Planners recommend no for Toll

Westtown Planning Commission members Wednesday night unanimously voted to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny conditional use approval of Toll Bros. plan to develop Crebilly Farm. However, the commission is also developing a list of conditions supervisors should follow should they decide to approve the plan.

Toll is looking to build 317 new homes on the 320-plus-acre farm at Route 926 and Route 202. There are already two homes on the property. Under the township’s flexible development provision, such a development is permitted but only with conditional use approval.

Supervisors denied the original application in 2017. Toll appealed the decision up to Commonwealth Court, which has yet to release its opinion. In the interim, Toll has made a new application with basically the same plan but with some modifications.

Commission Chairman Richard Pomerantz said the commission would reconvene on Dec. 4 for public comment and for members to vote on the conditions. After that vote, the conditions would be posted on the township’s website.

Several commission members said it was poor form for Toll not to have anyone attending the Nov. 20 session at the township building, with Steve Rodia referring to the absence as “hubris.” However, Planning Commission solicitor Kristin Camp reminded everyone that the applicant was not required to attend.

Pomerantz has said several times since Toll’s first application that he wished there was no need for the commission to meet for the proposal and that it would have been better had previous boards been more proactive in preserving the farm.

Prior to the vote recommending denial, the township’s traffic consultant Al Federico said of Toll’s traffic study, “The material submitted isn’t credible.”

He said the study was dated and didn’t result in conclusions he felt were credible. Specifically, he said the sight distances were substandard and that it wasn’t clear how they were derived.

In response to a question from Camp, Federico acknowledged that the plan could be brought up to standards if it’s updated by the next conditional use hearing. That process is before the Board of Supervisors and scheduled to begin Dec. 18.

After Federico, Camp referenced a review letter from John Snook who recently retired as a senior land planner with the Brandywine Conservancy and is now consulting for the township. He is also a supervisor in East Bradford Township.

During the original hearing in 2017, there was testimony regarding British troop movement on the farm during the 1777 Battle of Brandywine. Snook testified at the time, there could be a condition placed on the applicant to move the development farther to the eastern side of the property.

In his October 2019 review letter,  Snook said the applicant should indicate on the plan several points of historic significance.

He cited the “location of the Brandywine Battlefield National Historic Landmark (which abuts the subject property) and the Planning Area for the Landmark used by the National Park Service in efforts coordinated with the Chester County Planning Commission (the Planning Area includes much of the subject property).”

The letter also said to “indicate that the Westtown Inn (also known as Darlington Inn) and most of Crebilly Farm have been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). These resources are indicated on the Historic Resources Map included within the new Comprehensive Plan.”

Snook also said the plan should indicate scenic views and landscapes.

The commission’s decision to recommend denial but with dozens of conditions should supervisors vote to approve mirrors the decision they made in 2016. Most of the conditions dealt with previously and under consideration now concern preserving environmental and historically sensitive areas and on ways of mitigating the anticipated extra traffic.

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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