Crebilly conservation possible

Westtown Township supervisors Monday night gave Natural Lands the go-ahead to start writing grants to get a conservation easement for Crebilly Farm. Supervisors voted to pay Natural Lands $3,500 to write the grants. The action could lead to a conservation easement for the entire property, but not immediately.

The vote was 2-0. Supervisors’ Chairman Carol DeWolf — chairing her final meeting since losing a reelection bid — recused herself from the vote because she works for Natural Lands.

The vote also brought a round of applause from the residents in the audience. Westtown has spent more than five years dealing with the possibility of Toll Bros. building 317 homes on the historic farm.

If successful, the grants would come from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Chester County’s Preservation Partnership Program. Jack Stefferud, senior director of land protection for Natural Lands, was optimistic about getting the grants.

“I don’t work on projects that I think won’t be successful,” he told the board during the Dec. 20 meeting.

Neither Stefferud nor DeWolf could say how much money is needed to buy the easement from the Robinson family, owners of the 322-acre farm on Route 926.

Stefferud said the state grant would cover 50 percent of the purchase price and the county grant less than that. In addition, other sources of income, including from the township, would be needed. He added that it could take 18 months to two years for the grant process to come to fruition, but, again, he’s optimistic.

“I firmly believe we have a good opportunity to conserve the property in its entirety,” he said, adding there’s not yet any true agreement with the family. But he also said he thinks the Robinsons would prefer to conserve the property rather than see it developed.

Stefferud said the next deadline for getting the grants in is the middle of April. If they miss that window of opportunity, they’d have to wait another year, and by that time, it might be too late. Also, during this time frame, they have to come to a final agreement with the Robinsons about the price.

Wolf said there is a working figure, but that can’t be made public yet. During general discussions, supervisors said there would be many discussions on how to raise the funds for the township’s share of the easement.

Supervisors had twice denied a Toll Bros. conditional use application to develop the property. The first denial came in January of 2017, and the most recent denial came this past September after Toll announced it was no longer the equity owner of the farm.

During the last three months, the Robinsons put the farm back up for sale and inquired about the possibility of a conservation easement.

According to a formal statement issued by Natural Lands, “We are very grateful to the Robinson family for their willingness to enter this dialogue, the details of which are confidential as are all our discussions with landowners.”

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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