Coming Soon to a Farm Near You: New Homes in the mid-$600s!

Western Philadelphia Suburbs Push Back on Development.

Survey markers are popping up like daffodils,  and as daffodils signal the coming of spring, orange survey markers signal development is imminent. Depending where you live, it could be a pipeline, fracking site, shopping center or new housing development.  Some consider it progress, but for many residents,  development is unwelcome as an April freeze and increasingly each new project is matched with an organization to oppose it.

People often feel blindsided by these developments and sometimes wonder why they weren’t aware of them when there was still time to do something.  People are notified, but notices aren’t always in the places you might be looking for them (such as a posting a billboard on the site in question) or written in a way one might understand (a township newsletter might read “discussion of the Brown tract subdivision”, for example). Sometimes you have to go hunting for details because this is not the sexy kind of news reported by the mainstream media. And by the time the big news makes it to social media, the development is halfway through the approval phase.   What if notices for new developments had the same requirements as the application for a liquor license?  If no one sees the notice, they won’t know about the township meetings and if no one shows up at the meeting and the developer has done a reasonably good job of checking all the zoning requirements, the next development is on its way.

There was a time when new developments promised a new tax base to fund schools and  government.  What wasn’t anticipated was the 3 to 4 car family, increasing school bus and delivery truck traffic, turning lanes and one-way problems; all things I’ve learned about from the latest traffic study done in conjunction with the development of Crebilly Farm in Westtown.

202 West Chester
Traffic on Southbound 202 in West Chester. Crebilly Farm to the right.

Picture perfect communities welcome future homeowners with impressive entrances, with names of the very things they’ve eliminated, such as “preserve,” “run, ” “trees” or  “farm.” The homes themselves are gorgeous and I understand why people love them. With stunning granite kitchens, soaring entrances and luxurious bathrooms, what’s not to love? And if you are moving from a densely populated area, this looks like the country. And you can’t blame the developer for wanting to build them, because they are only meeting demand.

But if the descriptions included a dark side it would be: increased traffic congestion, worsening air quality, increased storm water runoff and groundwater contamination, school boundaries being reconfigured to accommodate more students (and yes, increased school taxes) and the decimation of trees or farm land that go away with these new homes.

Citizens are no longer sitting on the sidelines helplessly watching as the bulldozers pave over their favorite vistas.  They are signing petitions, crowd funding, hiring lawyers, putting signs in yards and  making their voices heard at township meetings in record numbers. And with social media, developments are no longer being silently approved. People who care are being heard AND they are making a difference.  Citizen engagement is crucial.

Crebilly Farm
View of Crebilly Farm from Route 926 in West Chester. A current plan has been submitted to build 350+ homes on this site.
New home signs Westtown, Pa.
Advertisements for new homes on the opposite side of Route 926.

And what about that open space that that is promised by the developer in exchange for squeezing in a few more homes? Open space is often the leftover, unusable wetland or retention basin that are off-limits to kids, hikers and dog-walkers.  Does that fit the definition of open space? It is something to think about, as the last remaining large parcels are being developed. And did you know that some landowner/developers had preferential tax treatments prior to development? Accordingly, they may have benefitted from agricultural or be otherwise tax-exempt over the years, meaning that local taxpayers (i.e.; you)  have been subsidizing them as they held their investment until they decided it was time to develop.  Whether for or against development, most people do care about their taxes. These are the types of questions that may be overlooked if not for diligent residents who make them an issue to planning commissions and township supervisors.

To make an impact, reach out to your officials, who are mostly volunteers and citizens with the same concerns as you. If they are taking the time to volunteer, help them. Show up, even if it’s only to listen.  And if you don’t have the time to attend a township meeting, consider donating to the organizations who have the time and motivation to do so. If you can’t change the world, at least you can have an effect on your local community.

Do you have an impending development in your back yard? You might. Whether it’s a neighbor wanting to build a non-conforming garage or a developer wanting to build 300 homes, your township is likely notifying you and asking  you to participate.  I encourage you to sign up for your township e-newsletters to find out. Here are just a few developments underway in Delaware and Chester counties:

Delaware County

Marple Township

Don Guanella  Forest –  213 pristine acres along Sprould Road (Route 320), owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was once home to the Don Guanella School in densely populated Marple township. A plan to build 305 multi-family dwelling units was proposed.  This plan is currently off the table but the property may be back on the market.

Newtown Square

Earles Lake-Earles Lake in Newtown Square, Newtown Township, PA and 9 acres of wooded land are at risk of becoming a 54 townhome community.

Edgmont Township

Sleighton School (Middletown and Edgmont townships)There had been a proposed over 55 development by Toll Brothers. At this time approval status is unknown.

Edgmont Edgmont County Club-200 acre golf course on Route 3 in Edgmont township.

Middletown Township

Franklin Mint Property-current proposal for 300+single family and mixed-use nursing facility on a 173 acre site.

Concord Township

Beaver Valley: Potential development of 160 homes on 230 acres which was recently saved and now money is needed to purchase the land as open space. Still more is at stake with Wilmington University.

Thornbury Township

105 Stoney Bank Road: 55 acres adjacent to Martin Park,  currently under agreement and pre-approved for 27 new homes. Known by the township as the Crane Tract.

Sign up for updates: Thornbury Township

Chester County

Westtown Township

Crebilly Farm  300 acres in Westtown township with a proposal for 350+ homes located at the intersection of Routes 202 and 926.

Township Updates: Westtown Township

Organizations: Neighbors for Crebilly , Save Crebilly Farm , Neighbors for Crebilly Facebook

If you want to find out more about regional planning, please explore these sites

While demand for new housing and development of land is a reality,  property rights of  sellers of the land and developers need to be balanced with the property rights of neighbors being affected. The little land that is left needs to be developed responsibly so it doesn’t create the same problems people are moving away from.  It takes time to be involved and there are more projects going on out there than one person can keep track of. With long work hours and commutes, families and responsibilities, it is easy to overlook what’s happening around you and hope that someone else will save the land for you.

If only it were that easy.


Squire Cheyney Farm Park, a 30 acres of preserved space overlooking homes at The Preserve at Squire Cheyney.

Disclaimer: The status of the projects listed above are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, check in with the appropriate group’s Facebook or web page.


Williamson College of the Trades: an education that can’t be bought

Williamson College of the Trades has been a constant, yet unpretentious fixture of the Middletown landscape for over a century. If you have not been involved with Williamson, you’ve missed out on what is taking place behind its modest 220 acre campus just off Route 352, south of Route 1. Once you understand what Williamson is about, you’ll never forget it. Further, you will be able to identify the unmistakable traits of a Williamson student and graduate: faith, integrity, diligence, excellence and service. And I’ll add what I observed, respect.

Williamson Cottages
The Williamson “cottages,” also known as dorms, were designed by famous architect Frank Furness.

Given Williamson’s enviable reputation, its students are virtually guaranteed a job upon graduation. Although Williamson is known as the Harvard of Trade Schools, “employers are less interested in the student’s skills as they are their character,” says Mike Rounds, President of the College. In fact, “there are usually more jobs than there are students to fill them,” explains Rounds. It’s a nice problem to have.  And it’s no wonder.  My recent tour of this one-of-a-kind institution left me in awe.

Kevin Williamsn Tour guide
Kevin, our tour guide.

My tour guide for the day was Kevin. He beamed with pride as he described the culture, traditions and work ethic that Williamson expects of its students. We began our tour in the chapel, where students start their day at 6:30am, shoes shined and suits pressed for inspection. Students are expected to wear a suit when on campus, except for when they are in the shop. Most of their time is accounted for from dawn until dusk.  It’s a military-like atmosphere imbued with Christian principles. A demanding schedule for anyone, let alone a college-aged person. I asked Kevin if he liked this lifestyle and his reply was an enthusiastic “yes!” He liked the fact that this training is providing him with discipline and motivation.

The Williamson lifestyle is not for all students. “Of the one hundred students that are accepted each year, 76% will graduate,” according to Arlene Snyder, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. For the students who stay through the entire 3 years, many forge lifelong friendships and build a strength of character that is unmatched. “Other schools have endeavored to emulate Williamson, but Williamson was the first and still is the only school of its kind,” added Snyder.

We toured the library, the cottages (dorms), shops and finished with lunch in the cafeteria. The entire campus is spotless, thanks to the hard work of the student body.  In the masonry shop, the students were working on their senior project, which was a fireplace they designed and built. Once their project is completed and graded, it is disassembled and the materials are recycled for the next class. This was by far the cleanest work area of any kind I have ever seen.

Williamson Masonry Shop
The Mason shop–I would hire a Williamson mason any day of the week!

Students are responsible for the upkeep of all aspects of the campus. Based on the graduates Williamson turns out, it seems as though the formula is working. After graduation, some students start their own companies, while others will start jobs with that they were hired for at the annual job fair.

Art Lallo, Senior Manager in Engineering for V-22 at the Boeing Company, was hired on the spot at such a job fair in 1979. In his senior year in high school, Art was working 40 hour weeks to help support his family. As an avid car enthusiast, going to college wasn’t on his mind until he realized that many of his friends would be leaving for college in the fall.  A friend suggested applying to Williamson.  He did so, and so started his success story. Thirty-seven years later from his first job as a tool design trainee, he advanced his education with a BS in Engineering from Drexel, and an MS in Engineering Management, MBA from Widener and a Doctorate in Higher Education from Widener. In addition to teaching at Widener, Art sits on the Board of Williamson and is the Chairman of its Education Committee.  Lallo speaks enthusiastically about his experience and the opportunity:  “where else can you graduate from college debt free and have a 3:1 job offers?” What’s even better, “the companies that come to Williamson are looking for management candidates because they know Williamson graduates have what it takes to lead,” added Lallo.

As a parent I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want this type of training for their child.  While taking the tour I was surrounded by gentleman at each turn–not something you encounter every day! Yet a Williamson education can’t be bought–literally or figuratively.  Education in the trades combined with strength of character was the vision of Williamson’s founder, Isaiah Williamson, a successful businessman from suburban Philadelphia and a contemporary of John Wanamaker. As its original name, Williamson Free School of the Mechanical Trades implies, tuition of this three-year school is completely free. That is, every student at Williamson is on a complete scholarship. Wow!

Tuition costs $28K per student per year. The school has an operating budget of about $7 million, according to Snyder, who was hired to lead fundraising efforts at the school. “The school receives no government subsidies, existing solely on its endowment, grants, donations from corporations,alumni and philanthropically motivated individuals. ” added to Snyder.

There are so many things to love about this college on so many levels that this article could take many different directions. From the large open space that is the campus to the collection of historic Frank Furness architecture to the charm and pride of the student body, faculty and administration to the rich traditions honored by its students, Williamson College of the Trades holds a special place in Media’s history and its future.

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 If you would like to learn more, go to  Williamson’s website.

Tours are given regularly by seniors and can be arranged by calling the office of Institutional Advancement at 610-565-1096 or email:

Pamela Cloud is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Preferred in Media Pa. serving the Western Philadelphia suburb, with expertise in Media, Glen Mills, West Chester and surrounding areas. Contact Pam for professional real estate guidance!


Sleighton School to Present at Edgmont Planning Commission meeting September 28

Sleighton School will be making a presentation to the Edgmont Planning Commission meeting on Monday, September 28th regarding the development of the former Sleighton School Property located on Valley and Forge Roads in Glen Mills.

Of the 280 acre site, 173 acres are situated in Edgmont township, the remainder are located in Middletown township.

Background on Sleighton School

Article on Proposed Development – Delco Times

The meeting is open to the public.

Edgmont Township Planning Commission Meeting

Date: Monday, September 28th

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: Edgmont Twp. Bldg,  1000 Gradyville Rd.  Newtown Sq., PA

Click Here for the Agenda

Abandoned Church at Sleighton School
Abandoned Church at Sleighton School as seen from Valley Road

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