not glad tidings in easttown township

demolish

Poor Easttown Township residents. More history at risk?

Easttown is another area with a LOT of history and lovely neighborhoods…seemingly under siege.  And it’s not more to do with the Devon Horse Show or the whole new retail development on the old Waterloo site.

Locals are saying that in Easttown Township there are issues between zoning ordinance and I think their comprehensive plan? I don’t quite get all of it, but apparently it is something the township needs to iron this all out but it won’t happen until 2019? Locals are also saying the lovely and quaint village of Berwyn is once again under siege. (Now this news is nothing new, I remember another time around the time of eminent domain in Ardmore.)  What is happening currently I am told is the beautiful old Victorian and other frame houses (i.e. wooden) that Berwyn is locally famous for are being snatched up and taken down in favor of new construction.

In 2007 I mentioned a group called “Protect Berwyn” in an editorial I wrote for Main Line Media News then editor, my friend, the late (and great and missed) Tom Murray.  There was another editorial talking about Main Line development in March, 2007 but I am not sure who wrote it.  It’s title is The developer-neighbor feud: A healthy dynamic and it still resonates and is current today. In May, 2007 Tom Murray wrote an editorial titled Moratorium on development needed on the Main Line. It still resonates and even more so, especially if you live in Chester County.

The Berwyn area has been ground zero for Upper Main Line development going back years and years.  (Check this article out from 2001.) In 2013, it was a crazy hot button topic and check out this article in Main Line Media News by Caroline O’Halloran before she went out on her own:

Amid dissent, Easttown approves sweeping zoning changes for Berwyn Village
By Caroline O’Halloran
Aug 20, 2013

Downtown Berwyn won’t look especially different under the new zoning ordinance amendments approved in a 3-2 vote by Easttown’s Board of Supervisors Monday night. At least not right away.

But assurances by its creators that the new rules won’t mean major change didn’t seem to mollify the 45 property owners who attended the meeting, most to question the plan.

Instead of five zones, the new plan puts all Berwyn properties into one of three districts: Village Business, Village Residential and Village Transition.

Poor Berwyn. Maybe Protect Berwyn had the right idea circa 2007?

Here is some suggested reading from Main Line Media News over the coolness of Berwyn before I get to the rest of the post:

Berwyn Banter
By Ray Hoffman Jun 19, 2008

Just where is Berwyn, anyway?
By Ray Hoffman Jun 28, 2007

Painting a picture of Berwyn’s past
By Ryan Richards Jun 23, 2005

Berwyn walking tour highlights storied past
By Ryan Richards Aug 19, 2009

So by now you are wondering why I posted a screen shot from a real estate listing?

Because well, underneath the stucco awfulness of it all on this listing is a historic log cabin dating back to the 1750s. (Realtor site says 1758, my sources say 1750 – located ar 46 Arlington Road in Devon.)

Just LAST year, the news spread nationally when Main Line stylist Jude Plum restored a 300 year old log cabin in Bryn Mawr.  He had bought the home once owned by dog groomer and English Springer Spaniel breeder, Ann Elder.  Now I knew Ann for years, was in and out of her little house from the time I was a kid, knew her house was old, but never knew it was 300 years old until Jude bought the place some time after she had passed away.

This historic log home, log cabin in Bryn Mawr dates to 1704! Read about it in Country Living Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Main Line Media News. So don’t tell me restoring them is out of the question.  After all there are entire T.V. shows devoted to restoring and rebuilding log cabins and log homes.

So anyway, I was told today that folks can do a right to know on Easttown and get the demolition permit application? And that the demolition permit has been issued?

I figure it’s a good bet since the realtor seems very excited and it’s on her listing:

BSdemo 2

Yes, that’s right! RUN don’t walk! Don’t miss your opportunity to tear down a mid-18th century log home that was built before America declared her freedom!

I understand the property owner wants to sell this property, but if ever there was a need for a preservation-minded buyer this is it.  Heck if I lived in Easttown I would contact the DIY and HGTV shows that feature log homes and log cabins. Maybe they know someone to buy and save this.

Easttown Township is yet another Chester County municipality that sadly can’t see its history (or open space) for the ratables of development aren’t they? It’s like ratables from development are the drug  and the municipalities are like addicts, aren’t they?

Easttown residents it is up to you.  I am only pointing this out….if they could save a cabin OLDER than this in far worse condition in Bryn Mawr, they can save one in Devon. And if they don’t wake up soon, the village of Berwyn will really disappear too, won’t it?

Tick tock, Easttown. Tick tock.

 

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haunted house of francis avenue in berwyn?

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Driving around with my friend Catherine today doing the super amazing Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust house tour, we stumbled upon this crazy desolate looking house in Easttown Township.  It looks like it sits on a couple of acres and I think the address is 218 Francis Avenue, Berwyn.

It could be empty or someone could be living there.  It looks like a haunted house.  There is a chain across the driveway with a bunch of old trash cans and a sign that says “Beware of the Dog” only there are no signs of life.  To the right of the house is some sort of boarded up stable or garage – hard to tell from the street.

It sparks the imagination and would be perfect for an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

If anyone has infomation about this house which seems like it was built in early 1900s, please post.  It was probably a beautiful house in it’s day.

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Please note disparaging comments received regarding my photographing this house from a public street made me decide to post directly from Easttown’s website list of current applications:


come on over to my virtual lawn easttown township

sign

Dear Easttown Township,

It’s called the First Amendment.

Remember?

Easttown Township is it true that y’all have some issues with Devon-area homeowners’ First Amendment rights to display lawn signs supporting preservation of their community????

Is it true that yesterday maybe someone picked up all of the “Save Devon/Don’t Rezone” signs that were up all around Devon? As in TRESPASSED on the private property of residents??? Did that REALLY happen? Or is it an suburban legend? If it is true did the taxpayers of your township just pay for that even as they are exhibiting their First Amendment rights?

People were told that perhaps some people might find the lawn signs offensive? Waaaaahhhhh you mean like the developer or involved interested parties? Since when can’t you post a lawn sign in this country?

So Easttown, I am a blogger. Call this post my virtual lawn.  I am displaying my lawn sign in support of the residents trying to preserve their community without unnecessary super-sizing and urbanizing.

I don’t think there is an ordinance prohibiting it just yet?

Easttown Township, maybe you should clear the air about this with a public statement? It would be helpful, after all, your residents LOVE where they live and they are just trying to protect where they call home.

Hugs and kisses,

Me

Devon

save the barn (easttown township)- important october 3rd meeting!

I have written about residents trying to save this historic Chester County barn before. Twice as a matter of fact.

Here is a flyer that was sent to me about an upcoming zoning meeting on October 3rd in Easttown Township.  Apparently the developer (Bentley Homes) is seeking a demolition permit now I presume.  Not shocking after that fabulous effort to market the barn to a new owner, right? And the thing is this: this barn has had restoration to modernize it and is in good shape.  So why wouldn’t it sell unless it wasn’t really ever marketed?  Why not make the barn into a house as part of this development? Oh never mind, why ask redundant questions.

A historic barn means nothing to Bentley Homes, does it? They are, after all the people who took a heck of a lot of forest off of Forest Lane (Willistown Township, Malvern), right? The people who have done the same de-treeing thing on County Line Road in Radnor Township, right?  This is a sin if this barn gets demolished.  If you can help or know someone who will buy it, please go that meeting.

You can always build another Tyvec wrapped box.  Structures like this barn? Not so much. We need to preserve history like this.  And this is perfectly adaptable to modern use.  This developer has more than enough jingle in his pocket that he could either sell or reuse this barn if he wanted to.

Once again I reiterate my plea to residents in Chester County to lobby any elected official they can to slow down development in the county.

Bentley Homes development County Line Road, Villanova, Radnor Twp

Bentley Homes development County Line Road, Villanova, Radnor Twp

so easttown…really…”pursuing other opportunities”?

easttownI will admit I am intrigued.  I was perusing my friend Pattye Benson’s blog “Community Matters” when this post jumped out at me about the sudden exit stage left by Mike Brown, Easttown Township’s Manager.  I have to ask is it really “pursuing other opportunities” when an employee is being escorted from the building?

Seems to me that Easttown Township has some ‘splaining to do, huh?  Wonder what that means for that poor barn?

Questions about Easttown Township Manager’s Sudden Departure – Gene Williams Called out of Retirement

After serving Easttown Township for 40 years, it was hard for many to believe that township manager Gene Williams was retiring.  But retire he did. At the end of 2011, Williams retired and was succeeded by the township’s assistant manager Mike Brown.  Brown was on the job for about 18 months as the assistant manager, brought on to take over once Williams retired.  Williams retired and Brown took over in January 2012.  Barely a year later, we now learn that Brown was escorted from the township building last week and Williams is brought out of retirement to fill in temporarily until a new township manager can be hired.  Why? Clearly, there is something behind Brown’s sudden departure….For now, here’s the official press release  and we are left to wonder what happened.“Easttown Township is pleased to announce that Gene Williams will be serving the township as temporary interim manager, under and subject to consideration and action by the Easttown Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Tuesday, February 19th.  Mr. Williams previously headed the Easttown staff for more than 30 years.  Gene will assist during the transition period following the departure of Mike Brown to pursue other opportunities.  Easttown Township also announces the commencement of a search for candidates to more permanently fill the manager position.”

If someone was really escorted from the building, then there is a heck of a lot more to this story, isn’t there?

chester county barn under siege by bentley homes

bentlery pigIn Easttown Township on Waterloo Road there is a barn called the Kennedy Barn by some, Mrs. Rossi’s Barn by others. Mrs. Rossi’s husband was the one who restored the barn most recently, apparently.  He was a co-founder of ANRO printing. So in a nutshell, this barn isn’t past salvation like many large and now unused barns.

The barn is described by the Inquirer today as “hundreds of years old.” Yet Tom Bentley of Bentley Homes can’t seem to do a thing with it, can’t seem to market it well enough to sell it.  He wants to demolish it.  You see the barn is standing between him and eight or so new McMansions.

Yes, some consider Bentley a better kind of developer.  I just see his homes as more upscale stone facing, stylistically over complicated and contradictory on the exteriors, yet still at their heart big Tyvec boxes on relatively small lots for the most part for their size. For the most part all they do is scream “NEW”.

I first became aware of Bentley years ago when working on a wine tasting for a Philadelphia Orchestra Committee.  Like many developers are wont to do, he lent one of his sample homes for the tasting.  I think it was over near Aronomink Golf Club.  The house was a large, drafty cavernous box with all the bells and whistles the nouveau riche of the Main Line would shrivel up and die without including a kitchen that you knew would be for show in the end rather than actual use.  It kind of went with his girlfriend at the time, a woman who looked like a rather less expensive version of Stevie Nicks.

I was disappointed when I moved out to Chester County when I realized one of my favorite streets in Malvern, Forest Lane, had sprouted a veritable infantry of Bentley Homes.  All but one is predictable and went up in about ten minutes.  So over there, the horse is out of the proverbial barn, nothing can be done.  But over in Easttown?  What the heck is wrong with their supervisors and planning commission?  Where is their historic commission on this?

Let’s get real: if Bentley wanted to save the barn, he would.  If he wanted to use the barn he would, because earlier developments of his sometimes included older structures, original to the property.  But nooooo, Bentley wanted to knock down the barn and leave some man-made ruin with a freaking plaque!  “Barn Wuz Here”. How fabulous and generous. Not.

And those on this commission in Easttown including a woman I think highly of for prior preservation and community building efforts think this is o.k.? I think I am the most disappointed in her.  And yes, I get how this all works and they are trying to make the best of a bad situation, but you know what?  Not good enough.

Bentley is a well-heeled developer.  If he wanted to, he could turn that barn into a living space adapted for modern use.  It is done all over the country, and has been done successfully on the Main Line and out here in Chester County as well.  Facing Forest Lane in Malvern on a corner of another development street just up from Bentley’s homes on Forest sits an amazing example of a barn converted to living space.  Friends of my family live in another such space on Upper Gulph Road in Radnor Township and there is also another converted barn space on Darby-Paoli Road that once belonged to a family I knew in high school and then to another a woman my mother used to know.  And circling back to Bentley, those houses he is building on County Line Road in Villanova?  It is amazing how many trees did not survive, isn’t it?

The point is, it can be done (the barn saved and turned into some sort of adaptive reuse, preferably residential), only Bentley doesn’t care and Easttown is willing to settle at the expense of its irreplaceable history. Not that Easttown is the only municipality guilty of these travesties.  As a bit if a related segue, I believe it is on one part or near Sugartown Road if you go the back way to hit that Buho Mexican restaurant in Exton you see a neat row of some houses that were quite lovely at one time which are now rotting.  Obviously some developer bought them and got hit by the economy tanking.  It makes you shake your head in wonder.  Every one of those houses could have been upgraded to more modern means if need be, but no, someday they will all come tumbling down for some more plastic boxes.

Chester County municipalities need to collectively wake up before everything is ruined out here.  Once the land is gone, it’s gone. Once the old buildings and historic structures are gone, they are gone.  I know every old house and every old building can’t be saved, but lordy at least make an effort once in a while. And that is the problem: none of these municipalities make a consistent effort any longer.

If any of you out there know anyone that can wrest this barn from Bentley or get him to save it on his own, please do.  Personally when I hear things like this I think next time there is an election Easttown residents should change-up the faces don’t you? It is time that deep pocketed developers stop running and ruining communities, isn’t it?

But if you see Tom Bentley cruising your neighborhood you can’t miss him.  He has a preposterous vanity plate.

Shame on Easttown Township.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Plans to demolish centuries-old barn raises hackles in Chester County

Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer Staff Writer
 Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013, 3:01 AM

For two centuries, give or take a few years, an enormous stone barn has occupied a patch of land  now at the end of a winding Main Line driveway on Waterloo Road in Easttown Township.

In the township’s historic archives, it is known as the Kennedy Barn. For residents in the area, it’s Mrs. Rossi’s barn; for years, it was part of the estate of Rose Rossi, one of the cofounders of ANRO Inc., a printing company.

But lately, it has been the central figure in the Battle of the Barn, pitting longtime Main Line residents against a builder of some of the region’s largest and most luxurious residences.

The 10-acre parcel  on which the barn sits  is owned by Tom Bentley,  chief executive officer of Bentley Homes.

Bentley wants to build an eight-house subdivision on the Rossi estate and has contended  the barn is unmarketable. Leaving it  intact and building a house on the same lot would violate zoning ordinances.

He has offered instead to demolish most of the barn, leave its ruins on the site, and erect a plaque on Waterloo Road explaining its  historical significance.

On Tuesday night, the Easttown Township Board of Supervisors granted Bentley a demolition permit and permission to begin building his subdivision, with several caveats: He  must take 120 days to market the barn, and if he sells it, he must redraw lot lines in the subdivision to comply with zoning ordinances….Locals have cried foul….  Kemp Littlepage, who lives across the street from the barn, offered to buy it  from Bentley on the spot Tuesday night.

“I wouldn’t sell it to you anyway,” Bentley said.

If you want to call Tom Bentley’s office and tell him how you feel: 610.436.5500

If you want to e-mail Tom Bentley’s office and tell him how you feel: salesinfo@bentleyhomes.com

If you want to tell him on Facebook how you feel: http://www.facebook.com/BentleyHomes

Easttown barn demolition nears reality

 By BRENT GLASGOW bglasgow@dailylocal.com
Posted: Thursday, 01/03/13 02:42 pm
The reducing-to-ruin of a refurbished early-1800s barn in Devon is one step closer following Wednesday’s Easttown Planning Commission meeting.

The commission agreed to recommend approval of Bentley Homes’ application for demolition to the Easttown Board of Supervisors, with consideration given to requests from the township’s Historical Commission.

For months, the Planning Commission has heard from those who hoped to save the barn on the former property of Angelo and Rose Rossi at 222 Waterloo Road, which Bentley CEO Tom Bentley wants to turn into a 10-acre subdivision.