is it possible to STOP toll brothers from destroying crebilly farm in westtown? sadly, probably not.

Crebilly Farm, June 2014 (my photo)

Crebilly Farm, June 2014 (my photo)

I know people get tired of hearing me talk about development and the OVER-development of Chester County. So if you don’t want to hear how I feel, turn away now.

ASB stallion Sensation Rex was owned by Crebilly Farms in Pennsylvania during the 1940's (from Pinterest)

ASB stallion Sensation Rex was owned by Crebilly Farms in Pennsylvania during the 1940’s (from Pinterest)

About a week ago I heard Crebilly Farm on 926 in Westtown was possibly going the entire kit and kaboodle to a developer.  I put it out of my head as life was, well, life. It was filed under Tomorrow is Another Day, Miss Scarlett. Until just a little while ago.

Then today thanks to a friend posting an article written by someone else we both know, well here we are: we know Crebilly’s suitor, the ultimate destroyer of farmland and open space everywhere, TOLL BROTHERS.

Toll Brothers has not even sold out the mass annihilation of what was once Foxcatcher Farm the DuPont Estate in Newtown Square (They call it Liseter.)…or the Reserve at Chester Springs or Creekside at Byers Station, or any of the multitude of other crap they have spread over Pennsylvania.  I am always believe they create a false and not actual need. It isn’t about growing our communities, it is about lining Toll Brothers pockets.

I don’t know what it is about farms in particular that draws Toll Brothers in, but Crebilly is another one on the hit list as we now know.  A third (?)  generation astoundingly gorgeous farm, that is so amazing to drive past on 926.

I shudder to think of how it will look like covered in “Toll”. Maybe like this:


Or this:


And if the “little people” are really good, some townhouses (see what happens when I go up in balloons? I take development horror show photos):



So who can stop Toll Brothers? Is it possible to neuter them? Can they go build plastic houses in Afghanistan or something?

What happens to McGregor Stables which I believe to still be on Crebilly?

Crebilly Farm by Richard McFarland

Crebilly Farm by Richard McFarland

Ok so you get the picture? That this is GORGEOUS and this is a NIGHTMARE?

Who is protecting the beauty and land heritage of Chester County? Certainly not Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission. (But I never expect much from “planners” out of Lower Merion Township which is one hot development mess on it’s own.)

The Chester County Planning Commission has a unique mission statement they don’t exactly live up to:

Mission Statement
The mission of the Chester County Planning Commission is to provide future growth and preservation plans to citizens, so that they can enjoy a Chester County that is historic, green, mobile and prosperous.


Green we are losing by the acre by the day it feels like. Same with the history, which includes agricultural history.

Crebilly Farm aerial shot courtesy of Crebilly Farm

Crebilly Farm aerial shot courtesy of Crebilly Farm

Two years ago there was a petition to stop development on Crebilly. In 1987 Crebilly was mentioned in this Inquirer article:

Keeping Developers At Bay When Heart Is On The Farm

POSTED: January 04, 1987

Marshall Jones 2d drives across the brown, stubbled hayfield and up a steep ridge, surveying his beloved Maple Shade Farm in Westtown.

From this vantage point, he sees his hayfields and his cornfields. He sees his weathered gray barn, like a great prairie schooner, giving shelter to the herd of black and white Holsteins. And he sees the stone farmhouse that his father covered with white plaster so many years ago.

He sees, too, Shiloh Road that separates two different worlds: On one side are Jones’ 190 acres of rolling farmland; on the other is the Plumly Farm development.

Jones, 77, owns one of the three farms of more than 100 acres that are left in Westtown. Although developers are offering him large sums for his property, he hopes that either the township or the Brandywine Conservancy will someday

purchase his land and keep it as open space.

Township officials say Crebilly Farms has 400 acres, and The Westtown School has 600 acres, although less than half of its property is farmed.

“I get two calls a week from people wanting to buy the place,” Jones said. “The developers want it. They want it bad. But they’re not going to get (all of it) as long as I’m alive.”

Now Marshall Jones was a heck of an interesting gent.  My friend Catherine Quillman actually profiled him in 1992 for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

But back to Crebilly.  It’s what? Still close to 400 acres?

Farms are expensive and developers have lots and lots of money. But we have to do something to preserve some of this land.  I would say that given the noises made by Westtown Township in the article I am about to post that this is pretty much a done deal.   And it doesn’t surprise me that Westtown will do this given the way they rolled over and showed their municipal belly to to Bartkowski The Billboard Baron a few years ago.  You know that thing that is like the size of a 24 hour dirve in movie screen? That was once described as  “a 14-foot-tall, 48-foot-wide digital sign…. gateway for southbound drivers on Route 202 entering the township from West Goshen and the West Chester Bypass.”

When I was little Westtown was this most amazing place of rolling farmland and gorgeous, spacious properties.  No more.  Yet another for whom the bell “Tolls”, right? What happens when Bryn Coed falls to development in West Vincent?  With Bryn Coed I still believe it is not a question of IF but a question of WHEN.

Here is an excerpt from Kathleen Brady Shea’s article (you will want to read every last word):

Chadds Ford Live: Toll Brothers making plans for Crebilly Farm

Ok read the article. All of it. It is the Liseter formula:

  • 300 two-story homes
  • 145 single-family
  • 165 carriage-style dwellings, all with basements.

Or a mix of 143 single-family and 204 carriage-style homes. If you all are good little subjects they will save a barn or something as a party space.

It’s the same thing every time. Gross. Just gross.

Buh byes open space.  Sigh.

My photo . June, 2014

My photo . June, 2014

Time to add a postscript. I received this comment:


Unfortunately the Robinson family (who are the owners I am told), have chosen the potential of a cash cow over land conservation.  They need to live with that.  I think that they are doing this is crappy BUT Toll Brothers or ANY developer could choose to do things differently and they never do (just like property owners who are selling these giant tracts of land/open space to the highest bidder.).

As for Westtown Township Officials? My opinion is simple: if this goes through, every supervisor and possibly their manager needs to go. If any Supervisors can be voted out this coming November, start there.  I have no idea about how they spend their open space funds or what they have. I am not a resident of Westtown Township.

Here is their board:


Everyone should contact them –

Here is the manager-

Of special note is the Chair, Carol R. De Wolf.  How ironic is it that she works for Natural Lands Trust as the director of the Schuylkill Highlands???? Maybe residents should be asking her some tough questions?  Has she tried to get any of the land that is Crebilly conserved?

nat lands

Anyway, that is the end of the post script.

18 thoughts on “is it possible to STOP toll brothers from destroying crebilly farm in westtown? sadly, probably not.

  1. While I applaud your desire to preserve Crebilly farm, you should be pointing the finger at the sellers, not the buyers. The Robinsons declined to put a conservation easement on their property, in order to sell to the highest better. Many owners of large tracts of land in Chester County have placed a conservation easement on their property, me included. Planning commission members and Township officials can only stop development if the law or zoning allows it , and in the case of Westtown, it does not. Are there open space funds? Is there an open space review board? Can they put in an offer that monetarily competes with Toll Brothers ? These are the relevant questions. Toll Brothers is just doing with Toll Brothers does. The fault lies with the township and the sellers for not putting conservation measures in place earlier.

    • I agree BUT Toll Brothers has a choice to behave differently, they never do. Westtown? I do not really think that local government cares. Could they counter offer or help seller look for a conservation buyer? Sure but that would require effort. If I lived in Westtown I would be telling all my neighbors that if Crebilly being developed goes thru it is time to replace entire bunch of supervisors, township manager, and so on.

      Unfortunately the family selling Crebilly has the right to sell. And I will add a note in my post about their not putting a conservation easement on property,etc

    • You’re absolutely right. Toll Brothers is a company who buys and develops land, that is what they do and it has worked for them so far, and as long as they follow all the rules and regulations they are going to get their approvals and the project will go forward.

      It is the landowners SOLE decision to sell the property to Toll Brothers or try to preserve it through the multiple ways to preserve open space. It is the landowners responsibility and ONLY theirs for whatever happens to that property.

      • When you are talking about open space like that it is not that simple. Pennsylvania is a private property rights state, but the Robinsons aren’t hurting at a point financially where this should be their only option, but if you notice since the old people died that used to own Crebilly every few years there is a bad development plan put forth.

        The last one was an apartment building because that would be so appropriate for a spot like that right? Sorry sarcastic. But it seems like first they sold off the carriages and then there’s the development the doubled the size of Thornbury’s population at the time across from this parcel, then there was the apartment building plan, now this plan.

        Apparently these people will stay in their houses and sell off all acreage around them? Do I think if they do this they will become intensely disliked in Chester County? Probably.

        But what I do not get given the fact they are staying on the land is why they wouldn’t entertain other kinds of development plans if that was the route they were going. For example a development that had like 10 acre lots for each house. Or putting part of the land in the conservation and developing part of the land.

        There are crops grown on this farm correct? I assume they’re tenant farmers so what happens to them?

        The Robinson family is educated enough to know better and buy their own family history one would think they actually would give a crap about their neighbors and where they call home.

      • Joe, true, but… is also incumbent upon every township to form an open space review board, ( as many townships in Pennsylvania have done ). These boards can access state monies to purchase and preserve large tracts, in combination with conservation money generated from local taxes. Every township needs to have a warchest set aside, in preparation for large tracts becoming available for sale. If the only people able to pay the market price for a property are the Toll brothers, then it is unkind to point the finger at the landowner alone for not making a huge financial sacrifice. This township failed their residents in this regard.

      • OK Westtown should have finished updating their zoning, true, but Joe is not wrong and who says the family is making a financial sacrifice? By all accounts they are extraordinarily well off, so they have options based upon their net worth that many other farmers wouldn’t, not that they are true farmers at this point they just own huge chunks of arable land.

  2. Toll Brothers has submitted plans to develop the Teague Rd. farm with a similar housing proposal. So sad… There seems to be no thought to the traffic patterns to these new developments. People heading home from Rt. 202 are going to be cutting through the adjacent neighborhoods. (Already a problem is Jacqueline Dr. in Westtown.) Westtown Twp. residents already have sewage problems in different neighborhoods. Nothing has been mentioned about how sewage will be handled for these extra homes.

  3. Thank you, thank you to the author of this outstanding blog and all those who contribute. You are making a huge contribution to the local community by highlighting important issues like the pending development of Crebilly Farms. It was heartbreaking news for sure. I have signed the petition. (Do we know who started it?) Great job! Will, or has it been submitted to the Board of Supervisors? I spoke with one of the township supervisors early in the summer and they encouraged concerned citizens to attend township meetings. The next one is MONDAY OCTOBER 3rd at 7:30pm. It is interesting that Crebilly Farms has not been and is not the agenda!. According to the BOS rules, guests can bring up issues not on the agenda. I encourage everyone to do so starting on Monday to make their concerns known about these development plans and need for zoning changes to prevent this from happening yet again. We are all responsible for community.

  4. Who says the Westtown supervisors aren’t working behind the scenes to corral state and county money to match the Toll bid? Also, since the pay for supervisor doesn’t begin to cover the time and effort they devote, maybe they don’t really care if they all get voted out? And maybe a zoning change that screws the Robinsons out of their right to develop the property is a “taking” under eminent domain and the taxpayers of Westtown would have to foot the entire, say, $30 million bill?

    • Is that what I said? That I expected Westtown to pony up for this property? No. But if Westtown is interested in saving at least part of it, it would be helpful to hear something. Changing zoning does not equate an eminent domain taking. That is an apples to oranges comparison. The Robinsons have rights, and are also in an enviable financial position of being able to AFFORD to conserve some of Crebilly. The Robinsons also have somewhat of a moral obligation to the parcel of land that has made their lives and privileges possible.

      Am also somewhat surprised all things considered that you are not more hip to the historic preservation here that also comes into play?

      And FYI if you want an example of an eminent domain taking – 1973 Radnor Township. They did a taking and wrote an ordinance for such to preserve the Willows. Mind you , I do not agree with that but the times were different, and well the plan would have been a Toll-like plan for it’s day. And a few years ago the officials in Radnor were very public with their efforts to get the Scott family to preserve/conserve part of Ardrossan AND to encourage them to zoning for large lots so the entire place wasn’t turned into a Toll Brothers Disneyland.

      Thanks for visiting.

      • I am very” hip” to the historic preservation here. I think some group needs to put together an alternative offer to the Robinsons not just demand the Supervisors do things that aren’t in their power. Also, I said a zoning change may be a taking under eminent domain. A case can certainly be made that if new zoning rules preclude a property owner from realizing a large portion of the free market value of a property that existed pre-zoning it is a taking that requires compensation from the government entity.

      • Well supposedly there is a group forming specifically called Neighbors For Crebilly – they say they intend to do just that- offer alternatives. But the group is headed up by two lovely people who do NOT live in Westtown (Kennett and Chadds Ford), so I do not know how that will play out. Perhaps they went to the supervisors’ meeting this evening? Also, I do know that Natural Lands Trust would work with the family if the family was amenable – someone told me that last week, but it did not come from NLT so I do not know how that all works.

        The Neighbors for Crebilly people have an email – I saw it in the Chaddsford Live article

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