NACA ANNUAL MEETING
Oct. 27th 2020
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Anne Iskrant, Anne Oltmanns, Bonnie Perry, Caroline Manogue, Chris Helle, Emily Nicholson, Hugh Gordon, John Cassimatis, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Kelly Beh, Paul Lantieri, Linda Katz, Lucy Klain, Sasha Ballen, Val Hiscock, Warren Thaler, Maud Kent.
Visitors and Honored Guests: Commissioner Ray Courtney, Angelina Fones, Bobbie McElroy, Sue Kendall, Dan Grauman, Esther Nash, Ellen Myers, Gary Littman, Helen Aster, Janet Kronfeld, Janet Perry, Jamie & Jenette Wheeler, Joel Lukoff, David & Lisa Morra, Lori Israeli, Lyn Wiesinger, Mike Hartung, Michael Levy, Michael Ogden, Nancy Scarlato, Paul Morris, Paula Burns, Peter Dustin, Rebecca Stein, Susan Reynolds, Kathy Shields.
The meeting was opened about 7:38 pm after most had signed in on line.
Paul Lantieri our President introduced himself, thanking everyone for their recent charitable giving c/o NACA towards various organizations which have been helping during the Covid pandemic. He encouraged all to feel free to “drop into” any future Board Meetings.
Chris Helle: Gave a brief summary of our crosswalk project, which is an attempt at traffic calming and an aesthetic statement, at the corners of St. Georges, Glenn, Edgewood and Llanfair/Montgomery Aves. This would also include an inner corner a block away from Montgomery at the intersection of St. Georges and Glenn. To summarize, Eurocobble is being considered and evaluated as the material to be used for the crosswalks by the Public Works division in conjunction with input from Mike Ogden of Kimco and Chris Helle of NACA.
She introduced herself as the Executive Director of the Ardmore Initiative, which is funded by assessments on property owned in the downtown Business District. This includes the southern side of the railroad tracks, not the northern side.
So lots of changes have occurred recently due to the pandemic! Many of the yearly events, such as the Taste of Ardmore and the Antique Market, which had become mainstays, had to be cancelled. A few updates however are showing signs of better days to come:
- I Ardmore is fully leased. There are not many children; mostly more mature ages. The retail section is still available.
- The new apartments on the other side of the Cricket, Cricket Flats, will also have new retail and 36 apartments have been pre-leased. These will mostly be millennials and empty nesters.
- The “Piazza” project- this will displace the car dealerships between Ardmore and Greenfield Aves; it is still in the formation stage but will be 257 apartments with 123 K sq. ft. of retail when completed.
- In spite of business closings, many have opened during Covid. These include:
On Greenfield: Amazing Lash Studio, Revitalize Aesthetics Med Spa, C2 Education.
On Lancaster: Main Line Float and Freeze (coming soon),
On Rittenhouse Place: Sakana Japanese Cuisine, The Blue Pearl Café, Sophie’s BBQ (coming soon), Daydream Bridal (opening in November).
On Station Avenue: The Coffee Bar, Autana Authentic Venezuelan Food.
A few other pointers:
– During the construction of the train station, a temporary platform will be set up behind the Merion Art/shopping area.
-Fortunately we have not had TOO many business casualties due to the pandemic, but some restaurants might not be able to make it through the Winter so please remember to use their take out services.
-Please remember there is a garage for the public under the Ardmore 1 complex.
-They are planning a socially distanced Santa event the day after Thanksgiving – which will be in the spirit of last year’s Winter Wonderland event.
News in Suburban Square:
Due to the Covid pandemic, some folks have put their leasing plans on hold. But lately there have been a few “pop up” shops which don’t sign up for a long term lease; this has been a tactic they have been employing.
Sadly, the Besito Mexican restaurant has closed. They are planning to take away the two existing parking spaces next to the Besito building and then refashion that spot.
Some good news:
-Shake Shack will be opening late in the 1st quarter.
-Compass will open on the 2nd floor of the Ruby’s building.
-Lola’s (beer) Garden is opening in the courtyard in spaces vacated by Kate Spade and Jack Willis.
-The streetscape at the corner of Anderson and Montgomery will be planted with trees.
-The lower courtyard is getting a facelift.
-The new station row building has won an award.
-The station row public space next to the train station is redesigned with an eye-catching flaming sculpture.
Commissioner Ray Courtney:
This is a summary of Commissioner Courtney’s slides nearly verbatim; voting instructions given are now moot and details are omitted here:
Ward 5 Year in Review:
-Two main themes dominated the year 2020: the election, and the Corona Virus.
-Commissioner Courtney began by outlining various steps to follow pertaining to mail-in voting and voting in person.
–Covid-19: (as of Oct. 2020) He felt optimistically that we wouldn’t see a third peak of the virus, yet many goals were not accomplished by the Board of Commissioners, due to the virus. Lower Merion’s Response involved various measures: 1. Parks, playground, and library closings. 2. Reduced parks and recreation and pool offerings. 3. Meetings moved to zoom with limitations on people allowed in the township building. 4. Property Tax grace period extended to allow for the late payment without penalty. 5. CDBG grants for additional $600K assistance. 6. Deferred $ 8M in CIP projects.
The community has been cooperative in following these guidelines: Masks and social distancing; Sheltering in place; Limiting travel and mobility; Contributing to non-profits and charities; and various other voluntary sacrifices.
“Report Card for the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners”:
-BoC President Bernheim set many goals for the Board in January 2020, then they were not able to accomplish much due to the Pandemic hitting hard in early March.
Commissioner Courtney listed their accomplishments/priorities nevertheless in report card format…
Issues getting grades from “A’s – C’s”
1. Adopting the new Zoning Code and prioritizing the potential amendments and remaining ordinances that need revision.
2. Continue the efforts dedicated to police and community relations.
3. Restructure our solid waste fees.
4. Assess our Public Pool Fees.
5. Increase the efficiency of our public meetings.
6. Reduce both our growing traffic problems and speeding.
7. Set a sidewalk policy to improve walkability.
8. Develop a meaningful plan for Affordable Housing in Lower Merion.
Those That Fall into the Category of “Needs Improvements”
1. Create a long term plan for the health of our fire services.
2. Fulfill our MS4 requirements for better stormwater management and determine the best way to fund this large expense.
3. Increase our efforts on environmental sustainability and hire a Sustainability Director.
4. Continue our careful fiscal management and assess whether 9 years without a tax increase has led to any reduction in services or missed opportunities for improvement.
5. Improve our intergovernmental relationships and initiatives with the School Board and the Narberth Borough Council.
Ward 5 Land Development:
- Arnold Field Lights are tabled for now.
- Lola’s Garden in Suburban Square as been approved.
- 355 W. Lancaster has been re-zoned.
- The Suburban Square Apartments Preliminary Plan has been filed.
Capital Improvement Plan:
–There exists a 13.5M Bond to cover through 2021. This would lock us into a limited set of projects.
-The proposed sidewalk and intersection improvements for Ward 5 are for Cherry Lane and Montgomery/Church.
– Ardmore Ave. Community Center/ Center of Positive Aging in LM.
–Our initially projected 4.7M shortfall is now projected to be 6.9M.
-The projected shortfall for 2021 is 7.7M.
In conclusion, Commissioner Courtney realizes the current situation makes it harder for LMT to achieve its projected goals. A lack of reinvestment will hamper our ability to improve. Finally, Covid-19 could be a preview of possible negative outcomes of climate change. He believes the willingness of our community to come together to make voluntary sacrifices is the secret to Lower Merion’s resilience and ultimate success.
Meeting closed at approximately 9:30pm.