Crebilly hearings concluded

Crebilly II, the second conditional use hearing for Toll Bros. proposed plan to develop Crebilly Farm in Westtown Township, is over. The second round ended after 13 sessions and with some people calling for eminent domain being invoked.

The July 12 session was dominated by public comment with the resounding sentiment being a plea to supervisors to deny conditional use approval of the plan that calls for building 317 new homes on the 320-plus-acre property that’s surrounded by Routes 202 and 926, and by S. New Street and West Pleasant Grove Road. The reasons expressed were the same expressed during the last five years: concerns over traffic, open space and historic preservation, and Toll bashing.

Resident Jack Simpson asked a rhetorical question, wondering whether Toll representatives could say anything about the proposed development being of benefit to the community. He said Toll never reached out to the community to come up with any consensus, adding that "11,000 residents have standing."

Others said the site should be preserved because of British and Hessian troop movements on the farm during the 1777 Battle of Brandywine. Still, others commented on the need to keep the space open for quality of life, that the large development would lead to flooding and pollution.

"How does this help the community, those of us who are already here," was one of the other comments. "It will be negative," the resident said, referencing the loss of green space with impervious coverage adding to pollution.

And most everyone commented on the anticipated increase in traffic in an already congested area around Routes 2o2 and 926.

It was concern over traffic that led to the first mention of eminent domain, the power of a government to take private property for public use without the owner's consent. Essentially, a forced sale against the owner’s wishes.

Fronefield Crawford, the attorney representing neighboring Birmingham Township, said the township should use eminent domain to take some private property for dedicated left-turn lanes at Route 926 and S. New Street.

Part of the property that would be involved belongs to the Spackman Farm in Thornbury Township. Farm owner Randell Spackman, who was granted party status in both hearings, said later, "please don't take my land."

But it was Ken Hemphill, an open space advocate from Concord Township, who called for a broader application of eminent domain.

"Chester County should use eminent domain to take the property after the Board of Supervisors says no to Toll," Hemphill said.

Several residents did consider the rights of the Robinson family, the legal owners, and that of Toll.

Resident Carol Weller said the proposed development would "destroy this iconic land." She added as others said, that the impervious coverage would increase flooding and pollution. But instead of calling for no development, Weller asked for a reduction in the number of units and said townhouses would be better than single-family units.

Also considering Robinson and Toll rights was Mindy Rhodes. Addressing Toll representatives, Rhodes said:

"If Toll continues to pursue development plans for Crebilly Farm after being denied conditional use for a second time, then my hope for you is that you will do a better job by composing a thoughtful development plan, one that respects core Chester County values:  open space, nature, and history.  This can be done.  Instead of meeting minimum requirements, my hope for you is that you will strive to far exceed them. Instead of a development plan that destroys what is so valuable and further saturates an already over-saturated infrastructure, my hope for you is that you will do a better job by working with what is already here and preserving what can never be replaced…You have an opportunity.  Please do not be numb to change.  It is never too late to start doing a better job.

After the hearing, Westtown's solicitor Patrick McKenna said parties have 30 days to provide findings of facts and conclusions of law. After that, the supervisors have up to 45 days to render a decision. He estimated that it could be on or before Sept. 27.

Even if the supervisors grant conditional use approval, it’s only the first step. Toll Bros. would still have to go through the subdivision and land use process, presenting fully engineered plans to the Planning Commission, and then get final approval from the supervisors.

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.



1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.