dear toll brothers and other developers: there is another way

Reader submitted photo April 2017

This is important to take note of, because it PROVES there is ANOTHER way then straight cram plan developments.

Chester County has been overrun by greedy developers.  For perspective remember that size-wise Bryn Coed is like a giant super-sized Chesterbrook.

If not for those who care, like Natural Lands Trust, you would be seeing “coming soon” signs for developers like Toll Brothers.


These screen shots are from the Natural Lands Trust Bryn Coed Farms website.   


Imagine living in an expansive, conserved landscape with a thriving nature preserve and miles of trails just next door. That is the unique opportunity available at Bryn Coed Farms.


In order to preserve as much of Bryn Coed Farms as possible, a number of large conservation properties will be made available to individual buyers. Each property will be placed under a conservation easement to be held and monitored by Natural Lands Trust, ensuring that the land is protected in perpetuity.

Seems like a revolutionary idea, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s how parts of Ardrossan are staying intact in Radnor Township and it is how large swaths of countryside and history  in places like England remain intact.

It is a viable solution to developing every square inch. It’s a compromise point.

Now critics will say more land should be saved with these plans and maybe they aren’t necessarily wrong , but this IS a viable compromise in my opinion.

Imagine if the Robinson Family did this at Crebilly, for example?

Or imagine if say developers who want to develop the Bishop Tube site chose a plan like this versus doing things like picking on me for wanting the best clean-up possible?

The Natural Lands Trust has once again proven, there is another way. 

And speaking of Bishop Tube it is a big story in the Philadelphia Inquirer today:

News — Pennsylvania: On toxic site abandoned for decades, developer sees townhouses sprouting in Chesco

Updated: APRIL 10, 2017 — 6:23 AM EDT

by Michaelle Bond, Staff Writer @MichaelleBond | mbond@phillynews.com

Asleep after a long day at her social-work job, Peggy Miros was jolted awake by a booming voice through a loudspeaker urging her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.
A cloud of toxic gas had formed when chemicals accidentally combined at the steel tube manufacturer next to her housing development in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, in the early morning hours of June 9, 1981. In the sultry air, a steady southwest breeze exported the chemical mist toward General Warren Village, 500 yards away, before the cloud dissipated. Some of Miros’ neighbors went to the hospital with nausea and skin irritation…The EPA later found trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreasing agent linked to cancer, in the property’s groundwater. The former Bishop Tube Co. site, which produced stainless steel tubes from the 1950s until 1999, now is host to graffitied and dilapidated buildings, shattered windows, cracked concrete, and overgrown vegetation, one of more than 450,000 contaminated “brownfields” across the nation.

…Given the site’s history, residents are wary of plans for the property. Neighbors say they fear their families and any new residents could be harmed if workers disturb the polluted soil without removing every bit of contamination.
Last month, 40 people gathered for the first time in the home of one of their neighbors to plan a coordinated effort to oppose the project.

“These people know what they’re talking about and they have a right to be concerned,” said Maya K. van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who became involved after residents asked her for help.



Read the entire article. Read where the chair of the supervisors in East Whiteland says he expects the developer will get the zoning variance. That is East Whiteland’s compromise point? Gambling with people’s health and safety? (Notice you hear little to nothing out of state officials and why are these people in office again?)

Read the entire article.  Contact the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and East Whiteland Township today if you think more needs to be done with Bishop Tube,    Ok? 

the announcement: natural lands trust regarding saving bryn coed

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Now that it has been announced, I can say that I have known for a few years that Natural Lands Trust was working on saving Bryn Coed.  I was asked to not say anything, so into the proverbial vault it went.  But I can’t say it is untrue that developers were sniffing around Bryn Coed’s 1500+ acres can I ?  After all, it is a magical piece of land that is almost mythical, isn’t it?

Here is the official press release:

One Step Closer to Preservation of Bryn Coed Farms

Media, Pa. – Natural Lands Trust announced today a major milestone in the non-profit land conservation organization’s effort to preserve 1,505 acres in northern Chester County known as Bryn Coed Farms.

 

On September 28, 2016, Natural Lands Trust and the current property owners, the Dietrich family, executed an Agreement of Sale for the property. Natural Lands Trust now has six months to conduct due diligence, including Phase II environmental testing.

 

The fate of the property has been the subject of much speculation over the years as development pressures have increased in the region. Located primarily in West Vincent Township, Chester County, with portions also in East and West Pikeland Townships, the property is one of the largest remaining undeveloped, unprotected tracts of land in the Greater Philadelphia region. Under current zoning, nearly 700 homes could be built on the property if it is not placed under protection.

 

Natural Lands Trust has been working with the Dietrichs for more than five years to conserve the land.

 

“It is too early to celebrate, but we are optimistic that much of this iconic property can be conserved,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “It’s a complex deal with many moving parts, but Bryn Coed is certainly worth fighting to save. It’s a community and ecological treasure.”

 

If successful, the deal would result in a 400-plus-acre nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails that will be owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust. The preserve will be open to visitors, free of charge, just like other nature preserves owned by the regional conservation group—including the 112-acre Binky Lee Preserve in nearby Chester Springs. In addition, West Vincent Township is considering Natural Lands Trust’s offer to establish a 72-acre municipal park on the property.

 

The remainder of the property would be divided into large conservation properties, preserved by conservation easements, and sold to private individuals.

 

“The amount of land that can be permanently protected as a Natural Lands Trust preserve is dependent on the amount of funding we can raise. The cost of preserving the entirety of such a vast and valuable property is beyond the currently available resources. We will be seeking support from the public in the weeks and months ahead,” Morrison added.

 

In 2003, the Dietrich brothers decided to divest themselves of the property. Various conservation and development options were explored but never came to a successful conclusion.

 

In recent years, several developers have been in negotiations with the Deitrichs, including Toll Brothers, which had proposed a 254-unit development on about one-quarter of the property.

 

Much of the property is actively farmed or in pasture. There are nearly 500 acres of mature woodlands on the property that are home to a myriad of songbirds and other wildlife. Generations of residents and visitors have enjoyed the pastoral views of Bryn Coed Farms.

 

The land also contains the headwaters to Pickering Creek, and is a high priority for source water protection. Bryn Coed Farms alone constitutes 17 percent of the remaining unprotected high-priority land in the Pickering Creek watershed.

 

Persons interested in receiving more information as the Bryn Coed Farms conservation effort progresses are invited to visit www.natlands.org/bryncoed and sign up for email updates. Those interested in learning more about the conservation properties that will be available for sale should contact Brian Sundermeir, Bryn Coed project manager, at 610-353-5587, ext. 237.

 

Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 43 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. Today, some 2.5 million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.

 

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

So, this is not yet quite a done deal. There are three municipalities and a lot of due diligence and environmental testing.  From what I am reading, not all of the land will be conserved (it’s a little unclear) ,  but one can hope and no matter what this is a heck of a lot more than anyone expected.

As I understand it, The NLT-owned preserve will be a “big chunk ” of Bryn Coed.  The remainder will be large conservation lots with easements on them and trail easements as well. The size of the preserve can grow if Natural Lands Trust gets more money towards the project.

To David Robinson and his family who own Crebilly, why can’t you look at something like this? You can afford to.

Ok I just wanted to put this out there as some thought my post from the other evening was fabricated. I do my homework, and it doesn’t get much more official than the press release from Natural Lands Trust. And this is THEIR hard work and no one else’s (because I know some who will try to take credit, and well it is not theirs to take.)

BRAVO NLT!  This is why I am a member and big believer in the Natural Lands Trust, they  do not just talk the talk, they walk the walk.  (Brian O’Leary and the Chester County Planning Commission could learn something here, just saying.)

I am a member of Natural Lands Trust, and proudly so.  Please consider a membership. This is me asking incidentally, not them. Go out and enjoy the glorious weekend this weekend. This surely is an awesome way to start it!

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

Alessandra Manzotti photos courtesy of Natural Lands Trust

hot off the presses in west vincent: hope for bryn coed?

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I have written about Bryn Coed in West Vincent quite a few times. It is twice the size of Chesterbrook, and developers have sniffed around it for years. Bryn Coed is mammoth in size.

Well breaking news from Birchrunville People:

bc

bryncoedproperties

Now someone at Natural Lands Trust did mention this to me a while ago (like I think a couple of years ago), and asked me not to say anything – at that point it was more of an idea.

If this happens, wow oh wow, thank God (once again) for Natural Lands Trust.  I am a member, are you?

I doubt they will be able to afford the whole parcel (1500+ acres) but hopefully a significant amount is conserved.

This was attempted in 2005 but it did not work.

Wow. Wow.Wow. Stay tuned.

****Please note my information for this at this time comes from residents who were at that meeting this evening****

before crebilly gets developed westtown, let’s talk traffic

Imagine all of this if 350 or whatever the exact number of houses get approved and built on Crebilly in Westtown. Of course it also makes you realize that Chester County Planning is somewhat asleep at the wheel when it comes to regional planning and so called “smart growth” doesn’t it?

What is so smart about this? Seems pretty dumb to me. I realize I am but a mere mortal and a female, but that is what I think.

Anyway, Westtown apparently has a Supervisors’ Meeting September 19. People should start asking them about things like traffic….just saying…..

Near / at 926 Picture of rt 202 traffic 5:30 pm

202 again

Backup along Crebilly at new street heading toward 926 Actually blocks the entrance to the farm and Robinson’s house

sprinkling a little stardust 

Fred Haas (Philadelphia, PA), Molly K. Morrison–Natural Lands Trust president (West Chester, PA), David Haas (Philadelphia, PA (Mae Axelrod, Natural Lands Trust Photo)

No, this isn’t a Chester County specific post. But it is one I am posting because it is a wonderful land preservation story.

When I was growing up on the Main Line, we knew it as just “The Haas’ house”. It wasn’t Stoneleigh. Going to Shipley and living just a few minutes away, that is what it was. As a matter of fact, my Junior Prom after party in 1980 was held there. On Spring Mill Road in Villanova

Photo is a few years old. Courtesy of a friend of mine who was driving past one day

It was a quietly beautiful property. It has a carved tree trunk/stump County Line Road side of carved rabbits. It used to get dressed according to holiday or season when Mrs. Haas was alive. Christmas, Easter/Spring, the opening of the Phillies’ baseball season, and so on. That carving was one of the first commissions of Chester County tree carver Marty Long as a matter of fact. If you talk to Marty about it he will tell you how much he liked Mr. Haas. They used to talk Subarus (Marty likes them as vehicles, so did Mr. Haas apparently)

The name Haas means rabbit or hare in Dutch I think it is. (Middle Dutch?)

Anyway with big beautiful properties like this you hope they will remain intact. Most don’t  thanks to the zeal of developers in Pennsylvania who will offer people buckets of money for development purposes.

Thankfully, that did not happen here. Thanks to the generosity of the Haas Family and Natural Lands Trust, this is being preserved. This property is located in Lower Merion Township, so seriously, this is quite remarkable as that local government truly caters to developers, and has for years. (I remember someone saying to me recently it was a shame Villanova University didn’t get the land because they are right there. I say thank god and shudder to think what they would have done given what they are going to do on Lancaster Avenue!)

Anyway, on Friday, June 10th, 2016—with an ever-amazing Saturn and a brightly shining Jupiter in the night sky—nearly 500 guests gathered for Stardust!, Natural Lands Trust’s annual summer fundraiser. Proceeds from the event, which doubled those of previous Stardust! events, will advance Natural Lands Trust efforts to save land, steward natural resources, and connect people to nature throughout the region.

Catherine Haas (Philadelphia, PA) and Marc Preston (Havertown, PA) using a telescope to view the moons of Saturn (Mae Axelrod, Natural Lands Trust Photo)

Stardust!, which has rotated to a different Natural Lands Trust-protected property in each of the last four years, was held this year at the 42-acre Stoneleigh estate in Villanova. The family of the late John and Chara Haas donated the property to Natural Lands Trust earlier this year.

“Tonight we celebrate the Haas family, whose act of generosity marks a turning point for both Stoneleigh and for our organization,” said Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust’s president. “We are deeply honored to be entrusted to carry on the Haas family’s legacy of stewardship for this magical place, and excited beyond measure to add Stoneleigh as a unique, shining star in our constellation of 43 preserves.”

“We believe that Natural Lands Trust shares our family’s vision and will work to honor the legacy of our parents by making the property a unique natural resource for the community and region,” said David Haas, John and Chara’s son.

The event featured a roving dinner by Jeffrey Miller Catering, wine provided by Moore Brothers Delaware, beer from Victory Brewing Company, spirits from New Liberty Distillery, and floral creations by Love ‘n Fresh Flowers.

Guests had the last sneak peek of Stoneleigh until the Fall of 2017.

Natural Lands Trust is taking 18 months to transition the property from a family home to a public garden, during which time it will not be open to visitors. When Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden does open to the public, it will be free-of-charge and open seven days a week during daylight hours. Natural Lands Trust will offer a variety of public programs with a primary focus on natural gardening and landscaping techniques. The organization also anticipates hosting family and child-oriented programs as well as volunteer opportunities.

Anyway, I just thought I would sprinkle a little “Stardust” on your Monday morning. Preservation is possible….we just need more of it to happen.

Thanks for stopping by.

Decor (Mae Axelrod, Natural Lands Trust Photo)

the mystery of bryn coed….what is going on?

bryn coed noticeWell what is going on at Bryn Coed? That giant land parcel mostly in West Vincent Township? Twice the size of what was cobbled together to form Chesterbrook in Tredyffrin Township?

I realize I am opening up Pandora’s box because I am supposed to be she who is not supposed to ask questions about anything in West Vincent (according to some) but someone sent me the above photo. Bryn Coed Lane IS Bryn Coed, right?

It came with a message about people recently seeing surveyors out there and speculation as to whether the surveyors were there because of a developer, the Deitrich family, a conservation group or any combination of the above? And rumors in the past of family meetings with boatloads of attorneys over this which would be completely normal if true since it is a giant property right?

This property has over 20 tenant properties correct? So if they are going in now to deal with lead pipes and lead paint and whatever deferred maintenance should’ve been done years ago at these houses are getting closed what does that mean exactly? Because you’re also clearing the rent rolls off a large property with each house that gets a notice like this,  so is that clearing the way for conservation or development?
Look conserving this at least in part IS possible just look at King Ranch:

King Ranch: Embryo of preservation In 1982, the Brandywine Conservancy and a group of residents collaborated to buy and save 5,300 acres, lighting the spark that fired the conservation movement in Chester County and beyond.

POSTED: September 21, 2005

Coming south out of Coatesville on Route 82, just beyond the Ercildoun crossroads, time seems to slow down…..This is the land where for almost 40 years steers from the fabled King Ranch of Texas spent blissful summers feeding on lush pastures before they were sent to the packing house.

It is the land of the Cheshire Hunt, where hunters ride to the hounds in pursuit of the wily fox.

And when this land came under threat of development in the 1980s, the Brandywine Conservancy and a group of farsighted residents jumped into the fray to save it, lighting the spark that fired the conservation movement in Chester County and beyond.

“We had to do something,” conservancy founder and chairman George ‘Frolic’ Weymouth said. “We heard they were going to sell to Disney. It was unbelievable.”….

An offer was tendered, but the first negotiations in Kingsville with Jim Clements, Kleberg’s successor, got off to a rocky start.

“Jim Clements told me: ‘I don’t like you and I didn’t like your father, either,’ ” Weymouth recalled. “That kind of took us back a bit.”

Clements turned down the conservancy offer, but on the spur of the moment, Sellers said he and Weymouth offered to buy it all. They asked for a six-month option, which Clements granted.

“It was an interesting time,” Sellers said. The conservation easement movement was in its infancy and the new rules governing such easements coming out of the IRS were untested, he said.

Sellers said skepticism over the deal was rampant. “I never took so many arrows, and I just got out of heart surgery.” Weymouth said he even put his own property up for collateral.

By the time the deadline arrived, 21 investors were persuaded to join a limited partnership, called Buck & Doe Associates, to buy 5,367 acres for approximately $12 million and protect it with conservation easements. A 771-acre parcel was carved out to protect The Laurels, which is now a preserve owned by the Brandywine Conservancy…..

“At the time, it was the biggest privately funded land-conservation deal in the United States,” Sellers said. “It was probably the best real-estate investment these people ever made.”

Boston lawyer Stephen J. Small, who wrote the IRS rules governing conservation easements, said the King Ranch transaction was “a home run of a deal.”

“They were way ahead of their time,” said Small of the Brandywine Conservancy. “They were really pioneers.”

 

There was so much written on King Ranch (including a great article from 2011 from Lancaster Farming about the cattle from Texas returning to Chester County.).  The articles are all fascinating and there is a lot to be learned from them – check out the articles going back a few decades now on the Philadelphia Inquirer website.

Here’s a little Bryn Coed history courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer circa 2005 (really long article, this is just an excerpt):

Deal aims to keep bulldozers at bay A 1,522-acre site, but only 27 lots.

POSTED: June 23, 2005

With Congress and the IRS taking a close look at the tax breaks landowners are claiming for conservation, U.S. Reps. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) and Tim Holden (D., Pa.) have started the Congressional Land Trust Caucus to ensure those benefits are preserved.

Their efforts come at a time when a major conservation deal is pending in West Vincent Township that depends on those tax breaks and would preserve at least 1,522 acres in an area under siege as one of the hottest addresses in Chester County.

“We want to make sure they are not taken away,” Gerlach said of the tax breaks during an interview earlier this week. Another goal is to preserve the programs that help land trusts survive and prosper, he said.

The land, most of which is owned by the Bryn Coed Farms Co., includes the homestead of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts and other historically important sites.

Bryn Coed Farms is owned by William, Daniel, and H. Richard Dietrich, all of whom are philanthropists. H. Richard Dietrich Jr. is a trustee of the Philadelphia Art Museum. They are heirs to the Ludens cough-drop fortune…..It is one of the largest conservation transactions in the county since a $12 million arrangement in 1984 that preserved 5,367 acres of the King Ranch.

If the sale goes through for one of the signature landscapes in northern Chester County, there would be 27 lots instead of a potential 700 new homes allowed under the current zoning. Lots would range from two acres to more than 100 acres….

The deal, which has been pulled together by the North American Land Trust, has been in the works for three years, said the trust’s president, Andrew L. Johnson.

North American Land Trust has formed a limited partnership with 12 investors, or founding members, and itself as managing partner, Johnson said. The partnership would buy the land and place conservation easements on it, and members would then be deeded lands with restricted building areas.

The members of the partnership would receive tax deductions based either on the purchase price or, if they wait a year, on the market price, Johnson said….The West Vincent deal stands in contrast to the plans announced for the 450-acre Jerrehian estate, another prized tract outside West Chester, that calls for the construction of 530 new homes.

Since I can’t find this on the North American Land Trust website, I am guessing this fell through, never to be heard of again? Pity.

Saw smatterings of discussion on Pottstown Mercury site years ago, and the last mention I seem to be able to find is in The Phoenix in 2006.

Rolling the years back a bit (14 almost to the day), there was a fascinating and extremely LONG article in The Daily Local in 2002:

Buying the farm By MARGARET FITZCHARLES

Farmers Who Have No Roots In The Suburbs, Short Leases On Coveted Land Are The Rule.

POSTED: May 24, 1992

Steering the massive, green John Deere 4440 tractor over loamy Chester County earth, leaving corn seed in his track, Rick Schlosberg is the picture of the modern metropolitan-area farmer: Tending borrowed land on borrowed time.

“I don’t own a stitch of ground,” admitted the rangy 37-year-old. “The day is gone when someone can buy land around here and think they can farm it.”

Schlosberg farms more than 2,000 acres of suburban Philadelphia. Not a stone can he call his own….

The two Holy Grails of rental farming – a large parcel and a long lease – recently were united in one Chester County tract, creating a sensation in the farming community.

Offered for lease was the 1,000-acre Bryn Coed farm in West Vincent, which the Dietrich family, former owners of Ludens candy and the Nan Duskin boutiques, had privately farmed for years.

If they had gone public with their intention to rent, the Dietrichs likely would have been overwhelmed by responses. Instead, their retiring farm manager and his agent quietly asked five area farmers to bid.

The winner was Schlosberg, who was already farming 1,100 acres close to his home in Newtown Square, Delaware County, and had a good track record with large properties.

“The last thing the owners wanted was someone that couldn’t handle it,” said Schlosberg, who was busy planting 700 acres of corn and 200 of soybeans at Bryn Coed.

Schlosberg was coy about the lease, but reliable sources said he was paying $62 per acre for three years.

So there hasn’t been talk of North American Land Trust in conjunction with Bryn Coed for the past few years, but rather Natural Lands Trust which just saved the Haas Estate in Villanova, PA.  I am a big believer of the Natural Lands Trust, so if anyone can save at least a chunk of Bryn Coed it would be them.

But ….BUT this is such a large land parcel. And developers are willing to pay. Hoping for the best, yet fearing for the worst here. If a conservation deal is actually in the works, it would be nice to hear about. But who knows? This is one of the last large prime plums like this in Chester County, right?

Thinking about Bryn Coed of course begs the question of what is happening in Chester County overall with regards to development and when do residents regardless or municipality REALLY have a say?

From one end of the county to the other, open land is under siege. Constantly.

Thanks for stopping by.