Neighbors for Crebilly want seat at the table

Toll Bros. does not want Neighbors for Crebilly to be involved in their appeal of the Westtown supervisors’ decision denying the conditional use application for Crebilly Farm, according to a lawyer for the neighbors’ group.

“We filed a petition to intervene,” Mark Thompson said at a meeting Wednesday at The Concept School in Westtown. “We found out today that Toll Bros. does not want this group to be a party to the appeal. We expected this to happen.”

Thompson, a lawyer with the firm of Lamb McErlane in West Chester, spoke at a meeting of the Neighbors for Crebilly group and updated the crowd on what has happened since the supervisors denied Toll Bros’ conditional use application in December and since Toll Bros. appealed that decision to Chester County Court of Common Pleas in March.

By filing a petition to intervene, Neighbors for Crebilly is asking to “have a seat at the table” so the group could have a say about any potential settlement offers or other decisions, according to Thompson.

“If a decision is made by the parties, it can’t be changed or modified without our consent,” he said. “A seat at the table means all parties have to be in agreement (if a settlement is offered).”

Other parties that have filed petitions to intervene, such as the Brandywine at Thornbury Homeowners Association, have not been challenged by Toll Bros., Thompson added.

A judge will ultimately decide on the Neighbors for Crebilly’s petition to intervene.

Vince Moro, who founded the Neighbors’ group with his wife Elizabeth, echoed the importance of becoming involved in the appeal.

“If there is a deal and it’s not a popular deal, we’re the voice of the community, and we can get the word out and say, ‘How do you feel about that?’”

As part of Toll’s appeal, a judge has been assigned, and the township has had to give all the evidence it used in its hearings to the court, Thompson said. Toll Bros. filed a brief explaining why it was challenging the appeal.

In the appeal filed March 6, Toll lawyer Gregg I. Adelman argues that the Westtown supervisors abused their discretion and that the denial was “not supported by substantial evidence.” Adelman is challenging four specific areas of the supervisors’ decision:

  • That Toll Bros. didn’t have a road linking West Pleasant Grove Road and Route 926 through the property;
  • That Toll Bros. needs to update the intersection of Route 926 and South New Street to deal with traffic from the proposed development;
  • That Toll Bros. didn’t submit “any and every” change to the conditional use plan for alternative accesses to the township planning commission for “a new review”; and
  • That Toll didn’t include “‘scenic views’ as a secondary conservation resource,” according to the appeal. This area touched on what many believe is the farm’s historic past – that part of the Battle of Brandywine was fought on it during the Revolutionary War.

At the Neighbors for Crebilly meeting Wednesday night, Thompson estimated the average decision time could be six to eight months, once the judge has all the evidence and paperwork from all the parties involved. There are usually oral arguments as well.

He told the audience that the judge is likely to decide on the Neighbors’ petitioner status within the next month or two. The group includes people who had individual status during the township hearings, such as landowners who lived within a half-mile of Crebilly Farm, and others who have an interest in protecting the farm.

Ken Hemphill, the Neighbors for Crebilly’s communications director, encouraged the audience to attend Westtown’s next board of supervisors meeting – May 21 at 7:30 p.m. – and voice their support for an open space tax referendum on November’s ballot.

“Westtown has never had an open space referendum,” he said. “We need Westtown to put the question on the ballot in November. I think the support is there. Let the voters decide.”

Adelman, Toll’s attorney in the matter, did not respond to a request for comment before the publishing deadline.

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About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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