June 16, 2016: Board of Supervisors votes to appeal Center Square Golf Club decision
Last year, the Cutler Group proposed building hundreds of homes on the Center Square Golf Club property for what it referred
to as a "life care" community. Based on evidence presented at an extensive conditional use hearing, Worcester's supervisors concluded that
the proposed plan was not, in fact, a life care or continuing care community which would be allowed under Worcester's zoning code,
but rather an excuse to construct high density housing on this
property. The Board of Supervisors denied the Cutler Group's plan and that decision was appealed to the Court of Common Pleas,
which recently overturned the board's decision.
At its June 15 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to appeal the Common Pleas decision to Commonwealth Court
and to have the case handled by an attorney who has experience in such matters.
Residents at the meeting spoke for and against this decision. The arguments against the appeal appeared to be based more on the
issue of spending money
for the appeal rather than on any support for the development
plan in principle. The vote signals the supervisors' continuing belief that:
Cutler Group's proposal does not represent a continuing care or life care community under accepted interpretations of those terms.
(Meadowood, the relevant local example,
guarantees a full spectrum of care options for all its
residents and owns all its residential units. In the Cutler Group's proposal, all the residential
units would be sold privately to buyers and there would be no guarantee of continuing care.)
(b) The detrimental effects on our community as perceived by many residents outweigh the possible positive effects on tax revenues which could be
provided if this high density residential development were allowed to proceed.
Times Herald reporter Carl Rotenberg has posted an
ARTICLE summarizing testimony at the conditional use hearing, including expert testimony which concluded, among other points,
that the Pennsylovania Insurance Department would not license the facility as either a "continuum of care
community or residential life-care facility" – testimony which supports the board's decision to
reject the Cutler Group's application. Considering that the board action was taken immediately following an executive session to discuss legal matters, it is
presumably the opinion of Township Solicitor Robert Brant that Worcester has a good chance of prevailing on appeal.
Now we will just have to wait and see what happens next.
May 31, 2016: Worcester AA+ bond rating for sewer project
Worcester's summer newsletter, available online
highlights the recently issued Standard & Poor's extremely favorable AA+ bond rating, which enabled the township to fund a 25-year bond for its sewer
projects at a very low annual interest rate of about 2.6%. By acting when it did, the township avoided very recent interest rate increases
for all kinds of borrowing. According to the newsletter, Standard & Poor's noted "Worcester's strong budgetary performance,
conservative fiscal practices and ample reserve funds."
This situation is especially noteworthy in view of ongoing accusations from some residents that Worcester's finances
are mismanaged, in particular, the size of its cash reserve fund. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
"Conservative" fiscal management means limiting ongoing long-term obligations, fully funding obligations such as pension plans
which do exist, maintaining adequate cash reserves to handle operational needs, and borrowing money only when
it is financially advantageous to do so. (As has been pointed out many times in public meetings, sewer projects are funded by
users of those systems and cannot be funded from
cash reserves generated from general tax revenues. Hence, a long-term bond made sense for the township and users of the public
The news is rife with stories about government entities in financial trouble through incompetent management, a willingness
(too often an eagerness) to
kick difficult problems down the road, and outright fraud. Worcester's staff and supervisors deserve our support and
thanks for how they have managed our township's finances.
Those who choose to criticize are either uninformed or willfully choosing to misrepresent and/or ignore the facts.
March 31, 2016: Jim Garrity replaced as Worcester Township Solicitor
At a special meeting on March 30, Worcester's Supervisors accepted Jim Garrity's resignation as Township Solicotor, a position he has
held since 1990. He was replaced by Robert Brant, who has served as the attorney for Worcester's Zoning Hearing Board since 1989. (That
position will now be given to someone else.) No reasons were given for this change, although Township Manager Tommy Ryan was quoted in
the Times Herald as remarking that the "very high" legal bills for the Township were $250,000 over the last 12 months.
As we have noted previously,
a substantial percentage of Worcester's legal bills is due to Jim Mollick, who apparently continues to believe that
every action taken or not taken by the Township's staff and elected officials is another opportunity to waste taxpayer dollars by
initiating another lawsuit. Whether a different solicitor can handle these actions at lower cost, or can change the relationship
beteween Jim Mollick and Worcester, remains to be seen. Presumably, that effort is at the top of the township's to-do list for the
new solicitor and we wish Mr. Brant the best of luck in that endeavor!
January 5, 2016: Caughlan elected Chair of the Board of Supervisors
As required by state law, Worcester held its annual reorganization meeting on Monday, January 4. What is usually
a routine affair this year resulted in a complete reshuffling of the roles of our three supervisors. Newly
re-elected Supervisor Susan Caughlan is now Chair, Steve Quigley is Vice-Chair, and
Art Bustard is a Member – thereby ending Mr. Bustard's long service as Chair.
Why the change? Nobody knows for sure. Based on her consistently thorough knowledge of the facts about issues before the Board, Ms.
Caughlan has certainly earned this position. But, the turnover may be more a result of the tumultuous 2015 endured by the entire Board. There was a
contested conditional use hearing regarding the development of Center Square Golf Club, which the board rejected based on what it concluded
was a thinly disguised
attempt to justify a very high density residential development by defining the development as a "life care" community.
The protracted and contentious conditional use and legal battle over
installation of lighted fields at Methacton High School ended in 2015.
There was ongoing resentment about the sewer installation project in the Hickory Hills subdivision, with some residents
complaining about every aspect of this project and insisting that the system should be paid for by the Township
out of its taxpayer-supported general fund. Some residents refuse to accept the fact that this was not going to happen. As is commonly the
case in communities around us, sewer systems in Worcester are paid for by fees from users of the systems, not by general tax revenues.
2015 also saw the ugliest election for a seat on our Board of Supervisors in Worcester's history.
Republican Committeeman Jim Mollick ran a nasty and negative primary campaign against Susan Caughlan in May. When he lost, he
ran an equally offensive write-in campaign for himself in the general election – an action which
was totally inconsistent with his position as a Worcester Republican
Committeeman. (A basic responsibility of committeepersons is to support the election of their party's candidates.)
Finally, 2015 saw the continuation of Jim Mollick's ongoing assaults on nearly every action taken or not taken by the Board
of Supervisors, leading to increasingly confrontational election-year public meetings and endless legal challenges
requiring the expenditure of many tens of thousands of dollars of OUR tax dollars in legal fees.
So, perhaps we need to do nothing more than look back at 2015 to understand the change in Township leadership.
We are sure that 2016 will continue to bring new challenges. We wish the very best
for each of our supervisors, and we ask EVERYONE to renounce in 2016 the ugly and destructive behavior that dominated 2015.
November 5, 2015: Election Results
We are using the close of this election cycle as an opportunity to "reboot" with a fresh start for this web page. We hope all Worcester residents
will also consider a fresh start for working together to address the challenges facing our community.
As everyone who gets mail or has a phone knows, this off-year election generated a huge amount of campaigning for many significant races.
Countywide, Republicans suffered a near total rout from row offices on up. Their only bright spot was election of the highly qualified Risa Ferman,
currently the Montco District Attorney, as judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
The problems facing Montco Republicans are perhaps best exemplified by the fact that
Joe Gale, going "rogue" on his party, won the single Republican County Commissioners seat over endorsed candidate Stephen Tolbert.
(Election rules for this position mandate that no party can hold all three seats.) Gale was quoted by the Times Herald in its November 4 edition as saying
"I think I'm a breath of fresh air, that it is healthy and refreshing for Montgomery County. I am not beholden to the party,
to special interests, to law firms, to engineering firms. I am beholden to the people,... I had a different campaign strategy.
I was never picked by the party and I was never treated as a nominee. The people selected me."
Gale, in his 20's, has no prior service in any elected public position
and no apparent qualifications or experience that would appear to be relevant to running Montgomery County. Whether he will be
an effective representative for county residents remains to be seen.
There were two races of direct interest to Worcester residents. Five seats (with three incumbents) were up for grabs on Methacton School Board.
For School Board, candidates can cross-file to be on both the Democratic and Republican ballot. The spring primary campaign for a spot on the ballot
featured the Montgomery County Republican Committee retracting Scott Misus' endorsement and removing his name from campaign signs that had already
sprung up across the school district, because of his widely circulated racist and anti-semitic remarks
on social media. It also featured formation of an entirely new group of five contenders, working together as a group, "Community Advocates for Responsible
Education (CARE)." This group appears to have been started in response to the School District's clumsy handling of possible plans to close one or two
elementary schools in the face of declining enrollment projections. They then mounted a high-profile and ultimately successful campaign to take over the School
Board. Chris Boardman won a spot on both the Democratic
and Republican ballots, so he was essentially guaranteed a spot on the Board. However, in a stunning result, all five of the CARE candidates (a majority
for this nine-member board), won. Here are the School Board results from the
Montco Voter Services website. The top five names will take seats
on the School Board in December and the remaining four will not.
In Worcester, the School Board race played out differently. The incumbents plus Scott Dorn and Chris Boardman won the top five spots. Boardman won the top spot because
he was cross-filed and there was a heavy Democratic turnout. But Worcester votes were outnumbered by Lower Providence votes.
The Worcester Supervisor race was between incumbent Susan Caughlan, who won the spring primary election as the endorsed Republican candidate against
Jim Mollick, who ran what must certainly have been the nastiest campaign in Worcester's history.
Caughlan also won a spot on the Democratic ballot as a result of her successful primary election write-in campaign. (Democrats did not field a candidate
It is worth noting that the Democratic party included Caughlan's name on their yellow voting sheet, although they did
not HAVE to do that.
Caughlan won with 1679 votes, about 79% of all votes cast. (See THIS LINK.)
As a Republican Committeeperson, it was Mollick's job (and the job of all Committeepersons) to support Republican candidates in the general election.
Instead he mounted a last-minute write-in campaign for himself, announced in a campaign mailer as ugly as his literature during the primary campaign, and
in an October 30 email to his supporters. Obviously, not all of the recipients of this email were his supporters because two readers sent us copies.
"From: jim mollick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Jim Mollick <email@example.com>
Sent: Fri, Oct 30, 2015 8:57 am
Subject: Jim Mollick Write In Campaign for Supervisor November 3
I am announcing my Write-In Campaign for Worcester Supervisor. I have kept this a secret until now so that my opponent
would be caught off guard and have very little time to react and to get organized. Hopefully I have put all of her
supporters to sleep and I can rally you guys to come out to vote for me and we can pull it off.
Since I am not on the Ballot, you will have to write me in. It will take a little more time and effort but certainly
better than having to hold your nose and casting your vote for Susan Caughlan..."
Clearly, the Caughlan campaign was not caught
off guard and her supporters were definitely not sleeping on election day. Mollick lost even at his own polling place, where he beat Caughlan in the spring primary election.
We appreciate the fact that our system of government allows individuals to mount write-in campaigns for elected office when they have
been ignored or turned down by the political establishment.
Committeepersons can seek their party's endorsement for ballot spots in primary elections, and they can run in the primary election if they do not get that endorsement.
(In the Worcester Republican Committee's endorsement process for Supervisor
early this year, Mollick received only his own vote.) However, party committeepersons forgo this right when they lose a primary election.
At that point, supporting party candidates in the general election is the essential
part of the job description and any committeeperson who doesn't want to do that job should resign. We now wonder
what the Republican Party will do about a committeeman who refused to do the job he was elected to do.