A Recap of the August 18th Planning Commission Meeting

Citizens Speak Up - Voices May Be Heard

August 19, 2014


Talking to fired up residents before the meeting

Our meeting last night was well attended, drawing some 200 people. Outside was set up like our last big meeting at Garnet Valley Middle School, with protest signs, tables to take action and folks interacting in a hopeful and spirited way. Although the meeting was well-attended, there would have been more people - as you know the Supervisors scheduled a meeting for discussion of the Hall property on the same evening at the Township building.


The developers’ plans were presented by John Jaros

The meeting started with a presentation by John Jaros, attorney for Woodlawn Trustees, and their engineers and consultants. It was the usual dog and pony show. A few notable (or should we say “highly questionable”) items came out of their presentation:

  • There are only 3 bog turtles in Beaver Valley. They looked and they looked, but could only find three.
  • They would be given a tiny grove near the back of the proposed big box store (Walmart?) that Wolfson is advertising space for on its website.
  • They said all historic structures except one would be demolished. Their stated reason was that there were only class 3 historic resources in that part of Beaver Valley; they ignored the fact that several of the structures were older and in better condition than class one resources elsewhere in Concord Township. Dr. Merlin Brubaker’s barn would be demolished even though he had fully restored it to its 1772 glory.
  • Over 100 acres of mature forest would be cut down.
  • Minimal unforested buffers would be provided to tributaries of the Brandywine Creek.
  • They estimate only 171 extra car trips a day (171 houses x 1 car per house) despite the fact that each prairie palace will have three garage doors. Additionally, they only calculated peak traffic time from Tuesday to Thursday.
  • John Jaros revealed that the construction of the Vineyard Commons will drag on to 2023.
  • The developers “would try to do their best” to keep trails but they can’t promise anything. The plans clearly showed, however, that all of the trails have houses on them.
  • The developers may amend their current proposal at some point, but the plans showed that dense development would abut the new First State National Monument.
  • The developers were asking for FIVE waivers from provisions of the Concord zoning code and yet they claimed they were submitting a “by right” plan.
  • A sewage grinder system will be used rather than a traditional gravity flow system…and these systems will be maintained at the homeowner’s expense.
  • Mr. Jaros stated at the beginning of the meeting that they were not there to take objections to the by right plans.

After their presentation, Planning Commission members asked questions, but Jaros and his consultants could not answer any of them with any level of specificity. It was also learned that Jaros has not responded yet to questions and issues presented by the Commission’s consultants. Therefore, the Commission granted an extension, and the next planning meeting will be October 20. Therefore, the September 2nd supervisor meeting is CANCELED!


Attorneys representing neighbors to the planned development spoke next

They were brief. They stated that because the developer had not presented a final plan or answered any questions, there was nothing to definitively respond to. The following was also stated:

  • The Vineyard Commons plan should NOT be considered a “by right” plan because they are asking for substantial waivers
  • The plan violates many ordinances of Concord Township and violates best practices on several levels.
  • Over 650 petitions opposing the development were presented to the planning commission.


The Brandywine Conservancy weighed in

Sherri Evans-Stanton, Director of the Brandywine Conservancy, was recognized and read from a statement that the Brandywine Conservancy filed with the Commission. She stated that the Brandywine Conservancy decided to become involved because of the risks the proposed development presents to the Brandywine watershed. She cited water pollution in the Brandywine River, destruction of forests and mature hardwood trees , lack of sufficient buffers between developed area protected land, and the significance of Beaver Valley in context with the adjacent First State National Monument and surrounding protected land as reasons why they opposed the plan. She also stated that her organization does NOT believe vineyard Commons is a “by right” plan.

Brandywine Conservancy is one of the most respected environmental and land protection organizations in the region. Their presence helps legitimize what we have all been saying since this process began.


Public Comment

A couple of dozen residents were given an opportunity to speak. Many additional points were made:

  • The current trail system will be ruined
  • Beaver Valley Road is already crowded and dangerous enough
  • Vineyard Commons will significantly increase school taxes
  • Having a homeowner maintained sewage grinder system is a prescription for disaster
  • Woodlawn has been heavily subsidized by public funds and should be required to return that money
  • Historic structures should be kept even though they are not properly classified according to their value
  • The Supervisor should not grant waivers just because they did so in the past

Last night there were many objections to Woodlawn's proposed development plans, and they came from many quarters. Please note that there is no longer a September 2nd Board of Supervisors meeting.

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