is great valley school district about to slide down the slippery slope of reassessments?

42070887665_5a8d50b396_o

New development on Church Road in Malvern within the Great Valley School District

So..are they? Is the Great Valley School District about to slide down the slippery slope of reassessments?

I received a message overnight:

The Great Valley School District has decided to go after property owners that they think are under assessed……If you want to see the discussion at the School Board meeting where they decided to take this action here are the directions:

Click here and then on the June 4th meeting – go to the 1 hour 5 minute mark and listen to the discussion:  https://www.gvsd.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=237

Targeting specific landowners and not going after everyone who may be under assessed is discriminatory , unfair but legal. They are going after those where they think they can get the most return for the appeal.

Here is the video:

Here is the list:

NINE of the properties are FARMS. THREE are RESIDENTIAL

This is very Lower Merion School District of them.  Sadly, every time Lower Merion School District has done this it has resulted in MASSIVE amounts of litigation.  I found a 2016 case that I think is of note because of   legal footnotes that I will share:

Here are the footnotes I think that is something that should be read:

2.   In a tax assessment case, the Board has the initial burden of presenting its assessment  records into evidence, which establish a prima facie case of the validity of the assessment.
Expressway 95 Business Center, LP v. Bucks County Board of Assessment, 921 A.2d 70, 76 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). The burden then shifts to the property owner to present sufficient evidence to
rebut the assessment’s validity. Id. “Where the taxpayer’s testimony is relevant, credible and un-rebutted, the court must give it due weight and cannot ignore it in determining a property’s fair market value. Where the taxing authority presents rebuttal evidence, the court must
determine the weight to be given all the evidence.” Koppel Steel Corporation v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Beaver County, 849 A.2d 303, 307 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004) citing Deitch Company v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, 209 A.2d 397 (Pa. 1965).

3.   Article VIII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that “All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.” Pa. Const. art. VIII, §1. This constitutional uniformity requirement is based on the general principle that “taxpayers should
pay no more or less than their proportionate share of government.” Downingtown Area School District v. Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals, 913 A.2d 194, 199 (Pa. 2006). To meet the uniformity requirement, “all property must be taxed uniformly, with the same ratio of the
assessed value to actual value applied throughout the taxing jurisdiction.” Clifton v. Allegheny County, 969 A.2d 1197, 1224 (Pa. 2009).

I did not ask a lawyer about this, I am not a lawyer, but I can read and I can research.  I was told there is more to the story by a friend and that this was a list of “mostly profitable commercial businesses.”  

But it’s not just commercial properties (which will get sick of tax increases and reassessments too, by the way).  There are NINE farms and THREE residences on this short list. As someone else said to me “I don’t doubt their motives. Especially since they have 9 Farms with lots of open space to Overtax so they can’t afford the tax, thereby having to sell, thereby giving an in for more higher density development to make even more in taxes.

I watched this play out again and again in Lower Merion Township.  What ends up happening is people are forced from where they call home because they can’t afford the school taxes.  We as residents and taxpayers who stay pay for that as well. And if a school district doesn’t get what they want, they next logically move to reassess ALL of us. That is what happens. They need money because this school district is close to bursting at the seams. Why are they bursting at the seams? Development.

So yes, is also my opinion that this is a direct result of too much development too fast within this particular school district from multiple municipalities. In addition the behemoth with the view of the eerie blue lagoon (A/K/A/ dead quarry) known as Atwater and all around there on 29 that is residential, there is development perched over highway and next to a quarry at the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and Charlestown Road from Southdown Homes called Pickering Crossing. And then there is the new Toll Brothers development starting to happen on Church Road called Great Valley Crossing. And the new development most of us just realized was going to happen on Swedesford Road from people called McKee Builders called Malvern Crossing. Linden Hall which just when you think they can’t add another row, they add another row of houses. Or Ryan Homes’ Malvern Walk on Planebrook.

 

35844692_1960052560674352_5644503426936078336_n

And those are just a few of the developments that are either still in planning, approved, and so on.  Look at the Route 30 Corridor Study for East Whiteland. Did they not suggest additional residential long Route 30 in there? Remember the Malvern Transit Oriented Development Study from a few years back in malvern Borough? (Also see with regard to Malvern’s T.O.D. CLICK HERE. and re-read this column form Henry Briggs. How much more development could Malvern Borough alone see?)

These developments are just targeting bodies. And all these municipalities are falling for the Emperor’s New Clothes of Zoning Overlay Districts.  These new developments aren’t specifically saying “senior living”, for example.  So all of these developments might bring really nice new families to the area, but they are also adding in a lot of kids to the school district. It’s bringing the city to the country, only I don’t think the country can really handle it.

And JUST like developers did and continue to do around Downingtown where they call EVERYTHING Chester Springs even when really, it’s not….everything in the Great Valley School District is being described as “Main Line”. It’s not the Main Line and well damn, a lot of us (myself included) came here in the first place because we wanted beauty and open space and wanted to escape the Main Line. As in the actual Main Line, not the fake developer speak of what they think the Main Line is, or should be, or where it is.

And with the fake Main Line of it all, we in Chester County are starting to experience real Main Line problems. Tax increases. Traffic congestion. Infill development. Shrinking open space…and oh yeah SCHOOL OVERCROWDING.

Cause and effect.

These reassessments are in my opinion only the beginning.  Hope everyone who lives in the Great Valley School District is ready for when we all become Great Valley East and Great Valley West.   Because given the pace of development, that is a potential reality.  Or Great Valley School District just becomes a monster district like West Chester Area School District. And if that happens, where do the new schools go? Whose land gets taken for that?

Maybe some don’t like my opinions on this.  Maybe some think I am being unfair to the Great Valley School District.  I am not. It’s just the reality of the situation. And it bears watching.

 

another historic home bites the dust….

A reader named Eric wrote to us this morning (and sent these two photos):

905 Westtown Rd. in West Goshen is a wonderful historic home built in 1818. This beautiful estate is about to be demolished to build 12 new houses…..Sadly it seems like its time is up. It’s been abandoned for 15 years and had been up for Sheriff’s sale, though these have been cancelled and demolition is now scheduled.

Again, the photos have graciously been provided by Eric for our use here.

It seems like every day brings us a tale of another demolition in another township in Chester County.

Soon we will be very urban in even more places and that’s very disturbing as we are very urban in many places already in this county because of development.

And all these new developments load up our school districts to the point of overcrowding. And then the students pay for that because the situation changes from lovely high schools to overcrowded high schools were students are packed in like lemmings without the proper attention from educators. As taxpayers this overcrowding will be eventually reflected in our taxes, if they aren’t already.

All of this development puts undue stress on our infrastructure. And developers never pay enough towards the infrastructure. You’re lucky if you get a traffic signal out of them.

And this is the architectural history of our county that will never be replaced once it is demolished. This is why I believe the Chester County Planning Commission should not be run by someone who does not live in the county and has no intention of living in the county. That carpetbagger should go back to Lower Merion Township where he lives.

And speaking of issues with overcrowding in the schools, look at the result of all the recent past years of infill development in Lower Merion Township and the effect it has had on the Lower Merion School District. 

Lower Merion School District is eyeballing several choice private properties for eminent domain to expand their footprint. And one of the properties they have particular interest in as reported by local media a couple weeks ago, is Natural Lands acquisition Stoneleigh in Villanova. That property which spans I believe 42 acres and it was donated by the Haas family so it would be protected. This is the terrifying reality of over development and communities. This is the terrifying reality that no municipality, no elected officials, no developers want you to know about.

These developers do not give a crap about where we call home. We are just an area to make a quick development buck off of. They aren’t invested in our communities it’s all about what they can make and what the municipalities can get for the short term high of what they call “ratables.”

Between pipeline and developments Chester County is getting gobbled up. Soon there will be limited open space and limited farmland. Soon we will not recognize where we call home.

I have to ask all of you, is that the future you want for this spectacular county in Pennsylvania? If the answer is no, you need to get busy where you live. We need to toss out of office anyone who does not care about where we call home. Pro-development is a bad thing at this point because there is no moderation.

If you want to see another hideous plan or to check out the rape of the land on Pottstown Pike spitting distance from Upper Uwchlan’s municipal building right there on the edge what is left of the Village of Eagle. Toll Brothers.

For yet another hideous plan drive along Church Road in Malvern. Another Toll Brothers plan. Or should we say Toll Smothers? Because that’s what they do: they smother every square inch of space with McBoxes.

When is enough development enough?

tigue farm in west chester to bite the dust

At 945 Tigue Road, West Chester, PA just below the Stadium at West Chester University -between the stadium and Route 52 – actually the other side of the stadium- is this gorgeous farm you see in courtesy photos from my friend Robin Ashby.

And it’s yet another farm which will soon be plowed under for yet another development of plastic houses. I am told the actual farm is on the northeast portion of the parcel. The open land is Tigue Road and Route 52 looking north.

According to information found on the Internet at RealtyTrac.com:

945 Tigue Rd is a farm, crops located in West Chester, PA 19382. Built in 1750, this property features 7 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 58 acres lot, and 3,999 sq ft of living space.

This is East Bradford Township. And oh yeah, it’s Toll Brothers….again:

TOLL BROTHERS SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

During their Regular Meeting on December 12, 2017, the Board of Supervisors approved a settlement agreement with Toll PA VI, L.P. for the development of the Tigue Farm (Tigue Road and Lenape Road) to be known as “Darlington Ridge at West Chester.”  Minutes from this meeting are available on the Board and Commissions page.  The next phase of the development will involve submission of land development plans and Township review during 2018. This application may be prominent on the Township Planning Commission agenda during 2018.

Does everyone realize that acre by acre, what made Chester County Chester County will literally cease to exist at some point in the not too distant future?

How is this crazed thirst for development sustainable? How many times can we expand our schools and/or redistrict until we’re out of room?

It’s time for the residents of Chester County to have their eyes on the prize that is our home county and not just the developers.

Our agricultural and equine heritage are about to be lost forever along with the architectural heritage of Chester County farm houses, outbuildings, and barns. Once the farms are gone, they are gone forever.

Also don’t forget, that a lot of these farms were also proven or potential battle sites during the Revolutionary War. So in a lot of cases our nation’s very history is getting plowed under. And well Tigue Farm dates to the 18th century, doesn’t it?

Are we all to have “green roofs” and grow our food and put animals out to pasture that way? I find that doubtful since all these developments come with homeowners association’s and lots of rules don’t you?

Farming is often a brutally hard life. When did we stop caring about our farmers in this country? We must’ve stopped caring because they’re all selling to developers, right?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers other than restating the obvious which I keep saying, and that is the pace of development must slow down.

#alternativefacts

I received an article this morning with the following note:

They have all lost their tiny minds….Typical sales tool for developers…

Small lots “by design” because NO ONE wants to take care of a big yard…just sit INSIDE with their little couch potatoes, lots of “family time” in front of the TV…oh, how healthy.

Disgusting propaganda on all counts, all at our expense…ugh.

Ahh yes…developers the original architects of #alternativefacts
Malvern Named ‘Hottest Suburban Town’ By Philly Magazine

The borough is in a “gold rush” of housing the magazine says.

By Max Bennett (Patch Staff) – March 6, 2017 12:26 pm ET

Malvern was named one of the area’s “10 Hottest Suburban Philadelphia Towns” in Philadelphia Magazine’s March issue.
Malvern joined other towns such Armdore, Newtown (Bucks county) and Phoenixville. Click here to see the full list.
“Malvern is in the midst of a gold rush of sorts,” the magazine said. “Buyers looking to get into the excellent Great Valley School District and close to the Main Line at a good price (realtors like to refer to this as the Upper Main Line, much to Gladwyne’s chagrin) are making grabs for newly converted land.”

The Philadelphia Magazine article itself targets quite a few areas, including Phoenixville, West Chester, and Malvern. Here is a screen shot of part of what they say about Malvern:


#AlternativeFacts let’s break this down:

  1. When they say “Malvern” they should be saying East Whiteland – and  that is what they are picturing above with the rendering of the continuation of O’Neill’s Worthington.  Is it being petty to note that they don’t mention the Bishop Tube project?
  2. This is NOT the “Upper Main Line” or “Main Line” and never will be. It’s Chester County and having spent over 30 years living on the actual Main Line, thank goodness for Chester County.
  3. Realtors need to refresh on actual history. The Main Line ended in Paoli where the namesake train line ended.
  4. With all that is being developed this area is not going to look like the Main Line it’s going to look like King of Prussia meets Bensalem meets Broomall.

It’s like all the blurbs are peppered with developer names. Is that how the world is beginning to view Chester County? By the developer? I don’t see a Toll Brothers development in every community as a positive do you?

And the whole #alternativefacts in development speak is nothing new. Take Downingtown. There is nothing wrong with saying you are from Downingtown when talking about either the borough or outside of the borough.  But how do developers describe a healthy percentage of any development in Downingtown?  They call it Chester Springs. Soon they will call Coatesville Chester Springs. 

What will they call Kennett Square? Down at that end of things everything seems to be under the blanket of “Chadds Ford” even if it isn’t, huh?

And Crebilly? Will that become “Newtown Square West” in honor of the Tollification of Foxcatcher Farm since the density proposed for Crebilly is almost the same house count for what they now rebranded Liseter?

And all these McMansion dwellers? Where do they think their food comes from and will come from as acre after acre of farmland and open space is developed into Tyvec wrapped boxes stacked so all live like lemmings? Do they think their food is grown in the aisles of Wegmans or on the roof of Kimberton Whole Foods?

Mark my words, this development “boom” is not endlessly sustainable. But by the time everyone figures it out it will be too late.

But hey, #alternativefacts aren’t just for Washington D.C., 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.

001r

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