#savestoneleigh (and photos from the opening)

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On May 8th and May 10th I wrote posts on Stoneleigh in Villanova.  A little far afield from Chester County but so important. I am a supporter and believer in Natural Lands, and then there is a more personal bent.  You see, one of my high school classmates grew up on Stoneleigh. His parents, John and Chara Haas, put the property into a conservation easement in 1996.

The 1996 conservation easement was with Natural Lands. The express wish of Mr. and Mrs. Haas was that the property be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Open space, gardens, and so on.  Now today is Mother’s Day and yesterday at the members preview on Stoneleigh, people were speaking of when Mr. and Mrs. Haas would open up the property on Mother’s Day for people to enjoy.

Here is a photo array to see before continuing with the post here – it takes a while to load – a lot of photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After Mr. and Mrs. Haas passed away, their children decided to donate the property to Natural Lands, and that happened in 2016.  The conservation easement remains very much in place today, but is now under the stewardship of the Lower Merion Conservancy. Lower Merion Conservancy now is responsible for the annual monitoring.

I think Lower Merion School District is already starting damage control with their eminent domain B.S. given this overly verbose don’t hate us because we are big jerks press release currently on their website. I am more than a little disappointed by former 6ABC  reporter Amy Buckman already. Her predecessor’s press releases were much easier to follow and didn’t word wander, but I digress.

With regard to what is on their website, it is the full on poor pitiful Pearl routine where among other things they say that “LMSD is now the fastest-growing District in Pennsylvania by total number of students over the past eight years and enrollment could surpass 9,500 students in the next ten years.

But do they tell you WHY the district is growing so fast? Do they mention all of the development they have never, ever questioned? And yet, they are making a play for Stoneleigh based on future assumptions, or a possibility?  Call me crazy but they seem to want land for a future not a present need? And why are their needs the problem of Natural Lands and Stoneleigh? Just because it is there?

I have permission from Natural Lands to share some of the history of Stoneleigh so here’s an excerpt:

Stoneleigh’s history dates back to 1877 when Edmund Smith, a rising executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and constructed a residence there. To shape the grounds, Smith hired landscape gardener Charles H. Miller, who trained at Kew Gardens in England and later served as chief gardener for Fairmount Park.

At the turn of the 20th century, Samuel Bodine, head of United Gas Improvement Company, acquired the property. In addition to building the Tudor Revival style building that exists today, Bodine hired New York landscape architecture firm Pentecost and Vitale to radically redesign the gardens in a more formal, or “Beaux Arts,” style.

Evidently, Bodine was not pleased with the results. In 1908, he retained the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts—sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, and the most prestigious landscape architecture firm in the country—to “guide him in the gradual transformation of the place.” Over the next 50 years, the Olmsted Brothers firm returned periodically to Stoneleigh to plan vistas and pathways, establish gardens and terraces, reroute points of entry, select plant species, and transplant trees.

Following Samuel Bodine’s death in 1932, Stoneleigh was subdivided and sold. Otto Haas, entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Company, purchased the southwestern portion of the estate, launching a more than 80-year tenure of careful stewardship by the Haas family. Otto and Phoebe’s son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired the property in 1964 and lived there for the next five decades.

Yesterday, Stoneleigh was packed. Natural Lands members turned out from everywhere to tour the house and the grounds.  It was lovely and bucolic, and I would like to think what the Haas family had hoped for.  Family members were on site yesterday.  I am sure it was also a little bit hard for all of them. This was their home, after all.   Now it’s an achingly beautiful public garden space and although this is the path set forth by their lovely parents, it just has to be bittersweet. And then to learn that Lower Merion School District is seemingly proceeding on a path of land stealing? Well, I can only imagine.

Apparently Lower Merion School District is having a tour on May 18th? Allow me to quote them again:

Due to a need for additional field space, Superintendent Copeland has stated that the District would like to pursue the 6.9 developable acres of Stoneleigh no matter whether or where a new middle school site is acquired. The District is hopeful an amicable accommodation can be reached.
As part of their continuing due diligence, and especially now in light of the possibility of the Class 1 designations on two of the potential sites, District representatives in April requested a walk-through of the entire Stoneleigh property for May 18, 2018.

Amicable is school district speak for give us what we want NOW.

Here is an excerpt of what WHYY wrote in an article May 12th:

WHYY: Conservancy mobilizes as Lower Merion looks to Stoneleigh garden for school use
By Laura Benshoff   May 12, 2018

To combat overcrowding, Lower Merion School District has proposed buying — or seizing through eminent domain — 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh estate and historic garden in Villanova.

In response, Natural Lands, the conservation trust overseeing the property, has launched a public advocacy campaign called “Save Stoneleigh,” urging the district to drop its bid…

At Stoneleigh, gardeners and conservators have been doing their own planning, preparing the picturesque 42-acre estate that once belonged to the Haas family to open to the public, starting Sunday….

Lower Merion School Board will ultimately weigh every option before deciding whether to invoke eminent domain.

“It’s not the district’s first choice to do that,” said Roos. “But it just can’t be taken off the table as an option.”

Thugs. That is a good descriptive adjective don’t you think?  I am all for what lawyer Arthur Wolk wants at this point: removal of the entire school board. To that I add the removal of autocratic school Superintendent Robert Copeland.  To THAT I add Lower Merion Commissioners and township staff who have been ever so gung ho over development for YEARS and years.  Just clean house.  

Legal battles aside, that is exactly what needs to happen to prevent this B.S. in the future.

Savvy Main Line has a lovely write up about Stoneleigh on their website. Check it out.

And now that Stoneleigh has opened, visit. It will take your breath away. And once you are there and experience the magic of the place, you will understand why oh so many of us are so passionate about it. It is magical. Simply magical.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos I shared.

Please see Save Stoneleigh for more information.  Please consider signing the petition . Please write a letter, speak at upcoming meetings, and keep spreading the word.  Open Space should not be threatened like this. And at the end of the day, if the Lower Merion School District is unwilling and unable to respect the legacy of the Haas family, it is our duty to see that they are taught respect, don’t you think?

#SaveSoneleigh (pass it on.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

not our pipeline

Pipeline and sinkhole. Just The Fact Please photo. November, 2017

Before I moved to Chester County, I was somewhat ambivalent about Sunoco and their pipelines. Among other things, I grew up with a father who was for years, in-house PR for a then major oil company.  And part of that was during the Exxon Valdez era.  But oil companies had deep pockets and what did I know? Nothing was near where we lived and those oil company deep pockets were always giving box loads of stuff to schools, bought full page ads in school newspapers for the kids of employees, etcetera.

When you first hear about problems with pipelines, pipeline construction, or even fracking, it is like this fuzzy thing out of focus ahead of you in the haze. It can’t possibly affect you. Until it does. And in my opinion, it is.   I have friends who hail from Western Pennsylvania who literally have been warning people for years.  And they are just nastily labeled “fracktivists”. Guess that is the new label for “concerned citizen”? Because I have got to tell you, the people I knew who once lived in Western PA are…wait for it…MOMS.  You know how dangerous moms are, right?

Then it seems like in an instant but a couple miles in either direction from where you live as far as the crown flies in any direction, stuff starts to happen.

Well issues.

Sinkholes.

You feel like local municipal officials and politicians are just covering their ears saying “na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na” in order to NOT have to listen to residents.  Respected environmental activists are labeled as being alarmists.

Then all of a sudden the  PA DEP seems to wake up and temporarily halts work on Sunoco’s Mariner 2 Pipeline.  Only as per residents in some affected Chester County neighborhoods and State Impact by NPR  that might not quite be true as they report on January 9, 2018:

When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County.

For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands…..When DEP issued a stop work order to Sunoco last week, it appeared that all work would halt aside from drilling and erosion controls that had to be continued in order to prevent additional environmental damage. But a spokesman for the DEP now tells StateImpact that when it comes to anything other than earth disturbance or water crossings, the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction.

 

In Chester County, as a resident, you can’t avoid the truth of the pipelines. And the risks and dangers. So many of us are on wells. And so many with wells are already having issues. And then there are those other pesky things…you know like sinkholes and so on?

The jarring visuals you see with your own eyes like the beautiful swaths of lands torn assunder are burned into your brain.  Once you see it, you can’t un-see it and you wish you could.

Swing sets and play houses of small children sit in macabre juxtaposition to giant earth moving machines and huge pieces of pipe.

Giant walls, pipes, and earth moving machines also sit across the driveway from senior citizen apartment complexes and grocery stores.

Pipeline so close and on top of churches and schools in addition to residential neighborhoods and please, tell me, how is that safe?

Next to firehouses too? So basically, Sunoco puts those supposed to protect us at risk as well?

You have friends and former neighbors who have Sunoco gobbling up their land for the pipeline.  You count your blessing like we did that we moved long ago from certain parts of Chester County because otherwise this view could be your very own backyard:

Uwchlan Safety Coalition photo

Only you can’t help but wonder if your slice of heaven will remain unmolested by pipelines? Like Medieval Feudal Lords, you are never quite sure what they will swoop in and take, are you?

You are, as residents of Chester County and elsewhere, supposed to bend over and accept these new vistas:

My photo, taken July, 2017

When you say “no I think this is bad” there are people who will  jump all over you. “It’s perfectly safe. You don’t know what you are talking about.”

Perfectly safe? Is that why CBS This Morning ran and over FIVE minute segment on the national news this morning from coast to coast?

Sunoco is raping our land. They are depleting it, irrevocably changing it and in my opinion putting us all at risk.  It is not OUR pipeline, it is THEIR pipeline being forced upon us all and we are not benefiting from it.  This isn’t OUR infrastructure, it’s Sunoco’s infrastructure. What they take is being shipped OVERSEAS.

As another friend Ginny said to others:

Sunoco cannot replace the large, mature trees they are chopping down for this. Nor can they restore the fragile and important wetland there if they wreck it, just as they couldn’t restore the private wells that they wrecked in Marchwood this summer with this pipeline. 

Living with hazardous liquefied natural gas lines is not a part of living in suburbia. In fact it is reckless to put these lines through densely populated areas, right alongside houses, schools, apartment buildings, shopping centers, seniors homes, etc. 

And now, Sunoco also wants Chester County Library’s freaking lawn? (See Dragon Pipe Diary)

When does it stop?  When did Corporate America’s rights become more meaningful than ours in Chester and Delaware Counties and elsewhere in Pennsylvania?  Why are we as residents being forced to live with something that destroys and takes and give nothing back in return? Why don’t residents matter? Why do we spend so much time feeling like our elected officials have forsaken us on this issue?

And why is it when you mention anything about not liking or distrusting pipelines some fool will always hop up and cry foul partisan politics? I mean do they really think we are such imbeciles that an issue which is non-partisan and affects EVERYONE is an example of partisan politics?  Take off the dunce caps, because opposition to Mariner East is clearly bi-partisan.

Pipeline, East Goshen. My photo. Summer/Fall 2017

Today in addition to the CBS News report, Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety is a nonpartisan, fact-based, grassroots coalition of locally-based safety groups, made up of concerned Pennsylvanians from across our Commonwealth issued a press release:

Well guess what? I believe these folks, and this pipeline and it’s march across Chester County and elsewhere terrifies me.  These people protesting are our neighbors and friends. And there are quite the growing numbers of experts, environmentalists and others who believe these residents.

There is also a very important petition circling. It is directed at our rather elusive Governor Tom Wolf on Change.org asking him to protect our communities under the PA Health and Safety Statute.

Please sign and share this petition today.

Here are some articles:

Dragonpipe Diary: Sunoco’s destructive plans for the Chester County Library lawn

State Impact PA Despite DEP order to halt Mariner East 2 construction, some work is still allowedJANUARY 9, 2018 | 5:34 PM Susan Phillips

State Impact: Water problems persist along Mariner East pipeline route despite court interventionOCTOBER 12, 2017 | 5:03 PM BY JON HURDLE

State Impact: DEP issues violation to Sunoco for another spill of drilling fluidAUGUST 30, 2017 | 6:40 PM BY JON HURDLE

grist: BRIEFLY Stuff that matters PIPE DOWN

Daily Local: Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal,com POSTED: 01/03/18, 5:25 PM EST

Daily Local: DEP accuses Sunoco of unauthorized drilling By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal.com POSTED: 01/02/18, 3:49 PM EST

Daily Times, Phil Heron: Editorial: Economic benefits alone won’t resolve pipeline concerns

Look at the end of the day, did we come to Chester County for this view below? I don’t think so. We need to protect what is ours.  And what is ours, is not necessarily theirs.

#Resist

Uwchlan Safety Coalition Photo

tigue farm in west chester to bite the dust

At 945 Tigue Road, West Chester, PA just below the Stadium at West Chester University -between the stadium and Route 52 – actually the other side of the stadium- is this gorgeous farm you see in courtesy photos from my friend Robin Ashby.

And it’s yet another farm which will soon be plowed under for yet another development of plastic houses. I am told the actual farm is on the northeast portion of the parcel. The open land is Tigue Road and Route 52 looking north.

According to information found on the Internet at RealtyTrac.com:

945 Tigue Rd is a farm, crops located in West Chester, PA 19382. Built in 1750, this property features 7 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 58 acres lot, and 3,999 sq ft of living space.

This is East Bradford Township. And oh yeah, it’s Toll Brothers….again:

TOLL BROTHERS SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

During their Regular Meeting on December 12, 2017, the Board of Supervisors approved a settlement agreement with Toll PA VI, L.P. for the development of the Tigue Farm (Tigue Road and Lenape Road) to be known as “Darlington Ridge at West Chester.”  Minutes from this meeting are available on the Board and Commissions page.  The next phase of the development will involve submission of land development plans and Township review during 2018. This application may be prominent on the Township Planning Commission agenda during 2018.

Does everyone realize that acre by acre, what made Chester County Chester County will literally cease to exist at some point in the not too distant future?

How is this crazed thirst for development sustainable? How many times can we expand our schools and/or redistrict until we’re out of room?

It’s time for the residents of Chester County to have their eyes on the prize that is our home county and not just the developers.

Our agricultural and equine heritage are about to be lost forever along with the architectural heritage of Chester County farm houses, outbuildings, and barns. Once the farms are gone, they are gone forever.

Also don’t forget, that a lot of these farms were also proven or potential battle sites during the Revolutionary War. So in a lot of cases our nation’s very history is getting plowed under. And well Tigue Farm dates to the 18th century, doesn’t it?

Are we all to have “green roofs” and grow our food and put animals out to pasture that way? I find that doubtful since all these developments come with homeowners association’s and lots of rules don’t you?

Farming is often a brutally hard life. When did we stop caring about our farmers in this country? We must’ve stopped caring because they’re all selling to developers, right?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers other than restating the obvious which I keep saying, and that is the pace of development must slow down.

barclay friends neighbors sent me photos

I was visiting a friend in Chester County Hospital today and remarkably, you can smell the smoke from the fire inside the hospital. It’s crazy. It was like someone had a fire in their fireplace.

I have friends who live in that part of West Chester and they have smoke infiltration in their homes. I am only publishing a couple of photos, but there but for the grace of God go all of us.

Other friends of ours (as in a couple of different families) had family members evacuated from Barclay Friends last night. Their family members are safe and sound elsewhere.

Another friend who has been on the scene texted that the fire was not completely out.

Neighbors of Barclay Friends are among the scores of unsung heroes who helped residents to safety. Some media outlets are saying not all are accounted for? (See this report from ABC News ):

Authorities struggled on Friday to account for the whereabouts of all the residents of a Pennsylvania senior living community after a massive blaze tore through their complex during the middle of the night, injuring nearly 30 and leading to a chaotic evacuation.

West Chester Mayor Jordan Norley said Friday afternoon that a few of the more than 130 residents of the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community, located west of Philadelphia, were unaccounted for following the huge fire.

“We’re hoping for the best obviously here,” said Norley, who put the number taken to area hospitals at 29.

Officials said fewer than 20 remained hospitalized and all were in good condition.

County emergency officials said there was the possibility someone could have died in the fire, which erupted late Thursday night. But a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which was on the scene, told an afternoon news conference that no relatives had reported any family members missing.

Some patients are at Chester County Hospital. These people have lost everything. Especially photos and memories. It’s devastating.

At West Chester nursing home fire, a heroic effort to evacuate residents
by Laura McCrystal, Justine McDaniel, Tricia L. Nadolny & Emerson I. Max, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Flames Rip Through Chester County Senior Living Community Displacing 150 Residents and Staff, Hospitalizing 27-The senior residents of the facility were evacuated into the bitter cold, and while more than 20 people transported to hospitals, officials did not elaborate on any injuries
By NBC10 Staff

The ATF was on scene this afternoon as well, so that should help people get answers, right?

It has been a very long day in the Borough of West Chester. On the eve of Thanksgiving I am grateful for all those neighbors, fire fighters, and EMTs and police who responded to this. I am told by friends that we can always drop off food or snacks to these volunteer fire companies. These men and women do this day in and day out.

Have a good night, all.

perversion

From Radnor Democrats Public Facebook Page. It had as a caption “Radnor Democrats
June 11, 2016 at 4:41pm · We always say that the Radnor Democrats have a big, diverse tent and to “join the Party.” Well, today, at the Wayne Music Festival, the Radnor Democrats LITERALLY have a big tent!”

Where to begin? Let’s start at the bitter end of September when news broke that there had been a not-local (as in NOT Radnor PD) law enforcement raid had occurred in Radnor Township.  The target? Phil Ahr, newly minted as of this summer President of the Radnor Board of Commissioners. 

News has swirled when he missed the regular meeting shortly after the raid and  then and this past Monday, some commissioners had wanted Ahr to resign. But the Democrat commissioners (Nagle, Higgins, Schaeffer) blocked the efforts.  I will admit that while they were speaking the truth about guilty until proven innocent, BUT this is the second scandal to rock Radnor Democrats with a Board of Commissioners president given the fact that in June former Commissioner and Board of Commissioners President Bill Spingler was found guilty by a Delaware County jury  of “indecent assault on a person with a mental disability.” (His 100+ year old former mother-in-law.) Ironically, Mr. Spingler is to be sentenced or something tomorrow a lot of newscasters in Philadelphia were stating today after Phil Ahr turned himself in to police.

See NBC10 Philadelphia’s reporter Deanna Durante’s 6PM report on Mr. Ahr goes to court. Also see a pretty comprehensive article by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Main Line Media News.

It’s child porn and lots of it.  It’s horrible. Truly horrible. Almost inconceivable.

Earlier this evening, Radnor Township itself held a press conference.  I contacted the township and they provided me with what they had handed out except for the PDF of the court docket – I found that myself. Today was the preliminary arraignment. 

Anyway, here it is and I will warn you it is truly disturbing:

 

 

So back to the three commissioners in Radnor who blocked a motion to have Ahr resign. Earlier this evening, they fell back behind the cloak of the Home Rule Charter of Radnor Township.  So while they perhaps could not have made Ahr resign as of Monday, given the scandal their township and political party has endured in recent months, shouldn’t they have convinced him to resign?  Or how about perhaps they should have NOT played politics at all and lived up to their oaths of office and convinced him to resign because they are supposed to look out for the best interests of the residents?

Once again, deeply troubling times for a township where I have many close friends….including those with children.

I am going to say, however, that no matter what your opinion is here, please allow law enforcement and those in the legal system do their jobs here.  Please respect the terribly difficult jobs they have, especially with this case.  Also respect the residents of Radnor Township who have to deal with this, especially the residents of Ward 7, Garrett Hill. Garrett Hill is a tight knit community that is suffering greatly.  And pray for Phil Ahr’s family.  He has now given them a terrible burden they will carry always.

Here’s a question for all of you: should local elected officials have to submit to comprehensive background checks including criminal in order to hold elected office?

Thanks for stopping by.

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?