Planners recommend Woodlawn development

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At the conclusion of a meeting punctuated by catcalls and boos toward the applicant’s representatives, the Concord Township Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of a controversial development for 230 acres of Woodlawn Trustees property.

The vote was met with chants of “Rotten to the core” and “You should be ashamed.”

The vote was 4-1 to recommend. The dissenting vote came from Sarita Trivedi. She declined to make any comment after the meeting except to say, “Everyone voted their conscience.”

Voting to recommend approval were Steve Miller, Michael Kirlin, Michael Raith and Andrew Briner.

Approximately 200 people attended the meeting at the Garnet Valley Middle School. Most opposed the plan — known as Vineyard Commons — which calls for the development of up to160 single-family houses clustered on 160 half-acre lots.

People attending the meeting would wave red or green apple-shaped placards to show approval or disapproval on what was being said. Green is approval.
People attending the meeting would wave red or green apple-shaped placards to show approval or disapproval on what was being said. Green is approval.

The Feb. 23 vote was for preliminary approval. Should the supervisors vote in favor of the plan, the applicant would still have to go through a second round of approvals for a final plan.

Supervisors are scheduled to hear the preliminary plan on Tuesday, March 3. That meeting is planned for 6 p.m., also at Garnet Valley Middle School.

The property in question runs from the Delaware state line north to Smithbridge Road — straddling both sides of Beaver Valley Road — and from Route 202 west to the border with Chadds Ford Township.

People inside and outside of Concord Township oppose the plan. Among them is Wendell Fenton, a Pennsbury Township supervisor.

Fenton said before the start of the meeting that he wants Concord Township to buy the land, as Pennsbury recently did with 23 acres that it will use for open space.

Chadds Ford resident Rob Gurnee also opposes development and was disappointed at the vote.

“I thought there was overwhelming evidence for them to come to a different finding,” Gurnee said.

He added that he felt things such as memos from the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art were not considered.

Conservancy senior planner John Snook wrote those memos and addressed the commission.

John Snook, from the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, addresses the Concord Township Planning Commission.
John Snook, from the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, addresses the Concord Township Planning Commission.

Snook acknowledged that the clustering was permitted by the township code, but said, “The plan here could be better.”

He questioned how well resources would be protected, and while agreeing that there is more open space than required, there are still questions about that open space.

“From our account, some 100 acres of Beaver Valley Woods will be irreparably disturbed. That doesn’t need to happen,” Snook said.

Snook also said that the plan, though submitted as being a by-right plan, is not truly by-right because it does not adhere to the township’s zoning ordinance and variances would be needed.

“The applicant has latched onto a recreational requirement in the subdivision ordinance, which allows for a waiver of recreational open space for provision of fee in lieu [of providing open space]. There’s a separate requirement in the zoning ordinance specifically for cluster development … that requirement cannot be waived under the subdivision ordinance. It requires a zoning variance. This plan isn’t ready,” Snook said.

He said after the meeting, "I am surprised that the majority of the Concord Township Planning Commission chose to ignore overwhelming evidence as to the inadequacies of the Vineyard Commons plans. I guess they were just tired of dealing with it and, so, have sent it on to the supervisors. Of course, they also could have done that with a recommendation of denial.”

The bulk of the comments against the plan came from attorney Julie Von Spreckelsen, representing several clients who oppose development of the property.

Spreckelsen spoke for 25 minutes, identifying numerous deficiencies in the plan, any one of which would be grounds for the commission to deny its recommendation.

She said that the previous plan had 28 violations of ordinances but that the revised plan has 52 violations. Spreckelsen also said that the number of waivers requested increased from four to 10, but no hardship was ever demonstrated.

Among the violations, she said, were seven violations of buildable areas because many of the lots have steep slopes, and there were an additional 31 violations of subdivision and land development ordinances and 14 zoning violations.

She said the stormwater management shown on the plans was deficient and that the plans fail to identify trees with a diameter of 12 inches or more. Additionally, Spreckelsen said an estimated 3,000 trees would be taken.

Attorney John Jaros was representing the applicants Woodlawn Trustees, Eastern States Developers and McKee-Concord Homes.

During his presentation, which opened the meeting, Jaros addressed the preservation of several historic properties that commission members asked him to review during a meeting in October.

Jaros said the Brubaker House, Perkins House, Hinkson House and the Hinkson tenant house and barn would be preserved.

Jaros said after the meeting that he understands it’s an emotional issue for many people.

Woodlawn Trustees owns a total 320 acres in the Beaver Valley area.

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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This Post Has One Comment

  1. pandl

    To sum the article up: Steve Miller, Michael Kirlin, Michael Raith and Andrew Briner should all be relieved of their duties.

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