Concord supervisors ponder purchase of Woodlawn property

Are Concord Township residents willing to see their taxes increased by up to 300 percent in order for the township to buy the 325-acre Woodlawn Trustees property?

That’s what township supervisors want to know. Supervisor Dominic Cappelli raised the question during the Aug. 6 Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

Cappelli said he’d like to see a referendum on next spring’s primary election ballot that puts the question to the voters. Leading up to that, he said, would be a series of public meetings just to get a feel of what residents think about having such a referendum. The meetings would have to conclude in January or February because ballot questions have to be approved 13 Tuesdays before the election. Next year’s primary is May 20.

He also said it’s crucial for supervisors to get a feel for what township residents want because most of the negative reaction to a possible development of the acreage has been coming from people outside the township, outside the region and even outside the state. Opposition is coming from California, Ohio and Mississippi, he said.

“We’ve got to get Concord Township residents involved with this thing,” Cappelli said after the meeting. “We’re getting a lot of professional demonstrations from organizations outside, but I’m not hearing things from Concord residents. They’re the ones who will have to pay the bill for open space.”

He said the township could have to borrow $15 million to $20 million for the purchase. That price tag, according to Supervisors’ Chairman Dominic A. Pileggi, could force a tax hike of 200-300 percent.

Cappelli added that the cost of maintaining open space could be as much as an additional $15,000 to $20,000 per year. Fields, streams and trails have to be maintained, he said. “That’s expensive.”

The township spent $6 million the last time Concord put out an open space referendum in 2004 or ’05, Cappelli said. That money preserved roughly 200 acres.

He also said that Woodlawn Trustees were not originally interested in permanent open space when the township suggested a transfer of development rights in which people could buy homes in the 325 acres, but not the land itself. However, the economy went under and nobody bought. That’s when Woodlawn decided to sell the entire property, Cappelli said.

Woodlawn’s CEO Vernon Green could not comment on the possibility of the township buying the property because he hadn’t heard about that. He did say that there had been talks concerning the transfer of development rights about six years ago, but nothing ever came of it.

The property is question extends from the Delaware state line north to Smithbridge Road, and from Route 202 west to the Chadds Ford Township boundary. All 325 acres are owned by Woodlawn Trustees. Homes, horse farms and a winery are all rental properties, according to Green.

Green’s organization had proposed rezoning the acreage so that it could be sold and developed with more preserved open space than if it would be developed under current zoning. According to Green, fully developing the property under current zoning would preserve only 15 to 20 acres of open space. Under the proposal, however, there would be more houses built, but that more than 200 acres would be preserved.

Selling the property, he said, would allow Woodlawn to continue its mission of providing affordable housing in Wilmington, Green said.

Woodlawn withdrew its application in May, but Green said they would resubmit the plan this fall. He said they withdrew the proposal because there was a lot of misinformation floating around about the plan.

Cappelli also said there was too much confusion and misconception about the plan when he brought up the idea of the referendum and town meetings.

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 “Concord supervisors ponder purchase of Woodlawn property”

  1. Rob Gurnee says:

    The folks who are fighting this development are not asking residents to have their taxes raised by 200-300%. By creating township forums geared toward a referendum on higher taxes versus open space is just an attempt by the Concord Twp Supervisors to dodge the issue. We are simply asking for the the rezoning request to be denied so that the value of the land will be lower. At that point, perhaps Woodlawn Trustees will listen to offers to buy the land from a consortium that would preserve it or have a less impactful development plan.

    There are many Concord Township residents involved in this fight. Of the approximate 7500 online petition signers many are local and those who are not used to be local and are saddened to see Woodlawn (and Concord Twp if they allow the rezoning) to betray the public trust. Oh and by the way…when one looks at the political contributions to the Concord Twp politicians, the majority are not from Concord Twp. Most are from outside the Twp, and many include developers (including Vernon Green from Woodlawn).

    Please Concord Twp Supervisors…sit down with Save the Valley and Beaver Valley Conservancy and hear the facts on traffic, infrastructure costs (which will increase taxes) and decreased home values. That is the message we are committed to having residents hear, not this red herring around a referendum that has been concocted.

    Chadds Ford Live…I would hope you would be more discerning before you print the obfuscation of Woodlawn and Concord Twp Supervisors.

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