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Illegal Immigrant Burglary Gang Arrested in Radnor, One Suspect Still on the Lam

Three illegal immigrants from Argentina were arrested for burglary in Radnor last week, while a fourth alleged gang member escaped police.

Radnor Police Superintendent Chris Flanagan said Abington Police had alerted his department to suspects driving around upscale neighborhoods and breaking into homes.

Flanagan said the burglars used a “high-tech” device to disable alarm systems and ring the doorbells of homes they were targeting. Residents of a house on the 500 block of Huston Road were home at the time of the break-in but were not harmed, police said.

Matis Sanchez-Diaz, 30; Miguel Guzman-Pardo, 43; and Yanara Venegas-Rodrigues, 23, are charged with burglary, criminal trespass, loitering and possession of instruments of crime, police said. All three are in the U.S. illegally after overstaying tourist visas.

They are in George Hill Correctional Facility and held on $200,000 bail. A fourth suspect remains on the loose. The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office did not respond when asked if the defendants would be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A spokesperson for ICE did not return calls.

Radnor police were notified by Abington Police about the suspected burglars on Jan. 19. At 5:35 p.m. that day, they responded to a burglar alarm malfunctioning at a house on Huston Road and noticed a rear glass door had been forced open.

They stopped a car that was driving less than a mile from Huston Road and found burglary tools and the alarm jammer, police said. The vehicle is believed to have been involved in various burglaries in the area, including in Lower Merion, through license plate reading technology in Radnor Township.

Officer Stephen Henry stopped the car when Henry and other officers noticed broken glass in it, similar to the glass from the broken door. They arrested the three defendants.

A fourth suspect, Alejandro Vincento Gallardo, escaped. Police described him as a Latino male, about 5-foot-tall and in his 20s. He was wearing a black jacket and black pants.

He was last seen running in the area of north I-476. If you see him or have information about his whereabouts, please call the Radnor Township Police at (610) 688-5600.

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DelVal’s Pennycuick Introduces Kratom Consumer Protection Act

Since the 1960s, Americans have consumed a lot of mind-altering substances in an effort to, as Timothy Leary said, “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

The latest mind-altering craze is kratom, a lightly regulated hallucinogenic substance used in the Delaware Valley and elsewhere.

Radnor Township fought a court battle to keep a CBD Kratom shop from opening at a former Starbucks on Lancaster Avenue in the heart of Wayne. Residents loudly objected to the store, located near two schools, which flaunted a giant marijuana leaf on its window. That litigation continues after Radnor won the first round and CBD Kratom appealed.

“We are still engaged in litigation with Radnor Township but are hopeful for an amicable resolution down the road, especially with the changing perception and education regarding kratom and hemp-derived cannabinoids,” a store spokeswoman said.

John Rice, Radnor Township solicitor, said, “The court denied their preliminary injunction request last October, but they are pursuing a final hearing. They are also attempting to open without selling the two restricted products, Kratom and Delta-8.”

Now state Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) has introduced the Kratom Consumer Protection Act (Senate Bill 614) to prohibit the sale of kratom to children. She calls kratom a “hallucinogenic and potentially addictive substance.” This bill provides a regulatory framework to protect consumers.

“Kratom is a legal substance that is readily available and commonly sold as a pill, capsule, or extract in many convenience stores across Pennsylvania,” Pennycuick said. “There are very few laws currently on the books that govern this potentially dangerous substance. The commonsense measures I am proposing will help to put regulatory guardrails on this substance, prevent purchases by minors and ensure that consumers know exactly what is in the product they are buying.”

Kratom is derived from a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia. The leaves contain compounds that can cause hallucinatory effects and can be addictive since the results are similar to that of opioids and stimulants.

Kratom can be deadly if abused, critics say. A West Chester family sued a company that distributes kratom after the 2019 death of their 25-year-old son. Advocates have since called for imposing greater restrictions and regulations on the drug.

Pennycuick’s legislation would prohibit the preparation, manufacture, sale, or distribution of kratom products mixed with unsafe ingredients and the sale or distribution of kratom products to people under 21. Kratom product packaging must also include adequate consumption directions, including a recommended serving size.

“CBD Kratom is proud to support the efforts being made by Sen. Tracy Pennycuick regarding SB 614 to regulate the sale and production of kratom products in the state of Pennsylvania. This language will ensure that kratom products on the market are held to safety and purity standards while simultaneously keeping these products out of the hands of minors. This legislation will support the kratom industry and provide much-needed transparency and confidence to kratom consumers in Pennsylvania,” said Spencer Owners, government affairs specialist with CDB Kratom.

Kratom does not fall under the Controlled Substances Act, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve it for medical use. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently listed kratom as a “Drug and Chemical of Concern.”

“Kratom is garnering national attention for its potential for abuse,” Pennycuick said. “Now is the time to put guardrails in place to help ensure that the public is protected.”

Pennycuick’s bill has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for consideration.

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Radnor Historic Properties Remain in Jeopardy

The Holly Tree House has stood on what is now Ardrossan Farm since before the Revolutionary War. Gen. George Washington’s troops came there for food in the winter of 1777-1778.

But the future of the stone house, thought to be the oldest house in Radnor, is now in doubt because the parcel it stands on is for sale, and Radnor Township does not have an ordinance in place to protect historic properties townshipwide.

Phil Graham, who lives nearby, is concerned that once the parcel is sold, there is nothing to prevent the new owner from razing the Holly Tree House the next day.

Graham, a former Radnor Historical Society board member, said residents concerned about historic preservation have been trying for years to get an overlay ordinance to protect the hundreds of historic properties in the township.

Currently, three historic districts exist in Wayne: North Wayne, South Wayne, and Louella. But buildings in other sections do not enjoy any protection.

“So this is urgent. Holly Tree House is far from the only site. Hundreds of buildings and sites must be nominated if Radnor’s unique history is to stand any vague chance of protection from being here today and gone tomorrow. And I truly mean tomorrow,” Graham said.

Historian Greg Prichard, secretary of the RHS but speaking for himself, said the township’s comprehensive plans since at least 1988 have recommended adopting a historic overlay district to protect old houses and buildings. When the plan was updated in 2003, it again called for an ordinance. But subsequent boards of commissioners (BOC) did not adopt it.

The Ardrossan Estate is historical and the last large property to be developed in the township. Ardrossan inspired “The Philadelphia Story,” a play and movie based loosely on the late socialite Hope Montgomery Scott, who Katharine Hepburn portrayed.

“I really hope the township will consider it,” Prichard said about an ordinance to protect historic buildings. Prichard is the historic preservation planner for neighboring Lower Merion Township, which does have ordinances protecting landmark properties. Radnor has “a lot of great historic places.”

An ordinance would mean a property owner would have to have the Board of Commissioners’ approval before demolishing a historic building. “It gives the township an extra layer of protection,” Prichard said.

Cathy Cavalier-Gach helped shepherd an ordinance for Newtown Square. It was adopted in September after a 20-year process.

But before it could be adopted, “We lost many properties,” she said. “Many on the Dupont property (now a housing development). The development properties are most at risk.”

“We only had five properties (covered by the ordinance) initially. Now there are 100,” said Cavalier-Gach, president of the Newtown Square Historical Society.

She noted there is a separate process through the state where houses can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Graham pointed to many other historic buildings that have been lost to the bulldozer in Radnor because no ordinance to protect them existed, including “the magnificent Glenays, also known as Leighton House, and the beautiful Laurento mansion, also known as Inveraray were demolished without review.

“And it’s not just dwellings. A new sewer line was recently installed in the Skunk Hollow public recreation area. In the process, a series of mill races and the remaining fascinating ruins of the Grist Mill from Radnor’s industrial past was completely obliterated. Now that area where children used to explore and learn has nothing left to show for it,” said Graham.

State Rep. Lisa Borowski (D-Newtown Square), former BOC president, tried to get an ordinance passed when she was on the commission.

“While I was a commissioner, I brought forth the idea of Radnor creating a Scattered Sites Ordinance after many conversations with residents who were concerned about Radnor losing places in the township with historical significance,” said Borowski. “There was a group who had worked on something several years prior to me becoming a commissioner, and they shared the draft with me, which I, in turn, took to my colleagues on the BOC with a request to refer it to Radnor’s Planning Commission. My hope was and continues to be that the commission would take it up and work to develop legislation which would work for the township and its residents with an eye toward preserving historically significant sites. Once these treasures are gone, they are gone forever.”

Recently, the township Planning Commission sent the proposed historical preservation ordinance back to the commission. BOC President Moira Mulroney said, “The concept of a historical preservation ordinance has been considered several times by the Radnor Board of Commissioners over the last five to 10 years. Since my time on the board of commissioners in June 2021 and again in June 2022, a discussion on the matter was once again opened, and the board agreed to send the issue to the Planning Commission. Members of the Planning Commission have been working on a draft ordinance for the board of commissioners’ consideration but have been unable to get a consensus within their commission. The Township’s Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) has authority over the zoning districts in Wayne. However no additional historical zoning restrictions are on the books.”

The township is now undergoing an “intensive, comprehensive planning process,” she added. It will ask the community for input.

“I am looking forward to hearing the feedback on this and many other issues affecting our residents, like private land use planning,” Mulroney said.


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Radnor Wins Round One With CBD Kratom

Last spring, Radnor officials unanimously passed an ordinance that prevents the controversial store, CBD Kratom, from opening at the site of a former Starbucks on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.

CBD Kratom immediately filed a lawsuit against the DelVal township. However, last week, the Delaware County Court of Common pleas dismissed Kratom’s petition for a preliminary injunction.

“Having conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Petition on July 20, 2022, at which all parties testified, and a variety of documents were admitted into evidence, having considered the testimony and documents admitted at the Injunction Hearing and having reviewed the parties’ submissions, it is now ordered and decreed the Petition is denied,” the court ruled.

Radnor Township previously argued that the ordinance they defended in the lawsuit was designed to protect children from exposure to unregulated substances near daycare facilities, playgrounds, and schools.

Many parents opposed the opening of the CBD Kratom store in various township meetings due to fears of their children being potentially exposed to these drugs. One woman read a letter signed by 88 people, including business owners, in opposition to the store.

Earlier, CBD Kratom officials claimed they signed a 10-year agreement to rent at the Radnor location in August 2021.

CBD Kratom’s government affairs specialist, Spencer Owens, previously explained how Radnor was chosen simply for the demand for the product. Nationally, the company has over 50 venues and several within the Delaware Valley region. CBD Kratom determined many of its customers were traveling long distances to their stores and that a Radnor location would help reduce that need.

However, Radnor officials said the company had not obtained the proper permits to do business there. But Owens claims that the inability to get the appropriate licenses was primarily due to Radnor officials and their lack of responsiveness. This led CBD Kratom to file a lawsuit against Radnor and its director of community development, accusing them of spot-zoning legislation targeted at one specific business.

Despite the petition being denied, CBD Kratom is still optimistic about their plans going forward.

“The court simply denied the request for a preliminary injunction, leaving open the avenue for damages and the potential for a permanent injunction,” said Jill Firns, CBD Kratom’s Brand Reputation Manager. “The judge did not address the actual merits of any of the claims and did not say Radnor acted legally or permissibly. The decision last week was based on the judge’s interpretation of the record. We are assessing our options for the next steps – whether it is an appeal or moving forward for a permanent injunction, the case is still ongoing.”

The suit asks the court to allow CBD Kratom to open for business and to sell delta-8/kratom. Since the  township THC measure was passed back in April, it prevents the distribution and sale of any delta-8 THC or kratom product from within 1,000 feet of daycares, playgrounds, and schools. That makes the Wayne location, the site of a former Starbucks, unusable because it’s near St. Katharine of Siena School and Radnor Middle School.

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Radnor Democrats Push Pro-Choice Ordinance Blocking Enforcement of Future Abortion Laws

Radnor Township is ready to break with the rest of Pennsylvania, at least when it comes to abortion.

On Monday, the township commissioners voted to advance an ordinance that would prohibit the use of township resources to enforce any new abortion restrictions the state might put into place if Roe v. Wade is overturned as many U.S. Supreme Court watchers expect.

George Badey, chair of the Radnor Democrats, touted the proposed ordinance in his May newsletter and asked members to come out and support it. “We will not tolerate the GOP using Radnor taxpayer-funded local law enforcement resources to take away the currently existing rights that Pennsylvania women have had for almost 50 years!” Badey wrote.

BOC Vice President Jack Larkin offered an overview of the ordinance at Monday’s meeting.

“What this would do (is) to preclude the police or any other township employee from using township resources including their salaries to affect an arrest or otherwise investigate, prosecute, or penalize abortion as it is currently permitted in Pennsylvania,” he said. “This would essentially freeze the right to abortion here within Radnor Township.”

Current Pennsylvania law bans abortions after the 24th week unless the woman’s life or health are at risk.

Commissioner Lisa Borowski, who is running to be a state representative, said the ordinance, if adopted, would protect a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade would put state and local leaders on the front lines to protect women’s rights,” she said. “Tonight, we are takings steps to protect a woman’s right to choose.

“I deeply value the doctor-patient relationship and I don’t believe we should be putting our police in the middle of that relationship.”

The vote was 4-2 with one abstention. Larkin, Borowski, Maggy Myers, and Board President Moira Mulroney voted yes.

AnnaMarie Jones and Jake Abel voted no. Both expressed concerns that the ordinance, if passed, would place undue restrictions on the township’s police force.

“I voted “no” primarily because of the uncertainty of what the unintended consequences would be if police are kept from investigating a call -no matter what the issue is,” Jones said. “There could be criminality above and beyond a reproductive issue. That being said, I am in support of women being able to make their own healthcare choices and will stand with my colleagues to find a way to protect women and physicians in our community if Roe is overturned.”

And most residents agree with her, she said.

“Many say it’s too soon. Roe hasn’t been overturned and we have the Delaware County district attorney saying he won’t prosecute women and doctors. I’m prepared to pivot based on the Supreme Court’s future decision, if women and practitioners will become targets, who our governor will be in 2023, and what the majority of constituents are feeling at the time,” she said.

Commissioner Sean Farhy abstained.

Marlene Downing. who serves on the board of the Prolife Union of Greater Philadelphia, was dismayed by the board’s action.

“We are saddened by the township’s decision to come against state law if Roe v. Wade is overturned,” she said. “We don’t believe any city should be excited to be an ‘abortion sanctuary.’ This places a very dark label on Radnor Township where the end of innocent human life will be a main attraction.”

Like Jones and Abel, Downing expressed concern that the ordinance, as it now stands, undermines the township’s police department.

“The fact that local jurisdictions feel comfortable in overturning higher authorities depicts the state of our country. Where is the order? Local police departments being forced to abstain from investigation of criminal activity regarding abortion is very concerning. We should all be concerned,” she said.

A final vote will likely be taken in June before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Mississippi law banning abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy.

A leaked draft of an opinion by Justice Sam Alito appears to show a majority of the court is prepared to overturn the controversial Roe v. Wade decision in its ruling on the Dobbs case.

Abortion is certain to be a hot topic in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. The Republican candidate, state Sen. Doug Mastriano  (R-Franklin) has called for a ban on abortions in the state with no exceptions for rape or incest. Democrats and their allies are spending $6 million on ads attacking Mastriano’s stance on the issue.

His Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is pro-choice.

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Radnor Hit With Suit for Blocking CBD-Kratom

CBD Kratom may have the last laugh.

After weeks of residents’ outrage, Radnor officials passed an ordinance that prevents the controversial store from opening at the site of a former Starbucks on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne. The company immediately filed a lawsuit against the Main Line township.

“Since the township ordinance was unanimously approved by the board, CBD Kratom filed a lawsuit to enjoin its application,” said Bill White, township manager. “The township intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit in that the ordinance is solely designed to protect children from exposure to unregulated substances in close proximity to schools, daycare facilities, and playgrounds. The township looks forward to defending against the claim in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.”

For their part, CBD Kratom officials said they signed a 10-year agreement to rent at the Radnor location last August.

Spencer Owens, government affairs specialist for CBD Kratom, explained Radnor was chosen simply because of the demand for its product. CBD Kratom, which has over 50 venues nationwide and several within the Philadelphia area, determined many of its customers were traveling long distances to their stores and that a Radnor location would negate the need for that. That is where things began to grow complicated.

However, township officials said CBD Kratom had not obtained the proper permits to do business there. But Owens claims that the inability to get the proper permits was due in large part to township officials and their lack of responsiveness on the matter. CBD Kratom filed its lawsuit against both the township and the township’s director of community development accusing them of spot-zoning, a type of legislation targeted at one specific business.

The suit aims to allow Kratom to open for business and to sell kratom/delta-8. The  THC measure was passed April 4. It prevents the sale and distribution of any kratom or delta-8 THC product from within 1000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and daycares. That makes the Lancaster Avenue CBD Kratom location unusable because it is near Radnor Middle School and St. Katharine of Siena School.

Fear of their children being exposed to the drug motivated many parents to pack township meetings in opposition to the kratom store.

Delta-8-THC is a less common, less potent relative of Delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. It is currently under preliminary research. Kratom, derived from an evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, currently stands in a unique spot in the world of psychoactive substances.

Like marijuana, it has been used for thousands of years and is said to offer a wide variety of benefits, from pain relief to energy gains. Unlike marijuana, however, it is underregulated. For a product to make it to shelves that, in many cases, provides no dosage information whatsoever, is quite unusual in the world of pharmaceuticals and supplements.

The lack of regulation surrounding it sabotages the effort to prove its benefits. People are often left with the impression that any substance so completely unregulated must thereby be dangerous. The truth is more complicated.

While deaths have been attributed to kratom, they have rarely occurred without additional factors or substances at play. There is understandable concern that kratom, which does interact with the brain’s opiate receptors, could serve as a gateway drug in the communities that it enters. The inverse, however, is also true. There is no shortage of kratom users who espouse its benefits, Many claim kratom saved them from crippling opiate addiction. Others go even further and credit kratom for saving their lives entirely.

While benign in comparison to more accepted drugs like tobacco and alcohol, its sheer lack of regulation is concerning to many. Based on imports and sales, there are between 10 and 15 million kratom users in the U.S. alone. For a drug to amass such a large base of users while so little is actually known about it is highly unusual. In December, the WHO said there simply was not evidence to recommend a critical review of the substance, and that it should be kept at a minimum level of regulatory surveillance.

An article from Scientific American explained how damaging the effect of FDA regulation could be. “In the context of an America with the highest number of overdose deaths ever—driven largely by street fentanyl—removing a safer substitute almost certainly will increase mortality.”


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mis-identified the Radnor Township Manager. It has been corrected. DVJournal regrets the error.


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Radnor Residents Weigh In on Kratom at Town Hall

Is Kratom a dangerous gateway drug that may lead to addiction? Or a helpful, natural substance that can aid those suffering from chronic pain?

Residents sounded off at a March 3 town hall sponsored by the nonpartisan Radnor Advancement Group. The group brought together experts to talk about the issue after a store selling kratom opened without township permission then quickly closed at the site of a former Starbucks on Lancaster Avenue.

State Rep. Tracy Pennycuick  (R-Harleysville) promised residents to promote legislation to regulate kratom.  Her Kratom Consumer Protection Act would ban anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing any products that contain kratom while leaving it available to adults in need.

The evening opened with an excerpt from a documentary produced by Main Line TV filmmakers Jill Frechie and John Ricciutti entitled “Kensington in Crisis.” The presentation suggested that by allowing kratom into the community, doors would open for heroin addiction to flourish.

“Kensington— is thirteen miles that way. That’s not our town… could never be our town…,” said  Father Joseph Smith of the neighboring Saint Mary’s Church. Smith described his own brother’s struggles with addiction. “There was a time where communities seemed to have values… There was a time when anything didn’t go— standards of decency were naturally adhered to… there better be consequences [for CBD Kratom].”

Other speakers included Dr. Wade Berrettini, a professor of psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania’s Perlman School of Medicine, specializing in medical treatment of addictions; Dr. Asare Christian, MD, a graduate of  Harvard Medical School, who specializes in chronic pain management and medical cannabis titration; Samuel B. Dordick, a personal injury attorney who successfully tried a wrongful death case involving kratom;  Pennycuick, who is also a United States Army combat veteran as well as a legislator;  and Leslie Holt, founder, and CEO of A Child’s Light, a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation that provides funding for Chester County children in need of mental health treatment.

A couple of residents shouted that kratom should be banned entirely within the state for children and adults alike. “There are thousands of children and young adults who’ve already died!” exclaimed another concerned resident.

However, the mortality rates from kratom consumption remain low compared to several more widely accepted substances. According to the CDC, between 2016 and 2017, of the 91 deaths associated with kratom, all but seven victims had other drugs in their system.  In contrast, a 2019 CDC study found that, on average, 38 people died every single day died from prescription opioids. In the first half of 2021 alone, the CDC stated that 53,000 people had died from drug overdoses.

“I can see the danger in having this near our schools and churches, but the substance itself isn’t that dangerous… even caffeine kills more people. I just don’t think we should try to keep our kids sheltered from every single risk they come across in life. I know we all wanted that ice skating ban lifted,” said one resident when asked for comment.

Another resident said, “[In small doses kratom] is going to serve you like speed, like coke, like crack, and [in large doses] it’s going to serve as a depressant, like an opiate. So you have… a drug that’s not regulated, that’s serving two forms of a high. That is very dangerous to our community.” She added that while she couldn’t speak to any potential benefits the substance may offer to future addicts in recovery, its unregulated nature poses an apparent danger to the communities it enters.

Two other residents displayed two different THC and kratom products they’d easily purchased from nearby stores. One pointed out the colorful cereal-box mascots on the packaging, an apparent attempt to appeal to younger audiences. The second resident pointed out that nowhere on the kratom package he’d purchased was there an indication regarding dosage. “If you open this… what you see is a powder. How much of this powder are you supposed to use? Is it a pinch… is it a teaspoon full? No dosing recommendations,” he said.

Several people spoke out against banning kratom outright.

“Cigarettes aren’t banned… if you’re an adult you can go to war and shoot a gun…” said one person.

Others went further still.

“I’ve been consuming Kratom for seven years. I’m a United States Navy veteran, and I got addicted to opioids. Seven years ago, before I started kratom, I was one of the people on the streets in Kensington,” explained another person. While he did support a greater degree of regulation,  kratom had proven enormously helpful in his community. “Not all of us are addicts. There’s a lot of older people who have chronic pain… fibromyalgia, cancer— people are dying of cancer, and the pain meds aren’t helping them, but the kratom is… so for some of us, it’s very important and it is helping.”

Debates held over personal freedom and public safety are rarely simple. While the evening’s speakers were united in the call for kratom’s regulation, proponents of the substance argue that while the opioid crisis rages, every conceivable avenue for mitigation demands consideration.

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New CBD Kratom Store in Wayne Closed for Now

Radnor residents were surprised and outraged at the sudden opening of a store on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne that sells CBD and kratom, two substances that have surged in popularity in the last decade.

Many citizens came to the Board of Commissioners meeting Feb. 14 and said they strongly oppose the store, which is a few blocks from St. Katharine of Siena School and Radnor Middle School. However, township solicitor John Rice said the store opened without first obtaining the proper permits and has been shut down–for now.

One woman read a letter signed by 88 people, including business owners, in opposition to the store. The Mayo Clinic website warns Kratom is unsafe, she said.

“Having this store in our community normalizes drug use,” she said. Kids had immediately noticed the signs and taken selfies with the large marijuana leaf to post to their Instagram pages. She asked the BOC to make sure the store stays closed.

Clark Engle agreed and asked why the BOC had not proactively written ordinances to ban that sort of business. He noted officials had previously discussed a marijuana dispensary and a clean needle exchange, so they should have known the dangers of permitting undesirable business entities to take root in the township.

“I don’t want this in my backyard or anywhere on the face of the earth,” he said. “These utopian ideas don’t work. Just take a look at San Francisco.”

The business, St. Louis-based CBD Kratom, is expanding its reach with new locations in the Philadelphia area.

“In October 2021, we signed a lease for the former Starbucks facility after doing due diligence with Delaware County and Wayne Business Overlay District (WBOD),” said Dafna Revah, company vice president, told the Delaware Valley Journal. “Unfortunately, Radnor Township requirements were not identified by our team. I strive to live by our core values, which include responsibility, and which is why I take full ownership of this oversight. As always, we strive to be part of the communities we serve, which is one of the reasons we chose this facility in South Wayne. It was utilized as a previous training facility for Starbucks and the space provides us with a golden opportunity to have a permanent educational space for both us and our community.”

Kratom, a substance which many of its critics and even proponents liken to ‘legal heroin,’ has been met with controversy in many states. Some states, like Alaska, Arizona, and California offer only limited access to the compound.

Other states, like Alabama, Arkansas, and Indiana have gone as far as banning it entirely. In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, it remains a legal substance that can be easily found in most tobacco stores and head shops. Even gas stations are known to carry the substance. Kratom is a tree in the same family as coffee and can be found in both Southeast Asia and Africa. Its leaves exhibit psychoactive properties that can be compared to either stimulants or opioids depending on the dose consumed.

According to, “Kratom can be addictive due to its opiate-like qualities, and a small minority of users end up requiring addiction treatment. The CDC claims that between 2016 and 2017, there were 91 deaths due to kratom, but this claim should be greeted with skepticism, as all but seven of these casualties had other drugs in their system at the time of death, making it impossible to uniquely implicate kratom.”

Proponents of kratom argue the drug is a safer alternative to many opioid pharmaceuticals often used to treat heroin withdrawal symptoms. Skeptics are not convinced, pointing to dire consequences for some who ingest the substance.

“Caleb Sturgis, 25, of West Chester, died on June 27 after he drank tea made with kratom, according to the lawsuit against SoCal Herbal Remedies the Inquirer reported in 2019.” Sturgis then proceeded to crash his car on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Chester County, but the coroner ruled his death was from ‘acute mitragynine intoxication,’ the active ingredient in kratom.”

In an email to constituents, First Ward Commissioner Jack Larkin said, “It’s my understanding that CBD Kratom did not apply for permits from the township to begin operations. I’m told it has no certificate of occupancy, no plumbing and electrical permits, no business license, and maybe a half-dozen other defects in its permitting.”

While the store is purporting to be a dispensary, Larkin pointed out that, “CBD Kratom doesn’t seem to actually sell medical marijuana or hold a permit to do so, so it may be using the term in its colloquial sense, or in order to create confusion as to what exactly it sells.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana often used to treat epilepsy and a wide variety of other ailments.

”It’s closed. They were told they could not open without permits. They need permits,” said Rice.

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Radnor BOC Votes to Keep Sweetheart Deal With Ardrossan Farmer

A Radnor Township commissioner has been crusading for the township to recover some $291,489 in lost tax revenue due to an agreement by the Ardrossan Farms development to lease land to a farmer for $1 a year.

Issues of fairness and the intangible value of preserving open space came to the fore in a sometimes contentious discussion Monday. The Ardrossan estate was the last large piece of property to be developed in Radnor. Township commissioners seven years ago wrangled over trying to preserve part of it as a green swath of land for future generations.

Commissioner Richard Booker argued the township is getting the raw end of the deal by allowing a farmer to lease township property for that small sum. Other taxpayers must make up the brunt of the tax that otherwise would be collected by the township, county, and school district, Booker contends.

However, he lost his motion 4-2, with Commissioner Jake Abel, the other Republican on the board, voting with him. Commissioner Sean Farhy abstained.

Booker had also voted against the original agreement with Richard Billheim’s Fern Valley Farm in 2015.  The agreement allows the wealthy property owners, including County Council Chairman Brian Zidek, a Democrat, to access agricultural tax breaks under Act 319 because Billheim farms part of their properties. Zidek, for example, who owns his 14-acre estate under a limited partnership, paid $4.8 million in 2019. With the agricultural exemption it is assessed at $3.9 million and the township, school district and county receive $14,865 less in taxes yearly because of that exemption.

Zidek did not respond to requests for comment.

Booker said Delaware County’s recent countywide property tax reassessment resulted in “a tax shift” that caused commercial properties to pay less and residential property owners to pay more.

“It’s become clear that the township license agreement with Fern Valley enables landowners to avail themselves of the lower agricultural assessment values,” said Booker. “What I want is to get the township out of the business of farming.”

When the township purchased 71 acres for $12 million from the 300-acre Ardrossan estate that was being developed as upscale housing in 2013, officials promised to build a trail for the public on those acres. So far the township has not built its trail and those acres are being used by the farmer not the public, said Booker.

“There is currently no access to the land by the public and no public facilities,” said Booker. Meanwhile, Radnor Township is paying $600,000 a year in principal and interest on the $12 million it borrowed for that land.

Commissioner Lisa Borowski argued the township benefits from fewer homes being developed at Ardrossan because of the farming and the purchase of the open space. There is less wear and tear on the roads, sewers and fewer children in the school system, she said.  If not for the agreement with the farmer and the subsequent agricultural easements the property owners obtained, “we would have substantial development” at Ardrossan. She promised to work toward building the trail system.

The Montgomery Scott manor house at Ardrossan.

“It’s iconic,” Borowski said of Ardrossan, which inspired the “The Philadelphia Story,” a play and movie based loosely on the late socialite Hope Montgomery Scott, who was portrayed by Katharine Hepburn. “I don’t see how canceling the lease with the farm would be advantageous to us in any way.” It is the last working farm in Delaware County, she said.

Farhy said the lease is “not a good business proposition” for the township. He noted various other entities, like sports clubs that use township property, pay fair market value.

When Booker tried to speak again, Board President Jack Larkin cut off his mic and Farhy jumped up and said, “You are not going to mute us. We have freedom of speech.” Larkin then called a recess.

Kate Wolff, who is the wife of Billheim, said “We disagree vehemently with Booker and Farhy’s comments. While the lease is only for a dollar, we actually provide the township much more in return.”

For example, Wolff said, “We keep the fences repaired, the fence-lines trimmed and the fields maintained. And of course we have our beautiful cows in the fields for everyone to see and enjoy. This hilly ground and low-lying wetland is perfect for cattle but not suitable for anything in regards to fields for sports.”

“We donate the upkeep of this land to the township. If we did not pay the costs to maintain this ground, the township would take on that expense, creating more taxes for residence,” she said.

“As for the homeowners who have purchased tracts on Ardrossan, we appreciate that people with enough money can donate land.” she said. “Most people can’t. We support these preservation tax laws. Open ground is shrinking. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t get it back.”

During public comment, resident Leslie Morgan said, “A dollar a year is not a fair market value.” The property owners claiming the agricultural exemption should do their own farming or have agreements with Fern Valley. Her parents, who are in their 90s continue to farm on their land that receives an agricultural easement in Chester County.

“Brian Zidek can consult me, maybe my mom can come out to help him,” said Morgan.

Sara Pilling, another resident, complained that the farmer is using herbicides and pesticides on the corn he grows.

“When Hope Scott had bovines on her property, they were Ayrshire milk cows” but Billheim now has 60 Black Angus beef cattle, which are different animals and could be dangerous to children, especially during spring calving season.

“This is an incompatible business,” said Pilling.

In a related matter, many of the new homeowners also bought adjacent lots and deeded those to the North American Land Trust, receiving tax benefits and deed-restricted open space that can’t be developed next to their houses, a plan promoted by Eddie Scott, who was selling off the land on behalf of his family.  Scott declined to comment.

Meanwhile, several of the Ardrossan Farms residents are appealing the reassessment of their properties and Delaware County opposes those appeals.

“As for local taxes, I reject the premise that all taxpayers in Delaware County should subsidize these folks in Radnor,” said William Martin, the county solicitor. “There is clearly a value to the property staying undeveloped. It contributes to the value of the properties at Ardrossan Farms. The assessment is modest given the value of the Ardrossan properties. There is no reason for the rest of the county taxpayers to be subsidizing those mansions.”

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Books with Graphic Sexual Content Draw Radnor Parents’ Ire

Should elementary school children learn about sex in graphic terms and middle school children be exposed to raw sexuality in assigned reading?

The 2021 culture wars are evident in tony Radnor Township, where some parents lambasted the Radnor Township School Board at an Oct. 26 meeting, including one mom who asked that children leave the room before she read parts of a school library book to the board. Another parent said he had removed his two youngest children from Radnor schools because of the constant battle over sex and violence in the curriculum.

Those Radnor parents are among many around the country who object to their children reading sexually graphic books. Parents became more aware of what their children are being taught as the pandemic required students to study at home with online classes.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe

Two books cited by the Radnor parents, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, were recently removed from the schools in Fairfax County, Va. after parents complained. Parents in Carmel, Ind. also objected to sexually explicit books in schoolsand parents in Kansas City, Mo. complained about books in the public library in recent months.

“As a board, you have failed us,” said Radnor parent Kelly Martin. “You put these books in our schools.  Four of you are running for re-election and one of your bullet points for our community is that parents want to ‘ban books from our libraries.’ You bet I do. Not all books and magazines belong in school libraries, just as not all movies are intended for all audiences.

“Radnor doesn’t have a ‘Playboy’ or ‘Hustler’ subscription because it’s not appropriate content for a school, so I guess you could say I want to ban ‘Playboy,’ too. The books that you see here, these books don’t belong in our schools. You can have them and the magazines in your homes. You can share them with your kids, too, if that’s what you’re into. You do you,” she said.

“But as board members, you don’t get to groom our children and invade their minds with books containing pornography, pedophilia, rape, and incest,” Martin said. “And that doesn’t scratch the surface of the political propaganda you’ve stacked our library shelves with. The sad thing about stacking the library with these ‘new books’ is, you’ve done it under the cover of ‘equity and inclusion.’ The books are presented as immigrant, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA stories. Do you have any idea how completely ridiculous that is?”

Martin described the content of some of the books.

“Here’s the thing, for parents who can afford private school, this isn’t a problem,” said Martin. “They don’t have to fight this battle. And if we had school choice, the parents here wouldn’t need to fight it, either. We would leave en masse. But, when Valley Forge (Military Academy) applied for charter status you turned them down. You had the audacity to turn them down for having a church on the property… You’ve purged over 16,000 books over the last four years, and I’ve presented you with packets featuring excerpts from just a handful of the books you’ve brought into our Radnor schools.”

Another parent, Clark Engle, said he and his wife have taken their two younger children out of Radnor public schools because of the sex and violence in learning materials. Virtual learning during the pandemic “did open our eyes to some things and confirm some of our concerns,” he said.

“With our oldest entering college and our taxes increasing by 64 percent (due in part to the county reassessment and school district tax increase). This is a significant financial burden for our family. We did not plan or budget for this,” he said.

“So, I hope you’re asking yourself what would make this family leave the number-one-rated school district in the state of Pennsylvania. Well, for starters, let me say that lists and rankings mean nothing. What matters is what is really happening on the ground floor,” he said.

“What I am here to talk about and what was the straw that broke the camel’s back for us in deciding to send our two youngest to private school was the increasing rate at which I’m seeing young children being robbed of their innocence by being introduced or exposed to gratuitous sex and violence in both videos and literature in school,” he said.

He first noticed a problem when his oldest son, now 19, brought home “Point Blank” from the Wayne Elementary School library when he was nine years old, which Clark found to be “as racy and violent as one of the more recent James Bond films.” When he contacted the school librarian he was told it was an award-winning book recommended by literary sources.

“Therein lies the problem. I expect more from Radnor educators. I expect them to do some due diligence rather than rely on unreliable outside sources,” he said.

“It gets worse from there. The 2020 RHS summer reading list for 9th grade (children as young as 13 entering high school) included the book ‘Wild,’ which had a lot of graphic sex and drug use in it. It’s my understanding it took an outcry from parents to get it removed,” he said.

Then, this past summer, he learned that students were subjected to videos “of an extremely violent nature which also negatively depicted our law enforcement professionals.”

Sexuality and gender identity should be discussed at home, not in the schools, he said.

“God entrusted these children to their parents, not you,” Clark said.

“In the limited amount of time I have been able to research which of these books are in our libraries, I have found 19 books in the elementary schools dealing with sex, transgender, or sexual orientation issues.

One book talks about a boy who wants to “cut off his genitals and become a girl” and includes information about how to look at porn online and not get caught by your parents, Clark said. Some Radnor Middle School students were assigned that book, “which is outrageous,” he said.

“That is still not the worst. There are books in our high school library that contain literary pornography,” he said and offered the board a list.

Michael Petitti, a spokesman for the school district, gave this statement: “The district is always willing to hear the concerns of families and to respond whenever appropriate. The district strives for full transparency with families by welcoming parents/guardians to review all instructional materials and curriculum upon request, and to formally question the use of those materials if desired.”

District policy 144.1 outlines the process for selection of library materials and re-evaluation of those items, he said. Parents and guardians can review instructional materials, as well.

“The district wishes to work collaboratively and productively with all stakeholders,” Petitti said. “Policies 144.1 and 105.1 provide a sound process to follow to ensure a thorough review of the concerns in question, and to take action as necessary,” he said.

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