yes this is a rant.

Development should be a four letter word. Nothing has architectural style and human scale is non-existent.

Nothing being proposed on the Main Line or into Chester County and further out even complements the surrounding areas developers want to build in.

Everything is about maximizing density for developer profit.

The problem with that is there are a lot of moving parts and why is it residents can see the holes in the planning process and the zoning process and the development process and the political part of the process yet no one else seems to be willing to?

Everyone always thinks I am 100% against development. I’m actually not, but I cannot stand what is being shoved into our communities today.

The municipalities get all hot and bothered over the short term high of ratables but are incredibly short sighted as to the future. They don’t even look to protect the basics like stress on infrastructure, stress on first responders, stress on school districts which are all getting SO big.

It’s always QUANTITY instead of QUALITY.

And don’t forget the conditions of approval that they could ask for and sometimes they don’t even try. If these developers want to be in our communities then they can build the roads that will support their development. They can help pay for the schools that their future residents will put children into. They can finish the parks the townships don’t ever seem to have the money to either start or complete yet they have the land. And occasionally, these municipalities could learn to say “no give us a better plan.”

And in some municipalities you have to wonder for whom the township staff actually works? For whose benefit do the politicians work?

Years ago several members of the Pennsylvania legislature put forth an idea for a law. That law was simple it would’ve provided a short term moratorium on development. Just enough for Pennsylvania municipalities to hit the pause button to try to get better plans – like 90 or 120 days or something. The lobbyists for parties who objected to this being put forward killed this thing at least twice.

Also the Municipalities Planning Code of Pennsylvania? When was the last time that was comprehensively updated? Wasn’t it either the late 1960s or 1970s?

And here in Chester County why is it everyone thinks the Chester County Planning Commission’s Landscapes is so fabulous? All I see is a blueprint for over-development. We live in Chester County and we don’t live here so we can feel like we live in Bensalem or King of Prussia correct?

And while on the topic of our Chester County Planning Commission why is it our county level planning is being driven by an executive director who does not live in our county? To me that is just nuts and the worst kind of politics. That in my humble opinion is a person not truly invested in our communities and how can he be, he doesn’t live here does he?

We need change or we are going to continue to lose what makes where we live special. I don’t know about you but every time I look at a plan it is homogenous, boring, uninteresting and not community minded in the least for where ever it is proposed. It’s mall architecture. Bleck.

Once open space is gone it doesn’t come back. From Lower Merion in Montgomery County through to Caln in Chester County and everywhere in between, something has got to give.

And the history and historic preservation also doesn’t seem to matter. And it should.

I have never believed in “build it and they will come” as a reason to develop. And I’m not saying there aren’t areas that are in need of sprucing up. There are. Only the planning and vision that is realistic doesn’t seem to exist does it?

And the zoning? Why is everything high density? And all these special zoning overlay districts? Who benefits besides developers?

But everything is the same: ugly apartment buildings, cheap townhouse communities, fake carriage house communities. Density, density, and more density.

And in a lot of areas people are asking about low income and affordable housing. And we’re not talking section 8 here we’re talking about where do the single mothers go if they want to live in a safe community and raise their children? Where do our seniors go who can’t afford ritzy retirement communities? Where do regular people go who can’t afford McMansions?

And is there the economy to support this development? I was talking to somebody last week who remarked about not being able to work close to home. So are the jobs really here locally that will support the development? In my opinion, no.

Yes this is a RANT. And developers aren’t going to like this post, but none of you were being singled out. I am disgusted with all of it.

We deserve better. We need to demand better.

Development is an epidemic and we need a solution.

change comes to frazer

Change comes to Frazer in leaps and bounds these days. On Sunday, John’s Pizza closes it’s doors and by Labor Day, the Alley Pub will be but a memory.

John’s Pizza closing is by personal choice of the family who owns it . That is a case of a well earned retirement.

But the Alley Pub? That’s development which has come calling. The accumulated parcels which also include the run down mobile home park and the old bowling alley Frazer Lanes according to the developer’s blog will result in over 200 new…apartments.

Now there is no doubt that the mobile home park was in bad shape. But had the township (East Whiteland) allowed that to deteriorate over the years by looking the other way when they should have maybe inspected more and what not? There is another mobile home park down the road from the now closed one. Different owner, better care taken of it. There is a mobile home on Barton Hill Road next to Ebeneezer’s ruins. Also in good shape and is more of a community.

But the thing about this mobile home park going away and it being replaced with apartments leaves me with mixed emotions. How many apartments, townhomes, townhouses, carriage homes do we need?? East Whiteland has soooo many development plans. And all of it except for a small percentage are higher density plans.

If you move west into West Whiteland Township then you have all of their development. And they are putting a lot of apartments on Route 30 and already have a lot of townhomes or carriage homes or whatever the hell you want to call them.

And then what if you head over to West Goshen for a minute? Have you seen what’s going on at Greystone Hall? (Hint, check out the next two photos)

And if you go back into East Whiteland Township has anyone been to Flat Road or that vicinity recently? (Hint: see the next two photos)

So here we are in beautiful Chester County. Or it was beautiful and sadly with all the development it’s less beautiful every day. And our local municipalities all over the county are allowing this one bad plan at a time.

But back to these apartments in Frazer. Are you really going to want to spend a couple thousand dollars to live in an apartment that’s next to a run down gas station and sort of across the street from what used to be a mattress store and Wawa?

Yet there are the slum lord properties that are ignored. These are in East Whiteland along Route 30:

So when you talk about the slumlord housing along Route 30 in East Whiteland combined with whatever is left of mobile home parks you’re talking about the entire supply of affordable housing if it is actually affordable because I don’t know.

And that’s the thing about all of these developments regardless of the municipality in Chester County: where IS the affordable housing?

That is one of the problems I have with all of this development no matter what township. Lack of affordable housing. Look at what’s being proposed in Easttown Township to the east of East Whiteland. More apartments and already cheek to jowl townhouses that are not attractive and not affordable. They are expensive.

And East Goshen. Even once sensible East Goshen is no longer immune from bad development plans.

I just have to keep shaking my head and wondering where are all the regular people who don’t want to live in McMansions or McMansion priced apartments and townhouses supposed to go? Where do retirees go if they can’t afford Hershey’s Mill or the other two places near it in the retirement Bermuda Triangle?

And what about the stress all this development places on our first responders, our school districts, our infrastructure? And when things like entire mobile home parks disappear what happens to the people that used to call it home? People in this country like to talk about helping the disadvantaged and the financially challenged or poor but really do they?

I don’t have those answers. But in my opinion all of this development is going to come back and bite every Chester County resident in the rear someday. This is why we desperately need better planning more sound and competent zoning and elected officials that actually consistently give a damn about their residents.

I am not against change as far as development goes as long as it occurs in moderation. But I am against all of this greedy ass development gobbling up acre after acre of Chester County like Pac-Men. And these plans aren’t even attractive. They are just designed to get each developer the most money possible out of each site.

Rant over. (For now.)

how MANY freaking bad development plans are going on in easttown?

Who doesn’t love Handel’s in Berwyn? It’s an old fashioned ice cream place like you only normally see at the beach. This time of year people can always be seen all lined up for a scoop of ice cream. It’s a great tradition.

But apparently Easttown Township is pondering the supersizing of this location? As in Handel’s will still be there BUT also 120 apartments potentially? Four stories tall, if the zoning board in Easttown approves?

SERIOUSLY?? What in the Sam Hell is wrong with Easttown Township? First of all the township is like the supersecret people with no meeting recordings that I can find and every time you turn around there’s another development plan between Devon and the end of Berwyn, isn’t there?

Sure Easttown “discloses” development plans via public notices but do they really want a spotlight on the crazy development plans there ?

I am down near this particular stretch of Berwyn a fair amount and I can tell you Lancaster Avenue is already infreakingsane with what’s there, so what happens when you add more insanity?

A source tells me one zoning hearing was held already. The next one appears to be August 5 — except I haven’t found a public notice yet. If I understood correctly what was said at the recent zoning meeting, the Easttown Township Planning Commission has already approved this crap?

WTF Easttown? It’s bad enough you are allowing historic Berwyn to get destroyed, but now you want to West Goshen/East Whiteland/West Whiteland Lancaster Avenue through Berwyn and Easttown in general???

(I will also note the Easttown like many other municipalities who don’t like to video record meetings are also kind of behind in their minutes they post aren’t they? And when the minutes are posted don’t they seem so sanitized?)

Traffic is already a nightmare around here. And the thing about Easttown is they like to approve these development plans but it’s like they’re approving plans that are off on their own planet with no relationship to basic things like existing residents, small businesses, and existing infrastructure.

Where Anthropologie and Terrain were built is a favorite nightmare traffic example. Trying to reach these businesses off of Lancaster Avenue if you’re headed west on Route 30 is craziness. And it’s also difficult if you want to go to Handel’s coming from either direction. And they are proposing apartments?

It’s like we keep getting driven further and further west but all these developers up and down Route 30 act like all these municipalities aren’t interconnected! No matter where we go the traffic is heavy and insane and full of impatient drivers and roads that can’t handle the current capacity in all of these municipalities all the way up Route 30 into Coatesville and beyond and they all want are more developments!

I don’t know why they call any of this good planning or smart growth because it just seems well greedy to me. And those of us who live here in Chester County, we don’t matter. Existing small businesses, they don’t matter. Nothing matters except getting these plans built and pick a stretch of Route 30 and how many apartments and townhouses and fake “carriage homes” do we need???

And Easttown sports a lot of ugly density already.

Enough already, Easttown.

And again, another reason why we need a less development happy county planning commission in Chester County. And an executive director of said planning commission who actually resides in Chester County. I mean is it just me or has anyone else noticed how even as you proceed further and further west in Chester County along Route 30 it’s so totally looking like the eastern end of Lower Merion Township, King of Prussia, or DeKalb Pike?

Stop the madness. Attend your local municipality’s meetings wherever you live. Pack the meetings. Elect officials who represent YOUR voices.

#PreserveChesterCounty

visiting mt. airy lavender

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About a month ago I wrote a post called when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields.  It was about the new adaptive reuse of the Saha Farm in Valley Township (Coatesville/Wagontown). The farm is now Mt. Airy Lavender!!

I went to one of their open farm days in June, and will go back again when they have another one.  Mt. Airy Lavender is so worth the drive!  And I am hooked on their lavender based products! My big favorites are the Lavender Peppermint Body Butter  and Lavender Water and Lavender Essential Oil Roller!

You can buy their products online or when they have open farm days.  They have fun events too! (Including a wine tasting in August.)

For me, this was a special experience to finally visit the farm the Sahas fought so hard to save from eminent domain for private gain from Coatesville all those years ago.

I hope you enjoy the photos I am sharing and I hope you will visit the farm or consider it for an event.

I received nothing for writing this blog post.  I went to the farm because I wanted to see it and I buy their products and lavender plants because they are awesome.

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this is why artists are drawn to our area

Yesterday with the storms was also a marvelous day for photographers. Here are some that I took.

This is why we need more open space preservation and fewer fields of ticky tacky plastic mushroom houses.

the evolution of gardens

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Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’ Purchased from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market

A garden is a constant evolution. Mine evolves in layers.

A few years ago I planted my red rhododendrons and native deciduous azaleas along with some favorite viburnum (Brandywine and Winterthur).  Over the past couple of years including this year, I have layered in witch hazels of different colors and blooming schedules that were purchased from Rare Find Nursery and Yellow Springs Farm.

This year I have also added Mountain Laurels.   They came from the annual plant sale at Jenkins Arboretum that the Valley Forge Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society puts on –  they are the NICEST people at that society and very helpful. (I also find this person called Rhody Man helpful FYI.)  These kind folks also sold me a native deciduous azalea that is red.

I also bought two really great Mountain Laurels from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market – Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel). Species is native to North America.

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Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel)
Species is native to North America. I purchased mine at Applied Climatology and this is a stock photo which shows what my blooms will be like next spring!

And hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas are so amazing and there is such a wide array available for planting.  I have a special affinity for Mountain Hydrangeas.  But I plant them all.

I have planted layers of color as well as plants. For my shrubs and perennials, there are a lot of shades of pink and blue reds. I am not an orange red person, so you rarely see orange in my gardens.

Gardening is a favorite thing with me as everyone knows, and when I did not have as much room as I have now for me to plant, I planted elsewhere.

Many, many years ago when I was living on the Main Line and only had my tiny courtyard garden of my apartment, I used to volunteer at this little slice of heaven in Bryn Mawr, PA called Historic Harriton House. I loved walking my dogs over to there and truthfully, I have been wandering around Harriton House since I was 12 as is evidenced by this photo:

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Harriton is an amazing piece of historic preservation that works.  The land it sits on is a park owned by Lower Merion Township.  But the historic structures? Owned and maintained by the Harriton Association which I watched acquire properties over the years to sew up a good sized parcel safe from development.  The original farm and plantation was originally around 700 acres or more and was part of a Penn Land Grant (yes like Lloyd Farm and Happy Days Farm in Chester County which are currently at risk from development.)

The Executive Director, Bruce Gill, and the Harriton Association Board have truly created a very simple preservation model that works.  Part of why it all works at Harriton is the place has never been tarted up.  It has remained loyal to it’s agricultural heritage and history.

Years ago, a couple of years after the conversion of the old dairy barn into an education center and administrative offices was completed, one day I was looking at the ruins of the rest of the stone barn fragment which had been turned into a pool house, a pool, and gardens in the 1920s (I think that is when that happened).  When Harriton acquired this structure a reclusive little old lady had formerly called it home.  Before she died, it was not part of Harriton, it was a little adjoining property in the midst of Harriton, much like two other properties they raised funds and acquired.

Now this little old lady was quite the hoarder, and I remember what it was like when volunteers, myself included, help clear things out.  A lot of the decades of contents was literally garbage, but things that were salable were sold at the annual fair in the White Elephant section for a few years.  Even what had been the swimming pool was full of stuff.  It was crazy.  I had never seen what a real hoarder’s home looked like until this.

After the clean out the restoration and conversion of the barn to education center was completed, I kept looking at the ruins when had been garden spaces from the 1920s until I guess the little old lady inhabitant had gotten too old.  I saw potential for planting and I was itching to do more planting.  So I asked the Executive Director Bruce if he would buy a bunch of plants next time he was up in Lancaster,  I would totally plant up the area.

And that is what I did. It was so much fun creating something out of nothing.  After I had planted the ruin, one of the couple of garden clubs that gardened at Harriton thought Bruce had let in another garden club.  They didn’t quite believe him for a while that it was just me who had dug in the dirt and played and planted.  I never took photos back then of what I had done, which now, is close to 20 years ago if not more than 20 years ago.

But the thing about gardening is once you start, other people follow suit.  And after the first time I planted in the ruin, garden clubs took over and planted it going forward.  I can’t remember which garden clubs did this, except I think perhaps the Villanova Garden Club or the Garden Club of Bala Cynwyd.  I don’t know which garden clubs are still gardening there today.

Here are some circa 2006 -2010 photos of the garden ruin planted (again, I never photographed my work before them, sadly):

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I returned to Harriton this past weekend for their Father’s Day Ice Cream Social, which is just as lovely and old fashioned as it sounds.  I was so happy to see that the ruins were still being gardened, though not as much.  In spots it looks like whichever garden club it was lost interest. But the positive thing is it was still being gardened so many years after I dug the first plants in. And there is a community garden and the tenants garden. I do not know if any of the perennials I planted are still there or not, but after not having been back to Harriton since either 2011 or 2012 I was happy to see any continued gardening there:

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I hope whichever garden clubs are still on Harriton continue.  People change, garden clubs and plant societies are definitely groups where people age out, and not necessarily by choice. But gardening should endure. Wherever we can garden.

I close with some of my own garden’s posies:

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