the strange tale of wildflower farm: in willistown when is a farm not ok to be a farm?

I took this photo recently at Life’s Patina where Wildflower Farm was part of an event there. I was super impressed by them and their flowers.

This is a strange tale of really surprisingly unpleasant and in my opinion oddly not neighborly folks. That being said, since they seem to be the litigious types, nothing here is not either a photo taken on a public road, photos of the farm I am writing about OR public information. Oh and that lovely thing called the First Amendment.

This is the strangest case of bad NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

This is a case of life is short, can’t we (literally) just enjoy the flowers and get along?

So how did I become aware of this? Recently someone said to me, have you seen the local zoning notices lately? And I said nooo….because your eyes can cross and glaze over if you read too many (just kidding but it’s dry stuff.)

Well then blow me over, one was about a local small farm…and most shocking, located in Willistown Township, supposedly the land of happy open space and farm loving people. So dear readers, I think I stumbled upon a case of those who shall we say perhaps move out here for the bucolic vistas and “country”, but oh hell no, put that farm someplace else?

What am I talking about?? THIS:

Yes, I have been having some OMG moments over this. You see, I live in a nice neighborhood with nice neighbors. My friends live in nice neighborhoods with nice neighbors, but Willistown? One of the prettiest place in Chester County and it seems to be plagued by these bizarre occurrences of late? There was that whole thing of ruffled feathers over chickens, and then there was the political candidate who couldn’t seem to behave at a public meeting where she wishes to become queen and reign, and now this? These nice people not only sell their flowers, they believe in farming organically, and educating people. It’s an entire desirable package and a pretty little farm.

So they are talking about Wildflower Farm. As in they grow Wildflowers organically. As in they are this super nice, charming, lovely young couple with two adorable little kids, a golden retriever, etc.?

Yes, completely WTF.

These neighbors in my humble opinion (which I am allowed to have), seem literally hell bent for leather in driving them out of town. And why? And when you read that zoning notice you want to rub your eyes because of a couple of the names that pop right out.

Again, public information sourced from Willistown Conservation Trust website and Willistown Township Website. And if you go into the Willistown Conservation Trust reports of donations, etc., some of the other names pop up.

So explain to me how these champions of community involvement and dare I say it, conservation have problems with an organic FLOWER FARM???

When did everyone get so mean in beautiful Willistown????

But it doesn’t stop with the legalities of a zoning challenge, does it? Nope, nope, nope. How about trespassing? Poison pen letters? Blocking the farm’s driveway so people can’t enter? Flying drones over their property?

OK class can you all say “WTF” now?

Poison Pen Letter Envelope
Did this car break down? Is that why it’s blocking a fellow neighbor’s driveway?

I have seen videos of trespassing. But that is not my tale to tell. But I guarantee you Willistown Township has seen and probably has those videos. Along with the mysterious drone video output, correct?

And speaking of Willistown Township, I feel sorry for the township. I am sure they don’t want this and when did it become the purview of municipalities to have to babysit neighbors with wild hairs up their rears?

This is not quite the haves vs. the have nots, but the haves are a wee bit unbelievable with their let them eat cake, no farms in our back yard NIMBY scenario, correct?

And here is the narrative submitted recently to Willistown by Wildflower Farm:

This is all so very, very ugly. Is this what we as a society have become? Instead of TALKING with our neighbors, people just harass, harangue, and sue our neighbors? And then sometimes people wonder why other people just sell out to developers and walk away?

I just don’t understand how this is happening in Willistown Township. This is one of the most farmer friendly, farm friendly places. Yet these people seem to be (as I said before) hell bent for leather on destroying the lives of the owners of Wildflower Farm?

WHY????? These are NICE people. Thoughtful people. Small farm, organic farmers. You know the future we WANT for Chester County? Farms are disappearing by the day, this is the stuff that makes quality people NOT wish to move into communities, buy farms, preserve land.

These neighbors won’t like my opinions, but they put this out there in the public viewshed like bad Karma waiting to explode, and you know me and my love and respect for farm owners, farmers, and what Chester County used to be about. And I wish they would reconsider their path. This ugliness taints communities. It is so unnecessary. And Willistown? Don’t they need to stand up for small farmers AND large landholders, right?

No drama intended, I fear for this young family at Wildflower Farm.

That being said, what can you do?

(1) Support the farm (here is their website.)

(2) Read up on the ACRE Law because you have to wonder if these residents wish their township to violate that?

(3) Sign and forward their petition.

(4) If you are a resident of Willistown or a fellow local farmer or a customer or just a lover of organic Wildflowers, show up for the Heenan family at the upcoming zoning meeting: Willistown Township Zoning Hearing Board will meet on Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at 7:00 p.m., at Sugartown Elementary School, 611 Sugartown Road, Malvern, Willistown Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

That’s it, this is all I have got. I just think this whole scenario is wrong. I am shocked and saddened that these adults have gone all Lord of The Flies, Rambo, whatever on a young family farming the right way and adding positively to the community.

Please pay it forward and politely and calmly support this family, this farm, their business.

#SaveSmallFarms #BeAGoodNeighbor #ShopLocal #SupportSmall #MeanPeopleSuck

surprise! east whiteland is getting a new township manager april 8

nagel east whitelandThe thing about East Whiteland Township that is so marvelous   is that you rarely know what is going on until it is done. You can purportedly sign up to get meeting notices and what not, only you never get them.

Well lo and behold a NEW Township Manager is being sworn in TOMORROW April 8th. You would think they would notify residents of things like this, or in their case send up a smoke signal as no meetings are televised. (I have personally signed up three times for township newsletters and such including today but have yet to receive any notice of meeting agendas and so on.)

His name is John Nagel and here is his Linked In Profile – which was updated already to reflect his new gig for which he gets sworn in tomorrow. I will reserve judgment but I sure hope he makes East Whiteland more user friendly – better communication, maybe even televised meetings???

Here is what I just read (which was echoed on Patch late yesterday only who really read Patch anymore?):

East Whiteland Township Announces Appointment of New Township Manager

East Whiteland Township Supervisors announced today that have agreed to hire John B. Nagel as the Manager of the Township. Mr. Nagel is replacing Terry Woodman who is retiring from the position she has held since 2001.

Mr. Nagel joins EWT from Whitpain Township, Montgomery County where he was the Director of Finance. Prior to that position, Mr. Nagel served as Director of Administrative Services for the City of Reading and as Township Manager of Montgomery Township and in various other positions over a career of more than 26 years in local government.

Bill Holmes, Chairman of the East Whiteland Township Board of Supervisors, “We are very pleased and excited to have John Nagel join our organization. East Whiteland is a vibrant, dynamic community and we believe our efforts have resulted in our selection in the best possible candidate to lead the Township.” John Mott, Vice Chairman of the Board added, “John Nagel is an accomplished individual with a proven track record of successfully guiding business growth and process improvement, and we are confident that he is the right person to lead the Township in achieving our goals.”

In commenting on his appointment, Mr. Nagel indicated, “I am excited about this new challenge and look forward to joining East Whiteland as Township Manager. I am confident that working with our elected officials and dedicated employees, we can achieve our true potential as a premier local government serving the needs of our residents, employers and employees who call East Whiteland home.” Mr. Nagel commended Ms. Woodman for establishing a strong, results-oriented staff and a community and economic center in EWT. “It is an honor to succeed Terry Woodman as Township Manager.”

Mr. Nagel will be sworn in as Township Manager at the Board’s April 8th meeting.


And by the way….read the township website about interesting zoning related updates. And this gen in PhillyDeals caught my eye:

Meanwhile, out in the suburbs: Instead of reskinning aging 1970s buildings and tacking on skylit public areas and shops, Liberty Property Trust last week presented plans to knock down a largely vacant 300,000-square-foot group of buildings that formerly housed drugmaker Sanofi in the Great Valley Corporate Center.

The plan is to get East Whiteland Township approval for “600,000, 700,000, 800,000 square feet of offices, six or seven stories high, a 130-room hotel, 25,000 square feet of retail, 600 apartment units,” said Jim Mazzarelli, head of Liberty’s suburban East Coast operations.

“We don’t have any tenants” yet, he told me.

What’s the inspiration? Mazzarelli says his team studied mixed-use urban developments in Washington and Arlington, Va., where you don’t need a car to move from office to bar to grocery, kids’ playground, and home. “We believe these knowledge workers still want that lifestyle after they have kids and come to the suburbs.”


Aye yay yay. East Whiteland as Mall of America? Sweet.

malvern borough wakes up to historic preservation


Malvern Borough has woken up to the real concept of historic preservation.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is will it do any good?

I am a huge believer in historic preservation, do not misunderstand me. It’s just that I have seen too many fights to try to save too many historic properties which have failed. And they have failed not because there wasn’t interest in historic preservation, they failed because zoning on local and county levels were inadequate and hamstrung because as I have said for years, at the state level, the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is woefully out of date, isn’t it?

Pennsylvania is a private property rights state. It is also a state with some powerful building, developer, construction lobbyists up in Harrisburg. A few short years ago for brief shining moment there was a proposed law on the books that would allow municipalities to an act a short-term moratorium on development. It was HB904 during 2007 and 2008. It has long since disappeared like it was never even a concept which existed .

A famous recent example of what could not be saved of historic import was La Ronda. It was demolished in 2009.

La Ronda was in Lower Merion Township where I used to live. Innumerable people locally,regionally, and nationally worked with politicians in Lower Merion to try to save the historic Spanish Gothic mansion. I photographed the last few months of the mansion from outside it’s gates and the October 1, 2009 demolition day.

My point is this: Lower Merion is a very powerful municipality. They have a very organized historical architectural review board or “HARB” and historical society and STILL more is lost than is saved. I’ve observed similar situations in Radnor Township. Not trying to be Debbie Downer on this because I applaud Malvern Borough for finally trying to put mechanisms in place, but in the end will it do anything if local municipalities don’t lobby there state elected officials to update what needs updating in Harrisburg as well?

I also in the past worked to put a former neighborhood into a historic district. I’m still waiting and trying to figure out what it actually does to help in the end because since I moved away from this neighborhood there’s just been more development and I haven’t seen or heard of any active preservation.

Again, I am not against historic preservation, I am very much in favor of it. But historic preservation needs to have MORE things on a state level to back it up. And it has always been my belief that in addition to fabulous things like Preservation PA, there needs to be an update to the municipalities planning code because that is the state bible that drives local zoning ordinances, correct?

A more holistic approach is needed so local municipalities from the tiniest of boroughs to the largest of cities have more tools in there tool box to help them preserve their communities historically and in general.

I’m glad Malvern is taking these steps, but I also wonder if they will actually have enforceability with what they want to do? Or if one good Municipal Court challenge by someone will knock it out? What is Malvern Borough doing NOW about the properties which you would think were historic but seem to be falling apart?

Malvern Borough Solicitor Wendy McLean was quoted as saying “This is a much less obtrusive ordinance than most” and supposedly those who didn’t follow the ordinance if enacted would be subject to fines equal to a property’s market value? I just don’t see how they would be able enforce something like that. Maybe they could but is there case law on this before they go forward and spend taxpayer money to enact an ordinance like this? I get it, Malvern Borough is a small municipality finally trying to preserve its character. But if they don’t enact ordinances that they can’t defend in court they could possibly bankrupt themselves in legal fees couldn’t they?

What I don’t see in the media coverage is if Malvern Borough’s solicitor also went over similar ordinances in other communities? I agree Malvern has to begin somewhere, it’s just from reading through the ordinance I just can’t see a developer not being able to knock holes in it as it stands right now. And what will this ordinance do for all the structures in the borough which are currently “demolition by neglect”? How will they handle people who wish to be grandfathered from the ordinance?

Here is the language of what is being proposed – it can be found on Malvern Borough’s website, just CLICK HERE.

And if you are into historic preservation you should also check out “Pennsylvania at Risk”

Here is the news on this:

Malvern wants to protect historic properties Michaelle Bond, Inquirer Staff Writer Last updated: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 1:08 AM

Malvern, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, wants to add an extra step to its building-permit process to preserve historical properties.

The borough is considering a process to review all proposals to significantly alter or demolish historic properties or resources. Officials would work with property owners to try to preserve that which makes the structures historical.

According to a proposed ordinance that would create a Historical Overlay District, the protection of about 250 primarily residential structures is a matter of “public necessity.”

“We have a handful of them that were around during the Revolutionary War,” said Zeyn Uzman, chair of the borough’s Historical Commission. “Unfortunately, one of them will probably be torn down in the next six months.”

Uzman explained the potential ordinance to about 70 residents at a meeting Tuesday night at a church.

A developer plans to build residential units at the site of a house on Old Lincoln Highway that dates to the 1780s. The Historical Commission estimates that the house is the second- or third-oldest structure in Malvern.

The ordinance, which must be approved by the borough council, cannot protect properties from being demolished, but it would allow the borough to preserve the history of those places, Uzman said.

“If we’re going to lose a structure, we at least want to go in there and take pictures and document as much as we can,” he said. Currently, borough officials are not permitted to enter someone’s residence to document it.


east whiteland zoning alert: malvern issues

abandoned house on morsteinI have been waiting for East Whiteland’s CubeSmart drama to pop up again, and it is…on Monday. Remember the last meeting on Cube Smart this summer? The one where one of the board members fell asleep? The zoning hearing board agenda for Monday is posted, check it out.

Appeal No. 13-15 Application of Old Lancaster Venture, LP, c/o CubeSmart (continuation of the hearing commenced at the July 22nd meeting of the Board).

I say this is a meeting worth attending for CubeSmart alone.

Of course while I was perusing the agenda (which I have loaded for you here: East Whiteland Zoning Hearing Board Agenda Aug 26 ), something else caught my eye that people anywhere near (or on) Morstein Road or Collegeview in Malvern should sit up and take note.

You know that derelict to the point of abandoned home on Morstein just before Collegeview (if you are coming up Morstein from King Road – grainy photo above)? The driveway is overgrown and trees have fallen down, yet if you look closely when you go by it appears it is still full of stuff although obviously not inhabited? Well apparently the property is in play and up for subdivision:

Appeal No. 13-17 Application of Pennfield Properties, LP as equitable owner, and the Estate of George F. Donahue as the title owner, for a variance from the minimum lot width at the street right-of-way line (75 feet required) in order to reduce the lot width at the street line to 49 feet, in conjunction with a proposed two-lot subdivision of property located at 1535 Morstein Road (tax parcel 42-6-51) in an R-1 zoning district.

I would say given the verbiage that the sale might be contingent upon zoning approval. If you live near this home or merely care about residential zoning in East Whiteland, I think this is an important thing – if this applicant gets approval for a variance in minimum lot width the barn door is WIDE open to questionable development where a lot more gets crammed onto a lot less space than used to be allowed.

The word of the day is precedence. As in you do not want it happening with this application.

Being allowed to go from 75 feet to 49 feet is a very big deal. Trust me, I came off the Main Line where no one is happy until every nook and cranny is developed and people are squished into neighborhoods like lemmings. (Which of course leads to other issues with things like infrastructure, roads, traffic, and so on and so forth.)

I figured from the first time I saw that house that the lot was just a goner and someone was waiting for a developer to put jingle in their pocket. However, I think if a developer overpays for land it is their personal issue. That being said, yeah ok, a developer bought it, but East Whiteland can say no to what they are requesting and have these applicants stick to developing more along the size and scale of other homes in the neighborhood. This property has a lot of woods. Once a neighborhood eco system is changed and open space is obliterated, it is not coming back. Please, if you are going to go to this meeting ask East Whiteland to deny the variance request. Preserve a very pretty stretch of road and neighborhood.

Pennfield Properties was unknown to me, so I looked them up:

pennfield 1


tredyffrin updates

My pal Pattye Benson writes a very fine blog called Community Matters.

She has two updates I am going to cross-post as they are very relevent if you are a resident in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County.

(Incidentally, Pattye also runs Great Valley House!)

Here they are:

“A Job is Not a Life” … Mimi Gleason Resigns as Tredyffrin’s Township Manager

Posted on July 17th, 2012   5:00 PM  by Pattye Benson

For those of us who attended last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, it went very late, until 11:30 PM.  Now I have to wonder if the 4-hour marathon meeting had any bearing on this morning’s decision by our township manager.


Mimi Gleason has been Tredyffrin’s Township Manager for the last 7 years.  Prior to becoming township manager in 2005, Mimi served under Joe Janasik as assistant Township Manager for 3 years.  There was no indication at last night’s meeting of Mimi’s impending announcement this morning; and the news has taken many of us by surprise.


Rather than speculating on the reason behind Mimi’s decision to resign, I spoke at length with her this afternoon.  She assured me that the decision to leave was completely her own rather than anyone pushing her in that direction.  Mimi told the township supervisors and her staff this morning of her decision to resign; her last day will be September 17.



I asked Mimi why she was resigning – was it another job?  No, she is not leaving Tredyffrin for another job. In fact, her explanation for the resignation was actually quite simple … “A job is not a life”.    She went on to explain that she is uncertain about what she wants to do, but knows that she wants to do something different and to work less


Incidentally, I totally get the whole  a-job-is-not-a-life.  Post breast cancer I decided my then job was no longer for me.  I had changed, had to acknowledge said change and move on. My doctors had wanted me to reduce my stress levels for my health and recovery, but seriously?  Making the decision to do all this was very stressful in and of itself. I know nothing of Tredyffrin’s township manager other than she really is a woman in a man’s world (how many female municipal managers do you meet?), and you know she could not have made the decision lightly.

The next article is one quite timely, and it is something being felt in various forms in many other municipalities:


Tredyffrin Township:  What Price Economic Growth?

Posted on July 16th, 2012   7:56 AM  by Pattye Benson

What price economic growth …

  • What is the price tag for economic development in Tredyffrin Township?
  • Is it OK to green light a land development project even when it doesn’t meet current zoning regulations?
  • Is it right for a developer and his attorney to create a zoning ordinance amendment to Tredyffrin Zoning Code to suit their needs for a particular project?
  • As a community, do we want zoning amendment changes in Tredyffrin Township without restrictions, requirements or conditional uses?
  • If you are a developer considering a project in Tredyffrin but cannot find suitable zoning, that may not be an obstacle to your plans. All you need to do is write a new ordinance, call it economic development and then watch as the plan moves forward.