how is this chester county?

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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?

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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

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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.
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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

POSTED: September 21, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

POSTED: June 23, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buying the farm By MARGARET FITZCHARLES

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

POSTED: May 24, 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

this is progress?

Ann Pugh Farm todayIt 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

pugh farm then

And then it wasn’t.

pugh

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.

A quote from one of comment leavers on Commuity Matters at the time:

You are losing sight of the issue, is it preservation, or is it simply opposition to new construction?

I thought Pattye Benson summed up everyone’s thoughts who were distraught at what we felt was wanton destruction when she replied:

Not opposed to new construction — just support the preservation of our community’s historic resources.

 

And that is the truth.  You can’t save every old mansion, house, farm, barn, and storefront.  But we need to preserve more in our communities than we are.  We need balance between the old and the new and progress should not erase our history. (Speaking of preservation, check out Savvy Main Line’s shout out for a preservation buyer for Chester County’s La Ronda known as Loch Aerie in this week’s column and news round up.)

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.

ugliness getting built at ludwig’s corner

 Some locals in West Vincent refer to it as “Quinntown” I understand? It’s seriously ugly. Another reason why Chester County needs to wake up fast. 

And FYI that guy heading up the Chester County Planning Commission now as the Executive Director? He’s out of Lower Merion Township. Don’t be impressed, they are so incredibly pro-development that Chester County better pay attention. And be very, very afraid.

Please look at these photos. This is happening all over Chester County. In 10 years at this pace, how much MORE open space and how many more historic structures where applicable will have been lost?

Please get involved with your communities and contact your state legislators. Chester County is unique and beautiful and steeped in rich history. And more and more parts are getting lost to wanton development which seems unchecked. We have to change the course before it is too late.  
   

chester county books

 

I admit it, I love books.

And I have been on the hunt for the three books you see pictured above for a while, and now I can say I have added them to my library.

These three fabulous books (Forty Years of Days, Chester County & Its Day, and Barns of Chester County Pennsylvania) were all written by a Chester County treasure named Berenice M. Ball

Once upon a time, the late Mrs. Ball was a long time Chairman of Chester County Day.  As a matter of fact her former home was on the 2015 Chester County Day house tour which benefits the Chester County Hospital Foundation.

I am pretty sure Chester County Day   is one of the longest running house tours in the nation, if not the longest.

Mrs. Ball published these fabulous books in the 1970s and 1980s. 1970 (Chester County and Its Day), 1974 (Barns of Chester County), 1980 (Forty Years of Days).

The books are full of old photos, sketches, history, anecdotes. Famous Chester County properties, even ones familiar to us today, are in these books. Like the often discussed Bryn Coed Farm, once home to Justice Owen J. Roberts.

Yes that Bryn Coed in West Vincent. It was restored back in the day by R. Brognard Okie.  I only knew the property made Chesterbrook look tiny, but I had non idea about Justice Robert’s actual home. I love Okie houses.

  Reading Chester County and Its Day it was interesting to learn that once upon a time this property Bryn Coed was a favorite on the Chester County Day circuit.

“Can anyone who ever saw Mr. Justice Owen J Roberts forget him in his country tweeds, standing in the driveway, pipe in hand, greeting each guest as if he were a visiting ambassador or posing for a picture after picture with groups and individuals? What a truly great human being he was and what good friends of the Day they both were.”

Given the constant discussion of the potential of development at Bryn Coed this sent chills up my spine!

Forty Years of Days has at the end of  it a complete listing of homes and landmarks open on Chester County Day between 1936 and 1980.

You can find these books on Amazon and eBay and in secondhand shops if you’re lucky. They were all produced back in the day as limited editions, and all of the ones I found are first editions and were signed by Mrs. Ball. I can’t tell you how awesome they are. If you are a Chester County history junkie and you don’t have these in your collection, you should definitely seek them out.

I hunted these books down to learn more about the history of the county I now call home. I’m so glad I did they are fascinating.

Thanks for stopping by on a rainy foggy day.

  

will bryn coed become chester county’s next chesterbrook?

DSC_9635

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

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

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

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

It’s too much.

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

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

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

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

Toll Brothers1

Bryn Coed Evict

evict family

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

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

hear voices

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

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

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

Toll Bryn Coed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

monkeys

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

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

Once the land is gone, it’s gone.

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

Pre-development History Of The Farm At Chesterbrook

Posted: September 26, 1991

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

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

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

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

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

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