Conservancy opposing current Woodlawn development plan

The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art is  opposing the currently  proposed development of 230 acres of Woodlawn Trustees property in Concord Township.

Brandywine Conservancy Director Sherri Evans-Stanton made the comments while addressing the Concord Township Planning Commission on Aug. 18.

Even though the plan — referred to as Vineyard Commons — asks for no zoning changes, Evans-Stanton and others contend the plan can’t be considered as “by right” since the applicant is asking for waivers.

The conservancy is also of the opinion that there is some zoning variance that would be involved. Specifically, the applicant is asking to pay a fee in lieu of the requirement to reserve 25 percent of the acreage for active recreation.

Evans-Stanton presented the Planning Commission members with a memorandum from the conservancy saying such a waiver can’t be done through the township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.

“This a zoning provision and cannot be waived under the SALDO,” the memorandum says. “A zoning variance is required…and subject to demonstration of hardship which has not been self-imposed. The applicant has not made a case for a hardship and without a zoning variance there is no ‘by right’ plan.”

Evans-Stanton, referring to points in the memorandum, also said the current plan doesn’t show how the development preserves trees and historic resources, an intent for permanent preservation of the proposed open space.

She added that the plan does not meet requirements for cluster housing.

The conservancy acknowledges the right of Woodlawn to sell and develop the property, but Evans-Stanton said Vineyard Commons plan, as submitted, fails to meet proper criteria.

Evans-Stanton said the property has 144 acres of mature woodlands, but the plan would remove 120 of those acres. It’s the wooded area, she said, that keeps the Chester Creek and Brandywine watersheds clean. Removing those trees would jeopardize water quality.

She added that the loss of the current trail system is not consistent with Concord’s open space ordinances.

A number of residents also spoke out against the plan. They object to the increased traffic, residential density and the potential tax increases in order to support the school system. A number of people in the audience raised either red or green cards to show either opposition or support to whatever was being said at the time.

The plan for Vineyard Commons, as presented by the applicants’ attorney John Jaros, calls for building 171 homes on 230 acres of land between the Delaware state line to the south and Smithbridge Road to the north, and between Route 202 to the east and Chadds Ford Township on the west.

The area is zoned R2D and allows for one home per one-acre lot. However, the plan calls for clustering with those 171 homes to be on half-acre lots. According to Jaros, such clustering is permitted in that zoning district.

The plan also leaves 117 acres of gross open space but, once rights of way, storm water management considerations and utilities are factored in, there would be 93 acres of open space available. That space is spread out over several parts of the planned area.

P.J. Close, of Kelly and Close Engineering, said there is a petroleum product pipeline running diagonally through the southern portion of the property. He said a representative of the owner — Colonial Pipeline — would be on hand to ensure the pipeline is not disturbed during construction.

No decision was made regarding the plan. The applicant and commission agreed to an extension and the planners will next hear from the applicant on Oct. 20. Jaros did not go over comments made in review letters, but will do so in October.

Eastern States Development and McKee-Concird Homes are equitable owners of the property.

(Photo: Residents tell members of the Concord Township Planning Commission why they oppose the proposed development of the Woodlawn Trustees property.)

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “Conservancy opposing current Woodlawn development plan”

  1. Rob Gurnee says:

    Having the Brandywine Conservancy weigh in on this matter is HUGE. They are one of the most respected environmental and land protection organizations in the region. Their decision to get involved, because of the risks the proposed development presents to the Brandywine watershed, is very gratifying to all the volunteers who have been working diligently to oppose this development. I hope that placing the significance of Beaver Valley in context with the adjacent First State National Monument and surrounding protected land was an eye opener for public officials. If the Supervisors don’t want to listen to thousands of people “who mean well but don’t understand the issues” (Supervisor Dominic Pileggi’s sentiments about residents opposing the development(, perhaps he will listen to experts in the field.

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