#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.

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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.

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….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:

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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

the anti-development valentine

This is what development does to open space, to farms. Taken from the air by a friend.

This is what development does to raw land. Given that some reporters are writing “elegies” for Crebilly and 6ABC’s coverage last night, I thought I would leave all of you with an anti-development valentine to ponder today.

It used to be if development was thoughtful, a community might be able to tolerate it. But when was the last time anyone anywhere saw a thoughtful, inclusive development that nodded towards the future while respecting the past?  When is the last time any developer who came into Chester County gave a crap about the agricultural and equine heritage of Chester County let alone open space?

Affectionately referred to as "Lake Pulte" - out near/in West Vincent. Reader submitted photo

Affectionately referred to as “Lake Pulte” – out near/in West Vincent. Reader submitted photo

Oh sure they say they will give you a trail and preserve the trees but is that fair compensation to communities that depended on farming for so many reasons let alone starting with growing our food? Is that fair compensation to the schools when they get overcrowded and taxpayers are forced to build new ones?  Is that fair compensation for the loss of history? Is it fair compensation for turning country roads into scenes from outside the King of Prussia Mall?  And in the end do they actually preserve the trees let alone preserve a way of life and the history that makes Chester County great?

This is “Liseter” in Newtown Square. It used to be known as Foxcatcher Farm. This is what Toll Brothers did there and it has almost the same number of plastic McMansions they want on Crebilly.

I don’t think so. And no one is doing anything too slow or even measure the pace of development. Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission want to talk a good game but what do they actually do? Unless we all forget Mr. O’Leary learned how to talk a good game from the masters in Lower Merion Township where he lives and where he once served on that planning commission, right?

Our state and federal elected officials are all busy fighting each other over who was elected president, but what are they doing for us in as far as historical preservation, land conservation, environmental conservation, open space conservation? What are they doing to protect the future of farming and Chester County and across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?  Come to think of it since election day what has any elected official done for any of us in any capacity other than being a talking head?

Happy Valentine’s Day Chester County.  Here is hoping from one end of the county to the other people wake up before it’s too late and realize developers are no gift.

Also Toll Brothers. Was once the most glorious series of farm fields and beautiful woods. Little Conestoga Road, Upper Uwchlan. Went by there last week and what was different is there are a couple of “sample” houses on a barren stripped swath of land.

Notice the land and tree “preservation” at Foxcatcher? Be horrified, this is the future at Crebilly.

 

Not Toll Brothers but this was the old Quigley Farm on White Horse Road in Charlestown Township. The title of this photo is “death of a farm”

Another view of what used to be open space in Chester County…..

Even Malvern Borough can’t escape – used to be Gables Greenhouses….

when articles appear that tell but half a story

6876843369_4fcfdf5e31_oSeptember 4th an article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer about East Whiteland.   Written by a reporter who actually interviewed me about growing roses in 1997, Alan J. Heavens.  I respect him a great deal and would love to know the impetus for this article.

The cynic in me thinks maybe it was placed as PR for the Great Valley Corporate Center or someone similar.

Now this article is well written, and the Inquirer sent one of their best photographers to capture some key shots of East Whiteland, including a very old farmhouse in a bucolic setting, ironically.

25960549603_96081cb1df_oBut the article neglects to mention the non-corporate residents of the township watching their way of life disappear one development at a time.  We live in Chester County because we choose not to live in a city or on the Main Line.  Yet development by development, what makes Chester County unique, even what makes East Whiteland special, is quickly disappearing.

27685291670_2d629ed33d_oJust the other day I wrote about the new fake General Warren Village over near the behemoth of ugliness called Atwater. In my post I mentioned a comment I had received on another blog post about East Whiteland:

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.

 

Now this article.  This article had to have been placed by someone because people in regional newspapers don’t just arrive at the topic of East Whiteland just because.  East Whiteland is a place most people just drive through without even thinking about the non-corporate residents in the township. East Whiteland barely has it’s own identity and doesn’t have a town center so most people know nothing of East Whiteland. They have heard of Malvern, they have heard of Frazer, they have heard of Great Valley High School. But mention “East Whiteland” to most and you get a blank stare.

So this article paints this great picture of all those corporations everyone has  to thank for our way of life in Chester County, apparently. Something along the lines of on the 8th day God created Corporate America perhaps? Ok that’s great, these places are employing folks from all over. Some of whom live in East Whiteland, but a great deal more live elsewhere.

cornfieldEast Whiteland is not just a place people drive through or go to work.  It’s home to real people year ’round.  East Whiteland is also home to Immaculata University and Villa Maria which also deserves credit for employing so many folks. And truthfully, they are better neighbors than corporate America and they respect the local history, heritage, and keep open space.

22015047366_4dd7b6d264_zThe article quotes a Narberth realtor, John Duffy of Duffy Realty. Why quote a veritable Auslander? They also have a St. David’s office.  But they aren’t Chester County realtors, they are based in Narberth and may have branched out to St. David’s, but if you look at their listings, the ones for Chester County with the exception of some rental unit at Raintree in Malvern Borough are all listings that mention SUB-DIVISION, So they are moving west like the developers but are they really the voice of Chester County Realtors now?.

Snippets from their listings on their website include:

  • 1 listing on Flowing Springs Rd in Chester Springs – it’s lovely but oh yes, possibility of sub-division.
  • 2 Juicy sized properties on Willann Road in Phoenixville – 15 and 17 acre parcels and yes, sub-division is possible.
  • 1 10+ acre property on Hickory Grove Road in Owen J Roberts School District “Possibility of four prime building lots on 10.2 gently sloping and wooded acres. Take advantage of sweeping southeasterly views across the Kimberton Golf Club”

The article mentioned East Whiteland Historic assets Gunkle Spring Mill and Lapp Log House. It doesn’t mention some of my favorite places like Duffy’s Cut (site of the massacre of Irish rail workers in the early 19th century), Linden Hall which is still rotting while the townhouses rise,  Loch Aerie, and the ruins of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill road which is nearly as old at 184 years as the AME Church itself which just turned 200. The article wouldn’t know how to find local landmarks like the Women’s Lib Barn. It certainly doesn’t mention the trailer parks and the itinerant worker housing seen on and off Route 30 near the Wawa and so on.

17047192442_1b07ce4e3d_oThe article touts the businesses as being responsible for a real estate boom, but neglects to add up all the living units currently in progress and being planned in East Whiteland and any potential/probable impact.  When all is said and done, East Whiteland will be compeletely overwhelmed by not hundreds, but thousands of  additional living units. The article states East Whiteland is 11 square miles, so think about it – a couple thousand new living units is a VERY big deal.  And no one wants to talk about how that will affect schools, municipal services, traffic, infrastructure, open space.  It’s not all happening in a vacuum and who is to say this zeal to build one cram plan after the other won’t affect residents detrimentally down the road? And who is to say economically East Whiteland can actually sustain so much development long term?

Oy vey. And it mentions two historic assets that I am sorry are darn lucky to be left standing in a township that doesn’t really do much with historic preservation even though the historical commission is headed now by a very knowledgeable and caring gentleman (and they posted minutes for August 2016!! ), legislatively the commission has no teeth because there is nothing in East Whiteland to give them teeth (much like Tredyffrin Township as well, yes?)

17045432081_e515193eb2_oThe realtor Duffy says he doesn’t recognize the names of the developers in East Whiteland.  

“Newly constructed homes are available, of course, but most of the builders are younger and their companies and developments smaller than the big names, Duffy says.

“In fact, when I’m asked by agents if I know anything about these builders, I have to call them,” he says.”

Funny, I find quite a lot of them familiar names as I first heard about them on the Main Line. The ones that actually develop, and others who get things approved but then sell their approved sites to other developers and even one or two who got approvals but thus far have done nothing and the names don’t ring a bell? And here I thought savvy realtors were always out and about?

You know O’Neill, Kahn, Pulte, Ryan Homes, Benson, Liberty Property? And if you don’t recognize their names there are others like Toll, JP Orleans, Bentley and more within spitting distance of East Whiteland because why? Oh yeah you can’t swing the proverbial dead cat in Chester County these days without hitting a developer, can you?

I realize you can’t fight city hall on everything, but this sundae with a cherry on top bubble view of East Whiteland doesn’t reflect the people who have lived here in some cases for decades who are terrified by the sheer volume of development and other things like gas pipelines which are coming at so many Chester County residents at a fast and furious pace.

16841236827_7e282e76de_oSo are there a lot of positives to this article? Yes but it still doesn’t mean East Whiteland needs to drown in development so it turns into Bensalem or King of Prussia, etc.  Open space is a real thing, and Chester County is losing it daily along with historic resources and equine and agricultural heritage.

The development which is occurring shows little architectural design aesthetic, aren’t exactly being built to withstand the test of time, and there is just too much of it.  Every square inch available is getting gobbled up. It’s insane, quite literally.

The Inquirer article neglects to mention all of this or the feelings of the existing residents and those in neighboring communities affected by all this development.

26774787724_76108f4124_oSo while the folks at places like the Great Valley Corporate Center are running around patting themselves on the back and realtors who aren’t truly representative of Chester County spout facts anyone with a computer can research on the Internet, there are the quiet voices of everyday people living in Chester County communities like in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are grateful for the commerce but don’t want to lose a way of life, open space, history, and so on.

What is this game we play? Bully for business and real estate developers and damn the existing residents, open space, agricultural heritage, and history?  Doesn’t seem like a very fun or fair game to me. Is moderation in growth really so goddamn difficult?

Here is the article:

Companies congregate here, drawing buyers

Updated: SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT

by Alan J. Heavens, Real Estate Writer @alheavens

It’s high time we headed over to East Whiteland for a visit.

After all, without this 11-square-mile Chester County community, a good many folks in this region would be unemployed.

There are so many corporate headquarters in East Whiteland that every weekday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the township’s population of 10,650 increases by more than 23,000.

Those companies include Cerner Corp. (formally Siemens Health Services), Vishay, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Ellucian Higher Education, Janssen Biotech (formerly Centocor), and Acme Markets.

Think Great Valley Corporate Center, five million square feet of office and research-and-development space on 700 acres – Liberty Property Trust’s largest domestic suburban project….

“It is a well-run township that cooperates with those around it, is convenient to everything, has a top school district and low taxes,” he says.

“Who can ask for more?”

 

The “more”  folks could ask for include slowing down the pace of development, open space and true historic preservation.  There are more than businesses living in East Whiteland Township.

The race for open space used to be just a tag line about saving it in Chester County. Now it describes every developer who gets their paws on a few acres.

moon over immaculataHappy Labor Day from the land of development, err Chester County. I really hope my feelings about this development are in the end proven wrong, but the reality is I have this sinking suspicion that when I am a very old lady I will be able to say I told you so and I won’t be happy doing it.

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how is this chester county?

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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?

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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

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