No developer can replicate this pastoral beauty or view. They can only steal it for development. And will the future residents of a McMansion Farmeven appreciate a view like this? Doubtful. Those people aren’t even allowed to garden the way they want (if they were gardening types to begin with.)
This is what the Robinsons are sacrificing on the altar of soulless development. I still don’t get it. If my legacy was land like this with amazing views, purpose AND history, I would fight to preserve it. But I am guessing these folks are sadly different? They seem to be missing the gene that allows them to do great things – you know like Frolic Weymouth did his whole life and the recent generosity of the Haas family with regard to their estate in Villanova?
There are so many people upset by pending development on properties including but not limited to Earles Lake (Newtown Twp Delaware County) Crebilly (Westtown Township, Chester County), Woodlawn (Concord Twp Delaware County), and Don Guanella (Marple Twp. Delaware County). I applaud those amazing residents fighting the good fight in their respective communities!
But ask anyone in land protection about just how hard it is to turn things around once land is under agreement of sale with a developer. There is very little the township or land trust or individuals, or groups, or anyone can do at that point.
But…. if residents could take some of that good energy and fight to protect vulnerable parcels that are NOT yet under agreement of sale, then they might just make some progress and have a chance to save community open space, arable farmland, and viewsheds.
And as you ponder, please think outside the box when investigating property that’s vulnerable.
For example I am told, and many people are shocked to learn, that places like Tyler Arboretum (650 acres) and Newlin Grist Mill are not actually completely protected land and all or pieces of those properties could be sold if their boards decided they wanted to. (Or if they were desperate for money.)
This is often the challenge for public gardens and arboreta…An example would be a conservation easement that was put on on the Schuylkill Center a few years ago, and if memory serves it took forever to negotiate but that board was concerned with their own history of selling off chunks of the property over the years when times were lean.
What got me to thinking about this is the upcoming Crebilly Planning Commission Meeting where Toll is presenting. Westtown Township Planning Commission that has been scheduled this first public meeting with Toll Brothers is reportedly Wednesday, November 16th at 6:30 PM and will be held at Stetson Middle School. (It is not on the Westtown website yet so I do not know if it is set in stone or not.)
I received the following from concerned Chester County resident Mindy Rhodes the following:
It is imperative that the community attend this meeting. It is imperative that you speak at this meeting. Your testimonies need to be on record. It doesn’t matter what township you are from- please show up!
In this meeting, Toll will present their plans and there will be much time for public comments. I have not seen the plans, but my understanding is this:
Toll has submitted 3 different plans:
1) Code Compliant Plan (approx. 320 units)
2) Single Waiver Plan (approx. 320 units) *Toll is requesting a waiver for the standard 60′ requirement in between buildings to 30′ instead
3) Maximum Bonus Density (approx. 400 units) *Toll will need to make their case to the Township to justify this by means of ‘improvements’
*Development will be closer to the center of Crebilly leaving ‘open space’ around the exterior
*1 access will be on 202 south of Westminster Church
*2 access roads on West Pleasant Grove Road to align with Dunvegan and Hidden Pond Way
*1 access on 926 near Bridalwood
*No plans to access South New Street
I have been saying it for years: quite simply put the MPC needs an overhaul. We need to re-define suburbs and exurbs. We need to better define and set up protections for historic preservation and land preservation, and so much more. We need to stop the death march of development across Chester County and Pennsylvania.
People have been contacting state and federally elected officials about plans like what we are about to see formerly unfold for Crebilly. Those officials like to say “we are so sorry, we can’t get involved in local issues.”
The hell they can’t. Maybe they can’t change zoning, but they sure as hell can use their political stature to bring opposing sides to the table to perhaps explore other ideas. That is part of why we elect them. And when it comes to State Representatives and State Senators, if they can’t adopt our issues as theirs, time to vote for someone else AND they are the ones who can get the Municipalities Planning Code overhauled and updated…it’s in their job description!
We have a major election day coming up one week from today. Reach out to candidates and ask them what they have done for us lately. Like with issues over DEVELOPMENT (or pipelines through Chester County). They all can’t be about campaign donations.
We also need to get out message out CLEARLY to the Chester County Planning Commission. To me it would also help if the person who headed it up actually LIVED in Chester County. A pro-development leader from Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County is not appropriate because HE DOESN’T LIVE HERE. Landscapes3 needs to actually reflect US not what someone else thinks is us.
Also to be considered is better knowing our history. I learned something new about Crebilly the other day:
Look, we have to do better. We have to figure it out together. After all, Chester County deserves better.
New stores and apartments are boosting tax collections, and have given Chester County’s West Whiteland Township (pop. 20,000) a rare distinction: Yesterday Moody’s Investor Service boosted its credit rating to AAA, a rare distinction shared locally with Tredyffrin, Whitpain, Upper and Lower Merion, and Whitpain townships…..”We didn’t used to be known as developer-friendly,” Soles told me. “The current board has changed that. We want to attract development. We are a retail-based township. We have to stay ahead of the curve.”
The township’s presentation to Moody’s lists more than 1,000 new apartments, including 410 units approved for Main Street Apartments, 276 for Parkview at Oaklands (where residences are replacing office/industrial zoned space), 240 at Marquis at Exton; plus 108 “new carriage homes” (rowhouses) at Glenloch (where the township fought to keep out a trailer park), plus 86 at Waterloo Gardens, and several smaller developments….”Those develoments are going to have minimal impact on the school district,” Soles promised. “The primary market that developers are going for is the millennials and the empty nesters.”
Mmm O.K. That is a really nice BUT regular residents don’t want townships to be so “developer friendly” – we as normal, everyday residents of Chester County are in fact looking for BALANCE and RESPECT for open space and the county’s agricultural heritage. And some historic preservation. And community preservation.
Exton in 1937 courtesy of the Guernsey Cow
I learned something very amusing the other day. An executive of a large developer active in local township meetings where they live doesn’t exactly live in one of the developments that supports their salary, does he? Does he not in fact own a lovely property that is private and part of the beautiful rolling hills of Chester County? If even the developers and their employees don’t live in these cram plans, why should we want them in our communities?
Aerial shot of Exton 1974 courtesy of The Guernsey Cow
All of these developments have an impact on every single resident and that also means they do have an impact on the school districts.
Aerial shot of Exton off of Paramount Realty Website – not sure how old, but current times to be sure.
They can’t say in West Whiteland (or elsewhere since it is a common mantra) every single one of these units being built is going to go towards millennials and empty-nesters. And as for that younger generation just starting out out of college they don’t necessarily want to be all the way out here – they want to be closer to an urban area because they’re single and social. That behavior pattern extends to empty nesters and retirees too – not all of them want to be so far out. And a lot don’t want to be so far out living in cheaply constructed projects.
Areial shot from Pennsylvania Real Estate INvestment Trust
Come on, these projects are plastic city and built for the masses to do ONE thing: show a profit for the developer. These developers shove in as many projects as possible and move on to the next area. These developers are not building for posterity, only their own prosperity. They get in, and they get out.
WEST WHITELAND >> Democratic challenger Rajesh Kumbhardare is running against Republican incumbent Steven Soles for his position on the township’s board of supervisors.
Kumbhardare launched several accusations against Soles that both Soles and fellow Democratic board member Joe Denham claim are false.
West Whiteland board supervisors serve six-year terms. One member of the board is up for re-election every two years.
In a phone interview, Kumbhardare criticized the township’s financial practices, saying township funds were “running into the red.”
He also mentioned the $31.2 million price tag for the township building….
Soles said during his tenure, the township greatly increased its transparency and kept taxes low.
“We have a fiduciary duty to our residents, I think we’re on the right track,” Soles said. “We are working for the residents of West Whiteland Township.”
Really? Seems to me that West Whiteland Township has ambitions to become another King of Prussia. (But what do I know, I am a mere mortal and a female and not a lover of malls.)
We are starting to drown in development from one end of Chester county to the other. It’s ridiculous. I also do not believe that the economy can in the end support so much development and remember there actually is an ample housing supply already. Sure there are lots of retail and minimum-wage jobs, but those people are not going to be affording these developments. This is the whole emperor’s new clothes story of the New Urbanism fairy tale of development.
My photo. Views like this will continue to disappear by the day if we do not act as Chester County residnets
There are all sorts of things that no one thinks about when salivating over ratables as an elected official.
They definitely don’t think of the impact on the schools and they don’t take that into consideration. Mostly because school districts are autonomous from local governments and they don’t play well with one and other.
Also elected officials are NOT telling you another reality of getting rid of more and more farmland: it will drive your food costs up.
It’s a snowballing effect. We have lots of housing but we simply don’t take care of it. Our elected officials just approve more and more projects.
Someone said to me yesterday “I’m not really sure if a lot of local officials have the capacity to comprehend all of this and see the future and think about ecosystems etc.”
I think that is correct.
We have the power to change this and we need to pressure state elected officials to comprehensively update the Municipalities Planning Code to PROTECT us and actually plan wisely, not just literally give away the farm to developers.
It is an election year, which means we do have the opportunity to be heard by exercising our right to vote. We need to make our open space and agricultural heritage a huge election issue in Chester county and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
And remember Moody’s is issuer paid. Municipalities get what they pay for and given the hot mess Lower Merion Township is due to developers (and is Tredyffrin with all it’s issues and the mother of all open space killing developments Chesterbrook from time to time far behind?) I wouldn’t be so bragging that my municipality was right up there with them as AAA. But again, a municipality is getting what they pay for. And what will it mean when developments empty out because they are older and falling apart?
And I love when local elected officials in Chester County brag about stopping mobile home parks. I do not think anyone really gets how many of those are in Chester County, or that they are kind of one of the few sources of truly affordable housing for what defines affordable housing. They approve building of huge projects with zero truly affordable housing. Or a developer will toss out there that they will make a few units of something affordable, only it’s never truly affordable for say the family of four or six or even larger that might actually NEED affordable housing.
Now see what I think would be a great idea is if these developers who are salivating over Chester County’s open space would actually restore some of the actual run down housing supply that exists in areas that suffered downturns when factories and manufacturing left their towns. Think Phoenixville, Downingtown, and Coatesville and any of the number of small cross roads towns you find scattered throughout Chester County. Heck if they did this more in Phoenixville and Downingtown they would probably see a positive result fairly quickly given how hard these two places have been working to rejuvenate their towns and business districts already. But it takes talent and patience to restore older homes or do an adaptive reuse of a mill or factory, doesn’t it? And again, these developers aren’t about communities, they want to get in and get out.
But that is another idea: if elected officials and county level planning commissions pushed for an overhaul of Municipalities Planning Code that could be made part of the approval process legally: if developers want in, then they need to contribute more than traffic signals. Let them contribute a certain amount of rehabilitated existing housing as a condition of approval. Come up with a formula that for every new unit they want to add, they have to restore a certain amount of existing units in areas that could use the help, thereby actually helping provide actual affordable housing.
But that’s the other thing – Pennsylvania does not make it attractive for people to preserve anything.
In other states there are many more avenues of tax credits and what not when it comes to saving things for environmental concerns and saving things as historic assets.
However what local officials do you have the power to do is to try to work with developers to reduce the footprint or encourage them to donate big chunks of land where they’re developing for conservation…..And in my opinion most don’t.
Again, 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???? Are residents asking her some tough questions? Has she tried to get any of the land that is Crebilly conserved?
Ok and when you are speaking of development you need to consider the Herculean efforts some put into land preservation. I have a friend who put four years of his life into obtaining Federal land conservation. He got a USDA Easement on his farm. The easement is a conservation easement for the preservation of a thriving bog turtle colony. It’s locked up in perpetuity I think that is wonderful. His name is Vince Moro, and you will now read about him in this article on ChaddsFord Live:
As the area’s open space continues to shrink and conservancies fight an uphill battle, a Pennsbury Township resident is offering an assist.
Vince Moro said he has been distressed by recent headlines showing that development is continuing to swallow up open space in the area. For example, Toll Brothers not only plans to put 91 homes on the 86-acre Tigue tract off Route 52 in East Bradford Township, but it also envisions more than 300 on the Crebilly property at Routes 202 and 926 in Westtown Township.
So when Moro heard that The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County was working with the Barnard family to place an agricultural conservation easement on its beloved orchard in Newlin Township, the project seemed like a perfect match for Brandywine in White, an elegant, pop-up gala that raises funds for area nonprofits and will be held on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Gwen Lacy, TLC’s executive director, said the conservancy needs to raise the remaining $27,000 of the project’s $901,000 cost before the fall to qualify for matching grants. She said if the conservancy reaches its goal, Barnard’s Orchard and “its 74 beautiful and productive acres” would be saved permanently from development.
Read the rest of the article, but you get the point. Here is more on the orchard at risk:
TLC is working to conserve Barnard’s Orchard and its 75 beautiful and productive acres. To date TLC has raised
$863,000 toward the $901,000 total project cost, leaving a balance of $38,000 (less than 5% of the total project cost).
Securing these funds now will successfully conclude this important land conservation project and keep intact a 1,200+ acre corridor of vital lands.
Here’s what is at stake, and once plowed under, irreplaceable:
74.3 acres of important agricultural soils across two parcels
Fourth generation family owned farm established in 1862
Orchard and orchard store are a community staple with generations growing up visiting the property
32 varieties of apples
Snapdragons and freesia
Additional fruits and veggies grown on site
Produce donated to the area food cupboard when possible and collection taken at the counter
Hosts school groups at no cost to educate children about the orchard
Rural vista along Rt. 842 for public enjoyment with ½ mile of road frontage
Protects prime agricultural soils and keeps them in active agriculture via the agricultural easement
Protects portion of a first order stream and wooded, steep slopes
Protects the groundwater recharge abilities of the woods
Maintains the existing riparian buffer to protect the watershed
Protecting the stream corridor benefits downstream neighbors-over 500,000 people depend on the Brandywine Creek watershed for public and individual water supplies
Protected woodlands are part of an unbroken corridor extending north onto Cheslen Preserve
Stream corridor and woods are home to multiple endangered and threatened plant species
Farmland and open space benefits everyone – keeping the costs of community services under control: For $1 of tax revenue from farmland, only 2-12 cents of community services are required. Residential costs are $1.33 for every $1 of tax revenue.
Be a part of the solution by helping conserve Barnard’s Orchard for future generations!
Donate online here OR send check payable to TLC to:
The Land Conservancy for
Southern Chester County
541 Chandler Mill Road
Avondale, PA 19311
TLC also accepts Gifts of Stock; for details click here or contact
All donations are 100% tax deductible.
If you have questions about this project, please contact TLC today.
Chester County residents it’s do or die time. What do you want where you call home to look like?
Here is another very telling image taken by a friend of mine August 1st in West Vincent:
Do we really think anyone is cleaning up the ruins of a decrepit old gas station or whatever for historic preservation?
And speaking of West Vincent, remember Bryn Coed. It is TWICE the size of Chesterbrook. In my opinion, it is not a question of IF the land will be developed, but WHEN.
And I am not, believe it or not, completely anti-development. Small and thoughtful projects that demonstrate careful planning are not problematic to me, but you do NOT see that today. Developers come in and rape and pillage. It is nothing, ever about where WE call home, only how much money they can make. They don’t care about fitting their developments in with our existing surroundings or employing human scale in infill developments in towns (think East Side Flats in Malvern. I am all about supporting the local and small businesses there but talk about not fitting the surroundings.)
After all, take “Linden Hall” on Route 30 in East Whiteland. The actual Linden Hall is NOT yet restored and what do we see? This:
Is that about our community betterment or just about lining a developer’s profits?
Again, I remind everyone that development should darn well be an election issue out here. Look at your candidates and what they stand for. We need less who are proud of being “developer friendly” and more who are willing to preserve where we call home. From the local township, borough, and so on to the State House and State Senate vote for Chester County. If a candidate can’t go on the record about what they will actually DO or an actual PLAN for preserving Chester County, it’s open spaces, agricultural and equestrian heritage, say bye bye to them.
I think Chester County’s future is worth more than crammed in developments of front end loaded plastic houses on postage stamp sized lots where there is not even enough room to garden let alone enjoy being outside.
It was marketed as a “Main Line Classic”. A “Historic Estate Property.” Only in the end it was just another demolition in the march of new development in Chester County.
It was the Ann Pugh Farm
And then it wasn’t.
The property was idyllic. And updated. It was in short, amazing. But although historic, there was nothing in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County to protect it. I wrote about it twice, Tredyffrin Community Matters wrote about it. At the time both blogs took an enormous amount of guff for doing so. We were being mean and unfair and so on and so forth.
The friend who sent me the photo of the Ann Pugh replacement today remarked that whomever built the house might still have their former home on Pugh for sale? I have no way of knowing, and do not really care but what I will never understand is living down the street from something that was as beautiful as Ann Pugh Farm and then tearing it down to make your mark on the landscape, can you?
The other thing I find so sad with all of this is the fact that in the two years between Ann Pugh coming tumbling down and today, Tredyffrin has not changed the way they protect historic assets in their township. After all, if they had, perhaps the Old Covered Wagon Inn in Strafford would not be at risk for demolition, right?
And the thing is that Tredyffrin Township is home to some amazing historic preservationists that are active and visible in the community. But when zoning and planning and ordinances don’t match up and the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania do not match with a community’s desire to protect at least some of their history and architectural heritage what can you do? (The short answer is not much and you have to get lucky.)
I keep hoping East Whiteland will wake up before it’s too late. As a municipality they are facing essentially wanton commercial and residential development, and it is not necessarily what the majority of residents want but does that matter? The East Whiteland Historical Commission has made a couple of public utterances lately, but what exactly is there to back up what they are saying? Do they have a game plan? Or are they just beating their chests because they were awoken from their relatively inactive slumber?
Or they love their history and work to preserve it actively like East Goshen and Willistown? Like the beautiful and historic homes lovingly preserved in the Boroughs of West Chester and Kennett Square? Wouldn’t you love more preservation like Historic Sugartown, Goshenville, and Yellow Springs Village?
West Vincent is another municipality in the throes of development. There residents are worried this once idyllic township is disappearing one development at a time and where you used to smell the smells of crops and live stock, on a sunny day if you are close enough, you smell plastic. The new plastic smell of tract houses and development with no soul. In West Vincent residents are wondering what it would take to get the zoning found in Willistown and Charesltown townships and other places in Chester County where they wisely added lot size requirements to their codes in an effort to at least retain some of the open space if they can’t save the old houses and farms.
People in West Vincent are terrified over huge tracts of land like Bryn Coed. Bryn Coed is roughly twice the size Chesterbrook was amassed to be before original development, correct? And it is an estate in more than one municipality, right? So what happens if Bryn Coed gets developed? Or is it more like when? It is a huge amount of land for people to be caretakers over in today’s economy, so I am just being practical as I do not see it surviving and neither do most people. But what will it become? The new Chesterbook? A Bensalem lite?
And that is the problem throughout Chester County: there is not enough to save the history and barely enough to hang on to some of the open space. If we all do not come together in this county, what we love about Chester County will literally cease to exist. And what of the farming? What happens when you develop away all of the farms? Or add chemical plants where they once stood?
It’s a lot to think about, but we must. We have an opportunity in a Presidential Election Year to demand more transparency from candidates for every level of office when it comes to open space preservation, land conservation, environmental conservation, farming, development, historic preservation. Ask the candidates. Whether running for a local supervisor to Congress, to State House to State and U.S. Senate it doesn’t matter who you are, ask the candidates the tough questions and make them earn their votes.
It’s time to #SaveChesterCounty before what we love is all gone.