In November, 2006, Coatesville voters replaced the last three of
the original group of council members who supported taking of the Saha
family farm for a golf course. Robin Scott, a Democrat, and Kareemn Johnson,
a Republican, won the two at large council seats, 672 to 527 votes,
respectively replacing the incumbent council member Carmen Green.
In the Fourth Ward, incumbent William Chertok, a Democrat, lost to
Kurt Shenck, a Republican . Shenck had defeated incumbent David DeSimone in
the spring Republican primary.
Patsy Ray, a Democrat, easily won election in the Second
Ward, defeating incumbent council President David Griffith who had attempted
a write-in after he had lost to Ray in the Democrat primary last spring.
The election meant that all seven members of council
who had supported the use of eminent domain to take the Saha farm have been
removed from council. Two years ago voters ousted Stephon Hines and Kevin
Rolston in favor of Marty Eggleston and Ed Simpson, both of whom vowed to
fight the city's taking of the Saha property.
Also, an audit of city's finances revealed the city was $7
million in debt because revenues were grossly over estimated and some legal
fees pertaining to the numerous lawsuits filed against the city in reference
to the golf course were never booked. The three incumbent council
members defeated in November claimed that former City Manager Paul Janssen
kept information about city finances from them. Paul Janssen is now City
Manager for Norristown.
On April 7, 2005, City Manager Paul G. Janssen Jr.
resigned to become borough manager in Norristown. For six years Janssen
argued the golf course was the key to the city’s $700 million development
plan. With Janssen is gone, all five of the city council members who
had been in line behind him decided that they didn't need the golf course
On May 9, 2005, Dick and Nancy 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.
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
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.
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
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 that."
2 /4/ 2004
According to the schedule
agreed upon by the city solicitor and attorneys for Dick and Nancy Saha, the
Valley couple who have been fighting the city’s eminent domain action, Judge
William P. Mahon will have all arguments before him by early March in order
to issue a ruling about whether the city can take possession of the Saha
City officials and the Sahas recently met for the first of several arranged
negotiation sessions over the land. While neither side has been willing to
discuss the specific offers, the sessions mark the first time the two sides
have actually begun active negotiations since the city approved condemning
the Saha family farm.
The City of
Coatesville filed documents Friday requesting court permission to move
forward with the condemnation of Dick and Nancy Saha’s farmland. At the same
time, both parties involved in this eminent domain dispute that is nearing
its fifth year announced they are in active negotiations.
However, the city is still proceeding with the filing at the Court of Common
Pleas in an effort, said Janssen, to follow the state Supreme Court’s recent
order. The state’s highest court, last month, denied hearing the Sahas’
appeal of the case in opposition to the city’s condemnation.
The Sahas first began fighting the city in 1999 after the city council
approved condemnation of 42 acres of the Sahas’ 48 acres. The land is
identified as the site of a golf course that will be part of a larger $60
million regional recreation center project. The project is part of the
city’s large-scale revitalization plan.
The case worked its way up the through the court system. In the meantime,
Saha supporters started working against the city in efforts to stop the
condemnation from proceeding. In November the supporters successfully
rallied Coatesville voters and three amendments to the city’s Home Rule
Charter were approved. The amendments require the city to seek referenda
approval before condemning land, building a golf course or engaging in
proprietary business activities.
But the majority of city council members have said they believe the
amendments are unconstitutional.
While the Sahas have welcomed a legal challenge to the amendments, Dick Saha
said Friday that even if the amendments are found to be unconstitutional,
the city must still face other legal challenges before the recreation plans
can move forward.
"There’s the lawsuit from the golf course owners and there are two lawsuits
by Valley," he said.
Despite that, Saha said he is willingly participating in negotiations.
Earlier this week he sat down with Council President Dave Griffith and
council members Marty Eggleston and Ed Simpson.
Former council President
Stephon Hines, who stepped down from his seat after losing a re-election
bid in November, announced approximately an hour later on that same day
he, as a private citizen, will seek to legally challenge the three
amendments that stand in the way of the city’s planned regional
recreation center. The three amendments require the city to seek
approval from voters before condemning property outside city limits,
building a golf course and engaging in proprietary business activities.
The petitions, which placed the amendments on the ballot, were gathered
by supporters of Dick and Nancy Saha. The Sahas have been fighting the
city’s condemnation of their farm located in neighboring Valley Township
for nearly five years. Janssen has said the city plans to use the Sahas’
land to build the golf course portion of the recreation center.
Janssen said Wednesday that a partnership between Hines and the city in
attempting to overturn the amendments is an option. "We still have to
identify what direction to go," Janssen said. "Potentially, the two
parties (Hines and the city) will work together."
The three-page letter, dated Jan. 2 and signed by six city council
members including Hines and Rolston, informed residents that the city
plans to proceed with the regional recreation center and "intends to
contest the three charter amendments on both constitutional and
Much of the same information was contained in a press release dated Jan.
6 but sent to the media Wednesday by the city. The release, too, said,
"City council has decided to challenge the legality of the charter
Councilwoman Carmen Green, said our challenge will come by way of not
following the amendments. "Those amendments are unconstitutional.
... They are illegal. We can’t follow them," she said.
On NOVEMBER 4, 2003
Coatesville voters voted yes to amend the Coatesville City Charter.
However, the majority of city council has decided to ignore the
amendments, the law and the voice of the voters.
Here are the
amendments that were passed in November.
11/23/02. A beef and beer benefit was held at the Lionville Fire House,
by the friends of the Sahas. The night was a great success, and over 300
people attended. The silent auction of donated gifts, including paintings
from Chris Snyder, Barbara Yoss and Janet Fitch, Eagles and Flyers tickets
plus raffle tickets raised funds for the legal defense used to fight Coatesville's
misuse of eminent domain. Thanks to everyone that participated.
11/21/02. Charges against Ricky Saha for threats and other charges were
dropped in Chester County Common Pleas. He pleaded guilty to a summary
offense. David DeSimone and the City of Coatesville tried to blow the
situation out of portion, but failed.
11/06/02. A hearing has held at the Commonwealth Court in Philadelphia,
over oral arguments for the appeal of the Coatesville condemnation case.
Each side was allowed 8-10 minutes of arguments. Coatesville had 4 lawyers
(approximately $1,000/hour) against Saha's one lawyer. A decision can
be expected 3-12 months.
09/09/02. Stephon Hines kicked Dick out a public meeting for asking the
question: what was his property going to be used for. Hines had the police
chief remove Dick from the podium, then from the meeting entirely. Dick
insisted that the full council vote on his removal, but Hines stated he
was in charge. The city has stated that question and answer will not be
permitted at council meetings.
08/09/02. US Congressman Joe Pitts stated on WCOJ that, "First of
all, we need to save our farms, as many as we can, our farms and open
space. And secondly, I don't think another municipality should be condemning
land in an adjacent municipality, that sort of changes, almost, the municipality
lines, so no, I don't think that is a good idea." We appreciate Rep.
Pitts support in our fight against Coatesville and he deserves a pat on
07/22/02. A petition signed by 1,250 Coatesville residents was submitted
to Council (after having a request to be added to the agenda rejected).
The petition was to have a ballot question added in the fall election
to repeal the Council's ordinances authorizing the use of eminent domain
to build the golf course. Council had their excuses in place for the purpose
of rejecting the petition ahead of time. This is the second time the City
Council thumbed their noses at a petition signed by Coatesville residents.
Petitioning on eminent domain is not excluded per the Coatesville Home
Rule Charter, but the Council used different Pa laws excluding eminent
domain from petitioning. Council found a legal reason to reject the petition,
but had no moral reason. The fact that only 500 signatures were needed
to float a ballot question and 1,250 were collected, had no influence
On 5/28/02 at the City Council meeting, Kevin Rolston tried his hand at
suppressing freedom of speech by grabbing at this caricature held by the Saha's
granddaughter. It depicts Coatesville Council's response regarding the retraction of their
misleading smear ad.
05/13/02. City Council tabled the Saha home and farm condemnation and
Judge Mahon filed a Further
Supplemental Opinion (PDF, 600K) and lifted the gag order.
05/10/02. The Friday before the first reading to condemn the Saha home
and farm, the City started their Smear
Campaign (PDF, 331K) by running a $6,300 two page ad in the Daily
Local. Later that day, Judge Mahon filed a Gag
Order (PDF, 53K) and included
the Saha's in the Agricultural Act (PDF, 56K).
04/22/02. The City council voted 5-1 (Hines, Griffith, DeSimone, Green
and Rolston vs. Mayo) to begin proceeding to condemn the entire Saha property,
including the original parcel with house and barn that was to be left
to the Sahas.
04/22/02. The city announced that they had a tentative agreement to purchase
66 acres at $10,000/acre from the Contis. This property is now planned
for the training facility, which is what the Saha property was originally
04/19/02. The Saha's offered to sell about 20 acres, under threat of
losing their home.
03/07/02. The city submitted a letter to let the Sahas keep 15 acres,
and sell 33. With the following stipulations:
1. The Sahas must help the City fight Valley and West Caln in compliance
with their ordinances. Note that Valley and West Caln has been supportive
of the Sahas from the beginning.
2. A different property in West Brandywine (the Conti property north of
340, approximately 66 acres) be purchased for the training facility. The
training facility was originally planned for the Saha property, and the
Sahas thought that their property now would not be condemned. But the
City now says their golf course must be bigger, and provides no reasons,
except that that's what they want.
3. The Sahas must support Coatesville in there requests of West Brandywine.
4. The Sahas would end all current and future litigation.
5. Coatesville at any time, could condemn the remaining Saha property
and they would have 6 months to move.
In addition, the City offered to give the Sahas three more acres, plus
the 15 acres, if the Sahas offered to support Coatesville in their fight
against Valley. And finally, if the Sahas did not agree, Coatesville threatened
to condemn all their property, including their home and barn, forcing
them to move from their children and grandchildren.
01/29/02. The Sahas offered to keep 23 acres and sell approximately 25
acres to the City, to save their home from being condemned.
01/21/02. The City wrote a letter to the Sahas stating the City's conclusion
of the judge's order was that the Sahas had two options.
1) conform to Valley subdivision rules by subdividing their property,
keeping 10 acres and selling the remaining 38 acres, or
2) have the City condemn all their property, including the house and barn.
01/11/02. The judge provided his order January 11, 2002. If you want
to read the order, here it is:
Order, Part 1, p01-34, 01-11-02 (PDF, 1,629K)
Order, Part 2, p35-68, 01-11-02 (PDF, 1,868K)
Order, Part 3, p69-101, 01-11-02 (PDF, 1,680K)
12/14/01. Arguments were heard in front of Judge Mahon regarding Valley
vs. Coatesville over illegal subdivisions. Valley Township's position
is that the City of Coatesville did not obtain the proper approvals for
the subdivisions resulting from their use of eminent domain for private
property in Valley for Coatesville's proposed golf course. This includes
the 40 acres of the Saha farm. The illegal subdivision case may have an
effect on the pending Saha eminent domain case (see 7/16/01), that the
Judge still needs to rule on. Read
the Daily Local Article.
10/11/01. The Valley Zoning Hearing Board denied Coatesville's appeal
of Valley Township's denial to start work on their golf course. One of
the denials included a shed to be built on the Saha property, which the
City does not yet own. The Township Zoning Hearing Board accused the city
of being "sneaky" and Coatesville City Manager Paul Janssen of misrepresenting
the ownership of the properties involved. The City of Coatesville said
they will appeal the decision to Chester County Common Pleas. Read
the Daily Local Article.
7/16/01. On July 16, 2001, City of Coatesville vs. Saha, regarding the
condemnation of their farm, was heard at Chester County Common Pleas Courthouse
in front of The Honorable Judge William P. Mahon, in West Chester, PA.
Approximately 80 people showed to hear oral arguments between Bob Lentz
representing the Sahas and Herb
Bass representing Coatesville. The Judge will give his decision soon.
Thanks to everyone who showed up to support the Sahas.
7/4/2001. The City of Coatesville vs. Saha, regarding
the condemnation of their farm, will be heard on July 16, 2001 9:30
AM at Chester County Common Pleas Courthouse in front of The Honorable
Judge William P. Mahon, in West Chester, PA, Court Room 14. Please plan
to attend to show your support.
7/4/2001. As of 5/31/2001, Coatesville has spent $1,107,940 on the project.
The Sahas have spent $105,400 in legal fees in defending their right to
own their farm.
7/4/2001. The Valley Zoning Hearing Board concluded 15 meetings and will
render a decision in October, 2001. This will determine if a golf course
will be considered a conditional use within Valley Township.
7/4/2001. On May 7, 2001, the Sahas testified in front the Senate of
PA Local Government Committee (Gerlach, Logan, Erickson, Thompson), regarding
the changing of eminent domain laws. If you are interested in a transcript
please contact Dick and Nancy Saha. To contact Gerlach for more info,
7/4/2001. There are two PA Representatives (William Robinson and Daryl
Metcalfe) also looking into the abuses of eminent domain law. If you would
like to contact them, click here.
2/3/2001. Regarding the eminent domain court battle,
depositions of council members started first week in February 2001.
The court case is planned to be heard in spring 2001 before Judge Mahon,
Chester Count Court of Common Pleas.
2/3/2001. Valley Zoning Hearing Board. A court battle between Coatesville
and Valley Township is also underway, regarding zoning of the project
and illegal subdivisions. Hearings started January 10, every Wednesday.
The next is scheduled for February 7 at the Valley Township building.
2/3/2001. A court battle between Coatesville and West Caln Township is
underway, regarding the inclusion of the Saha property in the Agricultural
Act. July 10, 2000 the Sahas submitted paperwork to be included in the
Agricultural Act, which provides special laws for farms, including protection
from abusive eminent domain. Before the application could be approved
by West Caln, Coatesville filed their Declaration of Taking on August
2, 2000. On September 5, 2000 is when the application was finally approved
by West Caln, who still saw the Sahas as the rightful owners of the property.
This case has been transferred to Judge Mahon who is hearing the eminent
2/3/2001. The City has spent $850K on the project. I good majority of
this has been in legal fees. The City is getting ready to spend another
$157K for golf course consultants.
2/3/2001. A Legislative Intent was requested by the Sahas through Tim
Hennessey, and provided by Edward C. Hussie, Chief Council, House of Representatives,
Commonwealth of PA. Click here to see
a copy. 53 P.S. 37801 empowers third class cities to condemn for "recreation
places". Though broad, this statute does not allow them to condemn
outside city limits. 53 P.S. 38703, empowers third class cities to condemn
outside city limits, however it specifically spells out the uses, which
does not include golf courses.
2/3/2001. A copy of a letter sent by the 3 Chester County Commissioners
(Dinniman, Martynick, Hanna) to Paul Janssen dated October 30, 2000, states
they would "hope that the City can find a way to build the recreation
center without having to use eminent domain". Click
here to see a copy.
2/3/2001. An aerial photograph of the Saha house and 6 acres the City
plans to leave the Sahas out of their current 48 acres farm has been added.
See Coatesville's Plan of Destruction.
9/3/2000. The court battle has begun. The Sahas are filing "Preliminary
Objections" to Coatesville's "Declaration of Taking" on
the grounds that golf is not a public good and that the other businesses
associated with the project do not qualify under eminent domain law.
9/3/2000. Here is information if you would like to write a letter to
the editor of a local newspaper:
- The Phila. Inquirer. Their address is 120 N. High St., West Chester,
- Daily Local News. Their address is 250 N. Bradford Ave., West Chester,
- Coatesville Ledger. Their address is 36 West Lancaster Ave., Suite
2, Downingtown, Pa. 19335
9/3/2000. Boycott these businesses. They support
the golf project which is taking private property by condemnation.
9/3/2000. The Daily Local took an online poll asking if Coatesville should
use eminent domain to build the golf course. 87% of the people were against
9/3/2000. PA Senator Robert Thompson and PA Representative Tim Hennessey
both support Coatesville in their action to use eminent domain against
the Sahas, even though Coatesville already has enough property to build
the golf course. Thompson says "well it's legal." Hennessey
says "Coatesville should be allowed to take your property for their
golf course." Both are up for reelection in 2000. If either
is your representative, vote them out in November. Thompson is disposed
by Tom Bosak and Hennessey by Cheryl
9/3/2000. County Commissioners Martynick and Colin Hanna both support
the golf project, in spite of the eminent domain. The Chester
County Citizens Watch has been created to keep a close watch on the
Chester County tax issue
8/28/2000. At a city council meeting, the city refused to release the
latest project plans showing the use of the Saha property. An old set
of plans showed the Saha property being used for a driving range. It has
been hinted, the property is being taken so Insignia/ESG
Corporation can develop a hotel. Insignia representatives recommended
to the City to take as much of the Saha property as they could.
8/28/2000. At the same city council meeting, a $30 million bond intended
to finance the golf project was discussed. The city was reluctant to discuss
the topic or give out any information. The city refused to answer any
questions regarding the cost of the project, which appears to already
be over budget for the planning and purchasing of property from
those willing to sell. Last meeting it was reported that $200,000 was
already spent on the project. That was before any money was spent on land.
It appears that over $600,000 has already been spent of the planned $800,000.
8/22/2000. At a Coatesville meeting on Redevelopment, city manager Paul
Janssen gave a presentation on how a redevelopment authority could benefit
Coatesville. One topic was regarding eminent domain. He said the redevelopment
authority would not have the same "red tape" as the city when
exercising eminent domain. He referred to people's personal property rights
as "red tape". This gives you some insight as to how the man
7/24/2000. Dick and Nancy Saha received papers on 7/22 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.
The Sahas will fight against the abuse of eminent domain.
7/24/2000. A form letter was added that you can print and send to your
local politician. Click here to see.
7/24/2000. Changed Tim Hennessey from undecided on the Saha issue, to:
Agrees with Coatesville's use of eminent domain for the golf and hotel
project. Also corrected his e-mail address.
7/24/2000. We are asking that you spread the word of this issue to your
friends, neighbors, relatives and fellow citizens. The more people that
know about the issue, the better the chance of correcting it.
7/24/2000. Added John S. Carnes, Jr., Coatesville City Solicitor (city
lawyer) to the list of contacts:
202 North Church Street
PO Box 3449
West Chester, PA 19381