More photos which occurred during demolition and note they barely left a blade of grass or even a humble weed intact:
No, this isn’t a Chester County specific post. But it is one I am posting because it is a wonderful land preservation story.
When I was growing up on the Main Line, we knew it as just “The Haas’ house”. It wasn’t Stoneleigh. Going to Shipley and living just a few minutes away, that is what it was. As a matter of fact, my Junior Prom after party in 1980 was held there. On Spring Mill Road in Villanova
It was a quietly beautiful property. It has a carved tree trunk/stump County Line Road side of carved rabbits. It used to get dressed according to holiday or season when Mrs. Haas was alive. Christmas, Easter/Spring, the opening of the Phillies’ baseball season, and so on. That carving was one of the first commissions of Chester County tree carver Marty Long as a matter of fact. If you talk to Marty about it he will tell you how much he liked Mr. Haas. They used to talk Subarus (Marty likes them as vehicles, so did Mr. Haas apparently)
The name Haas means rabbit or hare in Dutch I think it is. (Middle Dutch?)
Anyway with big beautiful properties like this you hope they will remain intact. Most don’t thanks to the zeal of developers in Pennsylvania who will offer people buckets of money for development purposes.
Thankfully, that did not happen here. Thanks to the generosity of the Haas Family and Natural Lands Trust, this is being preserved. This property is located in Lower Merion Township, so seriously, this is quite remarkable as that local government truly caters to developers, and has for years. (I remember someone saying to me recently it was a shame Villanova University didn’t get the land because they are right there. I say thank god and shudder to think what they would have done given what they are going to do on Lancaster Avenue!)
Anyway, on Friday, June 10th, 2016—with an ever-amazing Saturn and a brightly shining Jupiter in the night sky—nearly 500 guests gathered for Stardust!, Natural Lands Trust’s annual summer fundraiser. Proceeds from the event, which doubled those of previous Stardust! events, will advance Natural Lands Trust efforts to save land, steward natural resources, and connect people to nature throughout the region.
Stardust!, which has rotated to a different Natural Lands Trust-protected property in each of the last four years, was held this year at the 42-acre Stoneleigh estate in Villanova. The family of the late John and Chara Haas donated the property to Natural Lands Trust earlier this year.
“Tonight we celebrate the Haas family, whose act of generosity marks a turning point for both Stoneleigh and for our organization,” said Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust’s president. “We are deeply honored to be entrusted to carry on the Haas family’s legacy of stewardship for this magical place, and excited beyond measure to add Stoneleigh as a unique, shining star in our constellation of 43 preserves.”
“We believe that Natural Lands Trust shares our family’s vision and will work to honor the legacy of our parents by making the property a unique natural resource for the community and region,” said David Haas, John and Chara’s son.
The event featured a roving dinner by Jeffrey Miller Catering, wine provided by Moore Brothers Delaware, beer from Victory Brewing Company, spirits from New Liberty Distillery, and floral creations by Love ‘n Fresh Flowers.
Guests had the last sneak peek of Stoneleigh until the Fall of 2017.
Natural Lands Trust is taking 18 months to transition the property from a family home to a public garden, during which time it will not be open to visitors. When Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden does open to the public, it will be free-of-charge and open seven days a week during daylight hours. Natural Lands Trust will offer a variety of public programs with a primary focus on natural gardening and landscaping techniques. The organization also anticipates hosting family and child-oriented programs as well as volunteer opportunities.
Anyway, I just thought I would sprinkle a little “Stardust” on your Monday morning. Preservation is possible….we just need more of it to happen.
Thanks for stopping by.
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.
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:
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?
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:
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.
Two years ago there was a Change.org petition to stop development on Crebilly. In 1987 Crebilly was mentioned in this Inquirer article:
By Shelly Phillips, Special to The Inquirer
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):
A revered Chester County vista – replete with rolling hills, waterways and expansive pastureland – has been endangered for more than a decade.
Bounded by Routes 926 and 202, South New Street, and West Pleasant Grove Road in Westtown Township, Crebilly Farm is no stranger to the threat of development. The third-generation property is owned by the Robinson family, descendants of the founder of a grocery store that evolved into the Acme chain.
Proposals ranging from a 2003 assisted living community to a 2012 apartment complex have failed to pass muster; however, township officials suggested that a massive housing development, discussed for the first time on Thursday, June 30, is much more likely to happen.
During a special public meeting, an audience of about 60 listened as representatives of Toll Brothers presented what Andrew J. Semon, a division president for the developer, described as “a very, very preliminary, conceptual discussion….
Westtown Township Supervisor Mike T. Di Domenico said the township learned on Tuesday, June 28, that Toll had an agreement of sale to purchase the property. Supervisors’ Chairwoman Carol R. De Wolf explained that the township invited Toll to share its plans for the nearly 330-acre tract, prior to submitting any applications, so that the township could get initial insight into the developer’s intentions.
Township solicitor Patrick McKenna pointed out that unlike the Bozzuto Development apartment proposal, which required a zoning change and was withdrawn in 2015, the Toll Brothers project involves a use that is already permitted by the township…..The purchase is contingent upon getting conditional-use approval from the township…
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.
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.
Everyone should contact them – email@example.com
Here is the manager- firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
Anyway, that is the end of the post script.
Meet Pulte’s “promotional video” on Linden Hall.
Described as an enclave of “luxury” town homes, with views of an exclusive golf course anyone has yet to see how storm water runoff will affect and whose memberships are not exactly included with the purchase price of the townhouses. (Yes holy run on sentence Batman but I don’t know how else to say it.)
You see photos of rolling Chester County fields with nature, only there is no nature at Linden Hall. Only a crumbling historic carriage stop and inn that sits and rots unrestored, even though the original developer (Benson or whomever) who sold Pulte the townhouse land and approvals promised to restore but thus far has not. All that has happened is a version of construction fencing has been erected to surround it. (Maybe with black plastic fabric fencing around it we won’t notice the building rotting, right?)
This video says that this development is 3.5 miles from a Septa Station. I assume they mean Eston which already has parking issues? And you get to that station from congested route 100 right? Or you have to invent a space at Malvern station?
The video proclaims 4 miles from Main Street at Exton and 10 miles from the King of Prussia Mall because God forbid people support local, small businesses, right?
And my favorite, they tout the Great Valley “School System”. Of course no one ever talks about the effect a rampant increase in development has on a school district which eventually affects our taxes and our kids, do they? And before all the PTA cheerleaders gather up their pom poms against me, that is NOT a slam at the school district, that is a very grim reality which is inevitable.
But overall what bothers me the most is here is yet another developer touting our beautiful Chester County they are carving up into plastic houses one acre at a time. The site these townhouses are on once supported quite an ecosystem. Foxes and birds and rabbits and so on. I know the neighbors behind Linden Hall are very unhappy and worried how this development will affect their property values down the line.
The price points are not affordable for those who would need affordable housing. The quality is not so spectacular that the exteriors won’t wear quickly after a few Chester County winters. And the way they describe them, well you don’t realize if you are looking at a development essentially sitting on a highway. No matter what you do to them they are sitting on a major thoroughfare. And it’s not pretty.
By CONOR DOUGHERTY
JULY 3, 2016
….“The quality of the experience of being in Boulder, part of it has to do with being able to go to this meadow and it isn’t just littered with human beings,” said Steve Pomerance, a former city councilman who moved here from Connecticut in the 1960s….These days, you can find a Steve Pomerance in cities across the country — people who moved somewhere before it exploded and now worry that growth is killing the place they love.
….But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy….
Zoning restrictions have been around for decades but really took off during the 1960s, when the combination of inner-city race riots and “white flight” from cities led to heavily zoned suburbs…To most people, zoning and land-use regulations might conjure up little more than images of late-night City Council meetings full of gadflies and minutiae. But these laws go a long way toward determining some fundamental aspects of life: what American neighborhoods look like, who gets to live where and what schools their children attend.
And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.
This article is written by someone who doesn’t get the realities of rampant development. Nor does the author mention the fact that a lot of these developments are built just to build, not because there is an actual need.
The author of this article of this article also does not get how these developers are actually contributing to what he seemingly despises. As in these developers are actually contributing to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They are in fact limiting the housing supply by their very price points. How many families of multiple people and kids are going to look at condos for example that are studios and one bedrooms and if not rentals start at mid 500,000s? How many agricultural, factory, or service related workers are going to be able to afford Linden Hall or Atwater or so on or be encouraged to buy there?
And look at all the zoning together. That is developments in progress in one area, regardless of municipality, along with other development in various states of approval. A sleeper to watch for in East Whiteland would be that thing a developer named Farley got approved a while back, remember? A multi acre parcel that is accessed off a property on 352 that looks like a hoarding situation that goes up into woods and would be shoehorned in between Immaculata and the William Henry apartments for lack of a better description? So you have the increasing traffic nightmare on Route 30 by Linden Hall which will only get worse with completion of neighboring projects like off of Frame Ave and Planebrook Rd. Can you imagine adding this 352/Sproul to that? And the effect it will have potentially on King Road? Let alone what one more project so close together would have on the ecosystem of the area AND the school district!
See that is the problem with all these developments, developers, and the factual analysis this New York Times writer Conor Dougherty thinks he has done. The reality is we do NOT live in a bubble. We are connected. Developers envision and present these projects as stand alone things with no real time or effort put into the relationships between projects. It starts when you see the plans presented at a local municipal meeting.
These projects are depicted all by themselves with nothing around them, or nothing around them realistic to human or other scale. They do traffic studies when no one is around, they don’t really look at what a large uptick in population will do to anything from roads, to hospitals, to school,districts, to the environment. They do not care about us, they just want to build, get their money, and get out. So pardon the hell out of us Conor Dougherty if we want to preserve the character of where we live and do not want our school districts, property values, and our shrinking open space detrimentally affected. And his affordable housing argument doesn’t wash at least around here because they are not building affordable housing. These developers truthfully don’t give a rat’s fanny about actual affordable housing. None of this is about actually helping others, it’s about lining their pockets at the expense of many communities.
Chester County is at risk. I am not sure why Chester County even has a county planning department because everything getting built is about the dollars developers get from density. Our open space and communities and agricultural heritage are seriously at risk. That doesn’t anyone make sny person saying that some kind of NIMBY ….it is the truth. Why is it that the rights of those who already live in an area seem so less important than what politicians and developers want? Look at Embreyville and Bryn Coed – what happens to those areas if development gets approved for maximum capacity? Embreyville is already in play, and Bryn Coed is only a matter of time, right?
Community preservation and open space preservation aren’t dirty words. They should be our right as residents of this beautiful county we call home.
Happy July 4th. Our forefathers fought for our freedoms and apparently we are still fighting for our rights.
Thanks for stopping by.