Crebilly Farm dominates Westtown meeting

A heartfelt letter about the joys of childhood horseback riding on Crebilly Farm generated applause in Westtown Township.

Westtown Township is awaiting a conditional-use application from Toll Brothers for a subdivision that could include up to 385 homes.

Westtown Township is awaiting a conditional-use application from Toll Brothers for a subdivision that could add up to 385 homes.

Although 330-acre property did not appear on the agenda for the supervisors’ meeting on Monday, Oct. 17, the prospect of a Toll Brothers subdivision dominated the meeting, which was attended by more than 30 people.

As announced in late June, Toll Brothers has an agreement of sale for the farm, where the developer hopes to erect up to 385 homes. Bounded by Routes 926 and 202, South New Street, and West Pleasant Grove Road in Westtown Township, the third-generation farm is owned by members of the Robinson family, descendants of the founder of a grocery store that evolved into the Acme chain.

Some area residents have suggested that a subdivision would irrevocably ruin the property’s scenic vistas and historic grounds, which were traversed by Revolutionary War soldiers. They have been using Facebook pages and other approaches to galvanize support for exploring other options that would compensate the Robinsons fairly while preserving the tract.

One of them, Mindy Worth Rhodes, a West Bradford Township resident who grew up in Westtown, was the first to speak. She read a three-page statement that described her upbringing near Crebilly Farm and the joy of getting permission from the Robinsons to ride her horse on their farm.

“As I look back at that time, I realize I was living the truest essence of Chester County: the breathtaking views, the fresh air, the open space, and the freedom and independence it all brought,” she read.

She added that the historic significance of the tract, coupled with the impact on already-congested roads, makes an effort to find alternatives imperative.

“We, the community, should be asking the supervisors, our lawmakers, our county commissioners, and area conservancies to do whatever they can to mitigate the damage that this development would bring,” she said. “What is the cost to prevent this unconscionable outcome? Can government grants and conservancy money be pooled to counter the offer or buy down the development rights?”

Rhodes said she also plans to read her statement at the Westtown Planning Commission, which is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the township building. To read the entire statement, click here.

According to historians, Revolutionary War troops traversed Crebilly Farm during the Battle of Brandywine.

According to historians, Revolutionary War troops traversed Crebilly Farm during the Battle of Brandywine.

The board also heard from Elizabeth Rhein Roche of Kennett Township and Vince Moro of Pennsbury Township, both of whom recently helped The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County close its funding gap for the preservation of Barnard’s Orchard in Newlin Township through the Brandywine in White fundraiser.

Roche, who works in real estate, suggested that the board should take steps to avoid repeating a scenario that resulted in homes' being constructed on sacred ground.

According to township records, a dedication ceremony last weekend in a subdivision across the street from Crebilly Farm was canceled at the last minute. Records indicated  the neighborhood was built over the Taylor family burial plot, which included the remains of Revolutionary War soldiers Col. Thomas Taylor and his son, Titus. A ceremony to pay tribute to the deceased was planned to include speeches, a fife and drum corps, descendants of the Taylors, and memorial tombstones. However, residents objected to what they felt was the appearance of a cemetery at the front of their neighborhood.

Moro said he has spoken to a growing number of people who would like to see all or part of Crebilly Farm spared from development. He indicated a willingness to work with any person or organization to move that idea forward. He said he set up a “Neighbors for Crebilly” Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/neighborsforcrebilly/?fref=ts to coordinate the efforts of interested parties.

Addressing a question Moro raised about being notified of meeting dates, Westtown Township Manager Rob Pingar said people can go to the township website at http://www.westtownpa.org/ and click on the tab “get email alerts.”

Several audience members said they had experienced difficulty receiving meeting updates, and Pingar said that people could email him if they had problems.

Pingar also accused Chadds Ford Live of falsely reporting that Crebilly Farm was on the meeting agenda, which was inaccurate; however, several members of the audience corrected him. They explained that they attended the meeting to support Rhodes, who had ridden her horse around the township to distribute flyers.

Westtown Township Supervisor Mike T. Di Domenico took time to inform the audience of the development process. He explained that the township has not yet received Toll Brothers’ conditional-use application. When it is submitted, it goes first to the Westtown Township Planning Commission. After the planning commission reviews the application, it makes a recommendation to the supervisors.

Supervisors’ Chairman Carol R. De Wolf likened the supervisors to “the jury” regarding the recommendation from the planning commission.

Crebilly Farms’ rolling hills, waterways and expansive pastureland have been endangered for more than a decade. Failed development proposals included a 2003 assisted-living community and a 2012 apartment complex. Township officials have said that the current proposal is more likely to succeed because it complies with township zoning requirements.

 

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About Emily Myers

Emily Myers has lived and worked in Chadds Ford for over thirty years.  She founded the parent company of Chadds Ford Live, Decision Design Research, Inc., in 1982.  ChaddsFordLive.com represents the confluence of Myers' long time, deep involvement in technology and community. Myers was a founding member of the Chadds Ford Business Association and currently serves on its board of directors.  Her hobbies include bridge, golf, photography and Tai Chi. She lives with her husband, Jim Lebedda, in Chadds Ford Township.

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