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Plan to develop Chester County farm sparks controversy

Crebilly Farm comprises 322 acres of rolling rural land in Westtown Township in Chester County, one of the Pennsylvania's fastest growing communities. Fifteen years ago, the town's comprehensive plan identified this land for future residential development. Now that the future appears to be here, township officials are having second thoughts about the kind and amount of development that should be allowed.

The township's planning commission recently held a meeting to review and discuss three proposals by Toll Brothers to develop the land. Two proposals called for the construction of 200 single-family homes and 117 townhouses, a total of 317 units. A third plan includes 152 single-family homes and 243 townhouses, a total of 395 units. The three plans would add 712 units of residential housing and leave approximately 180 acres as open space.

More than 3,500 local residents have signed an online petition expressing their opposition to the project. Their concerns include increased traffic, overcrowded schools and loss of green space. The land is also close to the Revolutionary War's Brandywine Battlefield and may have played a role in the movement of troops during the battle. Preservationists are asking the developer to take the land's historical significance into account in planning the projects. One of their number expressed his concerns by dressing in an all-wool Revolutionary War uniform and standing in the back of the hall for the entire three-hour meeting. Toll Brothers acknowledged these concerns and promised to work with all parties to eliminate objections.

The project will undergo at least three more planning commission hearings before it advances through the township's zoning project. As with most such controversies, the final outcome is unclear. The only certainty is that all parties will stiffen their resolve and retain lawyers who specialize in land use law to represent them.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "For some, Chester County farm a development battlefield," Michaelle Bond, Nov. 18, 2016

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