Newlin Green residents owe a lot of apologies

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Behavior at Newlin Zoning Hearing Board was an embarrassment to Unionville

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
I didn’t know what else to say, so I apologized.

Not that I’d done anything wrong, mind you, but watching the shameful and clueless behavior of some of the residents of Newlin Green Wednesday night at a Newlin Zoning Hearing Board hearing to determine whether a property meets zoning requirements to house an ophthalmology practice, somebody had to do something.

In speaking to the doctor in question, Dr. Lonnie Luscavage, after the meeting I was so profoundly embarrassed by the rudeness, clear lack of cognitive skills and, frankly, some deficits in plain old human decency that I wanted to make sure she knew that what she saw that night doesn’t fairly represent Unionville or its residents. As she’s been practicing in Chadds Ford for the better part of a decade, she already knew, and to her credit seemed less frustrated and upset by the meeting than I was.

Now, understand that my issues are with a subset of the neighborhood — the folks that acted out Wednesday night. Undoubtedly, there are some nice, normal people in the neighborhood and I feel for them having to put up with such a collection of neighbors. But what we saw Wednesday isn’t going to do much for the reputation of Newlin Green.

The residents at the meeting harped on traffic, which amounts to a couple of cars an hour, three days a week. They harped on aesthetics — from Route 842 the proposed addition would not be seen. From the back side (and based on the behavior of the people at the meeting, I use that term very advisedly), it will look like the house,  tan stucco with a green metal roof and a cupola,  and ruin the residents’ views, they alleged.

They didn’t mention the hideous and ugly sewer pump house — built just for Newlin Green — that makes the old farmhouse look like Buckingham Palace in comparison.

Somehow, that doesn’t ruin their view.

Then we had our “when things get weird, the weird turn pro” moment (apologies to the late Hunter Thompson) when someone asked if Luscavage was screening her patients for criminal backgrounds and whether she saw pedophiles.

Clearly, the Newlin Green residents weren’t screened for bullying.

Words escape me on this subject beyond being horrified, embarrassed and more than a little sickened.

The residents whined, ignored protocol, and made a mockery of the hearing — despite the best efforts of the zoning board members — because mostly, they just don’t want an eye doctor’s practice there and acted like a bunch of 3-year-olds on a sugar rush.

But it’s not going away without a fight — one that will cost the residents serious cash (they’re lawyering up), not to mention the township (ask West Marlborough what happens to a township tax bill when you have a lot of ZBH hearings and extended legal fights over a property). Despite rumors to the contrary, the Luscavages confirmed to me they’re in for the long haul and aren’t going away.

And if even if the residents win, they don’t seem to understand that some of the other options to buy the building included an ice-cream parlor and a nails place, complete with massage services upstairs — and either of those might just be in play if Dr. Luscavage is sent packing by the mob of arrivistes. So if they win, they lose. At this point, I’d say the neighbors deserve a seedy biker bar, even though we all know the township is too well run for that to happen.

And besides, I’m not sure the residents have that much room to complain about anyone else’s aesthetics.

I’ll be honest, I kind of find the entire Newlin Green development to be something less than an improvement to the area’s rural character.

The neighborhood, on either side of Route 842, is made up of McMansions crammed onto postage stamp-sized properties, no screening trees, the buildings kind of just erupting from the rolling hills. It seriously detracts from what had been lovely, rolling farms and woodlands. I loved looking out at it while driving my old Austin-Healey up Rt. 842 on a crisp fall day on a run to Northbrook for cider donuts.

Now, not so much.

I’m sure some people love it; they wouldn’t have dropped major money (the houses go for $650,000 to $1 million) on these homes if they didn’t, but it’s not my cup of tea.

But progress happens, so you shrug and move on, which is what most of us did when Newlin Green, with its added traffic, higher burden on local schools (higher school taxes) and another addition to the sprawl that has eaten away at Chester County like a disease, came into being.

Or, you form a mob and hold a group temper tantrum, which is what we saw Wednesday night with the intent of  “saving” the rural character of the area. This brings to mind the comment of the Vietnam-era general suggesting that the army needed to burn down a village to save it.

Newlin Green itself kind of killed the rural buzz and it seems hard to see how a quiet medical office is going to make it that much worse or even any worse.

Look, I’m sorry the folks in Newlin Green are finding their $650,000 to $1 million investments have dropped in value, but houses in their price range have been a tough sell no matter the location — and there are some more attractive options in the area.

And now, thanks to the joys of the Internet, Newlin Green property values will probably drop further, as who really wants to live with a bunch of martinet neighbors?

Newlin Green residents who had no idea of this stupidity can personally thank their Homeowners Association President Caroline Haas for further pushing property values off a cliff, while the rest of the township taxpayers can thank her and her overly self-absorbed neighbors for higher local taxes and general embarrassment.

These folks owe the Luscavages a very large apology and for their own sake and that of the community at large, they need to get over themselves.

Since neither seems likely, I offer my apologies to the Luscavages again, and best wishes for your new practice — I’m sure it will be a credit to the community.

* * *

I was more than interested when East Marlborough’s Board of Supervisors discussed looking at regulating soliciting in the township, Monday night, prompted by a request from the Traditions’ Home Owners Association.

There have been a number of issues with solicitors going door-to-door in that neighborhood and others, some are just annoying, while others, it appears are more menacing, attempting to enter homes, and breaking into the Traditions Clubhouse.

I certainly hope that the supervisors look closely and ultimately adopt an ordinance requiring permits for such activity — excluding political, local civic and religious groups, which despite the limited understanding of the West Whiteland Police Department (a couple weeks back, they illegally halted a presidential campaign from canvassing in the township), are exempt from such regulation.

Soliciting has been a major issue in Pocopson, where I live, too. And, loathe as I am to insert myself into the local news (beyond reporting and expressing my opinion on these pages), as a township resident, I’m going to ask my local Board of Supervisors to consider doing the same.

In my local neighborhood, Brandywine Hills, solicitors are a constant problem. We have people hawking repair work, seeking sponsorships for groups few seem to have ever heard of and, it seems, casing homes. I’ve heard more than one report of suspicious behavior, including home owners discovering burglary tools dropped near their front door.

I live in a neighborhood full of children, and while most of these folks are likely little more than annoying, the potential for something more pernicious is evident to me.

Unlike East Marlborough or Kennett (which already restricts soliciting), Pocopson has no local police to enforce this, which would leave it to us residents to do so by asking to see permits and reporting those soliciting without them. If we hassle them enough, they’ll move onto easier places to operate.

Without an ordinance regulating such activity, though, we lack even that option.

I would hope that the supervisors in both towns would look seriously at such an ordinance.

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30 Comments

  1. Cy says:

    I wasn’t at the hearing. I seriously doubt what Mike McCann wrote is a valid depiction of the behavior of the Newlin Greene residents, as I know the people who live here. I think he is more upset he can’t drive his Austin-Healey (how arrogant is that) up 842 anymore without looking at the beautiful homes on 1 acre lots…..anyway, I think debate is fair. I personally don’t have a problem with a doctor’s office being there, as long as any future changes are constrained….I do have a problem with a arrogant ‘writer’ insulting my neighborhood. BTW, we pay our share of school taxes that support the school district.

  2. Ralph says:

    I ran into one of the members of the zoning board yesterday, and I couldn’t wait to ask about the big crazy hearing. I was quite surprised to find he said nothing really happened. Arguments? No. Cursing? No Shout-downs, screaming, rants? NO, no, no. What was the big deal? Well there were a lot of people there and it slowed things down, there may have been an off hand comment but most were quite, in fact only 6 or 7 asked questions during the meeting. In the words of the zoning board member “but if your neighbor wanted to build professional offices on the back of their house and wanted relief from zoning ordinances, wouldn’t you expect a lot of people to show up at the hearing?”

    • Mike McGann says:

      What happened at the meeting is what I reported the next day. My opinion on the matter remains my opinion. I have covered numerous meetings of this sort and the conduct of a number of residents at the meeting, including the inquiries about pedophiles, was not typical. So as someone who was actually at the meeting — I disagree with your second-hand account.
      And again, you mis-characterize the nature of application, much like those who claim it represents some change in zoning. It doesn’t. As long as it meets specific criteria, it is a use by right. No relief is being sought.
      The building is currently and has been for more than a decade been a commercial use. The application seeks an expansion of the footprint, within the guidelines of the ordinance.

  3. Kristin Hoover says:

    Is it any wonder that I have been pushing hard for the last year to get an effective bullying policy that is enforced and protects children in the Unionville Chadds Ford School District? This is learned behavior.

  4. Nathaniel says:

    Well said, Mike! The NIMBY’s of Newlin Greene are HOA trolls of the first order.

    My only regret is that they weren’t here to object to the approval of Newlin Greene in the first place in order to spare us from themselves.

    This illustrates the law of unintended consequences firsthand, insofar as homeowners associations exist only to “relieve” townships of maintaining the public space and roads within developments. Most HOA’s quickly devolve into mini North Korea’s run by petty tyrants with their cadre of small-minded control-freak bullies fixated on garbage can placement, color codes for front doors and other items of grave importance to world order.

    Our beloved HOA leaders strive to impose the “commune” in “community”.

    Shed a tear for their long-suffering children, spouses and neighbors.

    Will they draw the line at reaching into their pockets to finance Caroline Custer at Little Big Eye? Or will this be the Alamo that finally rally’s the residents of NG to overthrow the regime?

    • Cathy says:

      Nathaniel, you sound like a real “Tool”! Why don’t you use all your anger and resentment into making UCFSD a nice, neighborly place to live? Or better yet…..clean your own crappy lawn with all your stupid ornaments, RV and trash! You sound like a real rebel to me!

  5. Turk182 says:

    “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

    — Mark Twain.

  6. Cathy says:

    Grab your pitchfork and torches!

    I’m not at all interested in this one-sided article but more embarrassed by the comments of residents in the UCFSD. Kuddos to you Mike! Seems like the Newlin Green neighborhood is being bullied. Practice what you preach…..everyone!

  7. Donna says:

    Mike, thank you, thank you, thank you! I have lived here for 32 years, and put 2 children through all 12 years of UCFSD schools. This area is a very desirable place to live; unfortunately, we can’t “screen out” the
    “undesirables” who move out here and want to push their “excesses”
    on the rest of us… from excessive homes, to excessive vehicles to
    excessive personalities…. enough already! Go back where you came from until you can learn to “BLEND IN” to your new community, not dictate
    how you want everything to conform to your whims. Ever get caught on one of these beautiful country roads with one of these excessive residents coming at you in the opposite direction in their excessive suv?
    enough said….

    • Ralph says:

      Did you really just say you don’t like people based solely on what type of house and car they have? You are prejudging based on something you see rather than the “content of their character”? You want everyone to be just like you and if they are different you don’t like them, and want them to leave, interesting.

    • There You Have It says:

      And the true attitude comes out. Never mind that these “undesirables” that have have moved here and have been in the area for many years are scout leaders, sports coaches, PTO volunteers, teachers, hospice workers, fair volunteers, have donated significant amounts of money and personal time to local charities and non-profits, and have paid millions in school taxes. The behavior at the hearing was inexcusable and a complete overreaction. One instance of poor judgement and behavior does not define someone and apologies are due all around. I guess you have never been in a situation where you were frustrated and overreacted. What is sad is the undercurrent of dislike and blame in this community. As for Mike – be a reporter and objectively report the story or be a blogger and opine. Every story has two sides. Your obvious bias along with Donna’s that these people ruined your donut run and therefore the whole community removes any journalistic objectivity.

      • Mike McGann says:

        I think you are somewhat misguided. There is a rich history of commentary over the last two hundred years. There isn’t a newspaper anywhere that does not run commentary and editorials, including this one. None seem to have suffered fatal blows to their credibility from expressing their opinion on the matters of the day.

        Our reporting, labelled as news, was actually lauded as being fair and well-researched by residents of the neighborhood — until my column came out.

        When we report the news, we do our best to tell both sides, fairly and completely. Which we did, a week ago.

        My opinion — and in a column it is clearly labeled as such — is just that.

        I hope that you don’t assume our readers aren’t smart enough to understand that distinction. I certainly do not.

        • There You Have It says:

          fatal blow, probably not, but today’s media has certainly blurred the lines between opinion and fact. I’m not suggesting that the readers do not know what section they are reading. For completeness, perhaps the initial coverage could have included context around how it all got to the frenzy it did at the hearing and where it started. For fairness, why specifically add that Dr. Ammon is “an optometrist who lives in Newlin Green”? Apparently because it “makes me ask who profits from this application being withdrawn”. Why was “party” placed in quotes other than to perhaps imply that people were not or should not be. It is the combination of your two pieces to which I was referring.

          • Turk182 says:

            Wow. Impressive backpeddling, there, There. You’re killing him for not detailing why these people acted like selfish twits? And you know what, noting Dr. Ammon’s profession makes it seem a lot cleared how this craziness happened.
            Wow. Have you no shame?
            I often disagree with McGann because he can be kind of an arrogant blowhard, but I think he has your — and your neighbors — numbers.
            Maybe you and Obama want this to be some socialist paradise, but the rest of us have to live here, pal.

          • There You Have It says:

            wow is right – from “excessive” to Obama and socialist paradise?? Dizzying. Seems you are OK with the commercialization of the area which is the real issue here. People overreacted, but for the paper to imply that a doctor who practices in Delaware somehow would gain from preventing Dr Luscavage from building an office here in PA is at the root of this is ridiculous. I suspect that the reaction would have been exactly the same no matter what business submitted the zoning request. Turk182 – the vandal hero – says a lot, pal.

  8. Mike McGann says:

    First off, there’s no zoning change — that claim is utter misrepresentation. It is merely swapping one permitted commercial use for another. That commercial use preceded the existence of Newlin Green. So any complaints about a commercial use there are without merit.
    The hearing is required, as Jerry explains so well above, because the applicant must prove that they meet the requirements for a “special exception” which is neither, to be honest.
    The gross amount of misinformation put out on this subject and has spread like wildfire throughout the neighborhood there makes me ask who profits from this application being withdrawn?

  9. Deb says:

    Newlin Greene is here, and I think you will find that the residents of Newlin Greene, find it questionable, as to how it was able to be developed.
    Most of us, thought we bought a beautiful home, with excellent schools, in a safe, quiet, rural area…not unlike the neighborhoods along Oak Tree Rd.
    I wonder why the requirement for zoning changes? What happens down the road, after the “quiet, small, eye practice” decides to sell? Well, then we may get the biker bar…after all, all the zoning restrictions have been removed.
    So, if this eye doctor’s practice is within the current zoning…why the hearing. This is what I believe to be a gross untruth!
    The people who live in Newlin Greene, did not create/develop Newlin Greene. The people who allowed and developed Newlin Greene are the same ones who want to continue their self serving practices, by further changing the environs.
    Why would an eye doctor choose to be on a corner like this, anyway?

  10. Jerry says:

    Mike:

    Thanks for your accurate reporting and analysis of the facts surrounding the doctor’s desire to open an office in the old farm house near Newlin Greene.

    In order to fully understand the situation, I believe that it is important to know that under zoning law a “special exception” is neither “special”, nor is it an “exception” to the Township’s zoning requirements. Instead, a “special exception” is a permitted use that is subject to additional objective requirements contained in the Township’s zoning ordinance. Once the applicant proves that his or her proposed use would not violate those conditions (typically related to the health, safety and welfare of the community) the Township is obligated to allow the applicant to proceed with the project. Any other result would constitute a violation of the rights of the property owner.

    Thus, it is not a question of whether or not you and I are in favor of the farm house being used for commercial purposes as that issue was decided in 1999 when the Board of Supervisors adopted the Township’s present zoning ordinance.

    More importantly, since the Township’s current zoning ordinance was in existence long before any of them Greene purchased their houses and since the house in question was being used for the operation of a commercial enterprise that the time that they purchased their houses, the residents of Newlin Greene should not be heard to complain that they were not aware that the building could be used for the operation of a business.

    Finally, it should also be noted that one of the 3 developers of Newlin Greene, Bob Pearson, was the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Newlin Township at the time when the Township’s 1999 Zoning Ordinance was adopted and when the subdivision and land development plan for Newlin Green was approved. Since the farm house in question was once part and parcel of the farm on which the houses of Newlin Greene now sit, I find it hard to believe that the developers did not take great pains to disclose the fact that the farm house was going to be used for commercial purposes at the time that the houses in Newlin Greene were initially sold.

  11. John says:

    Let me get this straight, the doctor wants to build on a property and applied for relief from the current zoning requirements such as size, setback from property lines and footprint. Why do you think it’s wrong for the people living around it to ask questions? I think it’s reasonable to ask how big, how far and how much traffic. You mentioned the problem at the Whip…those residents should have asked at their zoning hearing years ago and there wouldn’t be a problem now. And why the name calling?

    • Mike McGann says:

      Well, not exactly. The proposal meets zoning on size, setback, property lines and footprint. They need to be granted a special exception because of the odd nature of Newlin’s zoning ordinance. The traffic issue is about the only relevant issue. Instead, the residents complained about their view and the rural character of the township being changed, before asking about whether the doctor in question screened her patients for being pedophiles.

      Those are facts. My opinion about the behavior of the residents is mine — and you are entitled to yours.

      • John says:

        I looked up the zoning request (in the Daily local classified) and it does indeed ask for relief from side and back property setback requirements. It also asks for relief from any other ordinance they feel necessary. Again I think it was reasonable to ask questions about this. I’m not quite sure why you are in favor of commercial development along the roads of the Unionville area. I’m not sure that rich businesses buying up farmhouses and expanding them into commercial properties is a good idea. It also seems you are against residents going to board meetings and asking questions. I’ve been to board meetings and people sometimes do ask ridiculous questions, that happens when people have differing points of view.

        • Mike McGann says:

          Yeah. Here’s the thing: the township tossed in the variance stuff in case they needed it, largely as a keeping options open move. As stated pretty clearly in the testimony, the proposal meets all of the setback requirements.
          It’s not that I’m in favor of business, although I certainly am, it’s that I’m against hypocrisy. Newlin Green did more to disrupt the rural character of Route 842 than putting a small medical practice in a farm house ever could. Worse, the conduct of the neighbors was nothing short of unconscionable. I don’t for a second suggest people don’t have the right to ask questions, they do. But they distorted the process on the basis of “we don’t like it” and disrupted a Zoning Hearing Board hearing.
          Asking questions? Awesome. It’s what I do for a living. That wasn’t what we saw Wednesday night, though.

          • John says:

            That’s stretch to blame someone who buys a house as disrupting the area. It’s the developer who buys raw land and changes the zoning, not the person who shown a house by a Real Estate agent. If it was your way no person could ever campaign for open space since no one lives in a house that wasn’t on previous once open space. And that seems to be the point of this house, expanding it’s nonconforming use in the name of profit. I’ll have to say I’ve never read an article that supported the profit of rich business and chided residents who seem to be concerned about their neighborhood and children.

  12. Embarrassed in Unionville says:

    I’m just curious — Does the Newlin Green homeowners group screen prospective home buyers with criminal background checks?

  13. Kristin Hoover says:

    Bullying. I stand up month after month and beg the Unionville Chadds Ford School District to either following the bullying policy it has or enact a new one they do follow. My kid has been repeatedly bullied. Yet, Dr. Sanville said that we didn’t have a bullying issue in the District at a Policy Meeting. Not a word of what I say about bullying ever gets picked up in the Unionville Times. Now we’re all offended by the bullying that we see in our community because it has now crossed some kind of imaginary line of something that matters to us. Our kids are learning to be bullies from their parents. If the parents won’t be the leaders and role models we need, then it is up to the school to send the message that bullying is not acceptable. I urge you to speak to your kids about this subject. Kids grow up and turn into what they know. It needs to stop.

  14. Berta Rains says:

    Ditto to all of the above, especially your comments about how bucolic the view use to be on that stretch of 842 before the mcmansions were built. I am not a resident of E. Marlborough township but that area represents to me the old Unionville of my youth. The house that Dr. Luscavage wants to occupy is the original farmhouse on that property. Anytime someone wants to care for one of these historic structures, I say a little prayer of thankfulness.
    It is disheartening to learn of such behavior from township residents toward a new person. Had I had my druthers, I would have marched right down 842 protesting the building of those structures when they were being built. But there seems to be no stopping it and why wouldn’t people want to live in this beautiful part of the world? It is just sad that the residents at the hearing behaved so rudely, especially to someone who wants to care for that beautiful old farmhouse.

  15. Anna says:

    So glad to see that you are there to report on these important local affairs- I’ve seen you at township meetings and school board meetings..you always go to the meetings that most people do not bother to go to unless they have something to complain about. These sorts of meeting are at the heart of American politics and local way of life; and it is a shame that most people do not go to them – thank you for being there, for letting us know what is going on, and for speaking from your heart.
    It is awful that such rude and ignorant people are using township meetings as a soapbox for their general dissatisfaction with the world around them. I applaud the township officials for putting up with the angry mob and for trying to do their job…but it sounds like like could use a bigger gavel.
    I really enjoyed reading your very human response to the scene. This mob bullying is shameful and we have to not allow it to continue as a community. A couple months ago I tried to explain the mob rage that occurred at the last East Marlborough Township meeting to my kids–I likened it to the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when the mob is about to lynch Tom Robinson..the mob is cruel and horrible and then Scout starts talking to them individually, nice people, and one by one the mob dissipates and looks ashamed for how they acted. I hope the people at the township meeting feel ashamed too.

  16. steve says:

    Thanks Mike for saying almost exactly how I felt after reading the report on that Newlin Zoning Hearing Board hearing…nothing more to say except I liked your H.S.T reference…one of my favorite quotes.

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