Tuesday, June 30, 2020

West Marlborough animal rescue gets permission for a new building

Greenmore Farm Animal Rescue in West Marlborough Township has received permission from the township's zoning hearing board to finish constructing its new kennel building.

Construction started in the fall after the rescue's owners, Julia Altman and John "Jack" Merritt, obtained a building permit. However, work was halted when the township's zoning officer ruled that they needed to apply for a special exception under the township's zoning ordinance.
The new building will provide separate areas for medical care and whelping as well as a home-like room where families can get to know their new rescue dogs.
A zoning hearing was scheduled earlier this year but had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
At the rescheduled hearing, held June 29, Ms. Altman and Mr. Merritt described the activities at the rescue and said the new building does not represent any increase in activity but will allow them to improve their services. Ms. Altman said they have a kennel license from the state that permits them to have a maximum of 45 dogs.
Neighbor John Geewax objected to the building, arguing that (1) it was too close to his property line and would have to be moved, and (2) the rescue exceeded the number of animals permitted on a farm. The zoning board pointed out that the setback rules applied only to open buildings like run-in sheds, not enclosed ones, and that the animal restrictions in the township ordinance applied to livestock like horses and cows.
"Dogs are not livestock," explained the zoning board's attorney, Fronefield Crawford.
After hearing the testimony of the owners and their architect, and Mr. Geewax's objections, the four members of the zoning board who were present (Tom Best, Wayne Grafton, Josh Taylor and chairman Clayton Bright) walked to a far corner of the parking lot to weigh the matter. After a brief discussion, they returned and all four voted to approve the special exception. They placed a condition on the ruling that there would be no expansion of the operations in terms of the number of dogs, large animals, employees, or volunteers, to which the owners readily agreed.
"We're delighted," said Mr. Merritt after hearing the ruling.
The rescue is located at 246 Clonmell-Upland Road (Route 842).

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Kennett Y is up and running

Today I returned to the Kennett YMCA, one of my homes away from home, for the first time since they closed down in March due to the pandemic.
Monday, June 29, was the first day they were officially up and running, although over the weekend there was a "soft opening" for people who had kept their membership dues paid up during the shutdown.

This timely slogan is on the T-shirt given to early visitors.

"Welcome Back! We Missed You," said the white sign out front. A sign closer to the entry doors said that by entering, you promise that you aren't feeling sick and aren't putting others at risk. The two center doors are locked, while the other two are designated as entry or exit. You have to wear a mask in the lobby, although you're allowed to remove it while working out.
The check-in procedure is a little different than usual. The desk is surrounded by clear plastic sheets to separate the staffers from the members. You scan in your card and they take your forehead temperature before letting you enter. How great it was to see Mary and Jeannie -- both of whom seemed to remember everybody's names after all these weeks!
The Y is reopening gradually, so the indoor track, the locker rooms, the smaller gym, the cycling room, and the pools are still shut. Group exercise classes are being held in the north half of the gymnasium (with dots on the floor indicating where you're supposed to stand for safe distancing), and you have to reserve your spot in advance via the Y's app. 
To allow for social distancing, half of the cardio equipment has been moved to the south half of the gym. The rest is still in the cardio room. The HIIT area and the weight-lifting room are open, again with the equipment spread out. 
There are no magazines to read anymore, and there are a lot of signs posted with safety reminders. Visitors were good about wiping down their equipment with paper towels.
During my mid-afternoon visit there weren't many other visitors -- a bunch of teens in the weight room, maybe half-a-dozen folks like me using the treadmills and rowing machines, one woman stretching on a mat in a far corner of the gym. 
Later this week I'll visit the Jennersville Y and let you know the situation there.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Longwood has reopened

Clematis in bloom at the far end of the Flower Walk.

I've been visiting Longwood Gardens as long as I can remember, even long ago when admission was free. I've been to Longwood for fireworks, for light shows, for concerts and musicals; I've walked its paths in subfreezing temps and the heat of summer, during droughts and renovations. 
But never before during a pandemic.
Longwood reopened to members on June 18 after being shut since mid-March. You have to make timed reservations online (hours and days of operation are limited), and I signed up for Friday, June 19, at 1 p.m. As you drive in the main entrance, you're diverted to the overflow parking area, where they make sure you do indeed have a reservation (you can show them your confirmation code on your phone or on a printout) before allowing you to enter the main parking lot. I parked in Row H.
In the lobby, you scan your confirmation code and show a photo ID before you're allowed to enter the Gardens proper. Masks are required in the lobby and are encouraged throughout the Gardens, and I would say about 75% of visitors, as well as all staff, wore them the whole time.
There were a lot of people there, but nothing like during the Christmas season. Visitors were really good about keeping apart from others. The only time I felt encroached upon was when I was standing on the terrace overlooking the main fountains: a young unmasked couple walked right up next to me. At the Eye of Water, people spaced themselves out by sitting in the corners.

View from the Rose Garden looking toward the Conservatory.

You can scan the QRS code on the map placards posted throughout the garden for details on what's open and closed. The fountains are all operating, but the Conservatory, the Peirce du Pont house, the Chimes Tower, the indoor restaurants and the pump room/grotto were all closed. Only one room in the gift shop is open, but they're selling Longwood-raised annuals outside. Only a few restrooms are open. The Beer Garden, with numbered outdoor tables and masked waiters, was open and quite busy.
It was great to be back at Longwood, even if it wasn't the same experience as usual. With my mask covering my nose, I couldn't smell the eucalyptus that was flourishing in the Flower Walk. 

It was sad not to be able to smell the eucalyptus.

I heard no foreign languages; usually there are plenty of tourists from overseas. With so many people wearing masks, sunglasses and hats I recognized nobody, even though I'm sure some friends were there at the same time.

Longwood visitors walking near the Eye of Water.

All of the fountains are still operating.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

NEW GARDEN: Newark Road closure at Hillendale Road

As you've probably noticed, the busy intersection of Hillendale and Newark Roads in New Garden Township was shut down on May 19 for reconstruction. 
We stopped by on June 20 to check out the progress.
You would not even recognize the intersection. Many trees have been removed from the roadsides to improve visibility, and the roads are being torn up and widened.  

I am standing in the middle of Newark Rd., looking east on Hillendale Rd. Looks a little different, huh!

Looking north on Newark Road. 

Lying on the grass at the southeast corner of the intersection is the sign that once forbade motorists from making left turns from Newark Rd. onto Hillendale Rd.

Here's the official description of the project, which is expected to take five months (from New Garden's website): 
"This project includes reconstruction of the intersection approaches of Newark & Hillendale road and extending sewer through the project limits. Proposed improvements include: adjustment of the horizontal and vertical alignments at the intersection, construction on a left-turn lane to mediate southbound movements from Newark Road onto Eastbound Hillendale Road, installation of guiderail along Hillendale Road, single face barrier installation along Newark Road, reconstruction of two culverts on Newark & Hillendale Road, and overall widening on both roads."
Here is a map of the project site and the detour route:

Local primary results still aren't "final"

As of June 17, the results from the June 2 primary were still listed as "unofficial" on the Chester County Voter Services' website. Results were delayed due to the need to collect and process mail-in ballots. So bear in mind that the following information may be subject to change.
Across Chester County, turnout was 34% overall, and most of the precincts throughout the county had turnouts in the 30% range. Pennsbury Township's North-1 precinct had the county's highest turnout, at 60%, and Kennett Township's third precinct had a 51% turnout (turnout is always superb due, I believe, to the presence of the Kendal/Crosslands retirement community, home of many highly educated and politically active retirees). Newlin had a 41% turnout, and here in West Marlborough 250 of the 593 registered voters cast their ballots.
In the presidential race, countywide Joe Biden received 60,280 votes (81% of the Democratic vote) and Bernie Sanders got 11,694 (15%). On the Republican side, Donald Trump received 38,008 votes (82% of the Republican vote). 
For the Sixth District in the U.S. Congress, Democratic incumbent Chrissy Houlihan received 71,116 votes and Republican challenger John Emmons received 44,285.
In the race for state Senator in the 19th District (the seat held for many years by Democrat Andy Dinniman, who is retiring), state Rep. Carolyn Comitta received 51% of the vote, beating Don Vymazal (31%) and Kyle Boyer (16%). Comitta, former mayor of West Chester, will face Republican Kevin Runey in November.
In the 160th District (currently represented by Republican Stephen Barrar, who is retiring), Democrat Anton Andrew beat Cathy Spahr, 84% to 14%, and will face Republican Craig Williams, who was unchallenged.
I'll keep an eye on the results and will let you know when they are "final." The excellent website is at https://pennsylvania.totalvote.com/Chester

Save the Date, COVID version!

We're all used to receiving "Save the Date" postcards for weddings, but this was a first: we just received a "Save the Date" refrigerator magnet for a First Wedding Anniversary Party. The engaged couple had a lavish wedding planned for this summer at a posh-sounding King of Prussia venue -- I for one was looking forward to it -- but of course had to cancel due to the pandemic. Hence the need for a second "Save the Date" notification. A creative solution, I think. 
Dearest Partner raises a good question, though: Do we send a wedding present? Or wait for the first anniversary?

Save the date vintage stamp Royalty Free Vector Image

Friday, June 12, 2020

Out to dinner!

Image may contain: text that says "IRON HILL BREWERY & RESTAURANT"
Did it feel strange, eating our first meal actually inside a restaurant since March 11?
No, it felt great. Yes, all the staff were wearing masks, and the waitress who brought our food asked permission before setting the plates down in front of us.
But the dining experience essentials were all there: we walked into the restaurant, sat down at a table, and were served dinner. Joy!
There is such a pent-up demand for going out to a restaurant that we actually had a tough time getting a reservation, even on a Wednesday night. One restaurant had no openings until 8 p.m. -- too late for me. At the place we chose, the Iron Hill Brewery on Main Street in Newark, every sidewalk table was full, so we ate inside (just as well; it was hot out there on the sidewalk). 
We wore masks as we walked into the restaurant but could take them off as we sat down. Some of the booths were taped off for social distancing, which cut down on the people watching. 
For dinner we had crab cakes with grilled asparagus (me) and a steak with broccoli (the Dearest Partner). No procedural changes were involved in the ordering or check-paying process. 
When the party across the room from us left, we noticed that a masked busboy promptly came out and cleaned and disinfected the entire booth, even pulling the table out so he could sweep up underneath.
We thanked the hostess and the waiters and told them we were so glad they were reopening. They seemed every bit as grateful.