With election season here, it means two more lawn signs in Westtown Township, Chester County. It means a vote “YES” to save Crebilly sign. Sadly it also means a vote “NO” to save Crebilly sign.
I have been keeping my mouth shut but I think now is the time to say something. There isn’t much time to make the right decision here.
The folks who want a “YES” vote have it right. This is a unique opportunity it’s not just a couple of acres, it’s a lot of acres. It’s a lot of open space. Its a lot of open space that nods to agricultural tradition and the equine culture that literally made Chester County. It’s also a lot of open space with serious historic importance.
Voting “YES” to save Crebilly won’t come around again. In the short term, does it mean you get to pay a little more as a resident in taxes? Yes it does. But tax increases for land purchases such as this have a sunset date, don’t they? They don’t last forever, do they?
Land is not free. Could the Robinson family just donate the whole kit and kaboodle like the Haas family did with Stoneleigh? Maybe they could, but I don’t think they ever would. I think this is the best deal that residents are going to get who want this land parcel saved in perpetuity.
People have worked for years to get everything to this point. A critical point in the history of Westtown Township. And that’s where the naysayers come in. The naysayers claim to be fiscal conservatives, but I think they just want a free lunch. I think they’re being selfish. Yes it’s a hard time to ask people to dig deeper and pay a little bit more each year and taxes. But it’s not forever.
If the naysayers get their way and push through the “NO” vote and Crebilly is NOT saved, in my humble opinion they should be shunned, yes a good old-fashioned Amish shunning.
It’s pretty simple and no one should have to spell it out for you. If Westtown does not get a “YES” vote, the development Russian Roulette will start again and this time? The neighbors of Crebilly, the concerned residents of Westtown, and essentially anyone in the area will be screwed in perpetuity. The open space will be gone, the roads will be more clogged, the infrastructure will be stressed unbelievably, and let’s talk about the West Chester Area School District because what do you think it means to get a huge development on Crebilly to that district?
So that’s the choice that is before you residence of Westtown Township. Do you vote “YES” and have something in perpetuity that you, your neighbors, your friends, your children and your children’s children can love and enjoy and be proud of OR do you end up looking like an over developed section of Delaware County or Bensalem or King of Prussia that everyone hates?
Vote “YES” residents of Westtown. Tune out the selfish naysayers who don’t, can’t, or won’t understand. If they don’t like it, they can move, right? It’s a desirable municipality to live in, after all.
Vote “YES” to #SAVECREBILLY . It’s the ultimate act of community.
When you are headed on 202 south, just before the light at 926, there is a farmhouse or two. The one right on the corner of 926, still looks inhabited but the one before the corner ? It’s falling apart literally.
I thought maybe this old farmhouse was a Crebilly house. My sources however tell me that it is not part of Crebilly but at one time Crebilly did try to acquire it.
I would love to know the history if anyone knows. It’s in really bad shape.
Here is it’s barn or similar kind of structure:
Here are some closeups and other photos I was able to get of bits of the house as a passenger going by:
People are saying Toll Brothers is no longer the equitable owner of Crebilly because the contract was terminated, as per the group Neighbors for Crebilly/Brandywine in White. Therefore, Westtown Township Board of Supervisors then ruled tonight to deny the conditional use to build all those hideous houses.
I mean pinch me. I did have my third COVID-19 shot today so am I hallucinating? Or did this actually happen?
Damn. It happened. A municipality actually said NO to a developer in Chester County. The only media reporting that I can see is Chaddsford Live which has covered this from the beginning.
For all you naysayers out there, this is what the power of the people can do. I have no idea what will happen next for this property. This isn’t the first development plan that has been proposed for Crebilly over the years and I don’t think it’ll be the last.
But for now, Crebilly is safe.
I would suggest in closing, that people in communities all over Chester County take the spirit of Crebilly into their municipality boardrooms and fight to preserve where they call home.
This photo was taken yesterday while a friend was driving by Lloyd Farm in Caln.
No, Lloyd Farm is not saved. But apparently a tenant farmer is back.
This is the Chester County we lose with every development. This is why many, many brave souls are boarding a bus at 6 AM May 6th to go to Pittsburgh for Crebilly.
Yes, Pittsburgh. It’s not uncommon for court calendars to fill up and apparently they’re jammed around here. But I am told if the developer had agreed to the venue not going to Pittsburgh it could have been closer and wow, right ?
Here is the information on how to ride the bus from Mindy:
This is a reminder that the next court date for oral argument in the Toll Brother’s appeal will be held:
MONDAY, MAY 6TH, 1PM
Allegheny County Courthouse
436 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Thanks to Randell Spackman of Thornbury Farm (who also happens to be my wonderful cousin), a chartered bus has been arranged for those that wish to attend but prefer not to drive. Here are the details:
Friends, please do not miss this great opportunity to support the Westtown Township Supervisors and Township Solicitor Patrick McKenna in their brave battle to preserve the national, historic view shed from our Revolutionary War on Crebilly Farm (part of the Brandywine Battlefield) and prevent over-development in an already saturated region of Chester County. We need bodies in the court room. We need MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY!!! A full court room of supporters will speak volumes without saying a word. It will send a clear message to the panel of judges that indeed we care and we are standing up for what is right. Please contact any friends and family you have in the Pittsburgh area and ask them to attend this very important court appeal.
Together we have come so far and I thank all of you for your efforts.
Tell our Commonwealth Court Judges in Pittsburgh how much Chester County residents feel about their Quality of Life. Attend the oral arguments on Monday, May 6 at 1pm with your neighbors – all headed to Pittsburgh.
Several groups and interested parties are all working together to make a statement and presence by filling up the courtroom in Pittsburgh. We’ll fill one bus first and then start on the second. If we don’t reach a threshold number to fill the second bus, we will refund your ticket purchase. The coach holds 54 passengers.
With that said, tickets are $45 each.
First come, first served.
Your ticket is your placeholder, reservation.
No ticket purchased, no seat on the bus – we have to make this easy to manage – we’re all volunteers and need to be fair to all.
You will need a ticket to board. Print-at-home tickets or mobile tickets supplied at purchase.
We anticipate leaving Thornbury Farm, 1256 Thornbury Road, West Chester, PA 19318 at 6am and will return from Pittsburgh between 4-5 pm. It is a long day for everyone and to be compliant, the motor coach company will staff two drivers for your safety. Coffee and refreshments will be available for the ride out. Convenient parking at Spackman Farm.
Not every piece of land or old house can be saved. That is the reality. But some of these properties don’t have to become developments.
And with these remaining big parcels in Chester County, I don’t understand why these families can’t put at least part of the land into conservation and preservation and not just turn everything over to a mega housing developer.
People want to tell us that we need all this development. We don’t. And all this development is causing other issues in our communities.
Between pipelines and residential developers, Chester County is becoming a war zone.
It’s time to start gathering within our individual communities and telling our elected officials we don’t want so much development.
We also need to band together as Chester county residents and tell the Chester County Planning Commission and Chester County Commissioners and anyone else who we can get to listen that we don’t want so much development.
I think the earth just moved. Yesterday Judge Mark L. Tunnell DENIED Toll Brothers conditional use appeal. Victory goes to Westtown Township and Neighbors For Crebilly Inc. It is so good when you see a municipality fight for their residents because so many don’t or won’t. Neighbors for Crebilly assumed risk when taking party status, and Vince and Elizabeth Moro and their team have worked very hard.
And a hat tip to my friend Mindy Rhodes of Crebilly Farm Friends is in order for her passion and dedication to this as well. I know full well the reality of how an issue like this just sucks up your life and time. Mindy started the rallying of the people from horseback, distributing meeting information like a modern day Boadicea.
Long before I moved to Chester County I had heard of Greystone Hall. Probably because the Jerrahian family live on the Main Line. At least some of them do. In 2001 they were subjected to an attempted eminent domain taking from the West Chester school district. Yes, shades of Stoneleigh.
“Before taking such and extreme step, the school district should go out of its way to be careful, fair and beyond reproach,” said Dean Jerrehian in a statement sent to area newspapers Sunday. “It is bad enough for the government to take someone’s property, but it is even worse to take it on a few days notice …and especially if they are not even sure they really want it.”
Jerrehian, one of the members of the Jerrehian Partnership, which owns the 400-plus acre property in West Goshen, was referring to an announcement made last week that the West Chester school board intends to discuss possible acquisition of a portion of the property for its proposed new high school.
He raised several objections to the possible move, including that it may not be the best site for the school, that its cost is uncertain, and that the district “has not fully explored all feasible alternatives.”
Jerrehian also said Sunday that by making its announcement on the heels of the Jerrehian Partnership’s application to create an Agricultural Secuirty Area for the property, which he referred to as his family’s farm …..The district said the action was taken because the Jerrehian owners recently filed an application with West Goshen to create an Agricultural Security Area protection. If that application is granted, the district could have a more difficult, lengthy and costly road to eventually buying the land through eminent domain.
Explaining his family’s decision to set the agricultural district up, Jerrehian said corn and “other field crops” are being grown on parts of the property. He did not know how many acres were under cultivation, however……All that was mentioned was that the district is interested in roughly 108 acres near the Greenhill Road and Route 100 intersection, he said.
….America’s frontier has been closed for well over a century now. Its citizens, though, still need roads, schools and utilities. Its leaders develop plans for land improvements and economic revitalization. And the two groups face potentially bitter conflicts, here in Chester County and across the nation, over the locations of these projects on the one-time frontier and over the means by which those in charge carry out their plans…..In Valley, more than half of Dick and Nancy Saha’s 45-acre farm is under threat. The city of Coatesville, in an effort to revitalize its economy, is attempting to take the land for a recreation center and 18-hole golf course. The Sahas, vowing to fight the city’s condemnation to the Supreme Court, are seeking allies among public officials and the public. The Valley board of supervisors has joined their cause.
In East Bradford, the West Chester Area School District’s proposal for a new high school led to rushed efforts to take 102 acres of Philadelphia real-estate developer Michael Singer’s 172-acre farm on Route 322. Singer and his attorneys successfully fought off the school district’s plans earlier this year, with an assist from East Bradford officials who opposed the location of a large high school on the land.
“In an opinion issued Tuesday, Court of Common Pleas Judge William Mahon ruled that the school district’s April 6, 2000 meeting — at which it voted to acquire 105 acres of Michael Singer’s 172-acre farm to build a new high school and athletic fields — was “void and of no effect” because it violated state “sunshine,” or open meeting, laws.”
I remember cheering the Jerrehian family’s victory over the West Chester Area School District. But when I saw their plans for Greystone years later filed in West Goshen Township, I almost regretted cheering them on because I wondered for what did we cheer? So they could develop hundreds of ticky tacky new construction boxes? (Greystone-NID-Plan-Presentation-11.3.17-rev._2)
In late 2017, Bill Rettew wrote about this Greystone Development:
WEST GOSHEN >> A development project to construct 598 homes at the 433-acre Jerrehian property is shovel ready.
The township has approved the project, Woodlands at Greystone, at the former Sharpless Estate, with the potential developer still seeking an OK from supervisors to establish a Neighborhood Improvement District.
The property stretches from Phoenixville Pike on the southeast, the Route 322 Bypass to the south, near Pottstown Pike on the northwest and Greenhill Road to the north.
Through the NID, future homeowners would foot the bill for 30 years to pay off a bond issue financing almost $21 million of infrastructure improvements…..Greystone Manor will continue to operate on its own 35 acre lot.
The article quotes West Goshen Supervisors. Specifically FORMER Supervisor Ray Halverson and still existing Supervisor Chris Pielli. I will be honest that I think West Goshen is one of the more problematic Chester County municipalities and are part of the lovely Mariner II pipeline ground zero as it were. Them approving this is sheer lunacy and am I alone in this opinion? And yes, I understand all too well the realities of development but when will more municipalities in PA do what is right for residents?
Crebilly Farm/Toll Brothers Conditional Use appeal court date is quickly approaching and I hope you are planning to attend:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH, 1PM, Chester County Justice Center, 201 West Market Street, West Chester COURTROOM #1 (Not #15).
We are coming upon what could be the final moments of what will set the tone for a long time to come. Our national history is in jeopardy and all of us will pay a dear price in traffic congestion and environmental damages if the Judge grants this appeal.
Last week, I attended the Chester County Commissioners Meeting and asked the Commissioners ‘What can the public do between now and the court appeal to keep this fresh in the minds of others? Can we write letters to the Judge?’ I learned this is an option and it is up to the discretion of each judge whether they will read them or not.
FRIENDS, THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION– for each and everyone of us; all those reading this message and all those you can share this message with. I am calling on everyone for a new letter writing campaign- ASAP! Please send a mailedletter in opposition of the proposed development via snail mail- yes, snail mail– oneto the Judge and one to the Commissioners! Please be polite. If it’s too much to write a letter, that’s okay, then just write a sentence- and please mail it snail mail. If it’s too much to write a sentence, that’s okay too, then please mail an empty envelope with the following message on the front at the bottom:
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM!
*Every letter/sentence/envelope needs to have written on the front of the envelope at the bottom:
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM!
We need to flood the Judge and Commissioners’ mailboxes, office and desks with letters from all over West Chester, the county, the state and the country! Make copies of the same letter and send numerous copies to both. Flood them like the Brandywine River last week! Whether the letters are opened or not, I think our message on the front of the envelopes will be pretty hard to miss and talked about by all.
SEND YOUR SNAIL MAIL TO:
The Honorable Judge Tunnell
201 W. Market Street
West Chester, PA 19380
*Remember to include on the front of each envelope at the bottom:
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM
Chester County Commissioners
313 W. Market Street
West Chester, PA 19380
*Remember to include on the front of the each envelope at the bottom:
PLEASE PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HISTORY ON CREBILLY FARM
Friends, this is MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY. And I promise- it’s now or never. I thought it one of the silliest ideas ever to ride my horse through the nearby neighborhoods of Crebilly Farm almost two years ago to raise awareness, but it was all I could think to do at the time. To my surprise, it woke people up. And then together, we woke up the Westtown Township BOS. And they heard us. And they voted ‘NO.’ Time to wake up the Judge and Commissioners before it is too late.
If not you, then who?
So back to Greystone. It is over 400 acres, right? And it has how many homes ultimately planned? 598 houses? So even if this development is built in stages, it is the same school district as Crebilly, so if Crebilly goes through where is West Chester Area School District going to go to get more land now? How will THAT school district handle all of these new district families?
Kind of ironic, and bitterly so, isn’t it? The Jerrehian family saves their property from eminent domain via a school district to turn around and sell to a developer? Makes you wonder if this is the ultimate FU to a school district, doesn’t it?
But it’s not just the school district which will suffer, is it?
Chester County collectively needs to seriously wake the hell up. And that includes that misbegotten Chester County Planning Commission headed by a Lower Merion Township Resident, doesn’t it? Pick a school district. Pick a municipality. All the land is going under developers’ collective shovels and I am still asking how this insanity is sustainable?
What about the farm land that was on Greystone property?
Now for the history. My dear friend Sara’s grandfather was the architect Charles Barton Keen . Mr. Keen was the architect on Greystone Hall built for Philip M. Sharples. I found some great history on a blog called Hackberry Hill:
Philip M. Sharples (who often went by P.M.) was a fourth-generation Pennsylvanian and from an influential Quaker family in Chester County. Not surprising that one of Sharples predecessors was the first mayor of our town. In 1881 Sharples established the Sharples Separator Works Company with plants in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Canada and Germany. At its peak, Sharples Separator Works was the largest industrial company in our town, employing 600 workers and turning out an average of 3700 separators a year (West Chester University Archives). He was clearly a big deal.
The company did exceedingly well for over 30 years and Sharples became a rich man. In 1907, he finished construction on Greystone Hall, an incredible house that sits just north of town designed by architect Charles Barton Keene. Coincidentally, just after looking at the Sharples’ city house, I attended a lecture at Greystone Hall, not initially realizing that this was a Sharples’ house as well. I am not sure P.M. lived in or owned the city house though – it was possibly a relative. There are a lot of Philip Sharples in the family tree! I need to look into that further. In any case, by 1907 P.M. Sharples was living quite grandly at Greystone Hall with his wife and three children.
…..P.M. and his wife moved in and a mere four years later his wife passed away leaving Sharples and his three children alone. He later remarried and had 3 more children. His second wife and 6 children lived at Greystone until 1935.
Sharples fell victim to the Depression and ended up losing Greystone to foreclosure in the early years of World War II. Greystone was pledged as collateral on loans and about half of the original nearly 1000 acres of land were sold off in small parcels starting in the late 1930s. Sharples relocated his family to Pasadena where he lived for 9 years before passing away in 1944 (www.greystonehall.com).
You can read more about the history of Greystone in detail and the family who has owned the house since 1942 here. The house sits on an incredible 500 acres. Still.
Pennsylvania is a private property rights state. It is what helped defend Greystone from eminent domain, after all, wasn’t it?
But where do we draw the line on developers and politicians and their visions for where we call home? When did the rest of our collective private property rights as extended community stop mattering?
Chester County is literally disappearing and soon you won’t be able to tell if you are in Chester County, or say some bland subdivision in Oklahoma.
Today an Inquirer article by Vinny Vella made me pause and decide to write something about this. It’s not like we can stop it. The plan is approved and the construction has begun.
I think this development will create havoc. It will overwhelm infrastructure, a school district, and so on, won’t it? Can you imagine the traffic when all of the houses are built? I was told that land that was probably undevelopable was given to West Goshen Township for parkland or something? Hopefully that saves a good chunk of the forest, right? There is supposed to be some road cut through the development. Friends say it will be a narrow windy 25 MPH road?
…Other developments Reiser was involved with include Atwater, Muir Wood in Newtown Square and Carriage Hill in Doylestown……As it did with those projects and will do with Woodlands at Greystone, Reiser will serve as the master developer and has partnered with NVR, which builds under Ryan Homes and other brands, to construct the houses. Under that arrangement, Reiser plans to prepare the lots for development, install the infrastructure and then sell them to NVR on a scheduled basis over the next six years.
Atwater? It’s in East Whiteland, right? Large and kind of unattractive? Hmmm isn’t that the development which has already caused some elementary school redistricting within Great Valley School District?
More than 400 acres of land, the largest remaining undeveloped tract in West Goshen Township, Chester County, were sold last month to make way for hundreds of houses in a deal that was a decade in the making.
But the origin of the $38 million sale of land surrounding the historic Greystone Hall traces to the 1950s, when the Jerrehian family, its owners, first started courting developers.
Their vision was finally realized Aug. 23, when half of the property surrounding the mansion was sold to Reiser Land Development. The other half, according to Drew Reiser, a managing partner at the company, is expected to be sold in a separate deal, the details of which, he said, are private.
Reiser’s plan for the Woodlands at Greystone calls for the construction of 598 homes….The Jerrehian family has owned the land, once the property of West Chester manufacturer Philip M. Sharples, for nearly 80 years. The main building, Greystone Hall, frequently used for corporate retreats and wedding receptions, will remain under their ownership and will not be part of the subdivision.
Sharples, who built Greystone Hall in 1907, founded the Sharples Separator Co. but lost his money during the Great Depression. The Jerrehian family, which immigrated to the United States from Turkey in the early 1900s, bought it in 1942.
Bah Humbug. I am glad the mansion is surviving but why all the houses? I will never understand. Kind of disappointed in the Jerrehians on this, have to be honest. I don’t know what I thought they would eventually do with all of the land, but it wasn’t this.