the mystery of bryn coed….what is going on?

bryn coed noticeWell what is going on at Bryn Coed? That giant land parcel mostly in West Vincent Township? Twice the size of what was cobbled together to form Chesterbrook in Tredyffrin Township?

I realize I am opening up Pandora’s box because I am supposed to be she who is not supposed to ask questions about anything in West Vincent (according to some) but someone sent me the above photo. Bryn Coed Lane IS Bryn Coed, right?

It came with a message about people recently seeing surveyors out there and speculation as to whether the surveyors were there because of a developer, the Deitrich family, a conservation group or any combination of the above? And rumors in the past of family meetings with boatloads of attorneys over this which would be completely normal if true since it is a giant property right?

This property has over 20 tenant properties correct? So if they are going in now to deal with lead pipes and lead paint and whatever deferred maintenance should’ve been done years ago at these houses are getting closed what does that mean exactly? Because you’re also clearing the rent rolls off a large property with each house that gets a notice like this,  so is that clearing the way for conservation or development?
Look conserving this at least in part IS possible just look at King Ranch:

King Ranch: Embryo of preservation In 1982, the Brandywine Conservancy and a group of residents collaborated to buy and save 5,300 acres, lighting the spark that fired the conservation movement in Chester County and beyond.

POSTED: September 21, 2005

Coming south out of Coatesville on Route 82, just beyond the Ercildoun crossroads, time seems to slow down…..This is the land where for almost 40 years steers from the fabled King Ranch of Texas spent blissful summers feeding on lush pastures before they were sent to the packing house.

It is the land of the Cheshire Hunt, where hunters ride to the hounds in pursuit of the wily fox.

And when this land came under threat of development in the 1980s, the Brandywine Conservancy and a group of farsighted residents jumped into the fray to save it, lighting the spark that fired the conservation movement in Chester County and beyond.

“We had to do something,” conservancy founder and chairman George ‘Frolic’ Weymouth said. “We heard they were going to sell to Disney. It was unbelievable.”….

An offer was tendered, but the first negotiations in Kingsville with Jim Clements, Kleberg’s successor, got off to a rocky start.

“Jim Clements told me: ‘I don’t like you and I didn’t like your father, either,’ ” Weymouth recalled. “That kind of took us back a bit.”

Clements turned down the conservancy offer, but on the spur of the moment, Sellers said he and Weymouth offered to buy it all. They asked for a six-month option, which Clements granted.

“It was an interesting time,” Sellers said. The conservation easement movement was in its infancy and the new rules governing such easements coming out of the IRS were untested, he said.

Sellers said skepticism over the deal was rampant. “I never took so many arrows, and I just got out of heart surgery.” Weymouth said he even put his own property up for collateral.

By the time the deadline arrived, 21 investors were persuaded to join a limited partnership, called Buck & Doe Associates, to buy 5,367 acres for approximately $12 million and protect it with conservation easements. A 771-acre parcel was carved out to protect The Laurels, which is now a preserve owned by the Brandywine Conservancy…..

“At the time, it was the biggest privately funded land-conservation deal in the United States,” Sellers said. “It was probably the best real-estate investment these people ever made.”

Boston lawyer Stephen J. Small, who wrote the IRS rules governing conservation easements, said the King Ranch transaction was “a home run of a deal.”

“They were way ahead of their time,” said Small of the Brandywine Conservancy. “They were really pioneers.”

 

There was so much written on King Ranch (including a great article from 2011 from Lancaster Farming about the cattle from Texas returning to Chester County.).  The articles are all fascinating and there is a lot to be learned from them – check out the articles going back a few decades now on the Philadelphia Inquirer website.

Here’s a little Bryn Coed history courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer circa 2005 (really long article, this is just an excerpt):

Deal aims to keep bulldozers at bay A 1,522-acre site, but only 27 lots.

POSTED: June 23, 2005

With Congress and the IRS taking a close look at the tax breaks landowners are claiming for conservation, U.S. Reps. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) and Tim Holden (D., Pa.) have started the Congressional Land Trust Caucus to ensure those benefits are preserved.

Their efforts come at a time when a major conservation deal is pending in West Vincent Township that depends on those tax breaks and would preserve at least 1,522 acres in an area under siege as one of the hottest addresses in Chester County.

“We want to make sure they are not taken away,” Gerlach said of the tax breaks during an interview earlier this week. Another goal is to preserve the programs that help land trusts survive and prosper, he said.

The land, most of which is owned by the Bryn Coed Farms Co., includes the homestead of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts and other historically important sites.

Bryn Coed Farms is owned by William, Daniel, and H. Richard Dietrich, all of whom are philanthropists. H. Richard Dietrich Jr. is a trustee of the Philadelphia Art Museum. They are heirs to the Ludens cough-drop fortune…..It is one of the largest conservation transactions in the county since a $12 million arrangement in 1984 that preserved 5,367 acres of the King Ranch.

If the sale goes through for one of the signature landscapes in northern Chester County, there would be 27 lots instead of a potential 700 new homes allowed under the current zoning. Lots would range from two acres to more than 100 acres….

The deal, which has been pulled together by the North American Land Trust, has been in the works for three years, said the trust’s president, Andrew L. Johnson.

North American Land Trust has formed a limited partnership with 12 investors, or founding members, and itself as managing partner, Johnson said. The partnership would buy the land and place conservation easements on it, and members would then be deeded lands with restricted building areas.

The members of the partnership would receive tax deductions based either on the purchase price or, if they wait a year, on the market price, Johnson said….The West Vincent deal stands in contrast to the plans announced for the 450-acre Jerrehian estate, another prized tract outside West Chester, that calls for the construction of 530 new homes.

Since I can’t find this on the North American Land Trust website, I am guessing this fell through, never to be heard of again? Pity.

Saw smatterings of discussion on Pottstown Mercury site years ago, and the last mention I seem to be able to find is in The Phoenix in 2006.

Rolling the years back a bit (14 almost to the day), there was a fascinating and extremely LONG article in The Daily Local in 2002:

Buying the farm By MARGARET FITZCHARLES

Farmers Who Have No Roots In The Suburbs, Short Leases On Coveted Land Are The Rule.

POSTED: May 24, 1992

Steering the massive, green John Deere 4440 tractor over loamy Chester County earth, leaving corn seed in his track, Rick Schlosberg is the picture of the modern metropolitan-area farmer: Tending borrowed land on borrowed time.

“I don’t own a stitch of ground,” admitted the rangy 37-year-old. “The day is gone when someone can buy land around here and think they can farm it.”

Schlosberg farms more than 2,000 acres of suburban Philadelphia. Not a stone can he call his own….

The two Holy Grails of rental farming – a large parcel and a long lease – recently were united in one Chester County tract, creating a sensation in the farming community.

Offered for lease was the 1,000-acre Bryn Coed farm in West Vincent, which the Dietrich family, former owners of Ludens candy and the Nan Duskin boutiques, had privately farmed for years.

If they had gone public with their intention to rent, the Dietrichs likely would have been overwhelmed by responses. Instead, their retiring farm manager and his agent quietly asked five area farmers to bid.

The winner was Schlosberg, who was already farming 1,100 acres close to his home in Newtown Square, Delaware County, and had a good track record with large properties.

“The last thing the owners wanted was someone that couldn’t handle it,” said Schlosberg, who was busy planting 700 acres of corn and 200 of soybeans at Bryn Coed.

Schlosberg was coy about the lease, but reliable sources said he was paying $62 per acre for three years.

So there hasn’t been talk of North American Land Trust in conjunction with Bryn Coed for the past few years, but rather Natural Lands Trust which just saved the Haas Estate in Villanova, PA.  I am a big believer of the Natural Lands Trust, so if anyone can save at least a chunk of Bryn Coed it would be them.

But ….BUT this is such a large land parcel. And developers are willing to pay. Hoping for the best, yet fearing for the worst here. If a conservation deal is actually in the works, it would be nice to hear about. But who knows? This is one of the last large prime plums like this in Chester County, right?

Thinking about Bryn Coed of course begs the question of what is happening in Chester County overall with regards to development and when do residents regardless or municipality REALLY have a say?

From one end of the county to the other, open land is under siege. Constantly.

Thanks for stopping by.

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