MoreThanTheCurve.com submitted questions to each candidate running for Conshohocken’s Borough Council on October 3rd. Below are the answers submitted by Joe Ferrigno (R) who is running to represent Ward 1 on Conshohocken’s Borough Council. Ferrigno is running to unseat incumbent Karen Tutino (D).
MoreThanTheCurve.com did not edit any of the responses.
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My name is Joe Ferrigno and I live the “Connaughtown” section of Conshohocken off of W. Elm St. Professionally, I manage a benefits department for a company in Philadelphia, am a Realtor with Conshy’s Entourage Elite Real Estate, and have been an elected Board member of the Grande condo association (on W. Elm) for the last three years. My wife and I have two boys under two years old and are looking forward to opening a small family business in town before the new year. We love Conshohocken and look forward to raising our family here.
I first ran for Council 4 years ago, as I though the Grande did not have the representation it needed. Since then, the 1st Ward problems have only gotten worse. The Grande community hasn’t heard from its elected official for at least the last 4 years, traffic on W. Elm is a nightmare during peek times, parking availability has gotten worse, and the six major development projects recently approved are only going to amplify all these problems. I’m running to shake things up and fight for Ward 1 residents.
What is the most important issue in your ward and how would you address it if elected?
The biggest issue for the first ward is over-development without a traffic/parking plan. There are six major development projects that Council has approved which will be built in the next 1-3 years and based on their individual parking plans, there will be at least 4500+ new cars trying to access the bridge daily.
First, we’ll need creative solutions to get traffic going up Conshohocken road. I’ve proposed extending Washington Street westbound and connecting it to W. Elm Street through Corson Street, making it a left turn only to force cars up Conshohocken Road to Ridge Pike/476. This will help mitigate the traffic impact to the bridge for the two 300 unit apartment complexes and the new 14 story office building.
I also support making two right turning lanes from W. Elm onto the bridge. Currently, the Borough’s plan is to put in two left turning lanes on W. Elm turning up Fayette – this makes no sense! Two right turning lanes onto the bridge will get traffic moving eastbound on W. Elm faster and Council should push their traffic engineers to find a way to make this happen.
Lastly, large trucks (18 wheelers, cement trucks, etc) are a major contributor to traffic on W. Elm and we should have PennDOT make that road a no-truck route, forcing trucks up 476 to Ridge and down Conshohocken Road instead of through our residential neighborhood. I estimate there are roughly 70-100 trucks on this road per hour during business hours – but they also run all night and in the early morning, ruining my Ward’s sleep and quality of life.
I’m actively collaborating with PennDOT to stop truck traffic on W. Elm Street, which will require Borough Council to initiate a new study with PennDOT that focuses on the all the negatives and safety hazards these trucks cause – namely the destruction of the road, the noise, the pollution, and the destruction of people’s homes and property that these trucks cause. The traffic study the Borough completed recently with PennDOT only focused on if the lanes were wide enough for the trucks, not any of the negative consequences they bring to the community.
I have over 130 petition signatures from Ward 1 residents that support restricting these trucks and that number grows every day. We need to rise up as a community, led by the full support of Council, to force PennDOT to see the huge problem we’re facing and take action. I have not seen that leadership to this day.
How have you funded your campaign and who are your five largest donors?
We’ve had one fundraiser that has raised enough to cover most of our costs thus far and plan on doing another before the election – truly a grass roots campaign. To date, I have received no money from a special interest group unlike our opponents who are well funded through special interest and political ties.
We often hear complaints from those doing business in Conshohocken about repetitive and inconsistent interpretation of requirements that make doing business in Conshohocken harder than in other communities. Do you believe there is a problem and, if so, what can be done to fix it?
It’s been said that Conshohocken is like the wild west in terms of starting or maintaining a business. Off Street parking waivers are one example that has shown Council to be erratic and inconsistent. For example, Nudy’s was made to get an expensive traffic study before Council approved their off-street parking waiver, but when a proposed Cigar Bar asked for the same waiver, there was no need for the same traffic study.
Similarly, the Borough Council often puts unrealistic expectations on business owners, for example having new businesses promise they will require their employees to park in the Park-and-Ride in West Conshohocken to help mitigate a parking problem Council’s “parking taskforce” can’t fix.
There should be standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are both realistic, achievable and predictable for small and big businesses alike to start and maintain their operation. Each must be followed systematically to ensure an equal and fair application. If those SOP’s exist today, they are not being followed.
The Borough of Conshohocken sold (through the Redevelopment Authority) the grass area next to the Washington Fire Company to a developer and then created a Special Zoning District to allow for the SORA West development to move forward. What, if anything, would you have done differently when considering amending the zoning?
Zoning requires a well thought out plan that projects a long-term view of what we want Conshohocken to become. If developers want to build something that doesn’t adhere to that plan, offering special zoning sets a dangerous precedent. I wouldn’t offer zoning relief or Special Zoning Districts for one developer and deny it to another – I’d propose a thorough review of what we want the Borough to be and allow developers to bring projects that reflect that plan – not bring us their idea of what’s best for our Borough and fit a square peg into a round hole.
Beyond SORA West, there are three large office buildings approved and unbuilt. There are approximately 1,000 approved, but unbuilt apartments. What specific things do you believe need to be done to make sure these developments do not negatively impact the community? How would you go about achieving these things?
I’ve already detailed a few ways to help mitigate the increased volume of cars along W. Elm, which is crucial. Another glaring issue is parking. One of the 300 unit apartment complexes is only planning to accommodate 1.2 parking spots per unit based on their plan, which I believe is much too low and unrealistic. Add a new Septa station into the mix and you’re going to see more cars than you have spots and that will bleed into the upper avenues soon enough, taking your residential parking.
To help parking, particularly in the First and neighboring Wards, I propose the Borough take a long look at purchasing the large lot on Coldwell Lane which was formally a Junk Yard and currently for sale. We could likely fit 100 cars on this lot while utilizing it as an excellent place for a public/private partnership.
On weekends, the community could use this for a farmer’s market or trade show venue. This area could even become a destination for trail-goers, cyclists, and runners if we connect it to the trail and add a public rest room, inviting residents and out-of-towners alike to start/end their ride or work out here instead of in residential parking spots. During the week, it could serve as overflow parking for employees, happy hour crowds, or over-flow septa commuters – as it would be close enough to walk to the improved Conshohocken train station and businesses on Fayette.
The Borough of Conshohocken removed from service the Washington Fire Company over an audit dispute. Do you think that was the appropriate action or was it to harsh for the circumstances?
It was a disgrace to witness what the Borough did to a Volunteer fire Company that has been a staple of this community for almost 150 years. Without being in the room, we don’t know the details to understand why Council thought to do what they did, but we can express our embarrassment as to how they handled it.
On July 5th, the morning after Washies supported the Borough’s July 4th fireworks tradition – without notifying anyone – their Fire trucks were seized. Council decided to do it on a Friday when the Borough was scheduled to close at noon, so they didn’t have to answer questions from concerned citizens or the media. This led to major news networks showcasing the drama of a Council seemingly flexing its muscle but unable or unwilling to respond to its own actions.
It should have been handled by Council providing a written notice to Washies at a recorded public Council meeting to inform the residents of the issue, then a 15-day grace period for Washies to respond to Council’s concerns before any action took place. This would have shielded Conshohocken from headline news, shown respect to our volunteer first responders, and kept the people – especially in the First Ward, as safe as they were before they shut them down. Ask yourself who would want to continue to volunteer if that is the way they are treated?
Regarding Wawa, if the appeal of the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision to invalidate the ordinance (allowing a Wawa) is upheld, if elected will you consider the matter closed or would you consider a new ordinance to allow a Wawa in Residential-Office Zoning District?
Wawa is a hard issue for me. There are reasons to support it and reasons to be against it. Adding all these new large corporate buildings and apartment complexes will bring thousands more people to our borough daily and we will require the infrastructure to support it. It would bring jobs and tax dollars into the borough while refurbishing an otherwise decrepit area with a company that traditionally is a good partner with most towns.
On the other hand, having a 24-hour business in someone’s back yard could ruin 7th Ward residents’ quality of life in terms of the noise, traffic, property values and other undesirable symptoms these places can bring. It’s also fair to note that another business that didn’t run 24/7 could also replace the eye sore of a car dealership.
My candidacy focuses on the impact of development on our residents, something I don’t think our current Council fully appreciates, so I’m sympathetic to the stance against Wawa. If the appeal fails, I’d consider the matter closed unless new compelling information was presented.
Conshohocken has had a “Responsible Contractors” ordinance in place since 2014. The recent experience of the Colonial School Board shows that a “Responsible Contractors” policy or ordinance can limit the number of bids and increase the bid amount. If elected, would you support keeping or removing the ordinance and why?
I would motion to remove this ordinance immediately. The recent political circus at the School Board was a perfect case study to understand the impacts of an RCO. The school board enacted the RCO right before going to bid on a new middle school which restricted bids only to groups that had an apprenticeship program – AKA Unions.
The fact that the politicians that pushed this policy receive enormous amounts of union campaign donations aside, the middle school bid with the RCO came in over budget with only two RCO qualified bidders. This subsequently led to the school board rescinding the RCO for this major project, acknowledging they thought they could get more bids without the RCO for the same project.
As expected, the rebid without the RCO gave taxpayers two additional bidders, allowing competition between four companies instead of two. This successfully saved taxpayers roughly 4 Million dollars. Competition drives down costs – plain and simple.
This is a timely discussion, as Conshohocken is currently seeking to take out a 20-30 Million dollar loan for an infrastructure project. Let’s make sure Conshohocken taxpayer money is spent appropriately.