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

too much development has negative consequences


This photo came to me from a friend with the following note:

People who are interested in all the new construction  in the Chester Springs area should be made to attempt a morning commute during the week versus cruising through on a Saturday or Sunday. 

I felt like I was in Manhattan this morning – cars well past Montgomery School on Route 113 trying to get through the intersection with Route 401, a couple miles worth of hideous, now everyday traffic.  

God bless those who have to get to work OUTSIDE of Chester Springs. And to think of the nearly 250 homes not yet occupied as part of Byers Station Phase 2 and roughly same number of Pulte homes going up near Ludwigs Corner???? 

This is insanity!!!

Perhaps worth a post. Biggest problem when the the massive amount of developing going on is the market for them- the buyers. They have no idea the poor quality of these homes along with what it is really like to get around these 2 lane roads. Uh!!!

And indeed, so worth a post!

Why this is so good to see come to life isn’t so people can be miserable in traffic, it’s instead so people can know what their future holds every time they see one of these plans proposed wherever it is they live.

When these plans are proposed in your municipalities, they are cute little Lego land box drawings on a big flat piece of paper. The drawings are shown with these buildings with nothing around them, so you can’t visualize the reality of these developments for the most part. You get stuck waiting for the developments to be built and then there’s nothing you can do.

And my favorite is the trick that even a curse out here where they talk about how people aren’t going to be using their cars, they will use special Jetson spaceships and public transportation. Everything is going to be “walkable”. Of course how they can say that with a straight face and parts of Chester County were you still have to drive miles to get to a grocery store cracks me up.

A lot of the  “highways”  out here are glorified country roads. They weren’t meant for this volume of humanity. Then you look at roads like 202 which are a nightmare even with improvements.

So anyway, just more food for thought. Especially if you were thinking about areas like over around Crebilly, and that’s not just because of the Toll Brothers proposed building on that land. It’s quite simply put: just adding all the plans up. 

What do you get if you add up all the developments large and small from one end of Chester county to the other? To me that prospect is frightening and very very sad. 

a new development photo that just makes you wonder…


I love my readers! They send me the best stuff! Kindly note this morning’s offering above. It came with the following message:

Walking through new Lennar Byers Station development (formerly Toll Bros) and thought you would be amused by this photo. Brand new home already visited by Belfor Restoration. Unclear as to what was being cleaned up but doesn’t give a good image!

No, no it doesn’t, does it? This is in West Vincent Township is it not?

Lennar is sort of new to this area I think.  Check out their Byers Station website. It shows you the best in Stepford wife living ever… If you like that sort of thing.

Lennar has been around since the 1950s and build in 19 states as per their website. I don’t know when they took over Byers Station.

Lennar is so disliked by some, there are entire websites devoted to hating them:

My Lennar Lemon 2.0

DEFECTS, DEFECTS, AND MORE DEFECTS  

IS THIS LENNAR’S IDEA OF QUALITY, VALUE, & INTEGRITY

AGAINST OUR BETTER JUDGEMENT 

WE CLOSED ESCROW ON A NEW LENNAR HOME  

——————–

We paid $659,000.00 for a house with an embarrassing 

amount of construction defects and shoddy construction.  

After years of litigation we are stuck with over

$100k in documented construction defects 

and a boarded up front door.  

     Lennar’s Realtor, did nothing to help. 

She was just gone, leaving us hanging. 

     Customer Care didn’t help us much either. The repairs that 

they made were even worse than the original defects…

From Dale Billy (President) to Stewart Miller (CEO) these issues/defects 

were brought to their attention and dismissed.  

Lennar litigated our case to the point where we personally 

received nothing for any of the documented construction defects.  

   All that Lennar gave us was a whole lot of 

unresolved defects, lip service, and huge legal costs, 

with “Zero” positive results. 

But please, Don’t take my word for it…

  Anyone is Welcome to come by and see exactly how Lennar delivered us this defective home  

Leaving us stuck with this Lennar Lemon?

Before You BUY, Please Come By and See Firsthand what

Lennar Considers “ZERO Defects”. You will not 

Believe Your Eyes…

The website makes me look mild in opinion about development.

But wait, there is more:

Lennar Reviews at Pissed Consumer

Thinking of Buying a Home from Lennar Homes

Consumer Affairs Lennar Complaints and Reviews

Homeowner blames builder for sinking house POSTED 6:51 PM, JUNE 17, 2015, BY ROB LOW, UPDATED AT 08:17AM, JUNE 18, 2015

FOX 13 Investigates: Homeowners say builder is sticking them with stucco problems

how is this chester county?

DCP_1371

Called Courts at Chester Springs and located at 770 Birchrun Road ,Chester Springs,PA as per Pulte website, this is the latest in developer-grown plastic house crops.

This is located in West Vincent Township, Chester County.

plastic crop

How many families does that add to the school district, I wonder?

DCP_1370

Wake up Chester County. It’s time to slow down development across the county before it truly is too late.

Oh and that raggedy grove of mismatched trees in photo above is conservation I am told? Really?

This urbanization of the country does what exactly?  Besides eliminate open spaces and the agricultural heritage of the county? How is this beneficial to all residents?

Hey now, it is not just me. Check out:

Worst of McMansions

If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to check out McMansions 101! Got a question or comment? Contact me at mcmansionhell@gmail.com

DCP_1372

the fairy tales of development

Updated: AUGUST 9, 2016 — 4:34 PM EDT

by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer @PhillyJoeD

EXCERPT:

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_1937 guernsey cow photo

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

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.

IMHO Steve Soles (the article calls him Rick, quite amusingly – see screen shot.) owes his constituents better. Of course given his day job as a lawyer lawyer for a hedge fund, I never would have voted for him in the first place if I lived in West Whiteland.

And so we know who is who in West Whiteland (and do not forget the Township Manager is the former Township Manager of Tredyffrin who was just going to “retire”, Mimi Gleason), here is a screen shot of the supervisors:

west whiteland officials

Now if you do a quick flash back to the most recent election, you will recall a very interesting Daily Local article:
West Whiteland supervisors race getting nasty

POSTED: 10/27/15, 10:59 AM EDT

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

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.

27406131775_05ddcef1f4_oIt’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.

26799260573_465b0e0d29_oAnd 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?

27887459781_c733efdbd5_oAnd 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.

2706453199_4767aac241_oNow 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 27334976761_071b627e2e_ohave 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.
 I get that PA is a private property rights state so this is really tough, but it  is like the whole tale of Crebilly Farm in Westtown possibly going Toll — does anyone believe that NO ONE in that township knew anything?

Here are the Westtown Supervisors again:

westtownAgain, 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?

14359111719_cb799ed180_oOk 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:

 

Pop-up gala joins fight to save orchard

 

Read the rest of the article, but you get the point.  Here is more on the orchard at risk:

Help The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) save Barnard’s Orchard, a fourth generation family farm in Chester County!

Project Update:
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:
  1. 74.3 acres of important agricultural soils across two parcels
  2. Fourth generation family owned farm established in 1862
  3. Orchard and orchard store are a community staple with generations growing up visiting the property
  4. 32 varieties of apples
  5. Apple cider
  6. Pumpkins
  7. Snapdragons and freesia
  8. Peaches
  9. Additional fruits and veggies grown on site
  10. Produce donated to the area food cupboard when possible and collection taken at the counter
  11. Hosts school groups at no cost to educate children about the orchard
  12. Rural vista along Rt. 842 for public enjoyment with ½ mile of road frontage
  13. Protects prime agricultural soils and keeps them in active agriculture via the agricultural easement
  14. Protects portion of a first order stream and wooded, steep slopes
  15. Protects the groundwater recharge abilities of the woods
  16. Maintains the existing riparian buffer to protect the watershed
  17. Protecting the stream corridor benefits downstream neighbors-over 500,000 people depend on the Brandywine Creek watershed for public and individual water supplies
  18. Protected woodlands are part of an unbroken corridor extending north onto Cheslen Preserve
  19. Stream corridor and woods are home to multiple endangered and threatened plant species
  20. 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.
tlcBe 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

610-347-0347. 
All donations are 100% tax deductible.
If you have questions about this project,  please contact TLC today.
Thank you,
Gwendolyn M. Lacy, Esq.
Executive Director
(610) 347-0347 x 107
(610) 268-5507 (c)
sad
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:
13876680_10210107066019031_3316649862016974527_n
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.
img_1840And 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:
27685291670_2d629ed33d_o
Is that about our community betterment or just about lining a developer’s profits?
8534073683_85d0f86dda_oAgain, 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.
22015047366_ebe0e60232_o

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:

8031402127_7204479dc7_o

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.

why don’t we have more control over our communities? we live here.

Meet Pulte’s  “promotional video” on Linden Hall.

Described as an enclave of “luxury”  town homes, with views of an exclusive golf course anyone has yet to see how storm water runoff will affect and whose memberships are not exactly included with the purchase price of the townhouses. (Yes holy run on sentence Batman but I don’t know how else to say it.)

You see photos of rolling Chester County fields with nature, only there is no nature at Linden Hall. Only a crumbling historic carriage stop and inn that  sits and rots unrestored, even though the original developer (Benson or whomever) who sold Pulte the townhouse land and approvals promised to restore but thus far has not. All that has happened is a version of construction fencing has been erected to surround it. (Maybe with black plastic fabric fencing around it we won’t notice the building rotting, right?)

This video says that this development is 3.5 miles from a Septa Station. I assume they mean Eston which already has parking issues? And you get to that station from congested route 100 right? Or you have to invent a space at Malvern station?

The video proclaims 4 miles from Main Street at Exton and 10 miles from the King of Prussia Mall because God forbid people support local, small businesses, right? 

And my favorite, they tout the Great Valley “School System”.   Of course no one ever talks about the effect a rampant increase in development has on a school district which eventually affects our taxes and our kids, do they? And before all the PTA cheerleaders gather up their pom poms against me, that is NOT a slam at the school district, that is a very grim reality which is inevitable. 

But overall what bothers me the most is here is yet another developer touting our beautiful Chester County they are carving up into plastic houses one acre at a time. The site these townhouses are on once supported quite an ecosystem. Foxes and birds and rabbits and so on. I know the neighbors behind Linden Hall are very unhappy and worried how this development will affect their property values down the line.

The price points are not affordable for those who would need affordable housing. The quality is not so spectacular that the exteriors won’t wear quickly after a few Chester County winters. And the way they describe them, well you don’t realize if you are looking at a development essentially sitting on a highway. No matter what you do to them they are sitting on a major thoroughfare. And it’s not pretty.


Ok this brings me to the impetus behind this post:

The New York Times:  How Anti-Growth Sentiment, Reflected in Zoning Laws, Thwarts Equality

By CONOR DOUGHERTY

JULY 3, 2016


….“The quality of the experience of being in Boulder, part of it has to do with being able to go to this meadow and it isn’t just littered with human beings,” said Steve Pomerance, a former city councilman who moved here from Connecticut in the 1960s….These days, you can find a Steve Pomerance in cities across the country — people who moved somewhere before it exploded and now worry that growth is killing the place they love.

….But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy….

Zoning restrictions have been around for decades but really took off during the 1960s, when the combination of inner-city race riots and “white flight” from cities led to heavily zoned suburbs…To most people, zoning and land-use regulations might conjure up little more than images of late-night City Council meetings full of gadflies and minutiae. But these laws go a long way toward determining some fundamental aspects of life: what American neighborhoods look like, who gets to live where and what schools their children attend.

And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.

This article is written by someone who doesn’t get the realities of rampant development. Nor does the author mention the fact that a lot of these developments are built just to build, not because there is an actual need. 

The author of this article of this article also does not get how these developers are actually contributing to what he seemingly despises. As in these developers are actually contributing to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They are in fact limiting the housing supply by their very price points. How many families of multiple people and kids are going to look at condos for example that are studios and one bedrooms and if not rentals start at mid 500,000s? How many agricultural, factory, or service related workers are going to be able to afford Linden Hall or Atwater or so on or be encouraged to buy there?

And look at all the zoning together. That is developments in progress in one area, regardless of municipality, along with other development in various states of approval. A sleeper to watch for in East Whiteland would be that thing a developer named Farley got approved a while back, remember? A multi acre parcel that is accessed off a property on 352 that looks like a hoarding situation that goes up into woods and would be shoehorned in between Immaculata and the William Henry apartments for lack of a better description? So you have the increasing traffic nightmare on Route 30 by Linden Hall which will only get worse with completion of neighboring projects like off of Frame Ave and Planebrook Rd. Can you imagine adding this 352/Sproul to that? And the effect it will have potentially on King Road? Let alone what one more project so close together would have on the ecosystem of the area AND the school district!

See that is the problem with all these developments, developers, and the factual analysis this New York Times writer Conor Dougherty thinks he has done. The reality is we do NOT live in a bubble. We are connected. Developers envision and present these projects as stand alone things with no real time or effort put into the relationships between projects. It starts when you see the plans presented at a local municipal meeting.

 These projects are depicted all by themselves with nothing around them, or nothing around them realistic to human or other scale. They do traffic studies when no one is around, they don’t really look at what a large uptick in population will do to anything from roads, to hospitals, to school,districts, to the environment. They do not care about us, they just want to build, get their money, and get out. So pardon the hell out of us Conor Dougherty if we want to preserve the character of where we live and do not want our school districts, property values, and our shrinking open space detrimentally affected. And his affordable housing argument doesn’t wash at least around here because they are not building affordable housing. These developers truthfully don’t give a rat’s fanny about actual affordable housing.  None of this is about actually helping others, it’s about lining their pockets at the expense of many communities.

Chester County is at risk. I am not sure why Chester County even has a county planning department because everything getting built is about the dollars developers get from density. Our open space and communities and agricultural heritage are seriously at risk. That doesn’t anyone make sny person saying that some kind of NIMBY ….it is the truth. Why is it that the rights of those who already live in an area seem so less important than what politicians  and developers want?  Look at Embreyville and Bryn Coed – what happens to those areas if development gets approved for maximum capacity? Embreyville is already in play, and Bryn Coed is only a matter of time, right?

Community preservation and open space preservation aren’t dirty words. They should be our  right as residents of this beautiful county we call home.

Happy July 4th. Our forefathers fought for our freedoms and apparently we are still fighting for our rights.

Thanks for stopping by.