Merion Community Coalition Mission Statement
A non-profit organization of residential property owners in Lower Merion with a shared goal: Proactively work with Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) on issues relevant to its new “Sports Complexes” including three proposed new NCAA sports fields and three intramural fields that SJU plans to develop on their 38-acre Maguire Campus, formerly Episcopal Academy.
- March 2011: Conditions of approval from Building and Planinng Committee
- February 2011: Township issues Approval Recommendation and conditions of approval
- December 2010: SJU files preliminary Land Development application
- October 2010: ZHB postpones decision about SJU special exception until November 18 hearing
- September 2010: MCC and SJU submit respective "Finding of Facts" to Zoning Hearing Board:
- July 20, 2010: SJU submits revised application for special exception and slightly modified baseball field layout, but fails to address neighbors' main concerns of sound from PA systems and intensity of use (especially on weekends)
- February 16, 2010: SJU "The Hawk" Staff Editorial: Students need a say in Maguire use
- December 31, 2009: Judge Tilson of Montgomery Country Court of Common Pleas writes opinion why SJU appeal (from April 29) was denied.
- December 3, 2009: Main line times article
- December 2, 2009: SJU Hawk (Student Newspaper) article
- November 2009: Saint Joe's places "public service" ad in MainLine Times and sends letter to all neighbors stating the "facts" ("fewer sports and fewer games")
- October 19, 2009: Montgomery Country Court judge Tilson rejects appeal by SJU against Lower Merion Township and Zoning Hearing board, re-affirming the ZHB's decision of March 26, 2009 in favor of neighbors and MCC.
- June 25: MCC Board starts new fundraiser campaign to cover upcoming cost of legal team and expert testimony
Merion Community Coalition and neighbors still oppose SJU's unchanged plans seeking Special Exception and strongly regret the University's cavalier attitudeMerion, June 18 2009. St. Joseph’s University submitted the application for the special exception to the Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board and the hearing has been scheduled for Thurs., July 23, 2009. As you'll be able to see in the application and statement of use, none of the concerns that have been raised by neighbors and by the Merion Community Coalition have been taken into account by St. Joe’s. Merion Community Coalition representatives met with St. Joe’s administration in April to discuss these concerns, so St. Joe’s is well aware of them:
1. NOISE- St. Joe’s has requested unlimited and simultaneous use of 3 built-in PA systems that will likely broadcast sound that will be heard as much as a mile away. St. Joe’s knows that this is the neighborhood's number one issue and the one that affects the largest number of Merion and Bala neighbors. They have done nothing at all to reduce the impact of this on the neighborhood and propose nothing in this application that would do so.
2. SJU wants to MAXIMIZE INTENSITY so that the fields will be used from 9AM to Sunset on both Saturday and Sunday and from 7AM to sunset during the week. SJU states that they expect as many as 540 people on the fields at one time for regularly planned events (this could be exceeded for special events). SJU requests artificial turf for three of the fields which is not unexpected as grass fields could not tolerate this level of intensity. According to the document, the fields could be rented out to anyone at any time.
3. NEIGHBORHOOD DISRUPTION (parking, traffic)- SJU is short HUNDREDS of parking spaces and has plans for visitors to park as much as a mile away at the 54th Street Garage. Visitors will certainly park in front of neighbors’ homes on streets surrounding the fields instead.
4. TRAFFIC: Traffic and parking could be problematic unless well-directed to SJU lots by SJU security personnel. SJU traffic report and agreement with N Latchs Lane was prior to planning NCAA fields and to increasing bleacher capacity.
5. 35' Tall Fence with netting on Latches Lane that will face multiple neighbors’ homes and will line the main sidewalk through the neighborhood that is traveled by hundreds of neighbors each day.
The Merion Community Coalition has worked hard to try to help St. Joe's develop a plan that would meet all of SJU's needs while preserving the neighborhood's existing value and quality of life. SJU has shown no interest whatsoever in even small adaptations of their plan. In addition, information given at community meetings was a gross understatement of this current plan.
St. Joe’s has made it clear that they want and will legally seek every bell and whistle in this plan- in fact they feel entitled to it. They continue to disrespect the township by pursuing a special exception while simultaneously pursuing an appeal of the zoning hearing board decision in the Montgomery county courts, both of which are incredibly costly to the neighbors and the township.
Recently, St. Joe’s received a permit for more than 200 new lights on the Maguire Campus that will impact neighbors’ properties. St. Joe’s never even showed the plan to neighbors and neighbors found out about the plan when the contractors started digging and installing. Good neighbors work together and communicate.
The neighbors have faith that the zoning hearing board will act as a fair and equal arbiter in this unfortunate situation. We respectfully ask each of you to take the time to read the special exception document and particularly the statement of use document, so that you will be ready to impose conditions on this project as it comes through land development to lessen the detrimental impact of this plan on our Merion and Bala communities.
MCC Applauds Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board’s Denial Of SJU’s Appeal
MERION, PA (March 31, 2009) –The Merion Community Coalition (MCC) today expressed its satisfaction following the Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board’s (ZHB) decision last Thursday evening (March 26), which ruled Saint Joseph’s University’s (SJU) plans to upgrade the sports fields on its newly acquired Maguire Campus would require additional zoning approval. The decision validates MCC’s position that the University’s latest plans, which include many modifications to the existing sports fields, represent an expanded use and are not covered by the ZHB’s previous decision in March 2006. At that time, the University was in the process of purchasing the property and stated publicly that it would not require any construction or physical changes.
The MCC today also reiterated its support for the use of the sports fields by SJU students as long as the use is similar to that of Episcopal Academy, as the University represented in its original application to the ZHB in 2005. The opposition to the University’s plans stemmed from the proposed increase in use and scope, and from the addition of three public address (PA) sound systems, increased traffic, larger crowds of spectators and significantly more weekend games.
Since its formation last July, the MCC has raised a number of legitimate concerns to SJU and to Lower Merion Township officials, asking the University to take them into consideration and to revise its plans.
“We thank our many neighbors and friends who have shown overwhelming support,” said Lauren Wylonis, MCC board member. “The Zoning Hearing Board upheld that the law applies equally to all neighbors, even institutional ones. There are no ‘stealth special exceptions.’ We are hopeful St. Joseph’s will come to the table and begin to work with us.”
The MCC, representing more than 375 individuals, has attempted to engage in a dialogue with SJU to present neighbors’ concerns. The University organized a number of neighborhood meetings in 2008 during which it presented its plans, but never addressed the neighbors’ main concerns: the PA systems, the crowds and weekend games. With one exception in September, neighbors or MCC representatives did not have the opportunity to sit face-to-face and discuss its concerns with University representatives.