How many townhouses and assisted living communities does Tredyffrin Township need (or want)? Can the T/E School District accommodate the increase in student population?

You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site.  The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.

Some argued at the time that the zoning change to permit senior living in C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project and others questioned what this would mean for future C-1 development in Tredyffrin Township. In 2015, the township expanded the C-1 District zoning to also include townhouses as a by-right use.

During the last few years, developers have flocked to the township with their assisted living and townhouse, apartment and condominium plans. Assisted living projects currently under construction or in the review process include Erickson Living at Atwater Crossing in Malvern (250 beds) and Brightview Senior Living on E. Conestoga in Devon (196 beds).

On the townhouse-apartment side in the township, there are many projects in the planning stages or under construction including:

  • “Parkview”, new townhouses in Chesterbrook
  • “Peyton’s Crossing” townhouses, Berkeley Road, Devon
  • “Village Square” townhouses, S. Valley Road, Paoli
  • “Grey’s Lane” townhouses, Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn
  • Station Square Redevelopment, 3 multi-story apartment buildings, Paoli
  • Chestnut Road Apartments, multi-family apartment building, Paoli
  • 644-704 Lancaster Avenue: redevelopment of Devon Shopping Center to include reconfiguration of retail with addition of apartments above.

Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed.  Top ranking school district, T/E brings an influx of people to the area which means an influx of students, and the growing problem of finding a place to put them.  With an award-winning school district and a premium placed on land, developers know that their profit margins are greater with the multi-family development projects.  But what is the price tag to the community and its residents for this economic development?

In addition to the housing projects above, there’s a new proposed land development plan in the works that is extremely troubling – townhouses on Howellville Road. The proposal is to wedge a cluster of 20 townhouses, in four buildings, between the village of Howellville and the shadow of the Refuge Pentecostal Church.

The village of Howellville in Tredyffrin is an historic township village, dating to the early 1700s. A pleasant symmetry and cottage appearance, five mid-eighteenth century buildings remain in the village and are located very close to Howellville Road, which was common at that time. Howellville Road contributes to the rural character of the community and any new development should be of such character and location as to complement the existing built environment.

The proposed land development plan on Howellville Road is not compatible with the character and appearance of the area.  Beyond the impact of traffic on Howellville Road, the proposed development plan creates serious safety concerns.  The steep narrow winding nature of Howellville Road makes entry and exit from the proposed dense townhouse project a dangerous situation.

Benson Company’s proposed townhouse project on Howellville Road will change the look and character of this community as well as place a greater burden on the narrow, winding road – and again more students for the school district!

John Benson of Benson Company has enthusiastically offered that his proposed Howellville Road townhouses will look like his Grey’s Lane townhouses on Lancaster Ave.  A couple of things – (1) Grey’s Lane is on Rt. 30, a commercial 4-lane road vs. Howellville Road, a rural country road and (2) he squeezed 12 townhouses in at Grey’s Lane in 3 buildings where as this proposal is for 4 buildings with 20 townhouses.

Each time one of these townhouse developers comes to the township for approval, we are told that there will be little impact on the traffic because the target audience is retirees. The developers design master bedrooms on the ground floor of the town home plans; claiming that buyers are “empty-nesters” and not families with children. Based on traffic in the area and the increasing student enrollment, I question that argument.

The Howellville Road townhouse plan is on the Planning Commission agenda for Thursday, February 16, 7 PM at the township building as is the Chestnut Road multi-family apartment building in Paoli.

Areas that were once farmland continue to be developed. Between the assisted living communities and the townhouses and apartments, should the objective in Tredyffrin Township be to approve any and all land development projects regardless of the impact?

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15 Comments

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  1. Easttown is just as bad..have any of the townhouses next to Nectar or on Bridge Ave across from the Berwyn Fire Co sold yet? How about the 2 huge homes jammed on Main Ave. There were plans for 23 townhouses next to Handels ..The Fritz property will be developed . How can TESD cope with all this building any plans in the works?

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  2. Several years ago, a proposal for this property was declined because development too close to stream at rear of property. I know this proposal is “right on top” of Howellville Road, but no mention is made of flood plain in rear.

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    CHV Reply:

    The township is aware ..they made mention of the flood plain when the developer went to the traffic meeting

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  3. I agree that this development would be a sweeping change to the character of this part of our Township, and not for the better.

    It seems from County records that part of the proposed development and the adjacent church and homes were once zoned as Residential. Does anyone know when and how they became Commercial?

    The School District now has current data quantifying the student influx from these new townhouse developments. I hope that the Planning Commission takes into consideration the full cost to the community from yet another one.

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  4. An uncontrolled upswing in housing development appears to be county wide. I was disappointed to read that Toll Brothers plans to build hundreds of homes on the Brandywine Battlefield http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Proposed-Toll-Bros-development-on-Chesco-farm-moves-ahead—-with-conditions.html

    A short while ago Tredyffrin had a link on the website to provide feedback on the Landscapes 3 development model for the county. It may not be too late to provide feedback on types of housing desired for this area. See link: http://news.chescoplanning.org/housing-feedback/

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  5. It’s time that both townships have a moratorium on future building within both areas. Not only will the schools be affected but our infrastructure as well as the police and volunteer fire dept.
    Another change that will influence the quality of life for existing citizens is taxes that will undouble change is the burden this places on the retired and citizens on fixed incomes.
    As a longtime Berwyn resident and a graduate of Conestoga, I have seen this area go from community to strangers that have no real interest in the area contained within the school district. By no means is this meant as an indictment but a simple observation. Having lived part of my career in other regions of the country, I have witnessed a flood of new residents to an area. Boston in the late seventies and Houston in the decade of the eighties. Both took a considerable amount of time to add schools and support staff for the local government and guess who paid the bills. Simple the existing residents bore the cost as residential development does not offer the taxes that businesses offer.
    If your unsure about this travel the route 30 corridor east starting in Wayne and first try and park.

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  6. Fascinating post, Pattye. I will be looking into this and will tell my readers about it. Thank you!

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Caroline! All residents need to get engaged before it’s too late. If this level of development continues, there’s not going to be anything left tying our community to its historic roots. Not to mention the additional burden on fire and police, school district, infrastructure, etc. We live in a very special place — let’s not contribute to suburban sprawl!

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  7. We drive by Village Square every Sunday morning. We’ve noticed very few lights on in the residences and were told that construction is “on hold” because of a lack of interest from potential buyers. Hopefully, developers will be discouraged about building these clusters of townhomes in areas where traffic is already a problem. Let’s hope the laws of supply and demand will send a message that “enough is enough”.

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    Carl Becht Reply:

    “Actually Village Square is alive and doing well. We have 6 of 30 homes spoken for and expect to start construction of our third building very soon. Our Model home is open every day from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Stop in sometime and see that we are a great addition to the neighborhood.“

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  8. As a resident of Berwyn Ave. for almost 30, I worry about the high density building in the village and the safety of the students who walk on Berwyn Ave. With school buses traveling on Berwyn Ave. and Bridge St. and cars speeding down Berwyn Ave. it is a potential hazard for students and other walkers.
    Having gone through the 28 Bridge model across the street from the Berwyn Fire Compay, I don’t know how this complex will appeal to seniors with a base price of $600,000.

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  9. I am in favor of clustered housing that leaves open space on the parcel – space that can be planted with trees and shrubs and can provide stormwater control and other ecosystem functions. I don’t see any development of that sort in either Easttown or Tredyffrin. The apartments crowded onto what was the Surrey location are appalling. The units take up all the land. The front row has a nice view of the fire house, and the back row has a nice view of the front row. Is there any unpaved ground on that parcel?

    Zoning should somehow reward developers who leave some open space. Using every square foot of ground for building or pavement should be prohibited.

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    Miriam Heck Reply:

    I agree those townhouses are not homes. It is beginning to look a little too much like the Prisoner!!!

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  10. I would like to make a few comments in response:
    1. Developers are not bad people out to rip the community off. They can be just as any human being can but they are not by default and they should not be vilified by the community for what they do. It is in our nature as human beings to create. Some of us have chosen to do so with structures. To shape space to our needs and wants to provide shelter and comfort. Whether you build houses or skyscrapers it is a noble profession to do so. I am sure there were those in Manhattan that felt the twin towers were an ill-fitting proposal. They now symbolize our nation ability to unite as one.
    2. Homes are expensive. Regulation of the development and construction industry is extremely costly. The average single family home infrastructure and fees is roughly $75,000 to $100,000 in comparison to $2,500 in the 90’s. As the world has become a global marketplace material costs have continued to rise. The price average people can afford to pay for homes has remained frozen for the last ten years. It is these pressures that are leading to townhome and apartment projects in our community not the greed of developers or this misguided policy of the township officials.
    3. Local Businesses are disappearing. The cost to operate in our community is high when compared with online retail and or even being located in KOP. There does not appear to be a large buy local movement as in some other communities that would combat this.

    The fact that the community will change is inevitable. If you really want to stop or change development of these projects offer to buy the properties from the developer. There is certainly a price they would be willing to sell. After that you can create a park or renovate the old house. If buying the property is not an option ask for a meeting with the developer and ask questions and make comments but do so in an attempt to improve the project rather than just objecting for all that dragging out the inevitable does it decrease the quality of the project.

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