Activists eager to keep the Beaver Valley area open and free from what they consider excessive development are critical of remarks made by a Concord Township supervisor running for re-election.
During a music festival/fund-raiser at Newlin Grist Mill Park, volunteer Ken Hemphill and Save the Valley attorney Jack Michael challenged comments from Supervisor Dominic Cappelli made during the Aug. 6 supervisors’ meeting.
Cappelli said that the township should hold a referendum in the spring over whether the township should borrow $15 to $20 million to buy the 325 acres in question. He also said most of the people he’s heard from are from out of the area not Concord residents.
Hemphill and Michael disagree.
According to Michael: “I don’t have any statistics, but my sense is that there are probably three groups involved. One is people who’ve used these properties. As we all know, they’ve been open to the public for 50 years or so. Those users are very upset with the prospect that they would be developed. Two, there are people like me, I live next door [in Chadds Ford Township] so I don’t think of myself as outside of the area.
“Our view,” he continued, “would be that it would be preferable to find a way that private people, governments, conservation organizations and a consortium of interested people — including the township — could keep these open. We don’t dispute Woodlawn’s right to sell the property, but we think [rezoning and developing] is not a good solution. Particularly because it almost triples the density of settlement as compared to current zoning,”
Hemphill agrees that a consortium of interested people would be the best approach.
“Everyone who lives in the Brandywine Valley is kind of a stakeholder in this regardless of whether or not you live in Concord Township…Now some supervisor, just because it’s administered by Concord Township, they’re going to make a decision that affects the outdoor recreational abilities of thousands of people? It’s outrageous. It doesn’t have to be developed. If a consortium of groups come together and buy this land, it wouldn’t be burdensome to the township to put up $1 million. They practically have that as a surplus right now.”
He said that would have the township as part of the consortium. In a follow-up e-mail, Hemphill said that such a consortium does not yet exist, but that “We have a few interested parties, and of course, once the county and Concord see that this is in their best interests to protect, we'll add them to the consortium, too. In order to get the interested parties to come forward, though, we first need to have the supervisors say that they will not approve the rezoning.”
His suggestion is that revenue-generating playing fields should be built near the Delaware state border and the rest of the property be left open.
Hemphill said Woodlawn misrepresented its intentions when they bought the land. Citing a 1981 letter from a Merlin Brubaker, Hemphill said there were assertions made that the land would be protected and that was the only reason he sold to Woodlawn
Hemphill disputes claims made by Woodlawn CEO Vernon Green. Green has said publicly and in private interviews that there would be more homes built, but more land preserved if developed under a proposed rezoning than if it were developed under current zoning.
“That’s totally not true,” Hemphill said. “They are offering 50 additional acres of open space in exchange for 550 houses and 10,000 automobile trips up and down Route 202 every day. That is not a fair trade.”
He added that the acreage proposed as open space would be within housing developments and not accessible by the general public. “It’s not open space in any meaningful sense.”
Hemphill also mentioned that he felt Cappelli’s campaign contributors include many developers who do business in Concord.
Cappelli said he really doesn’t have any campaign contributors and that the comments might have been referring to the Concord Republican Party or to his brother Richard Cappelli who is running for a seat on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.
Other people also made reference to his campaign finances. One such reference can be found in a current Letter to the Editor here.
There is also a Letter to the Editor from Cappelli’s challenger for supervisor, Dan Levin here.
Another resident — Christina Saunders — said she’s concerned about the increase in traffic and things that this would bring on if the trees are knocked down and buildings are put up.
“We have a lot of friends who live over there and they’re saying the traffic is going to be worse than it is now. We need to keep open space. This area used to be all farmland, and now it’s not,” Saunders said.
The music festival was a celebration of open space, according to Hemphill. Although there are acres of open space in Concord, Hemphill said there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to preserve more.
Cappelli’s original comments can be found here.
Top photo: The group Boulevard Express entertains during the Save the Valley event at Newlin Grist Mill Park.