Gentle Readers, there is an old saying, “We get the government we deserve.”
In Upper Providence, and elsewhere, anti-Trump sentiment propelled many unqualified people into office. While that’s not the end of the world, since most people who initially run for office have no idea what they are in for, many of those elected officials have not bothered to do the bare minimum of research or homework to become qualified for the positions they hold. This dynamic in Upper Providence has been well documented by this blog. But Upper Providence is not alone.
The “Edge City,” a stale concept from the early eighties, has been making a comeback in Upper Merion for the last several years. This has been characterized by a glut of multi-family housing, “road diets,” and the notorious King of Prussia rail, which is vocally backed by two of the three County Commissioners. The current Board of Supervisors seems content with the current direction of the Township.
Carlton Stuart is a Montgomery County employee and is one of the current Democrat candidates for office in Upper Merion. He is endorsed by, and is being promoted by some of the most powerful and visible Democrats in Southeastern Pennsylvania, almost none of whom actually live in Upper Merion Township. He has also been endorsed by the local Upper Merion Democrat Committee over Democrat incumbent Tina Garzillo, who was recommended by many of these same people when she was appointed to serve out the term vacated by Democrat Erica Spott.
King of Prussia is so important to the Southeastern PA Democrats, that our illustrious Attorney General took a hot minute out from his never ending
campaign crusade to headline a fundraiser for Carlton Stuart.
How many local municipal candidates for office can snag someone with the national name recognition of Josh Shapiro to show up at their fundraiser?
I bring this all up not only because I grew up in Upper Merion and still have many friends and family there; King of Prussia will always be my “hometown.” But I also bring it up because what happens in Upper Merion Township has an impact throughout Montgomery County. Almost all major roads in the county pass through Upper Merion. Over development and congestion in this area will eventually affect everyone in Montco.
Gentle Readers, I don’t generally get involved in municipal matters outside of Upper Providence, but because he is such a great and uniquely qualified candidate, and since the opposition’s campaign appears to be dominated primarily by folks from outside of Upper Merion, I’m making an exception for Mike Napolitan.
I first met Mike two years ago, though we were “friends” on facebook before that. Mike is running for Township Supervisor in Upper Merion Township and, if you are a resident who has concerns about where the current Board is getting their direction, Mike is worth your consideration, regardless of your party affiliation.
Mike recently posted a facebook note with some excellent ideas on how to handle zoning issues in his Township. I reached out to him for permission to repost his note, because to me, it read like a drink of cool water in the desert of competency that Upper Providence Township has become, and I thought regular readers would find it refreshing as well.
But before I get to that, Mike’s announment of his candidacy deserves to be read. Instead of the banal platitudes about transparency and development, Mike is talking specifics about what is wrong with, and what he thinks needs to be fixed in, Upper Merion.
He is able to offer these specifics because he does his homework. He’s involved in the community he wants to serve, he researches the issues, he thinks them through, and he tries to come up with solutions. And he’s not even in office. How ’bout that?
Though many candidates use it as a gratutious bullet point on the mailers that will soon be clogging your mailbox, Mike Napolitan is one of the few candidates that is actually offering a real alternative to “politics as usual.”
I feel that the Board of Supervisors needs to improve its balance concerning residents and business interests. Over the last few years, I have increasingly become concerned with the direction of the community towards what the King of Prussia Business Improvement District (BID) calls an “Edge City.” I have seen articles and heard of conferences held in Philadelphia where outside businesses and developers discuss how to “Urbanize the Suburban Community.” There recently was a conference in Center City Philadelphia which specifically focused on King of Prussia and Upper Merion. The BID is hosting a speaker that authored a book titled, Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, at their annual Award dinner.
I moved to Upper Merion fourteen years ago because it was a lovely suburban community with a vibrant shopping district and a proud local business community. Today it is hurtling toward becoming that Edge City the BID, large corporations and outside politicians want. The focus is on high-density development with service industry expansion. Upper Merion has wholly flipped from why I moved here in the first place, making this community a Shopping District that happens to have some residential units appended to it. I believe this Board has lost focus on what made Upper Merion a great place to live, work and pray, and that is our residents.
I have a long list of things I believe are impacting our quality of life in Upper Merion. These concerns include traffic congestion, the SEPTA rail project, spending public money for private gain, increased stormwater flooding events, degradation of our streams, overcrowding of our schools requiring more construction, the squandering of open space referendum money, loss of historical structures and assets, and the power of the King of Prussia BID over the decisions of this board.
I have been before the board on many occasions trying to voice my concerns in the hopes of persuading them to hear out our concerns as residents. However, it has not worked, and that reminds me of what my wife said to me a few years ago. She said, complaining and speaking up at meetings are not getting you anywhere, so what are you going to do? I have decided what I am going to do. I am going to run for Township Supervisor.
I hope that I can be the voice for residents that are concerned that the Upper Merion we love will not be recognizable very shortly if we don’t act now. I am asking the community for their support. I look forward to speaking to my neighbors of any political affiliation that want to focus on keeping Upper Merion a lovely suburban residential community with a vibrant shopping district and business community, and not the other way around. Thank you.
I have attended several Board of Supervisor (BOS) workshops in which zoning changes were topics of discussion. These meetings usually have the developer presenting how the change will benefit the township to the BOS. Most of the time, the public is taken by surprise when these zoning changes are added to the agenda.
To the contrary, the BOS and township staff have been in some level of negotiation and discussion with the developer for months before the item is added to the agenda. In most cases, the developer will provide the BOS with a draft ordinance that they have prepared. The draft gets distributed to the BOS and staff and the public never see the contents. There is then a further discussion about bringing the draft ordinance to other committees or workshops before having hearings. By the time the public sees any form of draft, all of the aspects have been worked out in various meetings over many months. This process does not make following the proposed zoning changes easy.
I believe this process should change in Upper Merion. At the very least, the proposed areas should be mapped, and the draft ordinance posted to a page on the township website for public review. Below, I included a link to a proof of concept about the idea of open zoning information. It may not be a perfect solution, but it is clear that other municipalities are thinking about more open government when it comes to land development and zoning.
My idea would be to modify the existing township interactive zoning map to include areas with proposed changes. I have included a link below for you to see the interactive township map. To bring it further along, I would add a link to the proposed zoning ordinance that could be viewed by clicking the area within the interactive map. The link would allow residents to see what is currently submitted for review and areas of development that might be coming in their neighborhood.
Another feature that could be added is an alert email to residents that signup for information. The email is sent when a change to zoning or development falls within a certain distance of their property. This would allow them to do further research or watch for public meetings on the proposed change.
Why is this important? A developer can legally build and develop a property as long as it follows zoning and other current codes. The BOS is powerless to stop the development. This is a fundamental personal property rights issue. Therefore, to control and manage development, zoning ordinances need to be in place before a development plan is submitted.
For example, once a high-density, high-rise, mixed-use transportation oriented zoning ordinance is in place, the BOS is powerless to stop that development. In several cases, ordinances similar to this have been passed in Upper Merion with little input and knowledge of the residents due to the nature of the zoning change process. When the residents hear of a proposed development in the newly zoned area, they are too late to stop or have significant input into the process.
They say knowledge is power, and I want the residents of Upper Merion to have the knowledge that allows them to be informed and understand the impacts of zoning changes early in the process. I want them to have a one-stop location to see proposed plans and zoning change proposals all on a map. That way, they can understand how these proposed zoning changes before the BOS will impact their lives and their tax dollars.
Learn more about Mike Napolitan at his facebook page, linked HERE.
And please, support him if you can. We need good people in office who are in there for the right reasons wherever we can get them.
Mike Napolitan is definitely one of those people.