost through grants – announcing a $2 million dollar start on that front this week – but the remaining $7.5 million would need to be paid by the residents in the form of tax increases. The township is proposing what it is calling a “blended” tax increase which basically amounts to smaller increases in both the Earned Income Tax and the real estate tax. If you are a Westtown resident more on what the specifics of that tax increase look like here.
Some are raising concerns over the involvement of Natural Lands and suggesting the land could be purchased without the help of residents but it is not clear this is the case as the agreement requires the “remaining 25% of the purchase price would be paid for with local Township tax dollars.” There are no details on how that would be accomplished without the tax increase.
So as it should in a democracy, the issue now moves to the ballot box and on November 8, Westtown residents will decide just how much they are willing to pay to preserve the area (and limit the traffic congestion, stop the overcrowding of schools, protect the environment…).
And don’t tell my little princess but our girls’ night restaurant has closed (again.) This week we say goodbye to the Spicy Pig Cafe for what I am guessing will be the final time.
Pay it forward.
Monday marked the twenty-first anniversary of Sept. 11. In honor of its anniversary, West Chester University shared a tradition born out of the tragedy of that day. Back in 1985, Michael Horrocks was the star quarterback on the West Chester University football team. In 2001, Michael was a U.S. Marine and the copilot on United Flight 175, the plane flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Now before every football game the players hustle pass the statue that stands in his honor and place there hands atop the words:
“With this statue, we honor Mike – our teammate, friend, father, son, brother, husband, Marine, and pilot, but we also remember every man, woman and child who perished that day and all others who have been called to make the ultimate sacrifice so that each of us may live out our own individual hopes, dreams and aspirations, in peace.”
Feeling a little heroic yourself?Have a long-buried dream of being a firefighter? Well, here’s your chance. West Chester Fire Department is in need of volunteers. No experience necessary.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are settling in for a weekend of sports then walking down to the Restaurant Festival for a well deserved treat.
If you are heading downtown this weekend, Turks Head Cafe is hosting a grand opening bash starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, fall fashion is in full swing at Tish, and as if there wasn’t already enough eating planned for this weekend, mini pumpkin cheesecakes are back at Yori’s. Yum.
From coffees – both real and virtual – subscriptions, testimonials, and even an offer to proofread, thank you so much to everyone who reached out with support last week. So appreciated. I couldn’t do it without you! If you rely on the Roundup every week and would like to help support Hello, West Chester. You can do that here.
Mark your calendars:
- Sept. 16 – Classic Stones Live, Uptown Theater, 8:00 p.m. Tickets $45 in advance; $50 at the door
- Sept. 17 – Coffee in the Park, Everhart Park, 9:30- 11:30 a.m. All proceeds go to support Friends of Everhart Park; Coffee $4; tea, decaf, juice boxes, and granola bars are also available.
- Sept. 17 – Alex Moreno – Latin Romance, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door
- Sept. 17 – Inaugural Josh Micun Cornhole Tournament, Goshen Fire Company (1320 Park Ave), 1 – 7 p.m. Entry – $150 per team; $25 general admission. Event includes food trucks, raffles, music and kids’ activities. All proceeds go to the family of officer Micun who died last year at the age of 37 from COVID.
- Sept. 17 – You, Your Newborn and Sleep, West Chester Public Library, 1 – 2:30 p.m. You may attend in person or virtually. Registration required.
- Sept. 17 – Up on the Roof, Chestnut Street Garage, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Tickets $100 in advance, $125 at the door. Proceeds go to support the Downtown West Chester Foundation.
- Sept. 17 – Movie in the Park: Jurassic World Domination, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Sept. 18 – 41st Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival, downtown West Chester, 12 – 5:30 p.m.
- Sept. 19 – WCU Faculty Recital: Harp, Swope Music Bldg. 8 – 9:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 22 – Yoga in Everhart Park, Everhart Park, 6 – 7 p.m. Classes are $5 and all proceeds go to support West Chester Parks & Rec.
- Sept. 22 – Dueling Pianos, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door
- Sept. 23 – Comedy Sportz Philadelphia, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Improvisional comedy competition Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door. This is an all ages event
- Sept. 23: Willkinson Lecture Series: Dr. Noriko Manabe, “The Persistence of Culture Wars”, Swope Music Bldg. 3:30 – 5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 23: Criterions Jazz Ensemble Concert, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 7:30 – 9 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 24 – Coffee in the Park, Everhart Park, 9:30- 11:30 a.m. All proceeds go to support Friends of Everhart Park; Coffee $4; tea, decaf, juice boxes, and granola bars are also available.
- Sept. 24 – Movie in the Park: Minions: the Rise of Gru, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Sept. 24 – Unite for Her 5K Run/2K Walk, downtown West Chester, 8:30 a.m. $30 (Note: price increases after Aug. 31)
- Sept. 24 – 2022 Chester County Art Walk, East Goshen Park, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Check out more than 30 local artists whose works will be displayed along the Paoli Pike Trail. Also food trucks, music, and live demonstrations.
- Sept. 24 – Preacher Lawson @ WCU, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8 p.m. Tickets – $35/adults; $30/students
- Sept. 24 – Oktoberfest, Levante Brewing Co, West Chester Taproom, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
- Sept. 24 – Oktoberfest, Downtown West Chester, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. come out for $6 beers or ciders at select West Chester restaurants.
- Sept. 25 – West Chester Railroad 25th Anniversary Celebration, West Chester Railroad, enjoy free admission, special tours, and discounted rides.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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