Commonwealth Court upholds Westtown decision

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has issued its opinion upholding Westtown Township’s decision denying conditional use approval for Toll Bros. plan to develop Crebilly Farm. The written decision was issued Dec. 12.

Neither Patrick McKenna, solicitor for Westtown Township, nor Gregg Adelman, representing Toll Bros., made any comment on the decision. McKenna said the township would have no comment as long as the litigation and appeal process is still open. Toll may still appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Toll’s plan was for 317 new homes on the 322-acre farm surrounded by Route 926, Route 202, S. New Street and West Pleasant Grove Road. Westtown denied the application at the end of 2017 and Toll appealed to Chester County Court of Common Pleas. Common Pleas upheld the township’s decision, then Toll appealed to Commonwealth Court, which heard the case in May of this year.

While Commonwealth Court considered the matter, Toll filed another plan with the township this summer, a plan that is much the same as the first. A conditional use hearing on that new plan is scheduled to begin Dec. 18.

In the 27-page Commonwealth opinion, written by Judge Michael H. Wojcik, the court said it reviewed the history of the application from filing through the conditional use hearing, the township’s decision as well as the opinion from Common Pleas, and opined that it would “uphold the Board’s denial of the Application because Toll failed to satisfy all of the requirements of the Ordinance.”

The ordinance referenced is Westtown’s flexible development regulation. The ordinance defines flexible development as “An area of land, controlled by a landowner, to be developed as a single entity for a number of dwelling units, the development plan for which does not correspond in lot size, bulk or type of dwelling, density, lot coverage, and required open space to the regulations established in any one residential district created…”

Though the proposed use is permitted, the township denied the application because of traffic concerns along surrounding intersections, a lack of an internal collector road, a failure to preserve a scenic view, and that Toll failed to revise its plan to show possible alternative site access.

Toll appealed that decision saying supervisors were wrong to say it was Toll’s responsibility to show improved intersections because such improvements would be on PennDOT’s roads. Toll also said it isn’t required to construct an internal collector and that the board erred when it said Toll was to show all lands visible from any adjacent public road in an attempt to preserve scenic views. Toll also said the board was wrong in requiring the developer to revise plans to show alternate site access.

Common Pleas dismissed Toll’s arguments in favor of the township. Commonwealth Court agreed with Toll that it wasn’t necessary for the developer to show alternative access, but it upheld the denial.

The Dec. 18 conditional use hearing for the new plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rustin High School on Shiloh Road.

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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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