is it possible to STOP toll brothers from destroying crebilly farm in westtown? sadly, probably not.

Crebilly Farm, June 2014 (my photo)

Crebilly Farm, June 2014 (my photo)

I know people get tired of hearing me talk about development and the OVER-development of Chester County. So if you don’t want to hear how I feel, turn away now.

ASB stallion Sensation Rex was owned by Crebilly Farms in Pennsylvania during the 1940's (from Pinterest)

ASB stallion Sensation Rex was owned by Crebilly Farms in Pennsylvania during the 1940’s (from Pinterest)

About a week ago I heard Crebilly Farm on 926 in Westtown was possibly going the entire kit and kaboodle to a developer.  I put it out of my head as life was, well, life. It was filed under Tomorrow is Another Day, Miss Scarlett. Until just a little while ago.

Then today thanks to a friend posting an article written by someone else we both know, well here we are: we know Crebilly’s suitor, the ultimate destroyer of farmland and open space everywhere, TOLL BROTHERS.

Toll Brothers has not even sold out the mass annihilation of what was once Foxcatcher Farm the DuPont Estate in Newtown Square (They call it Liseter.)…or the Reserve at Chester Springs or Creekside at Byers Station, or any of the multitude of other crap they have spread over Pennsylvania.  I am always believe they create a false and not actual need. It isn’t about growing our communities, it is about lining Toll Brothers pockets.

I don’t know what it is about farms in particular that draws Toll Brothers in, but Crebilly is another one on the hit list as we now know.  A third (?)  generation astoundingly gorgeous farm, that is so amazing to drive past on 926.

I shudder to think of how it will look like covered in “Toll”. Maybe like this:

8031397502_6320c08fb0_o

Or this:

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And if the “little people” are really good, some townhouses (see what happens when I go up in balloons? I take development horror show photos):

8031424486_0eda80b164_o

YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So who can stop Toll Brothers? Is it possible to neuter them? Can they go build plastic houses in Afghanistan or something?

What happens to McGregor Stables which I believe to still be on Crebilly?

Crebilly Farm by Richard McFarland http://richardmcfarland.us/

Crebilly Farm by Richard McFarland
http://richardmcfarland.us/

Ok so you get the picture? That this is GORGEOUS and this is a NIGHTMARE?

Who is protecting the beauty and land heritage of Chester County? Certainly not Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission. (But I never expect much from “planners” out of Lower Merion Township which is one hot development mess on it’s own.)

The Chester County Planning Commission has a unique mission statement they don’t exactly live up to:

Mission Statement
The mission of the Chester County Planning Commission is to provide future growth and preservation plans to citizens, so that they can enjoy a Chester County that is historic, green, mobile and prosperous.

 

Green we are losing by the acre by the day it feels like. Same with the history, which includes agricultural history.

Crebilly Farm aerial shot courtesy of Crebilly Farm

Crebilly Farm aerial shot courtesy of Crebilly Farm

Two years ago there was a Change.org petition to stop development on Crebilly. In 1987 Crebilly was mentioned in this Inquirer article:

Keeping Developers At Bay When Heart Is On The Farm

POSTED: January 04, 1987

Marshall Jones 2d drives across the brown, stubbled hayfield and up a steep ridge, surveying his beloved Maple Shade Farm in Westtown.

From this vantage point, he sees his hayfields and his cornfields. He sees his weathered gray barn, like a great prairie schooner, giving shelter to the herd of black and white Holsteins. And he sees the stone farmhouse that his father covered with white plaster so many years ago.

He sees, too, Shiloh Road that separates two different worlds: On one side are Jones’ 190 acres of rolling farmland; on the other is the Plumly Farm development.

Jones, 77, owns one of the three farms of more than 100 acres that are left in Westtown. Although developers are offering him large sums for his property, he hopes that either the township or the Brandywine Conservancy will someday

purchase his land and keep it as open space.

Township officials say Crebilly Farms has 400 acres, and The Westtown School has 600 acres, although less than half of its property is farmed.

“I get two calls a week from people wanting to buy the place,” Jones said. “The developers want it. They want it bad. But they’re not going to get (all of it) as long as I’m alive.”

Now Marshall Jones was a heck of an interesting gent.  My friend Catherine Quillman actually profiled him in 1992 for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

But back to Crebilly.  It’s what? Still close to 400 acres?

Farms are expensive and developers have lots and lots of money. But we have to do something to preserve some of this land.  I would say that given the noises made by Westtown Township in the article I am about to post that this is pretty much a done deal.   And it doesn’t surprise me that Westtown will do this given the way they rolled over and showed their municipal belly to to Bartkowski The Billboard Baron a few years ago.  You know that thing that is like the size of a 24 hour dirve in movie screen? That was once described as  “a 14-foot-tall, 48-foot-wide digital sign…. gateway for southbound drivers on Route 202 entering the township from West Goshen and the West Chester Bypass.”

When I was little Westtown was this most amazing place of rolling farmland and gorgeous, spacious properties.  No more.  Yet another for whom the bell “Tolls”, right? What happens when Bryn Coed falls to development in West Vincent?  With Bryn Coed I still believe it is not a question of IF but a question of WHEN.

Here is an excerpt from Kathleen Brady Shea’s article (you will want to read every last word):

Chadds Ford Live: Toll Brothers making plans for Crebilly Farm

Ok read the article. All of it. It is the Liseter formula:

  • 300 two-story homes
  • 145 single-family
  • 165 carriage-style dwellings, all with basements.

Or a mix of 143 single-family and 204 carriage-style homes. If you all are good little subjects they will save a barn or something as a party space.

It’s the same thing every time. Gross. Just gross.

Buh byes open space.  Sigh.

My photo . June, 2014

My photo . June, 2014

Time to add a postscript. I received this comment:

comment

Unfortunately the Robinson family (who are the owners I am told), have chosen the potential of a cash cow over land conservation.  They need to live with that.  I think that they are doing this is crappy BUT Toll Brothers or ANY developer could choose to do things differently and they never do (just like property owners who are selling these giant tracts of land/open space to the highest bidder.).

As for Westtown Township Officials? My opinion is simple: if this goes through, every supervisor and possibly their manager needs to go. If any Supervisors can be voted out this coming November, start there.  I have no idea about how they spend their open space funds or what they have. I am not a resident of Westtown Township.

Here is their board:

westtown

Everyone should contact them – supervisors@westtown.org

Here is the manager- rpingar@westtown.org

Of special note is the Chair, Carol R. De Wolf.  How ironic is it that she works for Natural Lands Trust as the director of the Schuylkill Highlands???? Maybe residents should be asking her some tough questions?  Has she tried to get any of the land that is Crebilly conserved?

nat lands

Anyway, that is the end of the post script.

will bryn coed become chester county’s next chesterbrook?

DSC_9635

Overnight a brave lady posted on the blog’s FB page. A resident of West Vincent who lives on Bryn Coed property. Bryn Coed was recently mentioned in a development post I had put up, because if developed between the land in West Vincent and the land in a neighboring municipality, the land is well like close to twice the size of what was Chesterbrook Farm and what is the development Chesterbrook that when the first house was built in 1977 forever changed the face of that part of Chester County. So built up today, you would never know it was once an important agricultural site.

Also do not forget Foxcatcher Farm off Goshen Road and 252 in neighboring Delaware County. Don’t forget what Toll Brothers has done there in what is known as the Liseter. Remember the barns, the rolling fields, the ponies, the horses, the trees, the woods? You would never know one of the most grand DuPont estates was once there. And no matter how they advertise (New York Times and tacky “buy now” signs all along West Chester Pike until you are practically in the borough), are those houses selling like proverbial “hotcakes”? Doesn’t seem to be does it?

Tredyffrin Township can barely handle Chesterbrook and all other responsibilities involved today and well Tredyffrin is a much larger better functioning municipality than West Vincent. I hate that once again West Vincent is the focus of a Chester County blog post, but this is a municipality in crisis, isn’t it?

Between West Vincent and Upper Uwchlan, this part of Chester County is in serious crisis from development. Remember another post I had up a couple years ago? Once again about Toll Brothers…in Upper Uwchlan. Toll Brothers is everywhere. And if it is not Toll Brothers it is other developers.

It’s too much.

Bryn Coed is one of the last relatively unmolested land parcels of its size in Chester County, isn’t it? Neighboring farms and homes voice bragging rights due to their proximity to Bryn Coed.  I once saw a real estate listing with this description:

This small but wonderful farmhouse is …situated on a country road on 3.9 very usable acres that are fenced in for three paddocks and riding ring. The bank barn has 4-5 stalls, and huge hayloft. It adjoins open space owned by Bryn Coed farms. You can ride out to trails right from the property. Chester County, Pennsylvania hosts many equestrian events of all disciplines.

Descriptions of listings like that will change if Toll Brothers or another developer buys the land parcel, right?

Think I am making it up? Here are the screen shots:

Toll Brothers1

Bryn Coed Evict

evict family

Developers don’t care about existing tenants and rent producing tenant properties when they have a “vision”, do they?

There is a sugar would melt in their mouths bless their little hearts page on Facebook for West Vincent residents supposedly even though I really thought it was created to promote a certain supervisor’s desperate bid to remain in office. I was sent a screen shot just now:

hear voices

My, my, my.  I guess this “lady” is the “official” spokesperson for West Vincent Township? Why bless her heart!  People keep sending me screen shots where she seems to speak FOR the township and the elected and appointed officials? Guess they do things differently there? Hope Miller keeps her in cheese and veal sticks, right?

So you know if you had such “influence” in the community wouldn’t you be trying to find the nice lady and other residents on Bryn Coed places to live? Or would you dismiss someone posting publicly that they had a notice to quit or something similar posted on their door as a “rumor”?

Everything is always a rumor it seems with Bryn Coed, right? Remember the meeting in March where the meeting notes reflect addressing a gentleman who expressed concern including about Bryn Coed? (West Vincent-2015-03-09-minutes)

Toll Bryn Coed

So it’s all always a rumor while quietly things get looked at, measured, tested, filed with DEP I am told?

This lady has SIX children. Now I know I know you rent there is always a risk the property will be sold but why post a notice like that if it is not true?  At any time they could be put off where they call home.

Oh and speaking of Bryn Coed, saw a cool restoration on an architect’s website (click here).

For the historical perspective Chester County resident should read if they haven’t the history of Chesterbrook as complied by the Tredyffin Easttown Historical Society. (Volume40_N1_027 TE History of Chesterbrook ) . It is a grim reminder of what could be seen again, on Bryn Coed, isn’t it?

This is why residents in NOT just West Vincent but elsewhere need to change the faces of who govern them sooner rather than later. The lure of the developer’s song (and dance) is far too tempting for local politicians who are shall we say…deeply entrenched? And what about term limits in local government? Not a bad idea, eh?

I am a realist. I know it is nearly impossible to preserve giant swaths of land like this – no one wants to deal with a 350 acre estate (Ardrossan, Radnor Township) or an 800+ acre estate (Foxcatcher Farm Newtown, Delaware County) Look what happened at Ardrossan, after all and that 350 acres has been carved up by relatives, and rumors abound there about the future of the mansion too, isn’t there? And we know the horror show that occurred at Foxcatcher Farm.

But between no one wanting to deal with big estates, and hearing about this lady on Bryn Coed made me think about all the tenant houses on Ardrossan.  What has happened there? Are the people still living there? I know different people over the years who have rented cottages and small farm house on Ardrossan. But I digress.

So, development of parcels like this is inevitable unless someone like Natural Lands Trust buys and conserves the land. And sometimes land conservation groups can only acquire a portion – and a lot of times it is the portion of the property that would just be too difficult and expensive for a developer to develop, right? Swamp? Wetlands? Steep Slopes? (You know like the pig in a poke purchased by Radnor Township at Ardrossan?)

The problem with all this development throughout Chester County and elsewhere is there is no true planning, it is just shoving in as many plastic houses as possible. No gardens, no lawns, no sweeping vistas, just row after row of plastic boxes sometimes slab on grade. All lined up like plastic soldiers or Legos.

So think about all the crammed in plastic and stucco boxes on Chesterbrook. Then think about Bryn Coed. Is that the appropriate vision for Chester County, or more like a nightmare waiting to happen?

Local government will always play Pontius Pilate when it comes to development won’t they? Just like monkeys all lined up when you ask questions. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil?

monkeys

Yeah. About that. If that is what you get, another reason to change the face of who governs you.

Preservation and conservation and so on and so forth can’t just be buzz words. They actually have to mean something.

Once the land is gone, it’s gone.

I will close with another old article I found on Chesterbrook:

Pre-development History Of The Farm At Chesterbrook

Posted: September 26, 1991

Mary Cavanaugh arrived at the Berwyn train station on an icy winter’s day in 1909. Snow was piled high on the land around her as she stepped into a horse-drawn sleigh, bundled robes around herself to keep warm and began the three-mile trek across the frozen ground to Chesterbrook Farm. She had just arrived in the United States from Ireland and had never seen snow before.

Cavanaugh, a parlor maid in the main house on the farm, was the mother of John, Edward and Marie Boland, who gathered Monday evening with about 80 current residents of the Chesterbrook development for a presentation on the history of the 600-acre farm in Tredyffrin Township.

The three children’s father was Peter Boland, a second coachman at the main house who became the farm manager in 1932.

The Boland children reminisced about growing up on the farm in the early 1900s, swimming in its streams, sledding and hunting on its fields and making its open space their playground.

Now, the same land is populated by condominiums, townhouses, office buildings and a shopping center…….. Audrey Baur, chairman of the DuPortail History Group, and Clara Bondinell, a member of the history group, painted a picture for the audience of the dimensions and the location of the farm…..Some former residents of the farm are unhappy with the development of the farmland.

“It makes me sick. It’s terrible,” said John Boland, who now lives in Berwyn. “My wife and I were on the committee to save Chesterbrook. We had hopes the state would annex it to Valley Forge Park.”

the case for open space

See this photo above? The one I am opening this post with? Gorgeous view and vista, right? That is what conserved and protected open space looks like.  That is part of the 571 gloriously preserved acres on Stroud Preserve, which we all have to visit thanks to the Natural Lands Trust. This is one reason why I am so in awe of this non-profit.  They are amazing.

Now look at the next photo. Also taken by me from the air a couple of years ago and notice the difference:

 
Next is another shot- both of these were taken over Chester County . 

  
Recently we attended a party out near or in West Vincent. We got turned around on the way and ended up in a development I never knew existed.  I think it may have been off Fellowship Road, I am not sure, because it was one of those times where you just get all turned around. 

Anyway, we ended up in this development that had rather large houses so crammed together you felt as if you were in one of the houses and stuck your arm out the window that you could basically touch the neighbor’s house.  Don’t misunderstand me, it was a pretty, well-kept neighborhood but it looked so incredibly phony, almost like a movie set. Or a life sized model. And it was also very odd because it was a neighborhood no one was outside. Not even to walk a dog. It was eerie.

Every day we hear about more and more developments happening. Just this weekend somebody posted the following photo taken  in West Vincent:

  
If I have the location correct it is on Birchrun Road and has passed through a couple of developers’ hands? Like Hankin and now Pulte maybe?  Anyway soon this will be a crop of plastic houses. And it seems like Chester County keeps sprouting  more and more crops of densely placed plastic houses.

You would think that Chester County would have learned from the mistakes of Montgomery and Delaware Counties.

Just look at what once was Foxcatcher Farm or the DuPont estate in Newtown Square at Goshen and 252? How is any of that attractive? And look at the beautiful natural habitat that was literally bulldozed under. I said before I’m a realist, I didn’t expect when an estate like that was broken up it would remain pristine and intact, especially given the history and events of recent years.  However, it still shocks me that none of the land was truly conserved. In my opinion, the only land that has not been built upon is land they couldn’t build upon easily.

   

The two photos you’re looking at above I took this spring. Giant manor sized  houses so close together .  And they are going up lickety-split in all of  their Tyvec glory.

I think it’s horrible. I think it’s horrible especially since I have seen what nonprofits like the Natural Lands Trust are able to accomplish and achieve in land preservation. But did Newtown Township ever wanted to preserve any of it given the projects that have almost but not quite happened on the former  Arco/Ellis school site in recent years? 

However there are many opinions when to comes to development. Recently my blog posts about Foxcatcher, which are in some cases years old, were brought up again on a  Facebook page about Newtown Square.

   

Ok so this Nathan above  is entitled to his opinion even if he is somewhat ignorant in his approach.  I never called Newtown Supervisors  “commissioners” are we will start with that. And if he wants to go pointing fingers, there are several villains in these plays.  At the top of my list are  local municipal elected officials, state elected officials, and developers.

We’ll start with the local elected officials. These are the people that have temporary elected stewardship over our communities. I think they have an obligation to represent us all equally and not just select factions or special interests. But the reality of politics even on the most local level is that is whom they cater to exactly.  Are we talking about real or theoretical payola  here? Doesn’t matter because at the end of the day they get sold a bill of goods and they know better than the rest of us. When you challenge a local municipality on development most of the time they will throw up their hands and say “Wecan’t do anything. All our codes are based on the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.”

Then there are the state elected officials. These are the guys whose  campaigns are supported by not only local elected officials but people with big check books  like developers. Our politicians on the state level could reform and update the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code but they don’t want to deal with it.
 They also don’t want to deal with the building and development lobbyists. And it’s those lobbying groups that killed a very interesting bill that was proposed in Pennsylvania a few years ago.

This was known as HB904 in the seission of 2007:

AN ACT 1 Amending the act of July 31, 1968 (P.L.805, No.247), entitled, 2 as amended, “An act to empower cities of the second class A, 3 and third class, boroughs, incorporated towns, townships of 4 the first and second classes including those within a county 5 of the second class and counties of the second through eighth 6 classes, individually or jointly, to plan their development 7 and to govern the same by zoning, subdivision and land 8 development ordinances, planned residential development and 9 other ordinances, by official maps, by the reservation of 10 certain land for future public purpose and by the acquisition 11 of such land; to promote the conservation of energy through 12 the use of planning practices and to promote the effective 13 utilization of renewable energy sources; providing for the 14 establishment of planning commissions, planning departments, 15 planning committees and zoning hearing boards, authorizing 16 them to charge fees, make inspections and hold public 17 hearings; providing for mediation; providing for transferable 18 development rights; providing for appropriations, appeals to 19 courts and penalties for violations; and repealing acts and 20 parts of acts,” adding provisions to authorize temporary 21 development moratorium. 22 The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 23 hereby enacts as follows: 24 Section 1. The act of July 31, 1968 (P.L.805, No.247), known 25 as the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, reenacted and  1 amended December 21, 1988 (P.L.1329, No.170), is amended b.

This act stayed around a couple of years until it was just made to disappear. it was last referenced in a 2009 article:

Philadelphia Inquirer: A home-building ban in an economic crisis? By Diane Mastrull

Amid an economic disaster that has brought the home-building industry to its knees, a Pennsylvania lawmaker intends to resume his push for building moratoriums.
A building ban? When federal-stimulus proponents long for a resumption of the construction cacophony of hammers and electric saws?
The moratorium advocate, State Rep. Robert Freeman (D., Northampton), insists he’s not hard-hearted when it comes to builders.
“It’s important for us to stimulate our economy, so I’d be glad to get the home builders back to work,” Freeman said in a recent interview.
He just wants to ensure that when the orders for new houses start pouring in again, communities have a way to temporarily stop the bulldozers if they do not have adequate growth plans and ordinances in place.
“It gives the opportunity for those folks who have been feeling the pressure from development to take a breather,” Freeman said of moratoriums.
Municipalities currently have the right to reject a development proposal if it does not meet local land-use requirements. But they cannot simply declare that no building can occur if in fact there is room to accommodate it. Freeman wants to give them the temporary right to do so – but only if a town determines that it is overwhelmed by development and that its growth plans, ordinances, and zoning are inadequate to address that crush.

That bill was a great idea. It would’ve allowed communities to hit the pause button for a brief amount of time.

As individuals and residents  in these communities facing wanton development our culpability partially lies in the fact that we keep electing these people to public office. And once these people are in elected office, not many are willing to hold their feet to the proverbial fire are they?

I also do not feel it is as simple as saying people should just put up the money to buy all the open space. 

Ordinary people don’t often have the means to match what developers will pay so they can put up hundreds if not thousands of houses.  Even on small building sites, often regular people cannot match what developers will offer to buy a house as a tear down because the lot or neighborhood is desirable for them to build on . I saw that happen a few years ago when someone was trying to buy a house and they ended up bidding against a developer. They just walked away from it. They couldn’t compete.

But as for people like this Nathan, I am not going to just zip my lip as so eloquently stated. We need to speak out about these monster developments in order to preserve our very way of life. It’s not just open space, it’s more complicated than that. It’s what makes us want to live in a specific area in the first place. We are trying to preserve our communities. Our sense of place.

People who are extraordinarily pro-development for whatever reason will immediately label people like myself as being completely “anti-development”. But that isn’t it .

What we are looking for is yes, preservation and land conservation, but also moderation.  And when is the last time in recent years that you have seen moderation in any kind of development?  The ironic thing is that shortsighted on the part of the developers. If they exercised moderation once in a while they would get a lot farther with their plans.

But it is as if development is revving up to warp speed once again.  It makes me wonder if that is why people in Chester County can’t save their oak tree – seriously, it’s in the Daily Local:

Chester Springs family works to save 270-year-old oak tree 

By Virginia Lindak, For 21st-Century Media

Chester Springs resident Jim Helm has spent the last several weeks trying to save a historical estimated 270-year-old oak tree on his property from being destroyed by utility companies. The tree, which stands on the border of his property, extends into power lines which run along the road, making it vulnerable for unwarranted trimming and cutting by Verizon and PECO…Recently the Helms discovered Verizon crews cutting off branches of the oak tree and halted engineers as best they could, as the police were called in to regulate the situation and ordered the Helms back to their house. West Vincent Township officials have told the Helms they want to help save the tree but progress has been slow. 
Helm noted that between the trimming conducted by Verizon and West Vincent Township, 25 percent of the tree’s canopy is now gone….Perhaps a larger question continues to loom; as modern development continues to grow at a rapid rate in Chester County, who will advocate on behalf of the few, rare old trees left and save them from being cut down?

We need open space. We also need just basic land and community preservation. Every plastic McMansion, “Carriage House” and townhouse development that comes along further detracts from what makes where we live special. It lines the pockets of developers and creates a sea of plastic houses that are ridiculously close together.  Also, what do we as communities really get out of these developments except traffic jams and a change in our overall ecological profile?

From one end of Pennsylvania to the other we need land development reforms. We desperately need to re-define what suburbs and exurbs are. Having the ability for our communities to have temporary moratoriums on development is not a bad thing, either. And in order to get these things we have to put better people in elected office from the most local level through to the Governor’s mansion. 

We also need to better support land conservation groups. If we don’t, open-space will merely become an antiquated term with no practical or real applicability.

Thanks for stopping by.

foxcatcher farm now



The ugliness of it is astounding. It’s like looking at overpriced tyvek wrapped tenanment housing.

This is the former Foxcatcher Farm today. There are all these houses crammed together and on the tops of some hills there are giant McMansions in progress crammed close together. So many of the trees are gone it’s staggering.

This is why people fight Toll Brothers and their ilk from coming into their communities.

I am a realist and I no longer expect large parcels of land like this to stay as intact estates as the years go by, but if this isn’t a reason that screams for more control on developers  and development within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania I don’t know what does.

And it’s funny as you go past this debacle in Newtown Township, Delaware County, and you go into Radnor Hunt you notice every year how much more of the land is being developed within the Radnor Hunt  area, don’t you? I wonder how many years longer the actual fox hunts near Radnor Hunt will be able to  take place?

Change is inevitable, but this is a case of where change is kind of sad.



this is progress?

DSC_0042Once again I turn to why we need to stand up for the land.  We do not need so much development.  We have a lot to consider and once open space is gone, it is gone for good.

Moderation is the word that should be used when it comes to development, only that never happens.  There are way too many giant developments.  Let’s hit the pause button and see what our infrastructure and natural water sources and so on and so forth can actually tolerate for a while.

But that never happens, does it?

Case in point is the great mistake of Delaware County.  Newtown Township approved the giant Toll Brothers plan now in progress on the old DuPont Estate formerly known as Foxcatcher farm on Goshen Road and Route 252 in Newtown Square.

DSC_0054An entire little Stepford City, composed of around 450 homes and amenities (i.e. other structures) will rise from where there was the gentle rise of hills, fields, forest. Of course I wonder about all the natural water sources on the property and will they be preserved and cared for?  Will they have a septic system like Byers Station where the septic fields smell a good part of the year?

Most of the old and historic buildings and houses on the estate were bulldozed for this “progress”.   They will now build Tyvec McMansions with preposterously pretentious names like “Liseter- The Bryn Mawr Collection”.

Newtown Square is also facing development from that “Ellis Preserve” site which was formerly the Ellis School and ARCO Chemical and other things. I think all in all Newtown Township officials haven’t a clue as to what they have done and in 20 years there will be regrets, and lots and lots of unmanageable traffic and other issues.

Of course no one realistically expected the DuPont Estate to survive intact.  After all, once crazy John went to prison for shooting Dave Shultz how much interest did the family have in dealing with all this? There were three challenges to the will of John DuPont, but never a mention I could find of preserving part of the estate in any way.

So now we are where we are today.  I think Newtown Township Officials DSC_0055should have fought for a less dense plan, but hey they will learn.

Look at the photos.  Look at the savagery of development. Look at all the clear cutting of practically every standing tree and blade of grass and for what?  For plastic houses that will not survive the test of time?  I have said it before and I will say it again: this land looks raped.

I am so glad this isn’t too close to where I live.  But this is the case in point as to why the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needs to update the Municipalities Planning Code and give municipalities the power to legally hit the pause button on development —- a temporary moratorium as it were.

A few years ago a bill known as HB 904 was proposed in 2007 and 2009 – it was even discussed in an Inquirer article. Lobbyists from the building industry and developers and other  groups killed this bill.

Anyway, the photos speak volumes, don’t they?

love of the land

DSC_0004Last night I went back to the Main Line for a fundraiser for a friend. As much as I love the area I spent a lot of my growing up years in, I discovered last night I truly no longer miss it.

I miss some of my friends, but you see like it or not to Main Line and city people, I might as well be living in Iowa – Chester County is that foreign to them and seemingly so far away.

But in Chester County I am happy.  And one of the things that makes me happy out here is the sheer beauty of a great deal of the surroundings. (And meeting so many nice people doesn’t hurt either!)

The fuzzy and grainy photo I still like was taken last evening.  It is one of our iconic settings out here I think- The Radnor Hunt Club.  The club is always a thing of beauty to me, sitting on her hill surrounded by those fields.

But last night I was reminded again of how the beauty can change and grow ugly when we reached a certain part of Goshen Road (Delaware County portion). As soon as you hit the boundaries of Foxcatcher Farms, the old DuPont Estate it changes.   On Foxcatcher Farms, the old DuPont Estate. Toll Brothers has all but stripped the land bare.

I have never quite seen the raw effect of development as clearly as I did last night in the twilight.  The land that was once so beautiful and dotted with majestic trees and quite a few old farmhouses is essentially stripped.  It looks like what it is: a victim of apocalypse by a developer.  It is so incredibly jarring and sad.

We all know Toll Brothers gobbles up land in Chester County with their insatiable appetite.  You want a first hand view is worth a 1000 words?  Drive down Goshen Road to see what was the DuPont Estate.

DSC_0008I think it is important, and in that vein will mention something no other media has thought to cover other than Malvern Patch.  It concerns Toll Brothers and their desire to expand Applebrook Meadows into its second phase.

I am sorry, but Applebrook Meadows is ugly.  Unless of course you want to live in a development of samey-same homogeneity.  It is truly like Barbie’s dream house gave birth. Over and over and over again.  Just like Byers Station is ugly (and their sewer fields stink there – but it is all Stepford and la la, or is it?)

Anyway, Malvern Patch is reporting that  Toll apparently did not meet some condition of land development:

Back in October, Willistown granted a land development request to Toll Brothers for the second phase of its Applebrook Meadows development, contingent on eight conditions.

The one condition tacked on at the last minute—a third-party perc test—proved to be a sticking point for the developer.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, Toll Brothers representatives were back before the Board of Supervisors with an upgraded, costlier water management plan, again seeking land development approval for Phase II, which would add 53 new houses on the way to a total of 138.

Instead, they got a pop quiz and were told their request would be tabled pending review by the township solicitor.

Alyson Zarro, who represented Toll Brothers at the meeting, said the new plan would upsize basins to accomodate future needs of neighboring Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

Board Chairman Robert Lange called the incorporation of the hospital a “good move for PR,” but said he was suspicious of why Toll Brothers abandoned its original proposal less than 48 hours after the independent perc test was required.

“Why do you have to change plans if it’s going to work? I don’t know why that happened, I have my suspicions.  I think you thought you could do it a cheaper way, a more economical way. And if it did fail down the road, we would have a problem on a PNDI site. Toll Brothers would have sold their units and moved on,” Lange said, before laying out a possible chain of events.

“Water may or may not perc. If it didn’t perc, it overflows, it goes onto a PNDI site, it goes onto the barrons. The homeowners association is going to be very upset. They’re going to come back to the supervisors, saying we did not do a very good job. And, it’s a mess.”

 

I am a realist, you can’t stop development unless you get really, really lucky, but it needs to slow down. It has to slow down.

So in my round about way, I am spinning another cautionary tale of how the beauty of the land will in the end be fleeting if we all don’t collectively wake up and have better stewardship.

 

final bell “tolls” for foxcatcher farm

Main Line Media News: Historic DuPont mansion goes under the wreckers ball

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

By Pete Bannan
Pbannan@Mainlinemedianews.com

tollMotorists along Goshen Road in Newtown Square may have seen the final act of the John DuPont saga, as it appears his family home Liseter Hall is being demolished to make way for over 400 homes in the new Toll Bros. development of Liseter Estates.

The house was built by his grandfather for his parents wedding and DuPont grew up in the mansion. When his mother died in 1988 he turned the property into an amateur sports training mecca called Foxcatcher Farms….DuPont died in prison in December 2010 at Laurel Highlands in Somerset County, Pa.

A movie is in the works called “Foxcatcher” starring Steve  Carell as John DuPont.

 

Boom, crash, bang, groan, squeal,thud.  Those are among the sounds structures make when they are being demolished.

John DuPont’s former Foxcatcher Farm on Goshen Road and 252 is basically a big pile of rubble now.

Thanks to Toll Brothers coming in to essentially takeover whatever the last development plan was and “improve” the area with a plan more grotesque than Byers Station or Applebrook Meadows, nothing shall stand in the way now of a Stepford wife development of plastic Tyvec wrapped Barbie’s dream carriage homes, right?

Do I sound harsh? Sorry, am feeling harsh, because although it is not a surprise that this land would be developed, one would have thought that Newtown Township would have had a couple of brain cells left to better manage a plan that is not what this is, which is a total cram plan. But then again, isn’t this the municipality that used to let crazy John DuPont run around and play cop years ago?

I am somewhat irritated by the lack of land stewardship on the part of the DuPont family when it came to Foxcatcher Farm.  All that land stewardship and historic preservation from Winterthur to Longwood Gardens to Fair Hill there is this giant legacy of preservation in the DuPont family.  But not with this property.  Of course, that deal which leads to today’s development seems to have started when John DuPont was in prison.  I think it’s a shame the family couldn’t have stopped it then..  It wasn’t like it wasn’t a known fact that he was crazy as a hoot owl, right?  (However what is happening here should be a lesson to those in Radnor Township with regard to The Willows  and Ardrossan – but heck maybe they will just rename the township Holloway Township, right?)

Anyway, sign me disgusted on this one.  And hope Newtown holds them to good stormwater management, right?  And good septic if they aren’t on public sewer (Byers station reeks sometimes, doesn’t it?)  And did I hear right that Toll is sniffing around some giant land parcel in West Vincent or someplace around there?  Is that true? Lock up what is left of the open space people. That’s all I am saying.

Once the land is gone, it is gone. Once historic homes are gone, they are but salvage and rubble.

 development glory in chester county pa