It’s going to be a happy Thanksgiving for some area conservationists: Bulldozers won’t be tearing up the fields along Beaver Valley Road in Concord Township to make way for new homes because a conservation agreement has been reached that will keep the valley from development.
Full details are not yet available, but the Beaver Valley Preservation Alliance and Save the Valley are reporting that 240 acres in Pennsylvania, adjacent to the First State National Historic Park in Delaware, will be “permanently off limits to development.”
The Beaver Valley Preservation Alliance is crediting the Beaver Valley Conservancy, the Brandywine Conservancy, the Mount Cuba Center and the Conservation Fund for working the agreement with the property owner. It’s been reported that the Conservation Fund will be granted time to raise an estimated $8 million to finalize the deal.
The agreement, when finalized, would end most of a five-year-long controversy surrounding the property belonging to Woodlawn Trustees. Woodlawn was looking to sell the land to developers so it could continue to provide affordable housing in Wilmington, part of Woodlawn’s mission.
While this agreement would preserve 240 acres, another 60 acres could still be developed.
Concord supervisors last year approved a development plan — known as Vineyard Commons — that would have resulted in 160 homes being built on the 240 acres. Anger over what some considered excessive development already had residents calling for a change to the township government.
A group called Concord First gathered signatures in 2014 for a petition that would have asked voters if the township should change from a township of the second class to a township of the first class. The group thought such a change would mean current members of the Board of Supervisors would be ousted.
While the group gathered more than the number of signatures needed, other residents — including Supervisors’ Chairman Dominic Pileggi — challenged the petition in court and the question was kept off the ballot.
Concord First appealed the decision in Commonwealth Court and later to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but supervisors got their own ballot question to the voters, an action that ultimately resulted in Concord’s becoming a home rule township beginning this coming January. Current supervisors will remain in office until their terms expire or they resign.
Following the supervisors’ actions last year, residents Jack Michel, Diana McCarthy and Eileen Mutschler appealed the Vineyard Commons decision. Delaware County Court Judge Michael Green heard the appeal this August and in October remanded the decision to the supervisors.
During the Nov. 1 supervisors’ meeting, Concord’s solicitor Hugh Donaghue said supervisors would work with Woodlawn and the developers in an effort to preserve the valley as open space.
Pileggi announced the night that supervisors approved the plan last year that the township would donate $500,000 to keep the valley open, and Delaware County was offering an additional $250,000.
It remains to be seen what will happen with the other 60 acres. Supervisors denied a lot-line change that developers had applied for, but Judge Charles Burr remanded that decision to the supervisors.
That plan, known as Concord Ventures, calls for the construction of 29 townhouses and 167 apartments. The acreage is next to the 240 acres that will now be preserved.