Is this the future you want for Chester County?
Updated: AUGUST 9, 2016 — 4:34 PM EDT
by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer @PhillyJoeD
New stores and apartments are boosting tax collections, and have given Chester County’s West Whiteland Township (pop. 20,000) a rare distinction: Yesterday Moody’s Investor Service boosted its credit rating to AAA, a rare distinction shared locally with Tredyffrin, Whitpain, Upper and Lower Merion, and Whitpain townships…..”We didn’t used to be known as developer-friendly,” Soles told me. “The current board has changed that. We want to attract development. We are a retail-based township. We have to stay ahead of the curve.”
The township’s presentation to Moody’s lists more than 1,000 new apartments, including 410 units approved for Main Street Apartments, 276 for Parkview at Oaklands (where residences are replacing office/industrial zoned space), 240 at Marquis at Exton; plus 108 “new carriage homes” (rowhouses) at Glenloch (where the township fought to keep out a trailer park), plus 86 at Waterloo Gardens, and several smaller developments….”Those develoments are going to have minimal impact on the school district,” Soles promised. “The primary market that developers are going for is the millennials and the empty nesters.”
Mmm O.K. That is a really nice BUT regular residents don’t want townships to be so “developer friendly” – we as normal, everyday residents of Chester County are in fact looking for BALANCE and RESPECT for open space and the county’s agricultural heritage. And some historic preservation. And community preservation.
Exton in 1937 courtesy of the Guernsey Cow
I learned something very amusing the other day. An executive of a large developer active in local township meetings where they live doesn’t exactly live in one of the developments that supports their salary, does he? Does he not in fact own a lovely property that is private and part of the beautiful rolling hills of Chester County? If even the developers and their employees don’t live in these cram plans, why should we want them in our communities?
Aerial shot of Exton 1974 courtesy of The Guernsey Cow
All of these developments have an impact on every single resident and that also means they do have an impact on the school districts.
Aerial shot of Exton off of Paramount Realty Website – not sure how old, but current times to be sure.
They can’t say in West Whiteland (or elsewhere since it is a common mantra) every single one of these units being built is going to go towards millennials and empty-nesters. And as for that younger generation just starting out out of college they don’t necessarily want to be all the way out here – they want to be closer to an urban area because they’re single and social. That behavior pattern extends to empty nesters and retirees too – not all of them want to be so far out. And a lot don’t want to be so far out living in cheaply constructed projects.
Areial shot from Pennsylvania Real Estate INvestment Trust
Come on, these projects are plastic city and built for the masses to do ONE thing: show a profit for the developer. These developers shove in as many projects as possible and move on to the next area. These developers are not building for posterity, only their own prosperity. They get in, and they get out.
IMHO Steve Soles (the article calls him Rick, quite amusingly – see screen shot.) owes his constituents better. Of course given his day job as a lawyer lawyer for a hedge fund, I never would have voted for him in the first place if I lived in West Whiteland.
And so we know who is who in West Whiteland (and do not forget the Township Manager is the former Township Manager of Tredyffrin who was just going to “retire”, Mimi Gleason), here is a screen shot of the supervisors:
Now if you do a quick flash back to the most recent election, you will recall a very interesting Daily Local article:
West Whiteland supervisors race getting nasty
Really? Seems to me that West Whiteland Township has ambitions to become another King of Prussia. (But what do I know, I am a mere mortal and a female and not a lover of malls.)
We are starting to drown in development from one end of Chester county to the other. It’s ridiculous. I also do not believe that the economy can in the end support so much development and remember there actually is an ample housing supply already. Sure there are lots of retail and minimum-wage jobs, but those people are not going to be affording these developments. This is the whole emperor’s new clothes story of the New Urbanism fairy tale of development.
My photo. Views like this will continue to disappear by the day if we do not act as Chester County residnets
There are all sorts of things that no one thinks about when salivating over ratables as an elected official.
They definitely don’t think of the impact on the schools and they don’t take that into consideration. Mostly because school districts are autonomous from local governments and they don’t play well with one and other.
Also elected officials are NOT telling you another reality of getting rid of more and more farmland: it will drive your food costs up.
It’s a snowballing effect. We have lots of housing but we simply don’t take care of it. Our elected officials just approve more and more projects.
Someone said to me yesterday “I’m not really sure if a lot of local officials have the capacity to comprehend all of this and see the future and think about ecosystems etc.”
I think that is correct.
We have the power to change this and we need to pressure state elected officials to comprehensively update the Municipalities Planning Code to PROTECT us and actually plan wisely, not just literally give away the farm to developers.
It is an election year, which means we do have the opportunity to be heard by exercising our right to vote. We need to make our open space and agricultural heritage a huge election issue in Chester county and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
And remember Moody’s is issuer paid. Municipalities get what they pay for and given the hot mess Lower Merion Township is due to developers (and is Tredyffrin with all it’s issues and the mother of all open space killing developments Chesterbrook from time to time far behind?) I wouldn’t be so bragging that my municipality was right up there with them as AAA. But again, a municipality is getting what they pay for. And what will it mean when developments empty out because they are older and falling apart?
And I love when local elected officials in Chester County brag about stopping mobile home parks. I do not think anyone really gets how many of those are in Chester County, or that they are kind of one of the few sources of truly affordable housing for what defines affordable housing. They approve building of huge projects with zero truly affordable housing. Or a developer will toss out there that they will make a few units of something affordable, only it’s never truly affordable for say the family of four or six or even larger that might actually NEED affordable housing.
Now see what I think would be a great idea is if these developers who are salivating over Chester County’s open space would actually restore some of the actual run down housing supply that exists in areas that suffered downturns when factories and manufacturing left their towns. Think Phoenixville, Downingtown, and Coatesville and any of the number of small cross roads towns you find scattered throughout Chester County. Heck if they did this more in Phoenixville and Downingtown they would probably see a positive result fairly quickly given how hard these two places have been working to rejuvenate their towns and business districts already. But it takes talent and patience to restore older homes or do an adaptive reuse of a mill or factory, doesn’t it? And again, these developers aren’t about communities, they want to get in and get out.
But that is another idea: if elected officials and county level planning commissions pushed for an overhaul of Municipalities Planning Code that could be made part of the approval process legally: if developers want in, then they need to contribute more than traffic signals. Let them contribute a certain amount of rehabilitated existing housing as a condition of approval. Come up with a formula that for every new unit they want to add, they have to restore a certain amount of existing units in areas that could use the help, thereby actually helping provide actual affordable housing.
But that’s the other thing – Pennsylvania does not make it attractive for people to preserve anything.
In other states there are many more avenues of tax credits and what not when it comes to saving things for environmental concerns and saving things as historic assets.
However what local officials do you have the power to do is to try to work with developers to reduce the footprint or encourage them to donate big chunks of land where they’re developing for conservation…..And in my opinion most don’t.
Here are the Westtown Supervisors again:
Again, 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???? Are residents asking her some tough questions? Has she tried to get any of the land that is Crebilly conserved?
Ok and when you are speaking of development you need to consider the Herculean efforts some put into land preservation. I have a friend who put four years of his life into obtaining Federal land conservation. He got a USDA Easement on his farm. The easement is a conservation easement for the preservation of a thriving bog turtle colony. It’s locked up in perpetuity I think that is wonderful. His name is Vince Moro, and you will now read about him in this article on ChaddsFord Live:
Posted by Kathleen Brady Shea on August 9th, 2016
As the area’s open space continues to shrink and conservancies fight an uphill battle, a Pennsbury Township resident is offering an assist.
Vince Moro said he has been distressed by recent headlines showing that development is continuing to swallow up open space in the area. For example, Toll Brothers not only plans to put 91 homes on the 86-acre Tigue tract off Route 52 in East Bradford Township, but it also envisions more than 300 on the Crebilly property at Routes 202 and 926 in Westtown Township.
So when Moro heard that The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County was working with the Barnard family to place an agricultural conservation easement on its beloved orchard in Newlin Township, the project seemed like a perfect match for Brandywine in White, an elegant, pop-up gala that raises funds for area nonprofits and will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Gwen Lacy, TLC’s executive director, said the conservancy needs to raise the remaining $27,000 of the project’s $901,000 cost before the fall to qualify for matching grants. She said if the conservancy reaches its goal, Barnard’s Orchard and “its 74 beautiful and productive acres” would be saved permanently from development.
Read the rest of the article, but you get the point. Here is more on the orchard at risk:
Help The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) save Barnard’s Orchard, a fourth generation family farm in Chester County!
TLC is working to conserve Barnard’s Orchard and its 75 beautiful and productive acres. To date TLC has raised
$863,000 toward the $901,000 total project cost, leaving a balance of $38,000 (less than 5% of the total project cost).
Securing these funds now will successfully conclude this important land conservation project and keep intact a 1,200+ acre corridor of vital lands.
Here’s what is at stake, and once plowed under, irreplaceable:
- 74.3 acres of important agricultural soils across two parcels
- Fourth generation family owned farm established in 1862
- Orchard and orchard store are a community staple with generations growing up visiting the property
- 32 varieties of apples
- Apple cider
- Snapdragons and freesia
- Additional fruits and veggies grown on site
- Produce donated to the area food cupboard when possible and collection taken at the counter
- Hosts school groups at no cost to educate children about the orchard
- Rural vista along Rt. 842 for public enjoyment with ½ mile of road frontage
- Protects prime agricultural soils and keeps them in active agriculture via the agricultural easement
- Protects portion of a first order stream and wooded, steep slopes
- Protects the groundwater recharge abilities of the woods
- Maintains the existing riparian buffer to protect the watershed
- Protecting the stream corridor benefits downstream neighbors-over 500,000 people depend on the Brandywine Creek watershed for public and individual water supplies
- Protected woodlands are part of an unbroken corridor extending north onto Cheslen Preserve
- Stream corridor and woods are home to multiple endangered and threatened plant species
- Farmland and open space benefits everyone – keeping the costs of community services under control: For $1 of tax revenue from farmland, only 2-12 cents of community services are required. Residential costs are $1.33 for every $1 of tax revenue.
Be a part of the solution by helping conserve Barnard’s Orchard for future generations
Donate online here
OR send check payable to TLC to:
The Land Conservancy for
Southern Chester County
541 Chandler Mill Road
Avondale, PA 19311
TLC also accepts Gifts of Stock; for details click here or contact
All donations are 100% tax deductible.
If you have questions about this project, please contact TLC today.
Gwendolyn M. Lacy, Esq.
(610) 347-0347 x 107
(610) 268-5507 (c)
Chester County residents it’s do or die time. What do you want where you call home to look like?
Here is another very telling image taken by a friend of mine August 1st in West Vincent:
Do we really think anyone is cleaning up the ruins of a decrepit old gas station or whatever for historic preservation?
And speaking of West Vincent, remember Bryn Coed
. It is TWICE the size of Chesterbrook. In my opinion, it is not a question of IF the land will be developed, but WHEN.
And I am not, believe it or not, completely anti-development. Small and thoughtful projects that demonstrate careful planning are not problematic to me, but you do NOT see that today. Developers come in and rape and pillage. It is nothing, ever about where WE call home, only how much money they can make. They don’t care about fitting their developments in with our existing surroundings or employing human scale in infill developments in towns (think East Side Flats in Malvern. I am all about supporting the local and small businesses there but talk about not fitting the surroundings.)
After all, take “Linden Hall” on Route 30 in East Whiteland. The actual Linden Hall is NOT yet restored and what do we see? This:
Is that about our community betterment or just about lining a developer’s profits?
Again, I remind everyone that development should darn well be an election issue out here. Look at your candidates and what they stand for. We need less who are proud of being “developer friendly” and more who are willing to preserve where we call home. From the local township, borough, and so on to the State House and State Senate vote for Chester County. If a candidate can’t go on the record about what they will actually DO or an actual PLAN for preserving Chester County, it’s open spaces, agricultural and equestrian heritage, say bye bye to them.
I think Chester County’s future is worth more than crammed in developments of front end loaded plastic houses on postage stamp sized lots where there is not even enough room to garden let alone enjoy being outside.