Woodlawn Trustees withdraws rezoning application

A rezoning plan that could have led to a controversial development of 325 acres in Concord Township has been withdrawn and a hearing into the matter is closed. Another application is in the works.

Opponents of the rezoning attempt let their feelings known inside the auditorium.

Opponents of the rezoning attempt let their feelings known inside the auditorium.

Cheers and applause erupted from the more than 650 people attending the May 14 hearing, held at Garnet Valley Middle School, when Concord Township solicitor Hugh Donaghue read letters from the principals saying they were withdrawing their application. The applause turned to boos when Donaghue read they would be filing new applications.

The plan — had it gone through to approval — would have rezoned an area from the Delaware state line north to Smithbridge Road and from Route 202 west to Concord’s border with Chadds Ford Township.

The land includes Brandywine Summit Camp Meeting, Penns Woods Winery and a number of horse farms and trails.

There are currently three different zoning districts in that area. Applicants wanted the entire acreage rezoned into a PRD-4 that would have allowed for a mix of residential and commercial use, while still maintaining open space.

Donaghue also acknowledged petitions signed by more than 5,000 people opposing the application. They object to the rezoning because they don’t believe there would be any open space.

Woodlawn’s Chief Executive Officer Vernon Green said during a hearing last October that current zoning would allow 209 apartments, 249 townhouses, develop 20,000 square feet of commercial space, but provide only 15 to 20 acres of dedicated open space. Under the proposal, he said, there would be more housing, but 209 acres of permanently preserved open space.

“We’ve heard that argument before,” said Concord Township resident Anne Mueller. “They promise open space, but it’s only a few trees. We want a natural wooded area.”

Laurie Curl, another Concord resident, said she’s upset that township supervisors would even consider such a proposal.

Concord Township Supervisors Libby Salvucci and Dominic Pileggi listen as Woodlawn Trustees CEO Vernon Green reads a statement.

Concord Township Supervisors Libby Salvucci and Dominic Pileggi listen as Woodlawn Trustees CEO Vernon Green reads a statement.

“It’s disgusting, a shame. Why not just leave it alone? Concord Township should buy the property and keep it open space. They should do it proudly,” Curl said.

Chadds Ford Township residents Deborah Reardon, Valerie Hoxter and Frank Murphy also attended.

Speaking before the hearing began, Reardon said her concern was on how the development might affect infrastructure and its possible impact on Chadds Ford.

Reardon, Chadds Ford’s Open Space Committee chairman, said, “This is a regional issue. It has to do with protecting resources that are valuable and it also has to do with infrastructure in that there is no way that any report or study could support this kind of overwhelming development. I personally call for a moratorium on any kind of development from Route 202 at Naamans Road, all the way up.”

She also discounted Green’s assertion that there would be more open space with the different zoning.

“That may be true,” Reardon said, “but if you look at the proposed homes for development, if you look at the business side of the development, the overwhelming traffic issues, infrastructure issues, when you look at water and when you look at the roads, we’re looking at an over-burdening situation.”

Some think developing the Woodlawn Trustees property would lead to the death of their lifestyle.

Some think developing the Woodlawn Trustees property would lead to the death of their lifestyle.

She said she wants a moratorium so that other resources can be brought in to prevent any development.

Woodlawn’s CEO did not directly address the reason for withdrawing the application, but alluded to it by saying Woodlawn was founded to provide affordable housing, preserve open space and develop some of the land to pay for the first two purposes.

Green said such development should take place in a “planned and responsible manner, while at the same time providing publicly accessible open space.”

He said the withdrawn plan would have required open space and maintaining the current trails used for walking, cycling and horseback riding.

“It’s our sincere hope that these facts about the mission of Woodlawn will lead everyone to better understand the important interconnection between this development and preservation as a result of the new application,” Green said.

Also withdrawing were housing developers Eastern States Development Co. and the McKee Group, and commercial developer Wolfson Verrichia Group.

All the principals will be filing a new application.

Donaghue said that application would be posted on the township Web site once the township gets it and that it will be at least 60 days before the start of a new hearing.

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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 “Woodlawn Trustees withdraws rezoning application”

  1. ruthann purchase says:

    GREAT article, Rich!
    I will forward it to many.
    Thank you so much.
    ~RA
    (But next time be a good brother and let me know if I need to put a scarf around me;-)

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