Op/ed: Keeping Crebilly

I enjoyed some thoughtful reflection the other night, as I drove home by way of my favorite country back roads. Naturally, I had to pass Crebilly Farm. It made me smile to see her trees and hills in peaceful slumber, covered by a blanket of glowing moonlight and snow. Choosing the roads less traveled whenever possible, I moved on to route 100 and gingerly wound my way through the dark tunnel of snow-capped trees and illuminated ice. With the exception of a few hiccups of newness, I find that road relatively untouched by time and still looking like I remember it as a kid. It made me think back to riding around with my father in his dusty old brown Chevy station wagon, staring out the windows at the Brandywine as we headed to our regular breakfasts at Hank's Place. I'm talking back when Hank's Place had paint chipping off the walls and the waitresses called you 'hun' and were as endearing as a close family member. Back when occasionally you'd see Andy Wyeth up at the counter. Which then made me think of the old Jameson's Restaurant off route 52. Another gem of a place where my father, in his dirty cut-offs and holey Izod shirt, was almost overdressed. And nobody cared. We were just a couple of locals taking a break... on our way to Yearsley's to pick up tractor parts. I share this because I realize now, more than ever, what a responsibility it is for the rest of us to protect our Chester County homeland and history.

Inspired by the many emails and questions I have received regarding Crebilly Farm, I would like to take this opportunity to help clarify to others, in very basic terms (because that is all I am capable of): What now? To be blunt, and honest- I do not know. Friends, we have achieved an amazing feat together- we fought the odds and won a great victory. Thanks to all of you and the courageous decision by the Westtown Township Board of Supervisors, together we threw a huge (and I think unexpected) log in the road. But friends, please do not be disillusioned by our recent win. We have only won 'round-one' and there is much more to come. Ultimately, we need a 'win-win.' We need to find a win for the landowners and the surrounding community.

The next move will come from the developer. It is not uncommon to have the township's decision appealed by the developer and go to court, especially in the case of Toll Brothers. In court, a judge will make a ruling based on the evidence presented during the hearings. Hopefully, Westtown Township has enough evidence to support their unanimous decision, denying the conditional use application and convince a judge to rule in their favor. If this is the case, the developer may choose to 'appeal the appeal' or submit new plans and the process will start all over again. Or they could pull out altogether. And it is possible (though not likely) the developer may not appeal anything and move on. That remains to be seen since none of us know the details of the agreement of sale between the Robinson Family and Toll Brothers. This process will take several months and I will do my best to share what I learn as things unfold.

Conservation of Crebilly Farm is complicated for many reasons. Instead of thinking 'all or nothing' with regards to conservation, a more reasonable goal would be to conserve 'as much as possible' if given the opportunity. We are not there yet. In the meantime, I love the saying 'success is when preparation meets opportunity.' No time like the present for coalition building among the conservancies and historic preservation organizations. Thanks to an awareness campaign gone wild, these organizations are aware of this pending sale. All of us together have put Crebilly Farm on a national map! We need to give reminders and continue to raise awareness on all levels so that Crebilly Farm remains on the front burner. Rather than inflict another 'ice jam' I will continue these thoughts (including an action plan) in more detail in the next Crebilly email which I intend to send out next week.

Since we are entering a new chapter, I'd like to circle back to the beginning of how I got started on this awareness campaign, in the first place. I grew up near Crebilly Farm and used to ride my horse there as a kid. In August of 2016, I learned of the pending sale between the Robinson Family and Toll Brothers and was shocked by how few knew about it. Thanks to the advice of a mentor of mine, Linda Kaat and a local reporter named Kathleen Brady Shea, I decided to once again ride my horse through the nearby neighborhoods of Crebilly Farm and hand out flyers to the residents to raise awareness of what was about to come. Though, admittedly, I still think my idea of awareness was silly... I just could not do nothing. The flyers started to create a little buzz which turned into an email chain. My email chain morphed into a website. And with the help of many others, the website has become a hub for information, updates and a way to empower others to help raise more awareness through massive public outcry. I recall many who said to me back then: it's already a done deal... you're just wasting your time... they always win... why bother- it won't help...' Well, a year and a half later, and thanks to all of you- even Washington D.C. is aware of Crebilly Farm and the national history in jeopardy.

So, moving forward, I am going to continue to 'waste my time' and 'bother' with a 'done deal' that I assure all of you is not even close to finished. And every time Crebilly Farm makes it to the change of a new season, I hope all of you know- we have accomplished something. All of us need to keep moving forward. We need to keep putting one foot in front of the other until Crebilly Farm has a permanent solution we can ALL live with. The landowners need to be fairly compensated for their land. And we, the surrounding residents, need to find a compromise that preserves our national history and evokes thoughtful development that works with what is already here. So please... take some time to breathe during this brief lull... enjoy the rest of football season. And then, plan to sharpen your pencils and internet connections and gear up for the next round of good, wholesome effort that you have already demonstrated so beautifully over this last, long year. You're all doing great! Let's keep up the good work. Massive public outcry continues to be our strongest ally.

In closing, and from one underdog to another: Fly Eagles Fly-Go Birds.

Mindy Rhodes
West Bradford Township
www.CrebillyFarmFriends.com

 

 

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