When the going gets stupid, you must be in Concord

Unionville man falls prey to township’s vicious cycle of business harassment

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

As Cyndi Lauper once sang (and yes, we all listened to her with our Walkmans while riding dinosaurs) “Girls just wanna have fun.”

The same applies for boys — those pesky under-21s want to do something with their spare time and have a safe place to hang out with their friends. The options are, to be generous, kind of limited in this area. There’s the movie theater in Painters Crossing, which hasn’t been updated (or really cleaned) since the late 1990s and then there’s…

Well, you get the idea.

So when Unionville’s own Tom Pancoast — who knows just a bit about what kids are interested in, as the father of eight, seven girls and a boy — announced plans to build an under-21 Social Club in neighboring Concord, it seemed like a win-win for everyone.

Talk to Pancoast for even a few minutes, and it’s clear his passion for the project is evident. He wants to do something for the youths in the area, give them something to do besides driving around aimlessly — or worse.

Tom Pancoast isn't going away quietly, as this sign, parked along US-1 in Concord indicates.

With Pancoast’s project, teens from around the area would have a safe place to hang out, play sports and games and do it in a secure, well-regulated environment. Local merchants would see an uptick in business from parents dropping their kids off and it would have added somewhere between 40 an 50 jobs to the local economy. And all of this would take place in a building that has sat vacant for four years.

Perfect, right?

Yeah, not so fast. Despite apparently fitting the zoning regulations — zoning allows for non-profit, social clubs of this sort, and Pancoast already has the appropriate 501c organization behind the effort, the township rejected it. Wouldn’t even set up a meeting to rework the plan into compliance Pancoast said he was told that it was rejected because it was “age-restricted.”

Wow. Don’t tell the folks at Maris Grove — which restricts residency by age — that you can’t restrict by age. And actually, it appears the ordinance doesn’t seem mention anything about age restriction.

Basically, they told Pancoast: “We don’t like your kind. Get lost.”

Not exactly the rational response one might expect, especially in a township where so much of the tax base comes from commercial enterprises.

This is Concord, where business and commerce is the enemy, good government is a foreign concept and the only ones who seem to get a good deal are the folks at Delcora, who reportedly are poised to buy the township’s conveniently disbanded sewer authority at half price (I’m sure that had nothing to do with the allegedly proffered Delcora board seats and patronage jobs that went with it. Nope, must have been abject altruism or coupons).

Ask around — and I have over the years — and it’s clear Concord is a one-man town. And that one man is Dominic Pileggi. No, not the state Senator and Senate Majority Leader, who just happens to be up for reelection this year, but his cousin, who is chair of the Concord Board of Supervisors. While the state Senator is a gifted and bright guy, one must give a certain amount of pause when you realize he shares not only a name, but DNA with this other guy.

Concord’s Pileggi is the king of the no-syllable answer and many around town suggest that his intellect compares unfavorably with living room furniture — something others have denied furiously, citing the insult to sofas everywhere. I can’t speak from personal experience, having never spoken to the man. A request for comment on this issue was — as seems to be standard operating procedure — ignored.

That leaves us to guess as to the motivations — but it does fit into the pattern of harassment of local business people, a bizarre behavior for a township split by three US highways and loads of commercial real estate. It’s not like there’s a pristine, quaint downtown or acres of farmland to preserve.

Pancoast argues he has right by use and that he is complying with the township’s zoning ordinance. That’s not for me to to judge, although nothing in the information he provided and the language in the ordinance makes me think he’s off base. But, for sake of it, let’s assume that his idea doesn’t comply. Why not, then, be willing to discuss what it would take to get it into compliance?

“They won’t talk to me,” Pancoast told me this week. “But, I’m not going away.”

And how. If you’ve driven up U.S- 1 through Concord in the last couple of days, you know that. It’s a little hard to miss the sign, on a truck parked at the site of the proposed Social Club:

“Concord Township Hates Kids.”

You wonder, though, from the multitude of stories that circulate whether Tom has limited his scope a bit too much. It would seem from here — whether it be the constant feuds with the township’s largest landowners and various regional elected officials and random, pervasive harassment of small business owners, that the government of Concord Township doesn’t seem to like much of anyone, except the small group of cronies running the show.

And that stinks for the rest of us.

* * *

Don’t miss the U Factor Talent show — sponsored by the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Foundation on Jan. 28, at the the new auditorium at Unionville High School. The 3 p.m. show will feature students in seventh grade and younger, while the 7 p.m. show will feature students in 8th through 12th grade.

Tickets can be ordered through the UCFEF’s website.

* * *

Thanks for the phone calls Friday morning to tip me off about the minor school bus accident near the Ace Hardware on Rt. 926 in Pocopson. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the bus was able to continue taking middle and high school students home. Kudos to the school district for quickly putting word out and contacting the parents involved.

Although details are a little sketchy — it appears a car rear-ended the bus at the railroad crossing there. Under state law, the bus must stop for the crossing — and I’ve seen a number of near misses involving buses, and folks not realizing that they (and some sorts of tanker trucks) must stop and look at railroad crossings.

It’s a good reminder of how important it is to pay attention and drive carefully.

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One Comment

  1. Steve Autman says:

    Mr. McGann,
    I do not disagree with your perspective on the Concord Township supervisors. I would point out, however, that there are 324 acres of open space at the southwest corner of the township that the supervisors are entertaining for development. A zoning variation has been submitted that would allow for several hundred housing units instead of 162; 220, 000 square feet of commercial development instead of 22, 000 on a parcel of land that is owned by Woodlawn Trustees and abuts the new National Monument. This is pristine open land doted by a few historical farmsteads , haying fields and trails. I would suggest that your staff explore this issue as it will have direct impact upon the quality of life, the density of traffic and the degradation of the environmental assess that are becoming increasingly endangered in this region. The Beaver Valley Conservancy is working to preserve this open space for the benefit of those who live, work and enjoy in this and the greater region.

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