Worcester, Pennsylvania, Politics Online

Policy Statement

      This website is maintained by Worcester residents who are concerned about our community and its future. Its purpose is to inform all Worcester residents about matters of interest and concern.
      We encourage and support efforts by our Supervisors and other groups and individuals to control development in our Township in a way that protects its rural heritage. For those of us who live here, Worcester is an island of tranquility and open spaces surrounded by a sea of traffic-congested development, both residential and commercial. Some commercial and residential developers, most of whom are not Worcester residents, see our home as a place to be exploited, not as a place to be preserved. A very small but very vocal minority of residents would like Worcester to look just like the other heavily developed communities that surround it. These groups favor eliminating Township funding for the preservation of open space and expanding municipal "services" that are not needed or wanted by the vast majority of Township residents. These groups also favor changing zoning ordinances in ways that will quickly cause Worcester to lose the qualities that differentiate it from the communities surrounding us on all sides.
      We disagree with these individuals. Worcester is different from other communities and we are committed to keeping it that way. Toward this end, we favor Township efforts to limit development while at the same time encouraging appropriate commercial activity in our existing village areas. We want the Township to enforce zoning ordinances that protect the open and peaceful character of our residential areas. We encourage the Township to work proactively with groups and individuals dedicated to preserving our open spaces and we support the use of public funds toward this end whenever appropriate. We support a small and efficient local government that limits our local property taxes (only a few tens of dollars per years for Worcester households, rather than the several hundreds of dollars more typical of other communities in Montgomery County) by limiting the services we ask our government to provide.
      We believe these are widely held non-partisan positions for our community and the role of local government. We endorse or oppose candidates for elected office based not on their party, but on their actions and their demonstrated abilities to represent the interests of the vast majority of Worcester residents. We are not affiliated with or supported by any group or organization in Worcester, nor are the contents of this website controlled by any group or organization.
      Questions and comments can be sent to webmaster@worcesterpapolitics.org. Comments will be posted entirely at our discretion. Posted comments will appear in their entirety, without editing unless noted otherwise. Comments can be posted anonymously, if you wish. We will never reveal any personal or contact information unless you specifically authorize us to do so. The reason for this policy is that, unfortunately, some members of our community regularly resort to harassment and intimidation of residents with whom they disagree. We do not wish to provide targets for those individuals. We admit that one unfortunate result of this policy is that you have to take our word for it that we are accurately reflecting the views of contributors — that we are telling the truth when we state that an e-mail is "reproduced in its entirety, unedited," and that the e-mail is genuine. This is a decision for you to make about this site, as is the case for political or other information from any source.


August 21, 2015: Worcester Township hires new manager

At its August 19 meeting, Worcester's supervisors voted unanimously to hire a new Township Manager, Tommy Ryan, currently Manager in West Bradford Township. Mr. Ryan has impressive professional credentials and he appears to be a significant addition to our local government. You can find more about Mr. Ryan on Worcester's website,
HERE.

May 28, 2015: Worcester Township's Manager, Lee Mangan, has announced his retirement, effective this weeek.

Lee Mangan's last day is Friday, May 29, 2015. He has served as Worcester's Township Manager for three and a half years. Previously, he served for many years as Lansdale's Manager. An interim manager will be appointed and a consulting firm has been hired to search for a replacement. We believe Worcester was well served by Mr. Mangan and we wish him and his wife much success in their future endeavors.

May 22, 2015: Application for high-density development of Center Square Golf Club property denied

You can find the entire text of the Board's decision on The Cutler Group's application HERE.

      The proposal by the Applicant, The Cutler Group, was based on their interpretation of the Worcester zoning ordinance which would permit construction of a "residential life-care facility" consisting of 164 independent living "villa units," 170 independent living "carriage home units," a clubhouse and associated recreational amenities, and a "senior campus" with 141 additional units on approximately 150 acres of AGR-zoned property. If approved, this would allow more than four times the housing density that would otherwise be allowed under AGR zoning (approximately 75 or fewer homes, depending on terrain and other possible site complications).
      The question for Worcester's Supervisors was whether the Applicant's proposed "business plan" for the development met the definition of a "residential life-care facility." The proposed business model was significantly different from Meadowood, for example. At that facility, individuals buy into a plan that guarantees them a full spectrum of living arrangements, ranging from rather large single-family units to skilled nursing care, depending on their health needs. Meadowood residents do not own their living units. In the Applicant's business model, the villa and carriage homes were to be bought and sold separately on the open 55+ housing market. The "care" part of the facility would be run separately by a different entity and the relationship between the housing developers and the care facility operators was never clear.
      Even before reading through to the end of the decision, the "Conclusions of Law" section made clear where the decision was headed:

".. the Applicant initially bears the burden of establishing that the Application complies with the objective standards and criteria of the particular ordinance... [The Board] is free to reject even un-contradicted testimony it finds lacking in credibility, including testimony offered by an expert witness... a quasi-judicial body should rely upon the common use of the words and phrases contained therein and should construe the language of the zoning ordinance in a sensible manner... The mere fact that a zoning ordinance does not provide a definition for a particular use or its components does not itself render the ordinance ambiguous... a quasi-judicial body will look for guidance from definitions found in statutes, regulations, or the dictionary... [and] may also draw upon common sense and basic human experience to construe terms."

      The meaning of words was critical to the Board's decision to deny the Application. Section 150-9 of the applicable zoning ordinance defines a residential life-care facility as a development "restricted to the elderly that provides a continuum of accomodations and care, from independent living units to personal care and nursing homes. 'Independent living units' are dwelling units located within a resident life care facility." The decision then goes on to state that "the Applicant failed to offer any testimony or evidence, persuasive or otherwise, that the age of 55 constitutes 'elderly'."
      Further, the Board concluded that the Applicant did not meet the standard of a continuum of care, which "guarantees [emphasis in original] residents the ability to move from one level of care.. to another... within the same facility... [d]rawing upon its common sense and basic human experience, the Board found that... the Development would simply constitute a 334 unit residential development located next to a Senior Campus, with no continuum of accomodations..."
      The Conclusions of Law speaks in considerable detail about the meaning of nearly every word in the ordinance and rejected the Applicant's interpretation in every case. Thus, it it is not surprising that the Board denied the Application.
      Of course, despite what seems to laymen like a convincing legal argument put forth by the Supervisors' decision, there is no guarantee that the decision will not be appealed. Quibbling over the interpretation of words is what attorneys do, and the next steps remain to be seen.
      It is worth noting that the alternative for developing this property under its AGR zoning is, as noted above, no more than 75 or so homes. Under Worcester's "growing greener" ordinance, those homes would not be on two-acre lots, but would be clustered on smaller lots surrounded by open space. Although it would be nice for this property to remain as a golf course, that is up to the property owner, not Worcester Township or its residents. Even if the owner were interested in preserving this property as-is, and if county or state funds were available for helping to preserve a tract of this size (which currently they are not), they almost certainly would not available for property already used commercially. In principle, the property owner could sell development rights to the property. It would be an extremely expensive proposition for taxpayers to foot the bill for the development rights on this valuable property or to otherwise maintain it as a golf course even if the owner were interested in doing that.
      It is conceivable that an argument could be made for a "real" life-care community, operating more like Meadowood. Such a community might or might not provide positive net tax benefits to Worcester. Such a community might or might not be consistent with the interests of developers like The Cutler Group. Such a community might or might not be successful. If not, the developers would no doubt try to extract concessions in the future. In any case, we believe that right now this is a good decision which minimizes potential negative effects in our community.
      A great deal of credit for this decision belongs to neighbors living around the Center Square Golf Club property. They presented their case professionally and convincingly, and it is clear that the Board relied on the expert testimony they provided in deciding how the ordinance wording should be interpreted.

May 21, 2015: Jim Mollick runs the most disgusting campaign in Worcester's history... loses

Unofficial results from May 19 primary election:
PrecinctRepublican
Caughlan
Republican
Mollick
Dem. Writein
Caughlan
Dem. Writein
Mollick
East 1 (Bethel)140 (58.6%)99 (41.4%)23 (79.3%)6 (20.7%)
East 2 (Variety Club)155 (37.3%)260 (62.7%)34 (51.5%)32 48.5%)
East 3 (Schwenkfelder)193 (68.9%)87 (31.1%)17 (72.0%)7 (28.0%)
West (Fairview)217 (60.6%)141 (39.4%)30 (66.7%)12 (33.3%)
TOTAL705 (54.6%)587 (45.4%)103 (64.4%)57 (35.6%)
(See Primary Results. These are still listed as "unofficial" results, but they are unlikely to change in the future.

The Democratic Party did not put up a candidate for this office. Both candidates ran an "unofficial" writein campaign for Democrats, which Caughlan won at every poll. This means that she will be the candidate for both parties in the November election. Had Mollick won this spot, he certainly would have had some interesting problems as a Worcester Republican Committeeperson.
      So what kind of campaign did Mollick run? Here's what his mailings promised he would do if he won:
"[I plan to]... Create an atmosphere of cooperation with all township residents and businesses to move Worcester forward."
"The public should be treated with respect."
"I want to make Worcester a friendly place to live again."

      Mollick's own pervasively angry actions and words during and long before this campaign began put the lie to every one of these "promises."

      An atmosphere of cooperation with residents and businesses? Laughable. His long and public history of legal actions demonstrates that he has no interest in cooperating with anyone, ever. That record screams "I'm always right! My way or I go into attack mode!"
      Treating the public with respect? Never. His campaign literature is full of distortions and lies which are disrespectful on their face both to the individuals he attacks and every individual he expects to read his diatribes.
      Making Worcester a friendly place? The most preposterous claim by far, as anyone who has ever watched him in action at public meetings can attest. His personal attacks against Ms. Caughlan and every other community leader with which he disagrees, during this campaign and long before, are so egregous that "unfriendly" simply doesn't do them justice. Are they defamatory? Slanderous? We believe a reasonable person should certainly think so.
      We are at a loss to decide which is worse: actually believing the rubbish which Mollick and his supporters have printed and said during this campaign, or knowing it was rubbish and printing/saying it anyhow. We suspect some of each, with the former being more likely among those individuals who are not independently informed about issues and individuals in the Township and the latter almost certainly being the case for the others. For anyone in the latter group, this is not respecting residents – it is insulting and cynically manipulating them.

      Ms. Caughlan's campaign, on the other hand, focused on the issues and her positions on those issues. She never attacked anyone and she never insulted the intelligence of voters. It is possible to disagree with Caughlan's positions – that's why we hold elections – but there can be no disagreement over the fact that she ran a positive issue-oriented campaign.
      Yes, we are pleased with the outcome of the election. You should be pleased, too. But on the down side, the Mollick campaign has dealt a serious blow to responsible local government. His disgusting tactics have created an atmosphere in which nobody wants to compromise, nobody wants to deal with their opponents, nobody wants to discuss positive solutions to real problems. In short, nobody wants to participate in local government. This is an unacceptable loss for all of us and a very sad day in Worcester. It is going to require your longterm commitment to reverse this situation.


May 5, 2015: Scott Misus bites the dust.

Last night, Fox 29 news broke a story about offensive racist and anti-Semitic remarks made on social media by School Board candidate Scott Misus – the same person who we noted in our April 17 posting was seriously in arrears on his property taxes. He didn't deny the comments, some of which were deemed too offensive to quote on TV. Methacton School District parents are, understandably and justifiably, appalled. There is an article and video at THIS LINK. (We have no way of knowing how long this link will remain active – probably not long.)
      We have already expressed our dismay about Misus' endorsement. For that fiasco, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the Lower Providence Republican Committee. But, we have reason to believe that Misus also got Jim Mollick's vote. (If that's not true, we would be glad to issue a correction.) Less than 24 hours after this story broke, we understand that to its credit the Republican Party told Misus to step down. It is too late to remove his name from the official ballot, which has already been finalized, but apparently the Republican power structure is frantically pasting over his name on all the Endorsed Republican School Board candidate campaign signs which have already been distributed and his name will not appear on the official Republican "green sheet" for endorsed candidates that is handed out at polls. This might be amusing if it weren't such a serious and sad business.


April 22, 2015: Negative campaigning and election law violations from Jim Mollick

A reader has sent us this email, which is reproduced here in its entirety:

      A neighbor of mine showed me some photocopied handouts she received recently from Jim Mollick, who apparently is running for supervisor. The handouts talked about court cases and incidents that happened many years ago. They didn't have anything positive to say about Worcester or its future. All the other campaign literature I receive always has a "paid for by..." statement, but his didn't. Is this allowed?
      Is this a real campaign, or is it just a personal vendetta? He said that Worcester has a budget surplus that he would return to residents? Is this true? Could the Township really do that? Why would anybody want to vote for somebody who is so negative?
      if you respond to this email, please do not use my name. Thanks.

Thanks for writing. First of all, you are right about the lack of a "paid for by..." statement. This is a requirement of Section 1638 of Pennsylvania's Election Code 25 P.S. §3258, which states that "Whenever any person makes an expenditure for the purpose of... expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate,... the candidate... shall clearly and conspicuously state that the communication has been authorized." So, for example, when candidates distribute campaign signs or even photocopied handouts, which cost money, those "communications" always say (usually in very small type!) "paid for by..." Even "free" communications should say "authorized by..." Mollick isn't ignorant of this law because he has tried to use it against candidates in the past. If what you say about Mollick's photocopied handouts is true, then we wonder by what stretch of the imagination does he conclude that the Election Code doesn't apply to him??
      As for your other questions, those who have watched Mollick over the years at public meetings observe that, with him, everything seems like a personal vendetta. He never has anything positive to say about Worcester or any of its elected officials and he has never expressed any positive vision about Worcester's future. (He has opposed every attempt to preserve our farms and open spaces.) His answer to every perceived problem is to accuse your elected officials and others of breaking laws and to take actions which reportedly have cost Worcester taxpayers more than $370,000 in legal fees to defend against his groundless accusations.

      It is true that Worcester has a "budget surplus" (see the finances section on Worcester Township's website) and we should be glad that it does. This is not "extra" money that can or should be returned to residents. It is for planned projects, such as for converting the Army Reserve Base property into a new public park, and for unexpected expenses, such as the presumably larger than expected expenses for road treatment during the very harsh winter we just experienced. These reserve funds mean that Worcester doesn't have to borrow money, which would waste your tax dollars for interest payments on debt. It is irresponsible and just plain silly to suggest that these reserves should be distributed to residents. We should be grateful that Worcester's finances are in such good shape, even with a local property tax that costs Worcester residents only a few tens of dollars per year. (Local property taxes for the communities surrounding us are more typically several hundreds of dollars per year.

      Why would anybody want to vote for such a person? We can't think of any reason.

      We believe in competent fiscally responsible leadership by people who DO have a positive vision for our community's future. That is why we support Susan Caughlan for re-election as one of your supervisors. She has been endorsed by Worcester's Republican Committee. (See the post below from March 23.) We encourage you to follow her campaign on susanforworcester.com and facebook and to vote for her in the primary election on May 19.


April 17: New faces for Methacton School Board... worth a look

      Over the last few years we have watched with dismay the increasingly bizarre and belligerent actions of the Methacton School Board. They are wasting tens of thousands of dollars of OUR tax dollars to appeal a perfectly reasonable decision by Worcester's Board of Supervisors about lighting two fields at the high school. A few years ago they built Skyview school as a result of fatally flawed population projections, ignoring valid criticisms raised at the time by John Andrews and others, More recently they completely botched an attempt to get community support for closing one or two elementary schools as a result of current and predicted future enrollment decreases, which were also predicted by Andrews and others. Their clumsy attempts to engage in a community dialog are too little and much too late.
      To top this off, the current crop of candidates endorsed by Republicans includes Scott Misus, who owes almost $12,000 in unpaid property taxes! (See THIS LINK.) You can blame this outrage on the Lower Providence Republican Committee, which has a 20-8 vote advantage over Worcester's Republican Committee. Why they chose to endorse a person with this history remains a mystery.
      With this background, it should come as no surprise that we encourage you to look at four new faces who are running for School Board. We do not know anything about them, including their party affiliation. It might be that they have surfaced only because of the currently hot school closing issue. But, it might also be the case that they will give the School Board the wakeup call it so badly needs. They deserve AT LEAST a chance to be heard and considered. You can learn more here:
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