Westtown deals for Crebilly

It’s a new beginning for the Crebilly Farm saga in Westtown Township. Toll Bros. is no longer in the equation, but the township and Natural Lands are and have come to an agreement with the Robinson family, who owns the farm.

Westtown Township supervisors Monday night voted to enter into an agreement of sale for part of the 320-acre farm. Under the proposal, should it come to fruition, the township will buy 208 acres, while Natural Lands will conserve an additional 104 acres through easements. The family retains the rest of the acreage. But the vote was just the start of that new beginning. Multiple steps are involved in making this happen.

“What we’re doing tonight is just one more step in several very important steps in this process,” said Supervisors’ Chairman Scott Yaw before the vote. “

Natural Lands said it and the township need to secure $25.5 million to fund the purchase and the easements in a press release.

According to the agreement on Westtown’s website, the township will pay $20,800,000, or $100,000 per acre. Among the conditions for the action to move forward is the township getting “…commitment from Chester County, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources C2P2 Grant Program (“C2P2”), Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, foundations, private individuals, and/or other grant funding sources for sufficient funding to cover approximately 75 percent of the purchase price by March 31, 2023.”

According to the agreement of sale, an open space tax is also being considered. The agreement says the township, by July 18, needs to enact an ordinance calling for a tax referendum and then file that ordinance with the Chester County Board of Elections by Aug. 9. The referendum would then be on the Nov. 8 ballot. There’s no decision yet on the form of the tax — such as property tax, earned income tax, or some other — or the amount or the tax.

Supervisor Dick Pomerantz said that while many people favor the township buying the property, many don’t. And at least one person later followed up on that point, saying that some nonresidents who had championed the township buying the land should now help pay the bill.

Dave Walter of Westtown’s Historical Commission said, “There will be people who are opposed to this. One way to mitigate that is to get other people involved in raising money.”

Walter, a founding member of American Battlefields Trust, said he would use whatever influence he had to get that organization to help. And he urged others to do likewise.

“People driving by on 926 or 202 love this viewshed, but they don’t live here. They’re not Westtown Township taxpayers. So one way to mitigate that would be for groups like [Neighbors] for Crebilly to commit to buying an acre or two with their own money that they raise…And the more that happens, the more money that comes from outside the township, the less burden there is on Westtown taxpayers, and the easier it will be for this historic property to be saved.”

Vince Morrow, one of the founders of Neighbors for Crebilly, did not specifically address raising money but did say his group will continue to see what it can do to help.

“When we, six years ago, formed our group, we were hoping for a day like today…where we could take our group, turn it around in a positive sense. Where we were for Crebilly, now we can act, behave, and do things in a certain way to support what needs to be done,” Morrow said.

The clock is running on closing the agreement. Township solicitor Patrick McKenna said Westtown has until Sept. 30 to complete and close the transaction. “Otherwise, both the township and/or the Robinson family could get out of the agreement of sale if those conditions are not met."

Exactly how the land will be preserved and what uses will be permitted still need to be finalized. Westtown resident and former Eagles’ tight end Brent Celek asked the board what the actual plans are. He said he couldn’t support a project without knowing the details.

Yaw said there’s currently no formal plan, but that passive open space with some parking is anticipated. Township Manager Jon Altshul said the plan for use would be developed later.

Other residents and non-residents thanked the board for its work and even thanked the Robinson family for becoming a willing landowner. Yet, as several people were leaving, one resident could be heard saying to another, “Am I the only person here who’s going to vote no for that tax?”

Crebilly Farm had been the focus of a controversial development plan for more than five years. Toll Bros. went through two conditional use hearings to build 317 new homes on the property surrounded by Route 926 and 202, plus S. New Street and W. Pleasant Grove Road.

Supervisors voted against Toll in the first hearing, and that was appealed to the Chester County Common Pleas and then to Commonwealth Court. Both courts upheld Westtown’s decision. A second hearing was held, but in September of 2021, Westtown announced that Toll was no longer the equity owner of the farm and no longer had the status to pursue the application to develop the site.




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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