bishop tube plan met with a packed east whiteland zoning boardroom

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The developers did not show up with very many copies of site plans.  I do not think they were expecting a completely packed room which included people standing for the East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board meeting on February 27th.

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It was so amazing to see all the people turn out.  General Warren Village and General Warren Village supporters did an AMAZING job.

17078041_1462119317134348_485323212_nAnd they had a powerful and unexpected ally in the room: Maya K. van Rossum, The Delaware Riverkeeper.

The role of the Delaware Riverkeeper is to give the Delaware River, and the communities that depend upon it and appreciate it, a voice at every decision-making table that could provide help or do harm. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network that van Rossum leads is the only citizen action organization that works the entire length and breadth of the Delaware River and its watershed, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. Delaware Riverkeeper Network has its main office in Bristol, PA and can be found on the web at www.delawareriverkeeper.org. van Rossum’s blog can be found at http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/blog/ – they have a Water Watch hotline and well, in an era of David vs. Goliath, they give “David” an edge.

Maya was an incredible addition  to last night, and I will get to that later. (she is FIERCE!)

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We did have one of the three supervisors in attendance last evening, which I found heartening.

East Whiteland also sent a solicitor to represent at the zoning meeting on Bishop Tube.

Here are some notes taken on the fly – so feel free to add to them or correct:

  • Board of Supervisors responded last evening via attorney to concerns. Township is closely monitoring remediation, impact of remediation, standards and monitoring of remediation etc etc.
  • Township wants safer environment. Township right now in opposition of variance according to lawyer unless certain conditions met with Township.
  • DEP has approved conditions*  BUT township reviewing. BOS is reviewing with EAC and then they will decide whether to object to variance request.
  • March 15 special meeting being asked for by Zoning. The meeting (hearing) was ultimately continued to March 15, 2017 at 7:15 PM  
  • * “Conditions” referred to above Developer expert is talking about conditions discussed with DEP- didn’t catch all – witness for developer was speed speaking:
    ~ Establish a separate environmental escrow associated with development $20 k
    ~ Non refundable deposit to future HOA
    ~ Applicant will remediate 3 major hotspots in accordance with scope of work submitted to DEP – digging out soil as per Act 2. But it isn’t Act 2
    ~No disturbance in 3 soil hot spots until remediation complete (New construction?)
    ~ Applicant will install vapor mitigation systems. Most stringent available designed by engineer. Review said systems, maintain?
    ~ Developer would obtain stormwater permit – county/state – did not catch acronym
    ~developer will provide access to DEP etc
    ~ utilities will be developed to prohibit vapor migration/ groundwater migration
    ~environmental covenant
    ~ developer will comply with local zoning
    ~ developer will document remediation
    ~ until 3 hot spots remediated no construction of residential units.
    ~ developer would submit demolition plans to township and DEP

(NOTE: very abridged version of above – expert was speaking so very quickly and I don’t take dictation professionally so I did my best – I know I missed one of the conditions – feel free to add or clarify in comments.  It would be helpful if media had covered meeting, but I did not see any media there at all.)

  • Something about collecting storm water and capture and release to stream? Not sure if I heard that right . ZHB has concerns about retaining wall and safety- 20+ storm water “systems” – all release to stream. What environmental impact does that have considering existing toxicity of site? How is water cleaned? Whose job will it be to stay on top of that?
  • Final stormwater discharge into / near emergency access so does that mean General Warren gets water?
  • GWV residents are pointing out a shallow stream expected to take developer’s stormwater. Is GWV in part going to be part of stormwater management plan? They say no construction vehicles on village way (developer)?
  • Maya (Delaware Riverkeeper) asking about volume reduction and other things relating to creeks. Asking about correspondence on sampling between developer and DEP. Asking about TCE staying in place?
  • Residents questioning stormwater retention basin(s) and retaining wall.
  • More questions on stormwater runoff into stream and does stream have capacity to handle it?
  • Vapor intrusion being discussed by older gentleman- potential cancer cluster – people with cancer in General Warren Village? (couldn’t hear all of it clearly)
  • ZHB kept quizzing on removing top soil, Remediation , etc
  • Elevation from General Warren Village to retention walls eye level according to developer witness? Residents asking what they would see from Village Way? Someone from General Warren remarked about being able to see from “bathroom windows”
  • Maya the Delaware Riverkeeper talked about the planting of trees and trees they were removing – good point as developers tend to remove and replace NOT with the same size plantings.  And they spoke of riparian buffers, but not what they consisted of or if they would be substantial.
  • Keith Hartman who worked at Bishop Tube is asking questions. He is extremely knowledgeable about site. He spoke about how they used to “dispose” of the toxic chemicals in one part of site in the old days (sounded like they just dumped stuff kind of wherever?)
  • Mr Hartman pointing out toxic hotspots – see dark grey areas – and asking about mineral salts.16997882_1656917767655212_7768959074626449609_n

 

 

  • Mr. Hartman asking about sampling near old parking lots that were near spill. Not sure but it might have been that 1981 incident?

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  • A gentleman (I guess investigator?) from PA DEP   visited Mr. Hartman recently – Marinelli or Martinelli? (Not sure but found a Martinelli listed HERE.)

16996122_1656917777655211_6973859171944418389_nHere are  articles where Mr. Hartman was in the paper – he knows the site SO well:

For Bishop Tube workers, danger lurked for decades

 By Anne Pickering Daily Local

 

Bishop Tube site possibly up for development

POSTED: 07/26/15, 6:47 PM EDT

“Don’t let them blow smoke up your tailpipe,” said Keith Hartman, “those mineral salts must be cleaned up.”

Hartman worked for Bishop Tube when the plant was still in operation. He, like many neighbors who attended the meeting, are concerned of possible health risks to potential residents if the site is not cleaned up properly.

 

In January there was a follow up article in Daily Local about Bishop Tube:

Plans to develop contaminated East Whiteland site resubmitted

POSTED: 01/25/17, 2:09 PM EST

…..When asked what kind of remediation the site needs to undergo before construction can begin, Virginia Cain, a DEP spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the former tubing plant will need soil and groundwater remediation in accordance with cleanup standards set forth in Act 2.

Act 2, also known as the Land Recycling Program encourages “the voluntary cleanup and reuse of contaminated commercial and industrial sites,” according to the DEP.

Cain wrote that the standards in Act 2 can include both statewide health standards and site-specific standards.

When asked if the site is considered a “Superfund” site, Cain wrote that “Superfund” sites refer to a federal program, but that the Bishop Tube site “is currently on the Pennsylvania Priority List and under the authority of the DEP’s HSCA (Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act) program, which is similar to the federal Superfund program.”

17022164_1656917744321881_1116283631204593680_nNow one of the most interesting parts of the meeting occurred between Maya The Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the developer witnesses (some sort of engineer I thought).  It was at the end of the meeting before they called it to continue March 15th.

I was taking notes like crazy and this one exchange was so interesting – I did my best to be accurate but again I do not take dictation and I am not a court reporter, although there was one there:

Maya: “I would have you speak to what in fact what is left for DEP to to review and decide upon and what process is still left?

Two – There also seems to be this suggestion that anytime additional contaminants are found that they are going to be cleaned up, and so this site is going to be cleaned up…and so  I would like you to speak to this issue of whether or not in fact when you are done at this site that all of the TCE and toxic contaminants will be removed, so people don’t have to be concerned about it, or in fact is that not true and you have specifically and carefully with all your  communications with DEP actually limited the scope of your remediation including not going to uhhh saturated soils for example, 12 feet below ground surface, etc?”

 

Witness for developer: “That’s absolutely correct.”

 

Maya cuts back in “You are not? You are limiting, you are capping how much work you will do and you will intentionally leave contaminants on the site and people need to know that.”

 

Witness “That is correct.  Allow me to explain in a way that is no way nefarious…”

 

He (witness)  goes on to explain liability and  an old consent order (??is that right???)  with DEP and state version of hazardous clean up – PRPs – potentially responsible parties.  He goes on into known contamination beyond the scope of their legal responsibility – about how they will clean up so much and then it seems it will be up to DEP to enforce clean up by PRP potentially responsible parties that I guess are former manufacturing occupiers of site?

 

Witness acknowledges issues, discusses how developer will be doing more beyond satisfying their part of old (?) consent order (?) and will excavate three known soil contamination issues of the site above water table, excavate, clean up according to most stringent PA standard, residential statewide heath standard…acknowledges caused contamination of groundwater on site that migrates off site, affects tributaries of Little Valley Creek.  They believe their  soil excavations will have a beneficial effect towards clean up.

 

I do not think enough monies being set aside by developer to pay for experts East Whiteland may need to hire are much because experts are expensive – environmental lawyers and environmental engineers. Monies quoted could disappear quite quickly – those experts bill expensively, right? And what about any monies for future HOA? How does East Whiteland know if THAT is sufficient?

Other questions that  I have include the fire department – as the plans are currently drawn up are there any indications from East Whiteland Fire Department about cartways and whatever you call them? Will all fire apparatus be able to navigate site?  I feel that this  is VERY important – it is not just abut emergency access from General Warren, but will ALL of their apparatus safely navigate the plans as currently available? Those big rigs need room!

A related aside – here are the LLCs on the developer side:

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As I said previously, O’Neill knows how to do brownfield developments, but what about Benson Companies? I can only find Benson on Houzzz, no current website.  No mention of Bishop Tube on O’Neill’s website so that is somewhat concerning and want to know why? Two words: Linden Hall. Remember when Benson was thought to have been the savior of old Linden Hall? If they received their approvals for townhouses at Linden Hall, how they were going to restore Linden Hall itself as a new office for them? What did we see instead?  Wasn’t it selling approved plans to Pulte and no rehabilitation thus far only minimum maintenance?

And then there is the issue brewing in Tredyffrin Pattye Benson alerted everyone to. Historic Howelleville being their location for yet a total community destroying cram plan? And what of how Radnor residents feel about Benson?  I have to ask can Benson actually be trusted here? Or will residents go through all the heartache and meetings to have these plans sold off to someone else?

I do not recall last evening that the developer’s attorney got into the whys of it all concerning WHY the developer is seeking zoning variances, so will it be the battle cry of “economic hardship”? Or, they can’t build without a variance which would increase density in an already dense plan? And why is any developer’s potential economic hardship a burden a community getting a plan inflicted upon them not by their desire in the first place?

This site is going to be developed, I am not arguing that.  I have never argued that.  But it is a very toxic site because of the TCE and whatever else was left behind and is lodged in the land, the aquifer. How the site gets developed has always concerned me and I ask again, is this the best use for the property?

What of impact on the school district?  How are a few more hundred to potentially few thousand kids from this plan combined with Atwater and any other development large or small going to affect the school district? Has the school district weighed in on this?

Traffic lights proposed?  Who is paying for that if variance is waived? The previous zoning is in place to help preserve open space or farms or industrial from being over developed.

And what kinds of complementary businesses will be added to the surrounding area to support these new homes? Will that zoning need to be changed too?  What is it costing East Whiteland residents in legal fees for all of this now (let alone the future)? Will this plan be one that is truly economically viable for East Whiteland or become another millstone around East Whiteland’s proverbial neck?

Why always townhouses instead of single family homes?  Lighting and noise? How will this development affect General Warren Village with regard to those issues?

I do believe that the Zoning Hearing Board is weighing this all carefully, but I would say that residents MUST keep up the pressure.  Packing the boardroom last evening was a great start.  But there is a while to go.

I have done my best to relay my meeting notes accurately.  Others may add to them.  Of course it would be helpful if the media took an interest. And it would be helpful to hear what development happy Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission thinks? Does he have an opinion?  He was around serving in Lower Merion when ROHO and O’Neill’s now defunct Rock Hill Road project came about, so realistically he knows a similarly dense plan THERE was horribly unpopular as was the B.S. developer driven zoning overlay that allowed it, doesn’t he?

And what of the PA DEP? Don’t they have an obligation to make the PRP (Potentially Responsible Parties) freaking clean up the Bishop Tube site???  After all the developer will not be responsible for all that should be done so why when discussion of clean up started here so long ago, it has never happened? Remember that Law360 article from 2014 in addition? Or the memorandum from the case that was in Federal Court over this site most recently? How is it a Federal judge did not get the gravity of Bishop Tube?

There you have it in conclusion – the worst part about Bishop Tube is the longer this goes on the more we have to ask ourselves how we got here and what exactly is the PA DEP going to do about it, let alone the EPA on a Federal Level?  Or what about state elected officials? Duane Milne and Andy Dinniman? Duane Milne was all Mr. Press Release in 2007 but what has he done for anyone lately?

Where is Erin Brocovitch and Tom Girardi when you need him? Call me crazy but I think General Warren Village and neighboring Malvern Borough residents deserve the best thing possible with regard to this plan, don’t you?

Sigh…to be continued….feel free to leave comments anyone who was in that packed room last night.

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bishop tube and o’neill in front of east whiteland zoning monday february 27, 2017

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It is once again, Bishop Tube season in East Whiteland. I last wrote about Bishop Tube this past January ( see toxic nightmare site bishop tube goes back to zoning…).

Well Bishop Tube was at Planning already this week, O’Neill is also speaking at an East Whiteland Business Networking event this evening – “Guest Speaker Brian O’Neill will provide insight on development in the East Whiteland area.”

Bishop Tube was postponed until February 27 Zoning, and somehow I doubt many residents impacted by Bishop Tube will be at the networking event this evening, but if I lived in General Warren Village I would go (but I digress).

 

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Above is the legal notice for Bishop Tube in front of East Whiteland Zoning.  I will note there is NOTHING posted on East Whiteland’s website about this February 27th meeting yet…but hey why stay on top of sunshine on a sunny day, right?

Anyway, I am supportive of the folks in General Warren Village, and even the Malvern Borough residents who will be directly impacted by this plan, so I am posting the following information written by a resident over there:

 

On Monday, February 27 at 7:15 there will be a township meeting to discuss the Bishop Tube Site project. Here is a brief overview from what we have learned so far.

20337938589_16f0f784fc_oBishop Tube is the old manufacturing facility that is located at the end of Village Way and is accessed by Malin Rd and route 30, near the Giant Shopping Center. O’Neill Properties, who own this property now, wants to develop the site to include 228 town homes. They would be in rows of 3 to 7 in length and they are asking for a variance from the township for the rows that are greater than 6. In addition, they are asking for variances to change the natural slope in the land. This would be to excavate the area and provide an area for the new housing to be built. In order for the sloping to work they would need to add a retaining wall around the east side of the property, along the creek. The highest point of the retaining wall would be 18 feet. At the meeting, we couldn’t tell from the drawing how this would look or impact the residents on that side of the Village.

Within the property there are three areas where the previous owners reported the release of Trichloroethylene (TCE), which is a chlorinated solvent and is used commercially as an industrial degreaser. These areas would be cleaned up by soil excavation and would then become green areas. They discussed removing 6,700 cubic yards from the site as part of this cleanup effort. They also noted that the remedy for cleanup would be selected by DEP in 2017.

Another area of concern for Village residents is that they want to add emergency vehicle access from Village Way through to the new neighborhood. They are saying this would be needed because of the number of homes in the new development and because if there was a train derailment on the Malin Rd side, emergency vehicles would have to use Village Way to access this new neighborhood.

Please come to the meeting on Monday. Your presence will help us show a concern for our neighborhood and hopefully help the township make the right decision.
Here are some of the questions that we have so far…
Once that dirt is being excavated what is the impact to the air quality and ground water?

Will there be any additional ground testing to determine if other areas of the property have been impacted by contamination of TCE or other products?

What are the overall impacts to living in proximity to this cleanup effort?

How will the retaining walls look from our community?

Are we guaranteed that their will only be emergency access from Village Way?

 

So I wonder, are Benson Companies still doing the building? They are in spotlight in Chester County again, and not in a positive way for their planned development in Howellville in Tredyffrin aren’t they?   I also wonder why so many units have to be shoved into/onto a toxic site? What about the potential issues down the road? Building slab on grade with no basements doesn’t necessarily mean any leftover chemicals that escape clean up will be encapsulated, right?  And where are the DEP and EPA on this clean-up? Or is this all just going to disappear considering the new administration in Washington DC doesn’t seem to place much value on things that concern every day people?

Density. How much do we need? Do we live in Chester County so we can feel like we live in King of Prussia, Bensalem, and development ridden Mongtomery County up the 422 corridor???

None of this development is ever done with consideration to existing residents who pay taxes in an area.  None of this development is ever done with keeping all the OTHER plans in a municipality and neighboring municipalities in mind.  All of these developments show up on flat, out of context plans on a monitor at a zoning or planning meeting as if the are some sort of Valhalla complete with Elysian Fields.

Bishop Tube is no joke.  It’s literally a deadly toxic site.  So before they approve HUNDREDS of living units with variances that a lot of residents feel will further squeeze a getting over-developed township AND a school district and not for the positive, how about someone show folks that the place is cleaned up? Or publicly state (including to the media) exactly where the clean up is?

Yes, O’Neill has redeveloped many brownfields, built many units.  But should we forget Riverwalk Millennium in Conshohocken?  The multi-million dollar settlement to residents who lost everything and pets in that fire? Should we forget the battle in Massachusetts to keep him out of the Alewife forest? Sadly, in the end residents and nature lost that.  The silver maple forest was lost when approvals were given for the  Residences at Acorn Park, a $70 million, 299-unit apartment complex in the Belmont Uplands, which residents there did not want, did they? Or any of the developments in Lower Merion (Barker’s Mill and Rock Hill Road), a lot of which took years off the lives of residents attending meeting after meeting and what of the ones that never happened but stressed residents out?

And what about Portsmouth/Newport Rhode Island? Take a look at this:

Hard times for Carnegie Tower: Recession, soft market leaves luxury highrise in Portsmouth mostly empty

By Christine Dunn
 Providence Journal Staff Writer Posted Jul 24, 2015 at 7:31 PM

PORTSMOUTH — With their designer kitchens and baths, private elevators and balconies with soaring views of
Narragansett Bay, the luxury condominiums at the Carnegie Tower have undeniable glamour.

 But the 22-story tower, which opened in the summer of 2009, turned out to be a losing prospect for developer J. Brian O’Neill.
newport
The 79-unit tower opened when the housing market was in freefall, and in 2012, 77 of the condos remained unsold….Within a few months after the opening, several prospective buyers sued to get their deposits back. And in 2012, O’Neill had to refinance to avoid a planned tax sale of 77 tower condos by paying the Town of Portsmouth more than $2 million in back taxes.
The final blow came in January, when the Pennsylvania-based builder turned over an estimated 68 of the condos to his creditors in a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure transaction.

 

Ok so look at that tower? Remind you of anything else? Perched on 202 at 29 in East Whiteland  perhaps? Royal Worthington? Everything looks the same no matter where it is.  Myabe if I was a Stepford wife I would be more appreciative, but I am not.

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But what is more concerning is the occupancy as in truly how many live there and in other surrounding developments.  I also do not believe Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough is filled to capacity and what about that tower like thing on route 3 near Matlack? The Pointe or whatever? Any of the townhouse developments around? Atwater?

Pick a development. Pick a developer. There are so many, and that is kind of the point.  Is there a real need or an artificially created need? Look at an O’Neill development proposed for Haddonfield, NJ? Residential, mixed use, and a drug rehab? Look at the density of that plan. It’s not just here – at it’s most watered down, developers all have a formula for profit, they just keep applying the same formulas everywhere they go.  Toll Brothers is another example.  Pulte. Ryan. Benson. And so on and so forth

This is how the vision of completed Worthington goes.  Does this look like the Chester County you want to see? It looks like the King of Prussia mall!

This is how the vision of completed Worthington goes. Does this look like the Chester County you want to see? It looks like the King of Prussia mall!

All of these living units add people to our roads. They add kids to the school district.  And no one ever talks about how that affects residents…until it is too late and communities are faced with a crisis.

I have no problem with developments that are thoughtfully planned with an existing community in mind.  Only you RARELY see that.

Bishop Tube is a scary hot mess. And obviously there are still issues keeping the site secure because I just found a 2017 You Tube video about Bishop Tube. I never trespassed when I photographed. I shot from the street only.

 

 

The people who need to pack the room on Monday, February 27 are the ones with legal standing as this is a zoning matter.  So that is at it’s most specific,  General Warren Village residents, and on the border Malvern Borough residents.  But I also encourage anyone who can, to go out and support these residents. That is the best thing a community can do when not all have standing.  Packed board rooms send a message.

Stand up for your communities.  If you don’t you will always get the short end of the development stick.  Bishop Tube needs to be cleaned up before development occurs.  It also needs less density.

Here is the January notice:

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow. Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well?

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow.
Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well?

Look, O’Neill to an extent is a visionary…and a gambler. But I think to succeed where he has succeeded you can’t have one with out the other. And yes, he has been extraordinarily generous with East Whiteland’s fire company, but why is it no one in East Whiteland (much like Tredyffrin and elsewhere in Chester County) can seem to hit a pause button on development or to actually fight for residents so that development is not so painful?  Because residents are the ones who pay the piper after the first blush of ratables is concerned.  Residents deal with the traffic, infrastructure issues, basic services and first responder (police/fire/EMT) issues, overcrowding in schools.

There are so many developers, so many plans. But we live here too.  And it is time for municipalities to hear us.  Here is hoping residents totally pack the zoning hearing board on Monday February 27 at 7:15 PM at East Whiteland Township.  And I hope the residents of General Warren Village represent.

The bottom line is something is going to get built on Bishop Tube. It’s a gross, toxic eyesore.  But what gets built, how the remediation goes, and so on still has to do with how the community feels.  If residents do not turn out, they will lose one of the few opportunities they have left to have a say.

My opinion is O’Neill can do this if he wanted do it with less density. Or he could offer another use for the property that wouldn’t impact residents so horribly.  But people have to turn up and speak out. Because look at it this way: if this plan gets approved and sold to yet another developer, the community needs to lock in the plans to the best that the community can get and stomach.  And most importantly to ensure the remediation is done the best it can be, right?

 

will village of howellville get squeezed by development in tredyffrin?

Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

Pattye Benson Community Matters Photo

The Village of Howellville is one of Tredyffrin’s earliest villages. So historic and it was easily accessible by the farms of the Great Valley.  According to Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society it started with a tavern around 1712:

Howellville, one of Tredyffrin’s earliest villages, grew in an area convenient to the farms of the Great Valley. A tavern was often the start of a town, and the first one here was built about 1712. By the early 1700s, sawmills and gristmills had appeared. Nearest to the center of town was the sawmill on Crabby Creek. Several of the early farms had their own limestone kilns. The first school opened about 1720. A factory of some kind belonging to the Workizer family is listed on the 1798 Direct Tax. [Note 1] By the late 18th century, a shoemaker and a wheelwright had set up shop.

More industry developed in the 19th century, including a woolen mill owned by Samuel Wood. There was at least one blacksmith. By the middle of the century there was a store and the Chester Valley Railroad, and by the late 1800s Howellville was a thriving industrial town. The limestone quarries became big business and Italian immigrants arrived to work at them. Other nationalities followed, but were never as numerous or as prosperous as the Italians.

By the early part of the 20th century, Howellville had become a close-knit community-a bit naughty, with lots of drinking and gambling. Then came the Depression which dealt rather harshly with the village. Having lost their jobs, and with no place to go, the quarry workers lived hand-to-mouth. In 1934 Frances Ligget, later a member of the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club, marshalled the help of the Valley Forge Farm and Garden Club to clean up the town and help the unemployed workers and their families. Free seeds were given for gardens. The state provided medical assistance as well as sewing, knitting, and cooking classes, and a nursery school. Weaving was taught by Lettie Esherick, wife of the artist Wharton Esherick.

In 1681 land in the center of Tredyffrin Township that would eventually become most of Howellville belonged to William Mordaunt and John Hort Each owned 500 acres. They were Welsh Tract brokers-they bought the land from William Penn but never lived on it. In 1711 Mordaunt’s sons sold their 500 acres to John Evans, who had previously been Governor of Pennsylvania. Just to the east lay 1340 acres that David Meredith sold to William Powell in 1706. They were also Welsh Tract brokers.

Llewellyn David, a Welshman and one of the early settlers, bought 300 acres in 1708. The name David (later changed to Davis) was the biggest name in Howellville for the next two centuries.

The area sat at the bottom of a natural bowl where three hilly roads met to form a triangle. Swedesford Road, forming the north side of the triangle, came into existence about 1720, very early in the settlement of the Great Chester Valley. It led from the vicinity of Randall Malin’s house in East Whiteland to the Swede’s Ford at the Schuylkill River, near present day Norristown, and gave settlers in the interior access to Philadelphia.

Bear Hill Road, which formed the southeast side of the triangle, connected the Valley with the Black Bear Tavern at the top of the South Valley Hill near the Lancaster Road and today’s village of Paoli.

The southwest side of the triangle was Howellville Road, until a traffic light was installed at the corner about 1960. Then it became part of Swedesford Road and the north side of the triangle was made one-way. It was this way until most of Howellville’s buildings were torn down and Route 202 was completed and dedicated in 1971.

The triangle at the bottom of these roads was a convenient place for horses and wagons to stop and rest, and in 1745 a license was granted to establish the first tavern. When David Howell settled in the area and became the second innkeeper of the tavern, about 1765, it was called Howell’s Tavern. The village that grew up around it became Howellville. When the old inn was razed in 1921, the only house in the triangle was the little house described by Henry Darling later in this article.

The triangle disappeared in 1967 when Route 252 was widened and Route 202 was built.

READ THE ENTIRE HISTORY HERE

The history of Howellville is fascinating and rich.  Most people just think of Howellville Road today…not that it was a historically important crossroads village. It is an integral part of the history of Tredyffrin and was discussed in Tredyffrin’s 2009 Historic Preservation Plan.

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Last time I was on Howellville Road was in the fall  when I was noodling around and found myself on that road.  It has long fascinated me and I lament the loss of one crossroads village after the other as time progresses.

villa-straffordToday I just finished reading a blog post by my friend Pattye Benson about a proposed development there. Oh and the developer is a name familiar to East Whiteland and Radnor 6602889_0_jrbnqjresidents: Benson Companies. Or you know, the townhouses without real trees crammed in at 115 Strafford Ave in Wayne and the eqully unctious cram plan that finally got approved at 124 Bloomingdale Ave in Radnor. And for East Whiteland? Linden Hall. You know the developer that said they would restore historic Linden Hall if they got approved for townhouses, only they haven’t done anything other than sell approved 124-bloomingdaletownhouse plan  to Pulte who built the townhouses with a view of the cigar store, Route 30 and the still rotting Linden Hall? But is that all on Benson? What about the teaming up with O’Neill at super toxic Bishop Tube?  And do not forget Kimberton Meadows, right?27685291670_2d629ed33d_o

Anyway….Benson is once again the proposed townhouse gift that keeps on giving:

Community Matters: How many townhouses and assisted living communities does Tredyffrin Township need (or want)? Can the T/E School District accommodate the increase in student population?

You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site.  The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.

Some argued at the time that the zoning change to permit senior living in C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project and others questioned what this would mean for future C-1 development in Tredyffrin Township. In 2015, the township expanded the C-1 District zoning to also include townhouses as a by-right use.

During the last few years, developers have flocked to the township with their assisted living and townhouse, apartment and condominium plans. Assisted living projects currently under construction or in the review process include Erickson Living at Atwater Crossing in Malvern (250 beds) and Brightview Senior Living on E. Conestoga in Devon (196 beds).

On the townhouse-apartment side in the township, there are many projects in the planning stages or under construction….Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed.  Top ranking school district, T/E brings an influx of people to the area which means an influx of students, and the growing problem of finding a place to put them….. a new proposed land development plan in the works that is extremely troubling – townhouses on Howellville Road. The proposal is to wedge a cluster of 20 townhouses, in four buildings, between the village of Howellville and the shadow of the Refuge Pentecostal Church.

howellville-road-townhome-plans

….The proposed land development plan on Howellville Road is not compatible with the character and appearance of the area.  Beyond the impact of traffic on Howellville Road, the proposed development plan creates serious safety concerns.  The steep narrow winding nature of Howellville Road makes entry and exit from the proposed dense townhouse project a dangerous situation.

Benson Company’s proposed townhouse project on Howellville Road will change the look and character of this community as well as place a greater burden on the narrow, winding road – and again more students for the school district!

John Benson of Benson Company has enthusiastically offered that his proposed Howellville Road townhouses will look like his Grey’s Lane townhouses on Lancaster Ave.  A couple of things – (1) Grey’s Lane is on Rt. 30, a commercial 4-lane road vs. Howellville Road, a rural country road and (2) he squeezed 12 townhouses in at Grey’s Lane in 3 buildings where as this proposal is for 4 buildings with 20 townhouses….Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed. Between the assisted living communities and the townhouses and apartments, should the objective in Tredyffrin Township be to approve any and all land development projects regardless of the impact?

How awful this sounds and allow me to share two screen shots – one is Pattye’s photo of where the proposed townhouses will be stuffed in and perched like Jabba The Hut and all his children, and a rendering of the “Greys Lane” townhomes…another cram plan, and cheap looking to boot.

And from an aesthetic point of view, every time I see a staged interior of a “fabulous” Benson new construction piece of new construction dreck I am struck with the fact that every interior looks the same. If you want Barbie’s dream house, you are pretty much there. No character, predictable, mass produced, plastic.

Photo by Pattye Benson Community Matters

Photo by Pattye Benson Community Matters

25 Greys Lane, Berwyn, PA:

7db6d1b352d8413-6924697

YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Residents of Tredyffrin are soooo right!!  How much of this does any one township want or need? And much like neighboring East Whiteland it seems like people are hell bent on developing every square inch of the township! Who needs King of Prussia? Soon Tredyffrin and East Whiteland will definitely resemble King of Prussia meets Bensalem.

Oh yes, one more thing? Tredyffrin residents need to get to the Planning Commission TOMORROW February 16th when this next great godforsaken plan makes it’s debut along with “Westlakes Hotel” and “Chestnut Road Apartments”.

Again I ask where the hell the Chester County Planning Commission and Brian O’Leary are? Lord above, Chester County is drowning, yes drowning in development plans.

tredyffrin

toxic nightmare site bishop tube goes back to zoning…

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow. Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well?

This photo was taken in 2010, long before I lived in Chester County. It was taken by d.coleman in June of 2010. I found it on Flickr. This is a screen shot of photo with attribution and description as found in yellow.  Photographers have been photographing Bishop Tube for years and I hear that high school kids find their way onto the site as well? I will note I have only ever taken photos from OUTSIDE the chain link fence.

Bishop Tube is a toxic site. It has been through remediation to a point, but I can’t find anything for 2015 in as far as a public accounting of where the clean-up is. Now maybe an update exists, but is it posted publicly anywhere that is easily accessible?  I am including a letter from Chester County Planning Commission from 2014 I do not think I shared before ( chester-county-planning-on-bishop-tube-march-2014 ).

Something that jumped out at me from said letter:

RECOMMENDATION:    While  the  County  Planning  Commission  supports  single-family  attached and multi-family residential development in the Suburban Landscape where infrastructure capacity can support such development, along with the implementation of adaptive reuse and infill strategies to redevelop abandoned industrial brownfield sites for moderate to high density multi- family housing designation, it does not appear that this location can support the density being proposed due to its existing physical and environmental characteristics.  Additionally, the amendment petition does not appear to be consistent with the Township’s Comprehensive Plan and its vision for Community Mixed Use.  The Commission recommends that East Whiteland Township deny the applicant’s zoning ordinance and zoning map amendment petition.

 

So that was 2014.  We are now in 2017.  East Whiteland has had Bishop Tube as a guest star topic at many meetings since then.  So truthfully, I don’t know which iteration of Constitution Drive Partners LP anyone is looking at.  Constitution Drive Partners = Brian O’Neill, remember?

Well, this plan is up in front of East Whiteland Zoning NEXT week January 23:

bishop-tube-zoningHERE in case you can’t see all of the fine print:

LEGAL NOTICES

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the East Whiteland Township Zoning Hearing Board conduct a continued public hearing at 7:15 p.m. on Monday, January 23, 2017, at the East Whiteland Township Municipal Building, 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, Pennsylvania, to consider Appeal No. 2016-24 Application of Constitution Drive Partners, L.P. and 9 Malin Road Development, LLC (collectively, “Applicant”) for a variance from Section 200-57.C.(6) of the East Whiteland Township Zoning Ordinance to permit single-family attached dwellings and townhouses in rows of more than six units, with associated driveways and grading to be located in both steep slope and very steep slope areas of the property formerly the site of the Bishop Tube complex (which is currently a brownfield site improved with dilapidated industrial buildings), located at 9 South Malin Road, 10 South Malin Road, and 1 South Malin Road (Tax Parcels 42-4-321, 42-4-321.1 and 42-4-321.2) (collectively, “Property”). The Property is located in an RRD (Residential Revitalization District) Zoning District. The public hearing was opened at the Zoning Hearing Board’s November 28, 2016 meeting. The Applicant has subsequently amended its Application to request a variance from Section 200-93.B of the Zoning Ordinance to permit the proposed retaining walls to exceed the permitted six (6) feet in height. On the above date, the Zoning Hearing Board will continue the public hearing and may render a decision on Appeal No. 2016-24. Anyone with a disability requiring a special accommodation to attend should notify Joseph T. Leis, Zoning Officer, at 610-648-0600 x 268. The Township will make every effort to provide a reasonable accommodation. Riley Riper Hollin & Colagreco Attorney for Constitution Drive Partners, L.P. DL-Jan 10, 16-1a

Steep slope and very steep slope.Still the key here. They want to increase site density if they want relief from steep and very steep slopes, right? How many hundred units do they want?  Last count was what, 264? And before that over 300?

Bishop Tube is what they call in crass terms a potential flipper baby site still, correct? Will super high amounts of residential density built on slabs with no basements solve all problems? Or is another use better for the site?

Forget about the problems with the site in the DEP and EPA categories and let us talk traffic, infrastructure, schools, basic township services.  Why does East Whiteland want to be King of Prussia or Bensalem? Is that what the majority of the residents want? Or do residents actually want thought and carefully planned growth versus one construction explosion after another?

How many 1000s of living units are planned, approved, or are in various stages of approval in East Whiteland at this point? That also affects neighboring municipalities and anyone in the Great Valley School District.

And do not forget this interesting developer O’Neill article from December:

Former O’Neill site on Rock Hill Road goes up for sale; was to be part of area’s transformation

Former O’Neill site for sale; was to be part of ‘gateway’ to Lower Merion By Richard Ilgenfritz rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Dec 2, 2016

Bala Cynwyd>> A long awaited building project that was supposed to be part of the transformation of an old rock quarry along Rock Hill Road in Bala Cynwyd has officially gone back on the market. Except for a groundbreaking and some preliminary work a couple of years ago, the approved project never moved forward.

 

The site was to become a mixed-use development proposed by Brian O’Neill, owner of O’Neill Properties.

Monday, Kevin Flynn Sr. of The Flynn Company confirmed that his company has the property at 131 Rock Hill Road up for sale.

According to Flynn, the 8.2-acre site was approved for four buildings of four-stories each with parking decks underneath. There would also be a surface lot and numerous other amenities.

 

O’Neill owned the site since 2004, when it was purchased for $3.5 million, according to online Montgomery County records. In 2014, the site was sold to an LLC called Alexander Street, for $11.122 million as the preliminary work was being done. They were to be the financing arm of the project.

 

Another site across the street on Rock Hill Road had also been owned by O’Neill and had been sold in 2010.

 

It’s not clear why O’Neill is apparently divesting himself in his holdings in that area. Calls to the company this week were not returned.

In Lower Merion Township people went through YEARS of awful meetings over steep slopes and a developer driven zoning overlay known as ROHO.  Has anyone asked Brian O’Leary of the Chester County Planning Commission about this as he would be very familiar with this plan given his time on Lower Merion Township’s Planning Commission?

I can’t see Bishop Tube from my window.  But if I could I sure as heck would turn up at this meeting.  Or if I lived at the edge of Malvern Borough where traffic here would become an issue. If I was a neighbor or affected by Bishop Tube, I would see that board room was packed.

Here are some of the old articles on Bishop Tube:

thoughts on the future of development and chester county

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Random thought I had today…

There are so many people upset by pending development on properties including but not limited to Earles Lake (Newtown Twp Delaware County)  Crebilly (Westtown Township, Chester County), Woodlawn (Concord Twp Delaware County), and Don Guanella (Marple Twp. Delaware County). I applaud those amazing residents fighting the good fight in their respective communities!

But ask anyone in land protection about just how hard it is to turn things around once land is under agreement of sale with a developer. There is very little the township or land trust or individuals, or groups, or anyone can do at that point.

But…. if residents could take some of that good energy and fight to protect vulnerable parcels that are NOT yet under agreement of sale, then they might just make some progress and have a chance to save community open space, arable farmland, and viewsheds.

And as you ponder, please think outside the box when investigating property that’s vulnerable.

For example I am told, and many people are shocked to learn, that places like Tyler Arboretum (650 acres) and Newlin Grist Mill are not actually completely protected land and all or pieces of those properties could be sold if their boards decided they wanted to. (Or if they were desperate for money.)

This is often the challenge for public gardens and arboreta…An example would be a conservation easement  that was put on on the Schuylkill Center a few years ago, and if memory serves it took forever to negotiate but that board was concerned with their own history of selling off chunks of the property over the years when times were lean.

What got me to thinking about this is the upcoming Crebilly Planning Commission Meeting where Toll is presenting. Westtown Township Planning Commission that has been scheduled this first  public meeting with Toll Brothers is reportedly Wednesday, November 16th at 6:30 PM and will be held at Stetson Middle School. (It is not on the Westtown website yet so I do not know if it is set in stone or not.)

I received the following from concerned Chester County resident Mindy Rhodes the following:

It is imperative that the community attend this meeting. It is imperative that you speak at this meeting. Your testimonies need to be on record. It doesn’t matter what township you are from- please show up!

In this meeting, Toll will present their plans and there will be much time for public comments. I have not seen the plans, but my understanding is this:

Toll has submitted 3 different plans:


1) Code Compliant Plan (approx. 320 units)
2) Single Waiver Plan (approx. 320 units) *Toll is requesting a waiver for the standard 60′ requirement in between buildings to 30′ instead
3) Maximum Bonus Density (approx. 400 units) *Toll will need to make their case to the Township to justify this by means of ‘improvements’


Other details:
*Development will be closer to the center of Crebilly leaving ‘open space’ around the exterior
*1 access will be on 202 south of Westminster Church
*2 access roads on West Pleasant Grove Road to align with Dunvegan and Hidden Pond Way
*1 access on 926 near Bridalwood
*No plans to access South New Street

 

This is how far we are.  And Westtown will be limited on what they can do.  Why? Because at the end of the day, municipalities are indeed limited by the Commonwealth’s bible that defines planning and zoning – The MPC or Municipalities Planning Code of Pennsylvania.

I have been saying it for years: quite simply put the MPC needs an overhaul. We need to re-define suburbs and exurbs. We need to better define and set up protections for historic preservation and land preservation, and so much more. We need to stop the death march of development across Chester County and Pennsylvania.

People have been contacting state and federally elected officials about plans like what we are about to see formerly unfold for Crebilly. Those officials like to say “we are so sorry, we can’t get involved in local issues.”

The hell they can’t.  Maybe they can’t change zoning, but they sure as hell can use their political stature to bring opposing sides to the table to perhaps explore other ideas.  That is part of why we elect them.  And when it comes to State Representatives and State Senators, if they can’t adopt our issues as theirs, time to vote for someone else AND they are the ones who can get the Municipalities Planning Code overhauled and updated…it’s in their job description!

We have a major election day coming up one week from today.  Reach out to candidates and ask them what they have done for us lately.  Like with issues over DEVELOPMENT (or pipelines through Chester County). They all can’t be about campaign donations.

We also need to get out message out CLEARLY to the Chester County Planning Commission.  To me it would also help if the person who headed it up actually LIVED in Chester County. A pro-development leader from Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County is not appropriate because HE DOESN’T LIVE HERE. Landscapes3 needs to actually reflect US not what someone else thinks is us.

Also to be considered is better knowing our history.  I learned something new about Crebilly the other day:

historical

Look, we have to do better.  We have to figure it out together. After all, Chester County deserves better.

Thanks for stopping by.

the announcement: natural lands trust regarding saving bryn coed

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Now that it has been announced, I can say that I have known for a few years that Natural Lands Trust was working on saving Bryn Coed.  I was asked to not say anything, so into the proverbial vault it went.  But I can’t say it is untrue that developers were sniffing around Bryn Coed’s 1500+ acres can I ?  After all, it is a magical piece of land that is almost mythical, isn’t it?

Here is the official press release:

One Step Closer to Preservation of Bryn Coed Farms

Media, Pa. – Natural Lands Trust announced today a major milestone in the non-profit land conservation organization’s effort to preserve 1,505 acres in northern Chester County known as Bryn Coed Farms.

 

On September 28, 2016, Natural Lands Trust and the current property owners, the Dietrich family, executed an Agreement of Sale for the property. Natural Lands Trust now has six months to conduct due diligence, including Phase II environmental testing.

 

The fate of the property has been the subject of much speculation over the years as development pressures have increased in the region. Located primarily in West Vincent Township, Chester County, with portions also in East and West Pikeland Townships, the property is one of the largest remaining undeveloped, unprotected tracts of land in the Greater Philadelphia region. Under current zoning, nearly 700 homes could be built on the property if it is not placed under protection.

 

Natural Lands Trust has been working with the Dietrichs for more than five years to conserve the land.

 

“It is too early to celebrate, but we are optimistic that much of this iconic property can be conserved,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “It’s a complex deal with many moving parts, but Bryn Coed is certainly worth fighting to save. It’s a community and ecological treasure.”

 

If successful, the deal would result in a 400-plus-acre nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails that will be owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust. The preserve will be open to visitors, free of charge, just like other nature preserves owned by the regional conservation group—including the 112-acre Binky Lee Preserve in nearby Chester Springs. In addition, West Vincent Township is considering Natural Lands Trust’s offer to establish a 72-acre municipal park on the property.

 

The remainder of the property would be divided into large conservation properties, preserved by conservation easements, and sold to private individuals.

 

“The amount of land that can be permanently protected as a Natural Lands Trust preserve is dependent on the amount of funding we can raise. The cost of preserving the entirety of such a vast and valuable property is beyond the currently available resources. We will be seeking support from the public in the weeks and months ahead,” Morrison added.

 

In 2003, the Dietrich brothers decided to divest themselves of the property. Various conservation and development options were explored but never came to a successful conclusion.

 

In recent years, several developers have been in negotiations with the Deitrichs, including Toll Brothers, which had proposed a 254-unit development on about one-quarter of the property.

 

Much of the property is actively farmed or in pasture. There are nearly 500 acres of mature woodlands on the property that are home to a myriad of songbirds and other wildlife. Generations of residents and visitors have enjoyed the pastoral views of Bryn Coed Farms.

 

The land also contains the headwaters to Pickering Creek, and is a high priority for source water protection. Bryn Coed Farms alone constitutes 17 percent of the remaining unprotected high-priority land in the Pickering Creek watershed.

 

Persons interested in receiving more information as the Bryn Coed Farms conservation effort progresses are invited to visit www.natlands.org/bryncoed and sign up for email updates. Those interested in learning more about the conservation properties that will be available for sale should contact Brian Sundermeir, Bryn Coed project manager, at 610-353-5587, ext. 237.

 

Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 43 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. Today, some 2.5 million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.

 

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

So, this is not yet quite a done deal. There are three municipalities and a lot of due diligence and environmental testing.  From what I am reading, not all of the land will be conserved (it’s a little unclear) ,  but one can hope and no matter what this is a heck of a lot more than anyone expected.

As I understand it, The NLT-owned preserve will be a “big chunk ” of Bryn Coed.  The remainder will be large conservation lots with easements on them and trail easements as well. The size of the preserve can grow if Natural Lands Trust gets more money towards the project.

To David Robinson and his family who own Crebilly, why can’t you look at something like this? You can afford to.

Ok I just wanted to put this out there as some thought my post from the other evening was fabricated. I do my homework, and it doesn’t get much more official than the press release from Natural Lands Trust. And this is THEIR hard work and no one else’s (because I know some who will try to take credit, and well it is not theirs to take.)

BRAVO NLT!  This is why I am a member and big believer in the Natural Lands Trust, they  do not just talk the talk, they walk the walk.  (Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission could learn something here, just saying.)

I am a member of Natural Lands Trust, and proudly so.  Please consider a membership. This is me asking incidentally, not them. Go out and enjoy the glorious weekend this weekend. This surely is an awesome way to start it!

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

“stakeholder” meetings should be centrally located and convenient for “stakeholders” right?

dsc_8099A reporter asked me what happened to the link for the Chester County Planning Commission’s survey in advance of the soon to be new and glorious Landscapes3, an Exercise in Resident Futility.

Why?

Because the original link does NOT work anymore.  Great planning: they send out a link ask all their contacts to distribute within their communities and then they change it. Or make it go away. Of course I have no answer what happened to all of the answers of people who already completed the survey, do you?

So now go to this page Public Participation Opportunities , go partway down the page and see:

Topical Surveys

Developed to gather stakeholder opinions on specific topical areas, these surveys are also being made available to the public. Targeted to representatives of organizations active in the topical areas, interested individuals are welcome to complete these surveys as they become available.

  • Preservation

  • Agriculture

  • Housing

  • Utilities and Infrastructure (available October 26)

  • Transportation (available November 2)

  • Economic Development (available November 16)

  • Community Health (available December 6)

 

Also of note, the top part of the page:

The development of Landscapes3 will be an open and collaborative experience. The public is invited to participate throughout. The process includes:

Photo Contest

Participants can submit their favorite Chester County place in this photo contest, which is aimed at taking a different approach to identifying what is valued by residents. Prizes will be available. (coming soon)

Stakeholder Meetings

A series of stakeholder meetings will be held to identify issues and challenges facing Chester County over the next ten years. Experts will meet under the following topics: preservation, agriculture, housing, utilities and infrastructure, transportation, economic development, and community health. The public is invited to attend and observe these meetings. Click here to view meeting schedule.

 

How many of my photos of farms and historic houses would they like to see?

But then we come to the stakeholder meetings. Here is a screen shot of the schedule:

this-is-how-you-know

In the middle of the afternoon, in Coatesville? Seriously? Hello people work, pick kids up from school/sports, have farms and businesses to tend, and so on.

But no, Chester County’s idea of most opportune time to schedule these meetings is in a place not quite ideally located and at times inconvenient for the majority of people living int the real world.  Common sense would dictate if they were REALLY interested in what people who live here and pay taxes (as opposed to the carpetbagger Executive Director of Chester County Planning Department Brian O’Leary), they would have chosen a location like West Chester, or done a series of traveling meetings and maybe holding them in school auditoriums or something.

But Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning must not really be terribly interested in citizen participation if they choose times that are NOT convenient for average folk, even farm folk and choose a location like this one in Coatesville, that is not really even convenient to anyone.  (Which is why I think they should have had travelling meetings to capture different quadrants of the county more effectively.)

This is not an auspicious beginning to a long process that is supposed to matter, Chester County.

And no, Brian O’Leary I am not going to stop mentioning you are not a Chester County resident and come from a uniquely pro-development township (Lower Merion Township) where I don’t think you listened much at all to residents while on the Planning Commission there, arranged for political pasty “planning” awards be given to politicians who weren’t planners except in the landscape sense of the word, and were employed by Montgomery County which as a whole has been decimated by development in part.

Our chief planner should be one of us.  I find it hard to believe that no such qualified planners exist in Chester County.

Carpe Diem, Chester County Residents.  I know many of you care. Speak up. Please…before all the open space, farmland, and history is gone. This county has a unique history, and it is very much at risk.

saddle up for crebilly, chester county

kathy-shea-photo

Photo Courtesy of Chadds Ford Live and Kathleen Brady Shea “With the expanse of Crebilly Farm ahead of her, Mindy Worth Rhodes rides on Dunvegan Road in Westtown Township. Her goal is to raise awareness about Toll Brothers’ subdivision plan for the 330-acre property.” (Photo edited by me to achieve this cool effect)

Sometimes a picture is worth a 1000 words. Kathleen Brady Shea’s photo in her article today did that for me. She seems to be the sole member of the media who cares about the fate of Crebilly Farm.  I find it disturbing that I have not seen anything anywhere else as a matter of fact.

This article is about a woman whom I do not know but wish I did, because she sounds marvelous. Her name is Mindy Worth Rhodes, she is now a resident of  the historic village of Trimbleville in West Bradford Township, grew up in Westtown on General Howe Drive. She is a life-long equestrian and growing up she rode through Westtown neighborhoods to be able to ride on Crebilly.

So on Sunday, like the Pony Express rides again or Paul Revere, she saddled up her horse and distributed flyers about saving Crebilly.

How cool and appropriate is that?  To do it on horseback!

I am thrilled other people are stepping in and stepping up the game to Save Crebilly, or at least part of it.  Community matters and so does coming together on this issue.

As a friend said to me today:

The more letters and emails that go to ANY public officials, including the county commissioners, the better….. Here’s what I know about the previous apartment building: It would have conserved 90 percent of the tract. That is why some, including the supervisors, supported it. Members of the public hated the concept and came out in droves to defeat it;

 

Here is an excerpt of today’s article:

Saddling up support for Crebilly preservation

 

I can’t pretend to understand the heirs to and most of the current residents of Crebilly, one of whom resides in New Mexico.  But the person we see mentioned the most when it comes to Crebilly is David Robinson. I do not know what drives Mr. Robinson.  Wish I did. I guess I do not and will never understand how a significantly affluent and influential family can sell to a Toll Brothers?  I get wanting to divest themselves of some of the land because it is an awesome responsibility, but how do you inherit something like Crebilly and not want to preserve it for future generations?

How do you not value the legacy that was dropped in your lap because you were related to certain people? Is it the whole having to work for it versus inherit it? How can you sell to Toll and live in your same homes and watch hundreds of plastic boxes grow up like demented plastic corn around you? Does the man have an overwhelming desire to be the Squire of his very own plastic Toll Village? And since the family has avoided telling anyone anything, no one knows besides the obvious objective of financial motivation and gain what is going on, right?

Now, onto other things. First,  I thought I would mention in addition to my Save Crebilly Farm Page on Facebook, there is now a Neighbors for Crebilly Page on Facebook.  I know the people who started that page a little bit, one is a residential realtor in Chester County and her significant other who is a businessman  is no stranger to conservation and land deals. They are what a friend of mine would term simply as “good people”.  So that being said, while they are not neighbors in close proximity to Crebilly anymore than I am, they are smart people whose heart is with Crebilly….you can’t go wrong with that now, can you? Maybe give their page a like too please?

So while I am on the topic of neighbors, I know people in Westtown Township are upset about Crebilly, but they are not going to Westtown Meetings to discuss it with their Supervisors.  Supervisors might be local politicians, but they are also human beings and not clairvoyant.  People with actual standing, who live in Westtown, need to speak up now before it is too late to have a voice, any voice in the eventual outcome. And whomever started the latest petition should probably come forward as I assume they wish to present their petition to Westtown?

I get the need to have anonymity when voicing opinions on certain local topics, but whomever you are, you inspired me and others to raise our collective voices regarding Crebilly with your simple message to go with your petition:

Help join the cause to save Crebilly Farm, a prized open landscape that represents Chester County’s unique history and natural beauty. There are currently plans installed by real estate company Toll Brothers to develop the Crebilly property. If you oppose these plans, please show your support. Together we can preserve Chester County’s historical significance and natural integrity that are central to our community’s identity. Let’s keep our home an enjoyable place to live in.

Here are some of the comments left by petition signers:

1-more another-1 family history memories more regrets

I hope someone hears their pleas. Eloquent and simple.

I hope Westtown residents express themselves soon so their township hears from the residents in time.

I hope people from ALL over Chester County bombard the Chester County Commisisoners with phone calls, e-mails and letters over Crebilly and the state of development in Chester County in general.  It would be nice for example if they could tell us the taxpayers and residents of Chester County why it is that our county planning is headed up by a hired gun who does not even live in Chester County? Why is the Chester County Planning Commission led by Brian O’Leary who lives in super pro-development Lower Merion Township, used to be on their planning commission and accomplished nothing really to combat over development and sprawl during his tenure in Montgomery County? Why does a pro-development Auslander the best choice? Are there no qualified planners who reside in Chester County? Really?

Other Crebilly posts:

https://chestercountyramblings.com/2016/09/17/before-crebilly-gets-developed-westtown-lets-talk-traffic/

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

a love note to the chester county planning commission

Oh and one last thing. In order for Chester County Planning Commission to be as confusing as humanly possible they have split the survey they recently sent out into different sections. You can now take a survey on just certain sections like Preservation or Agriculture, for example.

I will note their original survey seems to be not load right (maybe it’s just me, not sure and it could be Survey Monkey which gets hung up if some thing is busy), so   FOLLOW THIS LINK. It will lead you to the split up sections page.

Carpe diem folks! Once places like Crebilly are gone, they are never coming back.  It is up to us collectively to step up and demand better.  Historic preservation, equine and agricultural preservation, meaningful open space preservation.

I would like to think when it comes to Crebilly, the ghosts of American Revolutionary War Soldiers would want us to speak up don’t you?  They died to keep our land free from invaders, right?

Thanks for stopping by.

 

a love note to the chester county planning commission

chesco-plan

Dear ChesCo Planning,

The new website sure is pretty, but what are you doing for us? Are you saving Chester County from overdevelopment? If you are, please let us know how.

I see the planning commission members were interviewed by Kathleen Brady Shea September 14:

 

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the Chester County Board of Commissioners announced the kick-off to Landscapes’ second update, Landscapes3.

During a presentation at the commissioners’ Sunshine meeting, Matthew Hammond of the Chester County Planning Commission pointed out that eight percent of the county’s open space enjoyed permanent protection prior to Landscapes; now the number is nearly 27 percent.

Hammond noted that an influx of 150,000 residents is predicted by 2045, reinforcing the need to have a plan that continues the focus on managing that growth through open space preservation, urban center revitalization, and municipal planning assistance.

“We’re very excited to be moving forward on this,” said Brian O’Leary, executive director of the Chester County Planning Commission.

Landscapes3 will involve a two-year effort that begins with a series of stakeholder meetings this fall, to determine the issues and challenges facing Chester County over the next 10 years.

“Twenty years ago, Chester County made a choice to redirect growth, to protect open space and to revitalize our towns and urban communities,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell. “Landscapes and Landscapes2 have served us very well in doing that, but it is time to renew our vision and ensure that Chester County remains a highly attractive place to live, work and visit.”

 

Ok that’s all nice and fluffy, but how are you preserving open space REALLY?  What land are you saving? Look at all the parts of Chester County at risk, what are you doing? You guys talk a good game, but to be honest I lost faith in you when you hired Brian O’Leary whom I remembered none too fondly from Lower Merion Township where developers say “jump!” and Lower Merion says “how high?”

Montco official is new Chesco planner

POSTED: 09/16/15, 3:46 PM EDT|UPDATED: ON 09/16/2015

A Montgomery County official will be the new head of the Chester County Planning Commission, and will be counted on to oversee the future update of the county’s award-winning land and community planning document, Landscapes2, in the coming four years.

The county commissioners announced the appointment of Brian O’Leary as executive director at their meeting Tuesday. O’Leary currently serves as section chief on the Montgomery County Planning Commission, where he has worked for nearly 30 years.

O’Leary replaces former county Planning Commission Executive Director Ronald Bailey, who retired in June. Bailey had served as head of the commission since 2006. O’Leary will formally begin his work in the county on Oct. 5.

 

Lower Merion Township will ultimately be ruined by all the development still coming at it, and Montgomery County is a giant development mess.

As the county planning commission you are supposed to seek balance, where is that balance exactly?  How are the rights of existing residents being preserved? How is the agricultural and equine history, tradition, and culture being honored? When arable farmland and open space is gone, it’s gone.

How is allowing East Whiteland develop to the point of being like King of Prussia meets Bensalem positive? Or watching acre after acre of farmland in places like West Vincent and Upper Uwchlan a positive?

How many  developments do we need ? How come residents do not truly get a say in this? I mean you say you want our input, so we give it to you, and up pops another development or strip mall. It is a bit frustrating.

What are you doing to save Crebilly Farm???? Bryn Coed??? Any open space and farmland anywhere throughout the county? Do you care about ANY of the historic structures threatened throughout the county at all?

Is below the future of Crebilly? Liseter II (Liseter WAS Foxcatcher Farm the DuPont Estate in Newtown Township, Delaware County) :

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Or maybe it should look like this:

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How is any of the current development “smart” growth?  Your Brian O’Leary is even on the board of the Smart Growth Alliance, and allow me to quote them on him:

Through his work in local planning, Brian has seen the importance of smart growth. With smart growth, new development is focused towards existing communities, helping these places revitalize, improve their infrastructure, and create vibrant and healthy neighborhoods. Without smart growth, farmland is lost, people’s transportation choices are limited, and the economy suffers.

oleary-1So are we supposed to all hop into our smart cars now and jump on board the New Urbanism Fairy Tale Express? Brian O’Leary is a resident of Penn Wynne or Wynnewood in Lower Merion Township so seriously, what does he know from open space? And that is whose hands our future is in? Have any of you dealt with the congestion that is the Main Line recently? Or seen community after community torn asunder by development and the constant whirl of political shell games? Well I did, and I want better for the gorgeous county I now call home.

Pending sale of Crebilly Farm sparks outcry

There are several counties in America, each with more than 10,000 homes, that have vacancy rates above 55%. The rate is above 60% in several.

Most people who follow unemployment and the housing crisis would expect high vacancy rates in hard-hit states including Nevada, Florida, and Arizona. They were among the fastest growing areas from 2000 to 2010. Disaster struck once economic growth ended……..Data from states and large metropolitan areas do not tell the story of how much the real estate disaster has turned certain areas in the country into ghost towns.

……These are the American Ghost Towns Of The 21st Century. Each has a population of more than 10,000 along with vacancy rates of more than 55%, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

hardly fine dining in a fake general warren village

general warren

Sometimes imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. Sometimes it is just imitation or borrowing a name to play on the history they don’t care about anyway.  Such is the case of  developer to the masses Eli Kahn and his “The Village at General Warren”  in the “Charlestown Retail Center”  on “General Warren Blvd” in Malvern off 29 in or near that behemoth of ugliness known as Atwater. You know Atwater, where there is a giant quarry and insufficient fencing? And lots and lots of development?

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It makes me recall a recent blog comment which in part said:

The “Suburban Landscape” County planning category promotes infill and appropriate density. County buzzwords for “put all the crap in this part of the County so we can keep some parts of the County green.”  East Whiteland is already written off as far as controlling development….the more here, the better in the County’s eyes. The prior issue of County Plan had existing homes obliterated by corporate park….so their intent has been clear for a long time. All very sad.

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So that says to me no one really cares, and we have to wonder if everything is a fait accompli? How sad, indeed.

So what got me thinking about this today?  An article in Patch which doesn’t exactly represent actual journalism at this point. They regurgitate the hard work of actual reporters and they post press releases in their entirety as articles. Journalism, Patch style. Here is is with typos (you’re welcome):

pj 1pj 2

Three screenshots as they appeared in Malvern Patch August 31, 2016

Three screenshots as they appeared in Malvern Patch August 31, 2016

Ah yes another chain pub style restaurant…because there are not enough of them locally, correct? Is this the finest of fine dining they think we should have in Chester County? And much like name brand car dealerships, they all look the same. They all have the same menu. Pick a Whelihan’s, they are all the same and there is one in Downingtown, there is one coming to Oaks, there is one in West Chester, Reading, Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, Blue Bell, and Leighton and that is just PA. There is also Cherry Hill, Haddon Twp, Maple Shade, Medford Lakes, and Washington Township.

After all, nothing says date night or family dinner out like a modern day Houlihan’s, right?  You can never have too much of the same thing everywhere, right?

I am sorry not sorry but why do we have to be both a development wasteland and a dining wasteland too?

And then there is the whole “Village at General Warren” of it all. Apparently the whole thing is brought to you by a company called Bernardon.  Look at their website and you will find little individuality.  It’s all formula “architecture”  (they also “designed” that thing Easttown residents are fighting called Devon Yard.)

Perhaps Mr. Kahn is getting older and forgets there already is a General Warren Village.  Part of it is located within the view shed of CubeSmart which he built and caused neighbors great distress over, right?

Now granted, General Warren Village as a development. Post WWII.

general-warren-1

But it was a planned development with decent sized lots which did not eat every tree in sight. The kind of development they don’t do today because today it is all about developers getting in and out with as much money as possible, which means what you get are cheaply constructed cram plans of same-y saminess.

The General Warren Inne, for which the real Village is named after is a country inn constructed in 1745. This 250 plus-year-old inn, once owned by the grandson of William Penn, is surrounded by woods on a few acres, and is an 18th century survivor (just think if anyone really gave a crap about Linden Hall, Linden Hall could be just as charming!)

I love the General Warren Inne.  I have seconded wedding photographers there and it is just lovely.  And it is still a bed and breakfast, and provides a wonderful alternative to chain hotels. So you have a developer borrowing the name after a fashion, but I bet they don’t really know the history.  Here is the history compiled by the General Warren Inne on itself:

Since 1745, the historic General Warren has been center stage for American history and a premier carriage stop for hungry travelers.

During The French & Indian War The story of the General Warren can be followed through its name changes. The Inne was first named in 1745 as The Admiral Vernon Inne, in honor of the naval commander Admiral Edward Vernon. He led the 1739 attack and capture of Portobello, Panama. In 1758, the name was changed to the Admiral Warren after the famed Admiral Peter Warren, a hero in defense of the American colony that year at Louisburg, (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) during the French and Indian War.

American Revolution During the revolution, the inn was owned by John Penn of Philadelphia, loyalist and grandson of William Penn. Its key location on the main highway between Philadelphia and Lancaster had helped the Admiral Warren become a popular stage stop and a Tory stronghold. It was here that the Loyalists met, drew maps and plotted against the revolutionaries. Howe and Cornwallis use these maps to negotiate the great valley, the route to capture Philadelphia.

Paoli Massacre The infamous Paoli Massacre, was planned and launched from The Admiral Warren Inne. Local folklore has it that on the night of September 20, 1777, the British, led by Lord Grey, captured the local blacksmith and tortured him on the third floor of the inn. Upon receiving the information that General “Mad Anthony” Wayne was camped one mile South of the Inne, the British attacked with bayonettes after midnight.

The Lancaster Turnpike Era In 1786, John Penn sold the property to Casper Fahnestock, a German Seventh Day Adventist from Ephrata. During Fahnestock’s long ownership, the Inne once again thrived, attracting many Lancaster County Germans and other travelers along The Lancaster Turnpike because of its reputation for clean lodging and excellent food.

The Early 19th Century In 1825 an effort was made to make amends with the new nation, the Admiral Warren was renamed the General Warren, to honor the American hero of Bunker Hill. During the 1820’s, the height of turnpike travel was reached, and the General Warren became a relay stop for mail stages and a post office. Then in April of 1831, the Philadelphia and Columbia Railway opened for travel, and in May of 1834, the last regular stage went through. The new, faster and cheaper means of travel via the rails doomed the inn as traffic by-passed the property.

The Inn’s Dormant Period In the 1830’s the great grandson of the first Fahnestock turned the Inne into a Temperance Hotel, cutting down his apple orchard to prevent cider from being made. The lack of spirits doomed the hotel, and it closed within a few years. From that point into the early 20th Century, The General Warren changed hands often, occasionally becoming a private residence. In the 1920’s, the inn reopened as a restaurant, with limited success over the next 60 years.

The Modern Era As area population and business grew in the mid 1980’s, the current owners made great strides to return the inn to its 18th Century elegance. The upper floors were renovated into 8 suites, the addition of a private dining room and all-weather heated patio for cocktail parties, outdoor dining and weddings. In 2005, the latest improvements included the new Admiral Vernon Dining Room and the return of The Warren Tavern, a spacious bar for dining and spirits, relocated to the original spot of the old tavern from the 19th Century.

Today at the General Warren Today’s guest at General Warren will find the perfect blend of old world charm, excellence in continental cuisine, fine wines and delightful overnight accommodations.

So the history of the General Warren and the eighteenth century architecture is captured how exactly by this “The Village at General Warren” in the Charlestown Retail Center?

The answer of course, is it is not.  It is just another example of a developer using aspects of our communities to sell their projects.  And another chain restaurant brings mostly minimum wage jobs with it, and well how many people do you know who can support a home and a family on a minimum wage job?

I don’t know who development like this is for, but certainly not truly our communities. Maybe if these developers actually tried to do something better with their commercial spaces or tried to being actual fine dining and not just chain pub food I wouldn’t be so cynical. But I am.

Apparently chain pub food is becoming as plentiful as WaWas. Say here’s an idea: why not merge the two and add a chain drug store with a drive thru. All smushed together – save time!!! No one has ever done that before.

Eyes rolling in Lego Land. It’s a big box world out there.

The General Warren Inne for which the real General Warren Village was named

The General Warren Inne for which the real General Warren Village was named