embreeville back in the news again….

embreeville ughA while ago I screen shot a Legal Intellegencer article that came up on a Google Cache:

Embreeville 1 Embreeville 2

Read the article. It is a cautionary tale of land shark developers and politicians and local zoning and the Municipalities Planning Code or the MPC. You know that giant body of code that steers our local zoning in PA?

Embreeville was on my blog in 2013 because of the connection to the then Chester County SPCA.   I noted then that West Bradford has a page dedicated to the hot mess that is this development.

Well people are waking up about Embreeville again because it is in the news again.  A huge development which will directly impact schools, roads, and quality of life.

I last paid attention to this in 2014:

Embreeville developers argue against ordinance change

POSTED: 08/07/14, 6:52 PM EDT

West Bradford >> Developers with housing plans at the former Embreeville State Hospital property challenged a recent change to a township zoning ordinance, arguing the township is not meeting its “fair share obligations” for regional growth.

“Fair share obligations”? Wow who knew you HAD to have development? I guess the screen shot from the Legal Intellegencer above from March 2016 is the end result of this?

1546220_246864565489435_80306963_nSo I had heard there was supposed to be a hearing June 22, but then it was postponed.  The most incredulous thing to me is this will be a hearing where it sounds like the public can’t speak?

west bradford

Public hearing is Aug. 3 for plan to build 1,100 homes and apartments in Embreeville

POSTED: 06/04/16, 3:57 PM EDT

A public hearing for a development that could change the character of the Unionville area will take place Wednesday, Aug. 3 at the West Bradford Township Building.

At stake is an ambitious plan by Embreeville Redevelopment LP to build 1,100 townhomes and apartments, including stores and businesses on a 225-acre parcel known as the Embreeville property, over the next 25 years. Some local residents say the development plan is too much, too fast and will adversely affect the area with traffic congestion and a strain on the school system. The development is equal to about a quarter of the entire West Bradford housing supply.

A zoning hearing is needed because the land is zoned for a park, prison, or educational institution, not a housing development….Total tract size includes 222 acres in West Bradford and 22 acres in Newlin Township. Thirteen acres will be single-family residential; 52 acres will be resreved for multi-family residential and 18 acres will be reserved for mixed residential…The zoning hearing will be held at the township building, 1385 Campus Drive, Downingtown at 7 p.m.

The same article as above appeared in The Daily Local a couple of days ago.

In 2013 The Daily Local opined on the sad state of affairs that is the Embreeville debacle (it’s worse than a potential development, it’s a debacle) . They said it was inappropriate and would be a call for disaster:

For decades, the hundreds of acres of land that stretch between the villages of Embreeville and Romansville in West Bradford served the needs of Chester County citizens, as the location of a poorhouse, a state hospital for the developmentally disabled, and as the spot of a state police barracks.

Since the late 1980s, it has been less and less of a vibrant place, and now stands as a forlorn reminder of past uses.

But that is not to say that what is being proposed by a land developer at the Embreeville center would be a worthwhile way of rejuvenating the property. Rather, the idea that the land would be the perfect place for a housing project with more than 1,000 units would be a call for a disaster.

We urge the West Bradford supervisors, who have been asked to start looking at the development, to reject calls for this sort of reuse. We trust from their comments that they do have the best interests not only of the citizens of West Bradford, but for all central Chester County, in mind.

Yet like most tragically bad development plans it is back again.

It is too big and too dense.

Why does everything proposed in Chester County have to be an open space killer ?

And what would happen to where Indian Hannah is?


Indian Hannah (Mrs. Hannah Freeman) (1730–1802) was the last of the Lenni-Lenape Indians (or Delawares) in Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA.[1][2][3]

She was born around 1730 in southern Chester County. She moved about the region, at times living in New Jersey, perhaps having a common law Indian husband named Andrew Freeman. She was known throughout the region, wandering with her two dogs Elmun and Putmoe selling brooms and woven baskets. In her later years she lived in the newly constructed Chester County Poorhouse where she died and was the first to be buried in its graveyard.

A road is named after her (“Indian Hannah Road”) in Newlin Township, Pennsylvania, and there are two memorial markers for her in Chester County, near Embreeville, Pennsylvania.


Indian Hannah has been written about a great deal.  The Inquirer wrote about her in 1989. Her history is fascinating, how would this development affect her memory? If her grave-site is on Embreeville property, then what?  And have Indian and other artifacts been found here? Properly cared for? Documented?  And I am confused about whatever actually happened to that 20 acres the SPCA had? Or didn’t they actually ever get the land?

Ok look, everyone knows that kind of a chunk of land will not go undeveloped, but why should this proposed development be allowed to ruin a part of Chester County?

Here are a couple of comments I have seen on social media:

With thousands of additional cars each morning, you can certainly plan on seeing quaint Marshalton installing a few traffic lights soon. As it is now cars back up a half mile each morning at the intersection of Strasburg and Telegraph, these developments and the extra traffic will a nightmare. I’m going to post a video soon of what Broad Run Rd looks like each day as people try to bypass the traffic and rush up the dirt road one after another to try and avoid the line on Strasburg. If the police want to make some money with speeding tickets they could make a years quota in 2 or 3 days. And this is BEFORE the developments have gone in.


This tract is very near the Natural Lands’ Cheslen preserve. I’m very disappointed in West Bradford….More suburbia in the last undeveloped area of Chester County, in West Bradford and parts north of Unionville?

Why is that they feel it’s acceptable to pack houses in a region just because its right next door to a preserve. Is this the vision of the Chester County comprehensive plan: create as many high density housing developments as possible but link them together with a few small open space areas, “passive” parks, recreational areas and exercise trails. So what if we no longer have working farms or authentic rural areas – we have a “planned” community of Chester County. You’ve heard of gentrification? Well this will be the organized suburbs.

Here is a great article on the area, written by a friend of mine for The Hunt Magazine: 

Chester County’s Poorhouse

A place to go for the poverty-stricken in the 19th century.

By Catherine Quillman |

As early as 1800, the poverty-stricken in Chester County had a place in the community. They lived at its Poorhouse, built on a 350–acre tract that was considered one of the most scenic regions of the county. In recent years, the grounds were known as the State Police Barracks at Embreeville and are now in the news for being part of a contested proposed high-density development.

The original building—a stately three-story brick structure with dormer windows—stood on a hilltop overlooking the West Branch of the Brandywine. From a distance, it resembled any other profitable farmstead of the region, with dairy cows and outbuildings. For the poor, this was no ordinary farm, of course. It served as an orphanage, a homeless shelter, a battered women’s refuge, a lying-in hospital, a nursing home and an asylum….For the most part, the Chester County Poorhouse was built in 1800 as a working farm. It was no Dickensian debtors’ prison. It had central heating and a steam laundry. Water was piped in from a nearby spring, and the kitchen was equipped with a professional-grade range and coffee boiler. Children of a certain age had their own dining room and, later, a school.

That first year, Hannah Freeman—aka “Indian Hannah”—appears on the books as one of only two nonwhite “inmates.” She and “Black Phyllis” were allowed to live, without segregation (that came later), among the other women in a dormitory-style room equipped with 27 cots but only 16 sets of sheets, as the “Visitors”—a group of men selected to tour the facilities—later reported.

On Nov. 12, 1800, when Freeman entered the Poorhouse at age 69, she was celebrated as a native Lenape Indian who lived alone with her two dogs in a series of “rude” huts. She had been under the care of a group of Quaker farmers, who signed a formal agreement for her financial support.

Freeman was later immortalized in the 1909 poem “The Last of Her Race.” In her lifetime, she became somewhat of a celebrity in Chester County. Yet only one other entry is found on the book—and that’s her 1802 death, the first in the institution, and her burial in the “almshouse graveyard.”


Anyway, I haven’t a clue as to how to stop this development any more than how people will stop whatever eventually happens at Bryn Coed in West Vincent and whichever other township has some of that estate in it but wow, we have to do something about development, right?

Chester County needs a citizen driven county-wide initiative to slow down, and in some cases stop development.  Chester County residents need to take back their county. When the open space is gone, it’s not coming back. When the farms are gone, they won’t be producing food. And all of these developments impact our way of life and our taxes and schools.  Municipalities get the quickie high of one time ratables and the burden goes to the taxpayers forever after, correct?

Every resident of Chester County needs to remember these horrible development plans every time there is the opportunity to vote in the most local of elections right through to Harrisburg. Use your power of your vote to enact change. But in the mean time, support the folks immediately impacted by a development on what was Embreeville State Hospital.

Contact Andy Dinniman’s office. He’s the state senator.  As for State Rep, contact your State Rep and tell them this is a BAD PLAN to enact on formerly(?) state owned land. And that is something I wonder: who owns the land? Is it the developer now? Or is it still the state pending the outcome of these hearings?





woof! more drama out of chester county SPCA


This sweet pup has nothing to do with the drama at the CCSPCA. This pup is just a reminder about WHAT it is the CCSPCA is supposed to be about….

Sigh….another in depth article about the issues regarding the Chester County SPCA today.

Planned land sale raises questions for Chester SPCA board
 Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer  Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Two years after the Chester County SPCA turned down an offer to sell 20 acres of  the nonprofit’s land to West Bradford Township for a public park, the shelter’s  board has agreed to sell the land to a real estate partnership in which board  president Conrad Muhly is a principal….

Muhly is a principal member in Embreeville Redevelopment, a limited partnership that has an agreement of sale to purchase the CCSPCA’s unused acreage at West Strasburg Road and Shagbark Drive.

The land abuts the 245-acre Embreeville State Hospital parcel that the partnership purchased from the state for $1.05 million in the spring for potential development.

Muhly declined requests for interviews but did address questions in an e-mail….

Asked why the offer was declined, Muhly said in an e-mail: “There was no official offer to purchase the property.”

As for the vote this year on the sale of the 20 acres to his partnership, Muhly stated he had recused himself.

In an e-mail obtained by The Inquirer, board treasurer Frank Sobyak told board members that the sale to the partnership “will net the shelter $300,000 for land we no longer have use for.”…. When it deeded the 20 acres to the CCSPCA in 2002, the state stipulated that it be used for “programs and services associated with the prevention of cruelty to animals” in accordance with state law.

Many thanks to reporters like Mari Schaefer who continue to follow this story.  Conrad Muhly should step down immediately. Is it just me or is his involvement in this whole land thing a conflict of interest as a CCSPCA Board Member, let alone President of said board? As a matter of fact he and any board member that are truly interested in the best interests of a non-profit shelter with a venerable history, should step aside and allow fresh faces and fresh perspectives to step in. And where is Jim Jones the Controller of the CCSPCA in all this?  Some say he should be spoken to?

Mr. Muhly was undoubtedly chosen for his board role at CCSPCA because I imagine he is a wealthy man. When you look him up on PA’s publicly searchable corporation data base  you come up with what I assume are familial construction entities and then an internet search shows something called “Terra”. Don’t know much about it, found it on his LinkedIn profile.

Now this whole issue in West Bradford stems around this  Embreeville Redevelopment, and here is their page off the searchable corporations database:


Mr. Muhly is named as a partner on the Marshallton Conservation Trust website:

Marshalltown CT

On 8/4/13 The Daily Local wrote a scathing editorial about this project:

For decades, the hundreds of acres of land that stretch between the villages of Embreeville and Romansville in West Bradford served the needs of Chester County citizens, as the location of a poorhouse, a state hospital for the developmentally disabled, and as the spot of a state police barracks.

Since the late 1980s, it has been less and less of a vibrant place, and now stands as a forlorn reminder of past uses…..the idea that the land would be the perfect place for a housing project with more than 1,000 units would be a call for a disaster.

Apparently we have the Commonwealth of PA (you know, the people who can’t seem to get their collective act together where dog laws are concerned and other things?) to thank for selling this property, and West Bradford has a page dedicated on their website to just this topic. As an aside I wonder if parts of this property might be creepy a la Pilgrim State Hospital in New York on Long Island that I took some photos of this summer.

Anyway, back to the dogs.  Seems to me that the shelter dogs and animals are not thought of in this land equation much are they?  Ironically the Treasurer of the CCSPCA mentioned in the Inquirer article and who also did not return calls was honored by the CCSPCA in June as Volunteer of the Year (see the pretty picture below?) as per the Unionville Times:

Here is hoping the Chester County SPCA can jettison all this trouble and get back to what they are about: the rescue and re-homing of neglected, abandoned animals.  This controversy in my opinion only continues to tarnish their reputation and eventually will make people want their non-profit status evaluated for any number of reasons.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, cats and dogs would be a horrible thing to have happen.

And a note to those like “birdiegirl” who like to roam around flapping their keyboards in quasi anonymous glory on websites covering this, sunshine is a bitch when it happens which is why no one can ever hide this stuff forever. Please stop running around crying fowl and actually put your energy to better use by telling the CCPSCA to get it together.  They caused this, not anyone else. And if they did their recent inspection truly and honestly, I am glad they passed.

In case you are interested, here is who the CCSPCA lists as board and staff these days:


Board of Directors

Conrad E. Muhly, President
Doug Marshall, Vice President
Frank Sobyak, Treasurer
Beth Hills, Secretary
Joe Colella
Richard M. Dluhy
Bud Haly
Kim Denise Morton
Debbie Nason-Naples, Esq.

Board Member Emeritus

Elizabeth Minor

Management Staff

Larry Dieter, VMD, Director of Veterinary Services
Robyn Freese, Business Operations Coordinator
Jim Jones, Controller
Becky Turnbull, Animal Protective Services Coordinator
Here is their mission and vision:


To promote the welfare and humane treatment of animals and to be an advocate on their behalf.


To be the recognized center for animal welfare fostering a  community that believes life should be respected and treated with  dignity.
Here is hoping they get back to both soon. Here’s hoping that the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of PA is looking into this, right?