Why are the Saha’s
When Mr. and Mrs. Saha purchased the farm, back in
1971, there was no plumbing, electricity or heat. Today, their home is a
beautiful farmhouse that they painstakingly restored themselves. They
chose to move to this location with their five children and make the
sacrifices necessary during the lengthy period of restoration and renovation
to fulfill their American Dream. Two of their daughters and their families
live on adjacent property. Today, the Saha’s and their grandchildren enjoy
the beauty and open space that their farm provides. It would be devastating
for Mr. and Mrs. Saha to be forced to move away from their daughters and
grandchildren. It would be impossible to replace their way of life, full of
family values and 30 years of sentimental memories, at any price.
It has not been an easy fight. The City of Coatesville has been
relentless and ruthless in their determination to take the Saha farm. It
has been extremely stressful for the Sahas, now in their seventies, living
with the fear that they may lose their home and the life they cherish with
their children and grandchildren.
The City of Coatesville has a large legal team to support their effort.
Coatesville has spent over $2,000,000 and the project to build the
recreation center hasn't even started.
Here is a list of events in chronological order regarding the use (or
misuse) of Eminent Domain.
The Sahas intend to continue the fight against the misuse and abuse of eminent
domain laws in the State of Pennsylvania. We will do what ever it takes
to pursue this to the point where these laws are changed to be more specific
and exclusionary to avoid the abuse of the law by local municipalities.
- On April 12, 1999, the City of Coatesville notified Dick Saha at
his business in Coatesville, that they intended to condemn their 38.2
acre farm including house, barn and other outbuildings to build a golf
course. They never informed them that there was a public meeting that
very evening to vote on the Ordinance to condemn. Several days later the
ordinance was hand-delivered to the residence by Paul Janssen.
- On April 21, 1999, the Sahas received via registered mail a letter
from the City Solicitor telling them officially of the condemnation
and providing them with the Ordinance for Condemnation which described
the seven properties involved including their own "38.2 acres with house
- In the subsequent weeks, the Sahas joined Mr. & Mrs. Christopher Snyder
(also losing their house and property) and launched a political and
- The Sahas secured the only feasibility study that had been completed
on the project. The feasibility study's cost & revenue numbers came
directly from a brochure published by the American Society of Golf Course
Architects. The scope of the feasibility study was for a municipal golf
course on the city landfill (110 acres) and some surrounding properties.
The Saha property was not even included in the study. The Snyder property
was identified as optional. At some point, Paul Janssen (by his own
admission) penciled in the Saha's Valley Township property, not realizing
that some of the property was in West Caln Township.
- The City of Coatesville decided arbitrarily (without feasibility
study or real cost/benefit analysis) to condemn the Saha & Snyder properties
along with five other properties (totaling approximately 100 acres).
- Five properties are in Valley and West Caln Township, without the
benefit of voting rights in the City of Coatesville.
- We have secured 1800 petition signatures of citizens who are against
the Condemnation Ordinance. 571 signatures are from registered voters
in the City of Coatesville who voted in the last election. The City
Officials have ignored the petition.
- At the time, the Sahas appealed to State Representatives for support.
They received positive responses from Curt Schroder, Carol Rubley and
Art Hershey. Their own State Representative, Tim Hennessey choose to
- The City of Coatesville has held numerous meetings describing their
revitalization program for Coatesville. The Recreation Center which
is planned for Valley Township (outside the city limits) has a very
dynamic scope. Initially the project was described as an 18-hole golf
course, executive par-3 course, miniature golf, driving range, batting
cages, fishing, boating, hiking trail, tennis courts and a clubhouse.
In the last presentation, the City Manager added a bowling alley and
- At the time, there was absolutely no supporting cash flow, ROI or
Cost /Benefit Analysis. As I mentioned earlier, the cost benefit numbers
that the city has included in their presentations were lifted directly
out of the American Society of Golf Course Architects brochure depicting
- The landfill that is being considered for this project, has a greater
than 30% slope, close proximity to Brandywine Creek, a gas pipeline
running through it and a 30 year landfill that would need to be capped.
All these characteristics translate into higher than normal costs to
meet environmental requirements.
- There are 77 golf courses within 25 miles of Coatesville, 31 are public
with at least one new golf course, being built 3 miles from the proposed
- Since the initial ordinance was issued, the City of Coatesville has
backed off from condemning the Snyder and Saha 200 year old restored
houses. They have indicated that the property owners can keep their
houses and a negotiable lot around the proximity of their houses. They
are still pursuing condemnation of the rest of the Saha property, approximately
34 acres to build a racquetball facility and pitch & putt (although,
the Coatesville City Manager admits that no plans have been finalized
as to what would really be put there).
- The Sahas continue to fight the condemnation. They do not want to
loose their farmland to a pitch & putt, racquetball court or worse yet
clubhouse, parking lot or proposed bowling alley.
- The Sahas also continue to fight the condemnation because the City
has acted irresponsibly (no thorough feasibility study and absolutely
no valid financial analysis).
- In addition the City of Coatesville has treated the Saha's unfairly
and unethically by not informing them of the public meeting when the
initial vote took place. Nor did the City Manager take the time to present
the project and the plans to the landowners and give them an opportunity
to ask questions before issuing them formal condemnation notification.
- In subsequent public meetings, when 300 supporters showed up to voice
their displeasure, agendas were changed to table this issue. When the
people rebelled, an alternative meeting was scheduled that turned into
a raucous confrontation because the city brought out its police force,
barricaded all parking in proximity to the location where the meeting
was to be held and changed the agenda to be a presentation on the revitalization
- Then a third meeting was scheduled, again 300 people showed up, the
room where the meeting was held was at least 100 degrees, there were
huge noisy fans with an inaudible sound system. Again the City started
the meeting with the same hour-long presentation. Most of the presentation
covers the revitalization plan for Coatesville. This meeting was to
discuss the proposed Recreation Center in Valley Township. Many people
spoke out about their concerns, but neither the City Council nor the
participants could hear what was being said. The city ended the meeting
prematurely when opponents to the plan spoke.
- Other Public Meeting agendas are structured so that discussions on
this project are tabled until after the formal lengthy agenda has been
covered. As we are bringing up our issues and concerns in regard to
this project three of the seven council members just get up and left.
They quickly become tired or bored with the situation and our rebuttals.
Meanwhile, the Saha family, especially Nancy Saha (age 68) and Richard
Saha (age 70), live every moment with the stress of this injustice and
the associated legal costs. The Saha's can't just walk out and leave.
- June 14, 1999, the City voted to augment their own counsel with another
legal firm that specializes in eminent domain. In addition, they voted
to approve another feasibility and topographical study, this time to
include the Saha property.
- The Sahas asked Coatesville if they intended to do a more thorough
financial study, the City Manager deferred to the Council, stating that
it was up to them and then no one answered. We do not know whether they
intend to follow up with a real Cost/Benefit Analysis.
- July 2, 1999, the Sahas with Lawyer met with three Council members,
City Manager Paul Janssen and City Solicitor John Carnes for negotiations.
The Sahas offered to negotiate with the city for their property along
the railroad bed. This would allow the city to move north to south under
the route 30 bypass. The city never responded.
- October 26, 1999, the city offered to purchase between 6 and 9 acres
for a cost of $13,570 per acre in addition to the railroad bed the Sahas
already offered. This property was for a driving range. The Sahas declined
the offer because they did not want to sell and the land was not necessary
for the total project.
- Between April 19, 1999 and June 12, 2000, the Sahas attended all Council
meetings. The city tabled all discussions related to the use of eminent
domain. The Sahas were treated with the same indifference and stonewalling
from the beginning. The standard answer to all questions was "our
lawyer told us not to talk about it".
- The Sahas could not legally prevent the city's engineering firm (Carroll
Engineering) from entering their property for surveying. Even though
the surveyors were supposed to give 24 hour notification, at least six
times they refused notification.
- June 9, 2000, the Sahas found out from a legal notice in the local
newspaper the city was introducing a second ordinance to take their
property via eminent domain. This time, the city is taking 41.5 acres,
leaving them with a 6 acre island, separating them from their two children
and husbands and five grandchildren. The change from 9 to 44 acres was
suggested by the city eminent domain lawyers and Insignia Hotel chain.
According to this new plan, the Sahas would get non-exclusive use of
their own driveway. However detailed plans on the use of their property
is still not available. The Sahas see this as a vindictive move by the
city to force them to sell their land or lose it all.
- June 12, 2000, the city introduced a second ordinance to condemn
property by eminent domain. Valley supervisors presented their opposition
to the project, noting the predatory nature of Coatesville's actions.
- June 13, 2000, a special session was held at 5:00 PM to pass the first
reading of the ordinance. The City Council members refused a suggestion
to put the $30 million project to referendum, in fear that it would
not pass. Coatesville residents strongly voiced their need for a foodstore
in town, before a golf course outside of town, and that recreation should
be placed inside the city.
- June 19, 2000, the city held an open house to present the project.
A public relations firm was hired for $25,000 retainer by Coatesville,
and the Insignia /ESG firm was hired to plan the hotel and resort.
- June 26, 2000, the city passed the second reading of the new ordinance
by a vote of 6 to 1 in favor. At all three meetings, a large number
of residents voiced their displeasure with the project, including the
affected land owners. This did not affect the Coatesville vote. The
first ordinance from April 1999 was removed.
- July 22, 2000, Dick and Nancy Saha received papers from John Carnes,
City Solicitor, that Coatesville filed a "Declaration of Taking
to Condemn" with the Chester County Courthouse. Coatesville will
be taking the Saha property. This is after Paul Janssen, Coatesville
City Manager said in the newspaper that the taking was on the back burner.
In January 2002, Judge
Mahon ordered the city to seek subdivision approval from Valley before
taking the land.
The city appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which
in April 2003 reversed Mahon’s order and affirmed its ability to condemn
the Saha land.
The Sahas asked the state
Supreme Court to hear their appeal, but their request was denied in
At this point, the city has condemned the property
and currently holds the title. The Sahas, however, continue to occupy
the land because they are challenging the declaration of taking, and
courts have not yet granted the city possession.
Since the legal actions began in 2000, various
Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly and consistently sided with the
city. Chester County Common Pleas Judge Edward Griffith handed the city
its latest win on March 15, 2005.
Judge Edward Griffith ruled the three amendments to the city’s Home Rule
Charter that sought to stop the city’s attempt to turn part of the Saha
farm into a golf course were illegal and invalid because they were
unconstitutional and overly broad.
The city’s critics appealed the decision, and
countering that appeal could have delayed the city’s plans somewhat.
But there were only so many appeals left. It seemed the city was close
to taking physical possession of the Saha land. In March, in response to
a suggestion that the appeal process could be never-ending, city
attorney Herb Bass said, "Litigation comes to an end. I can tell you
Then on April 7, 2005,
City Manager Paul G. Janssen Jr. resigned to become borough manager in
For six years Janssen
argued the golf course was the key to the city’s $700 million
Now, Janssen is gone, and all five of the city
council members who had been in line behind him decided that they didn't
need the golf course after all..
On May 9, 2005, Saha and Coatesville City Council
officially put an end Monday to the land dispute that has gone on for
six years, costing the Saha’s over $300,000 in legal fees.
exchange for dropping the eminent domain case, the Sahas agreed to sell
the city five acres of land along an abandoned railroad bed for a price
far less than the $300,000 they spent on legal fees. In addition, Saha
agreed to grant the city right of first refusal if his family ever chose
to sell 26 acres of its property.