if this is progress, we soon will be living in stepford

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99 Church Road, Malvern, East Whiteland ,Chester County a few weeks ago

A few years ago in 2013 I asked rather tongue in cheek if a Toll Brothers development was what Stepford might look like. Now Toll Brothers might not like my opinion but since the whole Crebilly scenario erupted, I daresay my opinions are mild when Image result for stepford wives outsidecompared to some. (Had to get that whole opinion/First Amendment thing out of the way.)

Sadly I am only half kidding about the Stepford of it all.

We are becoming a place where people no longer say what town they are from.  They reference where they live by development. Not by road, town, township, borough, or city. By development.

Ok, so that is how you identify? That is your entire self-image? Your development or subdivision defines who you are?

Every time someone does that, I pause.  I can’t keep track of ALL of the developments, especially in Chester County, can you?

As I said in 2013,   Can you imagine what that next  Appledumb, Mountainfake, Potters Field, and Byers Remorse will look like? (Can’t keep track of all the municipalities and doofy names of developments or developers so pardon the comedic license.)

99 Church Road in Malvern was sold off to become “Great Valley Crossing” a Toll Brothers Community.  Here is the Toll site: Great Valley Crossing.

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Welcome to Naked Acres, err…Great Valley Crossing

Once before the plans were approved this property at 99 Church Road came up in an East Whiteland meeting.  They showed up in subsequent meeting minutes which have disappeared from public view on East Whiteland’s website, but I saved a screenshot:

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The date title of this screenshot was 5/14/14, so I don’t know if that is 100% accurate or the date I saved the screen shot.  What I do know is this screen shot was from Supervisors’ Meeting Minutes before Mott stepped down.

I read with some amusement the description of this now christened Great Valley Crossing.  Here is a screen shot:

Heaven starts at $649K++. Choose from four models with jumped up, preposterous names.

Oh the “model” names. It’s like you are buying a car.  So not only will you be identified only by the development you buy into, but will be known by your house model.  Where is the “Tara” model???

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Oh Mr. Developer Rhett, I would like to live in the “Tara” Model. “Twelve Oaks” is so 1863!  (FYI: Tara & Twelve Oaks were mythical plantations featured in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.)

Relaxed atmosphere of “country living”? Oh.Come.On. Have these marketing geniuses sat in traffic in Chester County lately?? Sadly, it’s less like country living and often more like King of Prussia mall traffic at rush hour. You can’t even garden the way you want to in a lot of these new developments. It’s all controlled and maybe soon the husbands can rejoice that out here in New Stepford, the developments will define wifely attire too?

(Hold me back, New Stepford is a comin’ ! Individuality is BAAAAAD!)

And as THIS development goes up and others are in the pipeline, for how many years will the Great Valley School District remain “award-winning”? Hows about we try “over-crowded” on for size?

Here are the plans for this development I found on East Whiteland’s website. Follow the link.  All developments are magical through marketing until ALL OF THE PEOPLE WITH ALL OF THEIR CARS move in.  Then everyone complains. “Too much traffic” “I thought our taxes were supposed to go down?” “Where is the open space?”

And speaking of marketing, East Whiteland is marketing itself as “The Heart of The Great Valley”.  How much of the ACTUAL Great Valley is still left? Great Valley has gone from having fascinating and important history with regard to this great nation to being a series of corporate centers, strip malls, and developments.

Speaking of history, I discovered this really cool report on the PA Historical and Museum Commission website. It is called The Great Valley Historical Agricultural Region, 1750-1960.

Completely fascinating. Have also uploaded here: great_valley

Here are some shots from 99 Church Road circa 2012:

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Also found this aerial shot on Google:

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This is another 41.50 acres of open space/farmland that will never, ever come back.  And as per a comment on a blog post from 2016, the  development’s “open space” is actually unusable flood plain land, apparently? So these houses are clustered on what land can actually be developed?  And what will the “roads” of this development look like? Will they be wide enough?

And let us not forget in just this part of Chester County, there is OTHER development happening the Great Valley School District…not just East Whiteland, although East Whiteland has the lion’s share. (Refer to this post from early August, 2018)

I will ask again, and keep asking: Chester County residents, do you want the entire county to look like this?  Didn’t some of you move out here to escape this in the first place?

Signing off from Happy Dell Acres (no, not a real place that I know of but I feel like I have to give the area where I live it’s official dumb development name.)

 

save the barn (easttown township)- important october 3rd meeting!

I have written about residents trying to save this historic Chester County barn before. Twice as a matter of fact.

Here is a flyer that was sent to me about an upcoming zoning meeting on October 3rd in Easttown Township.  Apparently the developer (Bentley Homes) is seeking a demolition permit now I presume.  Not shocking after that fabulous effort to market the barn to a new owner, right? And the thing is this: this barn has had restoration to modernize it and is in good shape.  So why wouldn’t it sell unless it wasn’t really ever marketed?  Why not make the barn into a house as part of this development? Oh never mind, why ask redundant questions.

A historic barn means nothing to Bentley Homes, does it? They are, after all the people who took a heck of a lot of forest off of Forest Lane (Willistown Township, Malvern), right? The people who have done the same de-treeing thing on County Line Road in Radnor Township, right?  This is a sin if this barn gets demolished.  If you can help or know someone who will buy it, please go that meeting.

You can always build another Tyvec wrapped box.  Structures like this barn? Not so much. We need to preserve history like this.  And this is perfectly adaptable to modern use.  This developer has more than enough jingle in his pocket that he could either sell or reuse this barn if he wanted to.

Once again I reiterate my plea to residents in Chester County to lobby any elected official they can to slow down development in the county.

Bentley Homes development County Line Road, Villanova, Radnor Twp

Bentley Homes development County Line Road, Villanova, Radnor Twp

nothing says “forest” like cutting down the trees…

photo1So if you drive around Malvern and are familiar with Forest Lane, parts of it are indeed quite wooded and lovely.  It seems like the road runs between East Goshen and Willistown Townships.  Unfortunately down towards what I believe is just Willistown, there has been a lot of building – Bentley Homes has been super-sizing and Main Line McMansioning. They are currently advertising 830 Forest Lane on their website. Ironically they call it “The Evergreen”.  Kindly note there is barely a tree in site.

Across the street from these Bentley homes still remain some of the homes built less recently on Forest.  There are some truly lovely homes.  And as you proceed down Forest towards Sugartown you head into woods.  I think some smidgen of them are conserved, but I am not sure.

817 Forest Lane is a home that was in the woods and for sale for years.  It almost had the look of abandonment it looked so unloved.

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A smaller house built at the end of the 1950’s it had that look like Mike Brady of the Brady Bunch was the architect.  Definitely a retro mid-century modern, it did however fit into the woods.  The house itself needed a major overhaul and who knows if it was actually salvageable.  I think if someone had a little imagination the house could have been cool.

However, the chatter on this always was whomever owned it had moved some place  else and were holding out for a developer.  It had once been listed at a ridiculous pie in the sky price, and the price had been chiseled back over time.  It had been listed with descriptions like:

pieAN INVESTORS DREAM! Oversized 2.10 acre lot in highly desirable Malvern. The potential of this superb lot is limited by your imagination. Tear down and build the home of your dreams in serene wooded splendor. Home is located across the the street from conserved trust land and surrounded by newly-constructed, luxuriously-appointed homes. Owner will do no repairs. This home/lot is being sold “AS IS.”

 

Yes, it screamed “developer buy me”.  Of course reading the ad you did not realize it was an odd pie shaped lot.  But note the term “serene wooded splendor”. Unfortunately what I drove by the other day is more aptly described as “rape of the forest.”

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Now I get the former owners so allowed this home to rot and lot to get way overgrown, so I accept the eventuality of the house being saved was slim.  I also accept that there was nothing much architecturally special about this mid-century woods dwelling house, but still when I drove by the other day all I could think was there goes more of the woods.

I did a little Internet research and according to Realtor.com the home sold for $285,250 on February 4, 2013.  That coincides with when it appeared someone was actually cleaning up debris around the property.

Apparently the destiny of a good part of Forest Lane is new construction.  That is a pity because once the fabulous open space and woods that make people love the road are gone, they are gone.  Cut down enough woods and you change the eco system too.

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Once again I ask the residents of Chester County if you really want to have so much development? Part of the extreme beauty of this county is the landscape which used to be far more wooded and wild than it is.  Farmland is also what makes the county unique and beautiful.  That is also disappearing far too quickly.

I am of course totally confused by what I see on Forest because this land is located in Willistown Township which I thought was all big on land conservation and protecting the environment? If as a novice and non-resident you look at their municipal website, what is it you see first when you look at their website? The moving banner of photography that shows woods and nature, don’t you?

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Glad I can’t see this from my window, but it is sad to note that nothing says “forest” like cutting down the trees….to me this is very sad…trees that tall take sooooo long to grow and it is not like all of them are dying or something. I am sure the neighbors are thrilled they will no longer have to look at basically an abandoned house, but still I lament the loss of those trees.  Some municipalities might refer to these as “heritage trees”.

Is new construction and multiple developments of homogenous Tyvec wrapped boxes the new “heritage” ?

 

malvern train station: all that $ spent and still not ADA accessible?

malvern 3Wow.  Way to go Pete Kennedy from Malvern Patch!  Millions of tax dollars were spent on making SEPTA’s Malvern Train Station new and improved….and I thought that meant fully ADA accessible. Only, as Malvern Patch is reporting it is NOT truly  ADA accessible after all.

SEPTA seems to have provided Patch with some amazing non-answers.  I find it absolutely astounding that train stations are being reconstructed at the tune of millions and millions in tax dollars, grants, you name it and they are supposed to be new, improved, shiny, and ADA accessible…only they aren’t?

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Malvern Patch: Wheelchair Users Can’t Board Trains in Malvern, Despite Ramps/How can a person in a wheelchair get onto the train? They can’t, SEPTA said.

ByPete Kennedy Email the author 5:30 am

A Malvern Patch reader who watched the $9.2 million renovation of the Malvern SEPTA station has been wondering something.

Rob Anderson, a daily rail commuter for more than 12 years, writes:

[T]hey installed all the ADA required ramps, etc. and that is great.  But, how can a person in a wheelchair get onto the train?  Has SEPTA made any indication of how they are going to install ramps for riders to get on/off the train?

We reached out to SEPTA, and spokesperson Kristin Geiger explained that there’s currently no way for someone in a wheelchair to board the train in Malvern, despite the many new ramps. They can, however, request free transportation from Malvern to a nearby station with a high-level platform

You can read the full SEPTA response on Malvern Patch.

malvernSo how are the railroads accountable exactly?  Shouldn’t they be fined and forced to remediate? I pretty much just asked Philadelphia Inquirer reporter that question a few moments ago as he wrote a rather large article the other day about the Paoli Station makeover which is moving forward.  If all new and reinvented, rebuilt, repurposed train stations are supposed to be ADA accessible, why aren’t they? I mean ask anyone who opens a business that has public rest rooms for example.  They can’t just say “oops we’ll add handicap accessible bathrooms later” can they ? So why is it any different for public transit entities like AMTRAK and SEPTA?

According to AAPD Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties

I can tell you off the top of my head in addition to Paoli, Bryn Mawr and Ardmore train stations are not ADA accessible.  So now Malvern is back on that list after a very expensive face lift that included all sorts of fancy ramps.  I was using Malvern station a great deal almost two years ago now when being treated for breast cancer. It was so difficult for me to navigate, and I kept thinking that at least at the end of the project people with temporary and permanent disabilities would be better served when the renovation was complete.

I am utterly amazed that Malvern Borough did not stay on top of this project to ensure ADA compliance, but should I be surprised?  Malvern Borough has some of the worst sidewalks I have ever seen in their downtown, so obviously ADA compliance is not a huge priority is it? Maybe it will be when someone trips on a sidewalk and sues the borough?

I figure I would bring this up now, given the money about to be spent in Paoli on a new train station. I am thrilled that this project is moving forward as in Ardmore there is nothing transit related happening with regard to THAT train station project and one can assume people will be riding Dranoff condos or apartments into Center City Philadelphia.  The Paoli project will remove that hideously dangerous and outmoded North Valley Road bridge, but Paoli Train Station has serious ADA issues now, so will the station be ADA compliant?

Part of why these train stations are getting makeovers isn’t just parking and aesthetics, the functionality is supposed to be bought current.  I guess I just don’t understand the thinking of SEPTA with regard to Malvern and wonder why they can’t just do something right the first time?

To quote the AAPD again:

Transportation and The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the landmark civil rights law that addresses the rights of people with disabilities. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail (subways, commuter trains, etc.). Under the ADA; all new vehicles used in public transit must be accessible; key existing rail stations and all new rail stations and facilities must be accessible; and transit operators must provide paratransit (on-demand, door-to-door) services for those who cannot use available mass transit.

 Accessibility

Twenty years after passage of the ADA, transportation choices for people with disabilities are still limited. The ADA has led to major improvements in transit systems across the United States. However, there are persistent gaps in compliance that continue to create significant barriers for people with disabilities. In addition, because the ADA only addresses public transportation, few transportation options exist for people with disabilities where no public transportation is available. In some areas, such as in rural communities, insufficient funding has left people with disabilities with little or no transportation options. In urban areas, where individuals often rely on accessible taxis, a lack of requirements has meant very uneven progress.

prohibition alive and well in willistown?

Photo courtesy of Woodlawn Garden Center and Nursery

Photo courtesy of Woodlawn Garden Center and Nursery

Disclaimer: I am a customer of Woodlawn Garden Center and Nursery in Malvern.  I love the place, think the owners and staff are fabulous.  

So a while back I heard that Woodlawn was going in front of Willistown Supervisors to in essence get permission for a wine tasting room in one of the structures on their property.  (Those who patronize Woodlawn and live near by know the tremendous effort the owners of Woodlawn have put into a property that had prior to their ownership looked run down – and the property was loaded with all this odd statuary that made you wonder if whomever at the time was a hoarder or something.)

Well Willistown turned them down. They had LCB approval too. What I find interesting is Willistown seems to have no problem putting small businesses through their paces. I mean really?  An environmental impact and traffic study for what amounts to an interior decorating project and occasional wine tastings?  I have to wonder if Applebrook Golf Club wanted to do this would there be the same “issues”?  If Toll Brothers or say Bentley Homes wanted to do this would their be the same “issues”?

I mean did those fat cat supervisors in Willistown actually visit the site?  We’re not talking the Stables Bar in Phoenixville or the Alley Pub in Frazer.  Or some speakeasy.  What a crock.

Dumb with a capital D. I mean d’oh does Willistown even begin to understand the success that is the Brandywine Wine Trail for example? A lot of those wineries aren’t so far away from this location. And it isn’t like Blair Vineyards who was to be the partner in this  is some den of iniquity.

I wonder, will they burn books and ban farmers markets next?   Can it be said Willistown loves big developers and hates small businesses?

 

Here check it out on Patch:

Township Denies Garden Center’s Bid to Sell Wine

The Willistown Township Supervisors said Monday night that Woodlawn Garden Center had not gone through the necessary steps to sell wine.

By Pete Kennedy Email the author 2:18 pm

The Willistown Board of Supervisors denied a conditional use application that would have allowed Woodlawn Garden Center to sell wine at its location on Paoli Pike.

Woodlawn’s owners Dave and Rebekah Laughlin Bowser were planning to open a “wine garden” in partnership with Kutztown-based Blair Vineyards.

In a 3-0 vote Monday night, the supervisors rejected the garden center’s application, based on a recommendation from the township solicitor…..In an email sent before the decision, Rebekah Laughlin Bowser said they had received an approval letter from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, but still had to contend with local zoning regulations. She said Woodlawn had a legal right to sell wine from small, local producers as an agricultural product.

 

if stepford were a real place, is this is what it would look like?

Chester County residents, do you want the entire county to look like this?  Didn’t some of you move out here to escape this in the first place? Can you now shudder at what that old DuPont Estate will look like?  Can you imagine what that next  Appledumb, Mountainfake, Potters Field, and Byers Remorse will look like? (Can’t keep track of all the municipalities and doofy names of developments or developers so pardon the comedic license.)

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chester county barn under siege by bentley homes

bentlery pigIn Easttown Township on Waterloo Road there is a barn called the Kennedy Barn by some, Mrs. Rossi’s Barn by others. Mrs. Rossi’s husband was the one who restored the barn most recently, apparently.  He was a co-founder of ANRO printing. So in a nutshell, this barn isn’t past salvation like many large and now unused barns.

The barn is described by the Inquirer today as “hundreds of years old.” Yet Tom Bentley of Bentley Homes can’t seem to do a thing with it, can’t seem to market it well enough to sell it.  He wants to demolish it.  You see the barn is standing between him and eight or so new McMansions.

Yes, some consider Bentley a better kind of developer.  I just see his homes as more upscale stone facing, stylistically over complicated and contradictory on the exteriors, yet still at their heart big Tyvec boxes on relatively small lots for the most part for their size. For the most part all they do is scream “NEW”.

I first became aware of Bentley years ago when working on a wine tasting for a Philadelphia Orchestra Committee.  Like many developers are wont to do, he lent one of his sample homes for the tasting.  I think it was over near Aronomink Golf Club.  The house was a large, drafty cavernous box with all the bells and whistles the nouveau riche of the Main Line would shrivel up and die without including a kitchen that you knew would be for show in the end rather than actual use.  It kind of went with his girlfriend at the time, a woman who looked like a rather less expensive version of Stevie Nicks.

I was disappointed when I moved out to Chester County when I realized one of my favorite streets in Malvern, Forest Lane, had sprouted a veritable infantry of Bentley Homes.  All but one is predictable and went up in about ten minutes.  So over there, the horse is out of the proverbial barn, nothing can be done.  But over in Easttown?  What the heck is wrong with their supervisors and planning commission?  Where is their historic commission on this?

Let’s get real: if Bentley wanted to save the barn, he would.  If he wanted to use the barn he would, because earlier developments of his sometimes included older structures, original to the property.  But nooooo, Bentley wanted to knock down the barn and leave some man-made ruin with a freaking plaque!  “Barn Wuz Here”. How fabulous and generous. Not.

And those on this commission in Easttown including a woman I think highly of for prior preservation and community building efforts think this is o.k.? I think I am the most disappointed in her.  And yes, I get how this all works and they are trying to make the best of a bad situation, but you know what?  Not good enough.

Bentley is a well-heeled developer.  If he wanted to, he could turn that barn into a living space adapted for modern use.  It is done all over the country, and has been done successfully on the Main Line and out here in Chester County as well.  Facing Forest Lane in Malvern on a corner of another development street just up from Bentley’s homes on Forest sits an amazing example of a barn converted to living space.  Friends of my family live in another such space on Upper Gulph Road in Radnor Township and there is also another converted barn space on Darby-Paoli Road that once belonged to a family I knew in high school and then to another a woman my mother used to know.  And circling back to Bentley, those houses he is building on County Line Road in Villanova?  It is amazing how many trees did not survive, isn’t it?

The point is, it can be done (the barn saved and turned into some sort of adaptive reuse, preferably residential), only Bentley doesn’t care and Easttown is willing to settle at the expense of its irreplaceable history. Not that Easttown is the only municipality guilty of these travesties.  As a bit if a related segue, I believe it is on one part or near Sugartown Road if you go the back way to hit that Buho Mexican restaurant in Exton you see a neat row of some houses that were quite lovely at one time which are now rotting.  Obviously some developer bought them and got hit by the economy tanking.  It makes you shake your head in wonder.  Every one of those houses could have been upgraded to more modern means if need be, but no, someday they will all come tumbling down for some more plastic boxes.

Chester County municipalities need to collectively wake up before everything is ruined out here.  Once the land is gone, it’s gone. Once the old buildings and historic structures are gone, they are gone.  I know every old house and every old building can’t be saved, but lordy at least make an effort once in a while. And that is the problem: none of these municipalities make a consistent effort any longer.

If any of you out there know anyone that can wrest this barn from Bentley or get him to save it on his own, please do.  Personally when I hear things like this I think next time there is an election Easttown residents should change-up the faces don’t you? It is time that deep pocketed developers stop running and ruining communities, isn’t it?

But if you see Tom Bentley cruising your neighborhood you can’t miss him.  He has a preposterous vanity plate.

Shame on Easttown Township.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Plans to demolish centuries-old barn raises hackles in Chester County

Aubrey Whelan, Inquirer Staff Writer
 Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013, 3:01 AM

For two centuries, give or take a few years, an enormous stone barn has occupied a patch of land  now at the end of a winding Main Line driveway on Waterloo Road in Easttown Township.

In the township’s historic archives, it is known as the Kennedy Barn. For residents in the area, it’s Mrs. Rossi’s barn; for years, it was part of the estate of Rose Rossi, one of the cofounders of ANRO Inc., a printing company.

But lately, it has been the central figure in the Battle of the Barn, pitting longtime Main Line residents against a builder of some of the region’s largest and most luxurious residences.

The 10-acre parcel  on which the barn sits  is owned by Tom Bentley,  chief executive officer of Bentley Homes.

Bentley wants to build an eight-house subdivision on the Rossi estate and has contended  the barn is unmarketable. Leaving it  intact and building a house on the same lot would violate zoning ordinances.

He has offered instead to demolish most of the barn, leave its ruins on the site, and erect a plaque on Waterloo Road explaining its  historical significance.

On Tuesday night, the Easttown Township Board of Supervisors granted Bentley a demolition permit and permission to begin building his subdivision, with several caveats: He  must take 120 days to market the barn, and if he sells it, he must redraw lot lines in the subdivision to comply with zoning ordinances….Locals have cried foul….  Kemp Littlepage, who lives across the street from the barn, offered to buy it  from Bentley on the spot Tuesday night.

“I wouldn’t sell it to you anyway,” Bentley said.

If you want to call Tom Bentley’s office and tell him how you feel: 610.436.5500

If you want to e-mail Tom Bentley’s office and tell him how you feel: salesinfo@bentleyhomes.com

If you want to tell him on Facebook how you feel: http://www.facebook.com/BentleyHomes

Easttown barn demolition nears reality

 By BRENT GLASGOW bglasgow@dailylocal.com
Posted: Thursday, 01/03/13 02:42 pm
The reducing-to-ruin of a refurbished early-1800s barn in Devon is one step closer following Wednesday’s Easttown Planning Commission meeting.

The commission agreed to recommend approval of Bentley Homes’ application for demolition to the Easttown Board of Supervisors, with consideration given to requests from the township’s Historical Commission.

For months, the Planning Commission has heard from those who hoped to save the barn on the former property of Angelo and Rose Rossi at 222 Waterloo Road, which Bentley CEO Tom Bentley wants to turn into a 10-acre subdivision.