Saddling up support for Crebilly preservation

With the expanse of Crebilly Farm ahead of her, Mindy Worth Rhodes rides on Dunvegan Road in Westtown Township. Her goal is to raise awareness about Toll Brothers' subdivision plan for the 330-acre property.

The news that Crebilly Farm, a historic, 330-acre property in Westtown Township, was poised to become a massive subdivision hit a former neighbor particularly hard.

Ashley Lepere of Westtown Township enjoys meeting Spike, the horse transporting Mindy Rhodes Worth through Westtown Township.

Ashley Lepere of Westtown Township enjoys meeting White Spike, the horse transporting Mindy Worth Rhodes through Westtown Township.

Heartsick is how Mindy Worth Rhodes described her reaction to the news that Tolls Brothers had an agreement of sale for the farm, where the developer hopes to erect up to 385 homes. Rhodes explained that she grew up on General Howe Drive in Westtown Township, and about two decades ago, she often rode her horse through adjacent neighborhoods to get to Crebilly’s pristine open space.

Rhodes, who now lives in the historic village of Trimbleville in West Bradford Township, is also acutely aware of Crebilly Farm’s historic significance. Like her current residence, Revolutionary War troops traversed the property, which is bounded by Routes 202, 926, New Street and West Pleasant Grove Road.

Mindy Rhodes is shown riding "Sir Noble" bareback on South New Street with a high school friend in a newspaper clipping.

A newspaper clipping shows Mindy Worth Rhodes  riding Sir Noble bareback on South New Street with Nat Sterrett, a high school friend.

And even though Rhodes lives in West Bradford, she said she still travels past the scenic farm on a regular basis by car, enjoying its magnificent vistas.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” said Rhodes. She stressed that she’s not anti-development and firmly believes that Crebilly’s owners should be fairly compensated. However, she also maintains that every effort should be made to protect such hallowed ground.

And toward that end, she decided to get back on her horse.

On Sunday, Oct. 9, after printing more than 100 flyers, Rhodes saddled up White Spike and set out on a wind-swept odyssey to raise awareness. Her handout detailed her reason for making the trek.

She pointed out that through the agreement of sale, Toll Brothers has become an equitable owner with the Robinson family, which has been “loving caretakers of this land for generations,” giving the developer certain property rights. However, the deal does not become final until development plans are approved. To date, Toll has not submitted a plan to the township.

Mindy Worth Rhodes says she wants to raise awareness about the pending development at Crebilly Farm.

Mindy Worth Rhodes says she hopes there's a better way to balance the need to preserve property rights along with historic ground.

“We still have an opportunity to work toward preserving the Brandywine Battlefield and push for open space in the development plans,” Rhodes wrote. “Now is the time to work toward this goal!

“We need new faces at the Westtown Township meetings – bodies need to be seen and voices need to be heard,” she continued. “We need voices of reason that are willing to work toward a more comparable balance between saving open space and development.”

Rhodes suggested that letters should be written to the board of supervisors and the planning commission. She noted that funds are available through multiple conservancies, from Westtown’s open-space tax, and from county, state, and private sources.

“We need to work together in order to preserve the integrity of Chester County and this beautiful land we love so much,” she implored.

A family photo from Mindy Worth Rhodes' 5th birthday party attests to her lifelong passion for horseback riding.

A family photo from Mindy Worth Rhodes' 5th birthday party attests to her lifelong passion for horseback riding.

On Sunday, Rhodes said she handed out most of the flyers and received positive responses. “All that wind made me nervous, but my horse was a rock star,” she said.

Rhodes said that some residents, like Anthony and Ashley Lepere of the South Hills Park section of the township, had read about the pending development and were eager to lend their voices to a preservation effort.

Rhodes said other residents were stunned by the news. Many said they would try to attend the upcoming township meetings. The Westtown Township Board of Supervisors meets on Monday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m., and the Westtown Planning Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, Oct. 19, also at 7:30 p.m. in the township building, which is located at 1039 Wilmington Pike.

Westtown Township resident Anthony Lepere says he appreciates Mindy Rhodes' outreach.

Westtown Township resident Anthony Lepere says he appreciates Mindy Rhodes' outreach.

The reception that Rhodes received reminded her of what makes Chester County such a special place to live, she said. She lamented the fact that she can’t reach all of the people who would be impacted by the massive development, but she said she would continue her equestrian outreach next weekend.

In the meantime, she said anyone interested in joining the effort or receiving more information could contact her at mindyrhodes1@gmail.com or info@neighborsforcrebilly.org.

In July, Toll Brothers’ Andrew Semon, a divisional president, told the Westtown Township supervisors during a board work session that his company would submit a plan that conforms to existing township zoning for more than 300 single-family and carriage-style homes ranging in price from $400,000 to $1 million.

Semon said the sales agreement was contingent upon receiving preliminary approval from Westtown, and township officials explained that the initial proposal adhered to the township’s 2001 comprehensive plan, which is being updated and won’t affect the developer. Semon also asked the township what it would like to see in the way of enhancements that could be leveraged to increase the density up to 385 homes.

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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