dear toll brothers and other developers: there is another way

Reader submitted photo April 2017

This is important to take note of, because it PROVES there is ANOTHER way then straight cram plan developments.

Chester County has been overrun by greedy developers.  For perspective remember that size-wise Bryn Coed is like a giant super-sized Chesterbrook.

If not for those who care, like Natural Lands Trust, you would be seeing “coming soon” signs for developers like Toll Brothers.


These screen shots are from the Natural Lands Trust Bryn Coed Farms website.   


Imagine living in an expansive, conserved landscape with a thriving nature preserve and miles of trails just next door. That is the unique opportunity available at Bryn Coed Farms.


In order to preserve as much of Bryn Coed Farms as possible, a number of large conservation properties will be made available to individual buyers. Each property will be placed under a conservation easement to be held and monitored by Natural Lands Trust, ensuring that the land is protected in perpetuity.

Seems like a revolutionary idea, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s how parts of Ardrossan are staying intact in Radnor Township and it is how large swaths of countryside and history  in places like England remain intact.

It is a viable solution to developing every square inch. It’s a compromise point.

Now critics will say more land should be saved with these plans and maybe they aren’t necessarily wrong , but this IS a viable compromise in my opinion.

Imagine if the Robinson Family did this at Crebilly, for example?

Or imagine if say developers who want to develop the Bishop Tube site chose a plan like this versus doing things like picking on me for wanting the best clean-up possible?

The Natural Lands Trust has once again proven, there is another way. 

And speaking of Bishop Tube it is a big story in the Philadelphia Inquirer today:

News — Pennsylvania: On toxic site abandoned for decades, developer sees townhouses sprouting in Chesco

Updated: APRIL 10, 2017 — 6:23 AM EDT

by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer @MichaelleBond | mbond@phillynews.com

Asleep after a long day at her social-work job, Peggy Miros was jolted awake by a booming voice through a loudspeaker urging her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.
A cloud of toxic gas had formed when chemicals accidentally combined at the steel tube manufacturer next to her housing development in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, in the early morning hours of June 9, 1981. In the sultry air, a steady southwest breeze exported the chemical mist toward General Warren Village, 500 yards away, before the cloud dissipated. Some of Miros’ neighbors went to the hospital with nausea and skin irritation…The EPA later found trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreasing agent linked to cancer, in the property’s groundwater. The former Bishop Tube Co. site, which produced stainless steel tubes from the 1950s until 1999, now is host to graffitied and dilapidated buildings, shattered windows, cracked concrete, and overgrown vegetation, one of more than 450,000 contaminated “brownfields” across the nation.

…Given the site’s history, residents are wary of plans for the property. Neighbors say they fear their families and any new residents could be harmed if workers disturb the polluted soil without removing every bit of contamination.
Last month, 40 people gathered for the first time in the home of one of their neighbors to plan a coordinated effort to oppose the project.

“These people know what they’re talking about and they have a right to be concerned,” said Maya K. van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who became involved after residents asked her for help.



Read the entire article. Read where the chair of the supervisors in East Whiteland says he expects the developer will get the zoning variance. That is East Whiteland’s compromise point? Gambling with people’s health and safety? (Notice you hear little to nothing out of state officials and why are these people in office again?)

Read the entire article.  Contact the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and East Whiteland Township today if you think more needs to be done with Bishop Tube,    Ok? 

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

hot off the presses in west vincent: hope for bryn coed?

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I have written about Bryn Coed in West Vincent quite a few times. It is twice the size of Chesterbrook, and developers have sniffed around it for years. Bryn Coed is mammoth in size.

Well breaking news from Birchrunville People:

bc

bryncoedproperties

Now someone at Natural Lands Trust did mention this to me a while ago (like I think a couple of years ago), and asked me not to say anything – at that point it was more of an idea.

If this happens, wow oh wow, thank God (once again) for Natural Lands Trust.  I am a member, are you?

I doubt they will be able to afford the whole parcel (1500+ acres) but hopefully a significant amount is conserved.

This was attempted in 2005 but it did not work.

Wow. Wow.Wow. Stay tuned.

****Please note my information for this at this time comes from residents who were at that meeting this evening****

how is this chester county?

DCP_1371

Called Courts at Chester Springs and located at 770 Birchrun Road ,Chester Springs,PA as per Pulte website, this is the latest in developer-grown plastic house crops.

This is located in West Vincent Township, Chester County.

plastic crop

How many families does that add to the school district, I wonder?

DCP_1370

Wake up Chester County. It’s time to slow down development across the county before it truly is too late.

Oh and that raggedy grove of mismatched trees in photo above is conservation I am told? Really?

This urbanization of the country does what exactly?  Besides eliminate open spaces and the agricultural heritage of the county? How is this beneficial to all residents?

Hey now, it is not just me. Check out:

Worst of McMansions

If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to check out McMansions 101! Got a question or comment? Contact me at mcmansionhell@gmail.com

DCP_1372

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

Crebilly Farm, June 2014 (my photo)

Crebilly Farm, June 2014 (my photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Or this:

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

8031424486_0eda80b164_o

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

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

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

Crebilly Farm by Richard McFarland http://richardmcfarland.us/

Crebilly Farm by Richard McFarland
http://richardmcfarland.us/

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

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

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

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

 

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

Crebilly Farm aerial shot courtesy of Crebilly Farm

Crebilly Farm aerial shot courtesy of Crebilly Farm

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

Keeping Developers At Bay When Heart Is On The Farm

POSTED: January 04, 1987

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

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

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

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

purchase his land and keep it as open space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chadds Ford Live: Toll Brothers making plans for Crebilly Farm

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

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

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

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

Buh byes open space.  Sigh.

My photo . June, 2014

My photo . June, 2014

Time to add a postscript. I received this comment:

comment

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

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

Here is their board:

westtown

Everyone should contact them – supervisors@westtown.org

Here is the manager- rpingar@westtown.org

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

nat lands

Anyway, that is the end of the post script.

why don’t we have more control over our communities? we live here.

Meet Pulte’s  “promotional video” on Linden Hall.

Described as an enclave of “luxury”  town homes, with views of an exclusive golf course anyone has yet to see how storm water runoff will affect and whose memberships are not exactly included with the purchase price of the townhouses. (Yes holy run on sentence Batman but I don’t know how else to say it.)

You see photos of rolling Chester County fields with nature, only there is no nature at Linden Hall. Only a crumbling historic carriage stop and inn that  sits and rots unrestored, even though the original developer (Benson or whomever) who sold Pulte the townhouse land and approvals promised to restore but thus far has not. All that has happened is a version of construction fencing has been erected to surround it. (Maybe with black plastic fabric fencing around it we won’t notice the building rotting, right?)

This video says that this development is 3.5 miles from a Septa Station. I assume they mean Eston which already has parking issues? And you get to that station from congested route 100 right? Or you have to invent a space at Malvern station?

The video proclaims 4 miles from Main Street at Exton and 10 miles from the King of Prussia Mall because God forbid people support local, small businesses, right? 

And my favorite, they tout the Great Valley “School System”.   Of course no one ever talks about the effect a rampant increase in development has on a school district which eventually affects our taxes and our kids, do they? And before all the PTA cheerleaders gather up their pom poms against me, that is NOT a slam at the school district, that is a very grim reality which is inevitable. 

But overall what bothers me the most is here is yet another developer touting our beautiful Chester County they are carving up into plastic houses one acre at a time. The site these townhouses are on once supported quite an ecosystem. Foxes and birds and rabbits and so on. I know the neighbors behind Linden Hall are very unhappy and worried how this development will affect their property values down the line.

The price points are not affordable for those who would need affordable housing. The quality is not so spectacular that the exteriors won’t wear quickly after a few Chester County winters. And the way they describe them, well you don’t realize if you are looking at a development essentially sitting on a highway. No matter what you do to them they are sitting on a major thoroughfare. And it’s not pretty.


Ok this brings me to the impetus behind this post:

The New York Times:  How Anti-Growth Sentiment, Reflected in Zoning Laws, Thwarts Equality

By CONOR DOUGHERTY

JULY 3, 2016


….“The quality of the experience of being in Boulder, part of it has to do with being able to go to this meadow and it isn’t just littered with human beings,” said Steve Pomerance, a former city councilman who moved here from Connecticut in the 1960s….These days, you can find a Steve Pomerance in cities across the country — people who moved somewhere before it exploded and now worry that growth is killing the place they love.

….But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy….

Zoning restrictions have been around for decades but really took off during the 1960s, when the combination of inner-city race riots and “white flight” from cities led to heavily zoned suburbs…To most people, zoning and land-use regulations might conjure up little more than images of late-night City Council meetings full of gadflies and minutiae. But these laws go a long way toward determining some fundamental aspects of life: what American neighborhoods look like, who gets to live where and what schools their children attend.

And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.

This article is written by someone who doesn’t get the realities of rampant development. Nor does the author mention the fact that a lot of these developments are built just to build, not because there is an actual need. 

The author of this article of this article also does not get how these developers are actually contributing to what he seemingly despises. As in these developers are actually contributing to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They are in fact limiting the housing supply by their very price points. How many families of multiple people and kids are going to look at condos for example that are studios and one bedrooms and if not rentals start at mid 500,000s? How many agricultural, factory, or service related workers are going to be able to afford Linden Hall or Atwater or so on or be encouraged to buy there?

And look at all the zoning together. That is developments in progress in one area, regardless of municipality, along with other development in various states of approval. A sleeper to watch for in East Whiteland would be that thing a developer named Farley got approved a while back, remember? A multi acre parcel that is accessed off a property on 352 that looks like a hoarding situation that goes up into woods and would be shoehorned in between Immaculata and the William Henry apartments for lack of a better description? So you have the increasing traffic nightmare on Route 30 by Linden Hall which will only get worse with completion of neighboring projects like off of Frame Ave and Planebrook Rd. Can you imagine adding this 352/Sproul to that? And the effect it will have potentially on King Road? Let alone what one more project so close together would have on the ecosystem of the area AND the school district!

See that is the problem with all these developments, developers, and the factual analysis this New York Times writer Conor Dougherty thinks he has done. The reality is we do NOT live in a bubble. We are connected. Developers envision and present these projects as stand alone things with no real time or effort put into the relationships between projects. It starts when you see the plans presented at a local municipal meeting.

 These projects are depicted all by themselves with nothing around them, or nothing around them realistic to human or other scale. They do traffic studies when no one is around, they don’t really look at what a large uptick in population will do to anything from roads, to hospitals, to school,districts, to the environment. They do not care about us, they just want to build, get their money, and get out. So pardon the hell out of us Conor Dougherty if we want to preserve the character of where we live and do not want our school districts, property values, and our shrinking open space detrimentally affected. And his affordable housing argument doesn’t wash at least around here because they are not building affordable housing. These developers truthfully don’t give a rat’s fanny about actual affordable housing.  None of this is about actually helping others, it’s about lining their pockets at the expense of many communities.

Chester County is at risk. I am not sure why Chester County even has a county planning department because everything getting built is about the dollars developers get from density. Our open space and communities and agricultural heritage are seriously at risk. That doesn’t anyone make sny person saying that some kind of NIMBY ….it is the truth. Why is it that the rights of those who already live in an area seem so less important than what politicians  and developers want?  Look at Embreyville and Bryn Coed – what happens to those areas if development gets approved for maximum capacity? Embreyville is already in play, and Bryn Coed is only a matter of time, right?

Community preservation and open space preservation aren’t dirty words. They should be our  right as residents of this beautiful county we call home.

Happy July 4th. Our forefathers fought for our freedoms and apparently we are still fighting for our rights.

Thanks for stopping by.