Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Toll Brothers Plan for 85 Townhouses on Cassatt Road (Doyle & McDonnell Nursery site) – Please Just Say No!

Oh my goodness, how did I miss this significant development plan in Tredyffrin Township!? For those that may not have heard, there is a proposed plan for 85 townhouses on the Doyle & McDonnell nursery property next to Conestoga High School. Yes, Toll Brothers has signed an agreement of sale for the 13 acre Doyle nursery property in Berwyn with plans for 85 townhouses. However — the Doyle property is zoned R-1 residential which means that multi-family townhouses are not a by right use.

It is my understanding that the school district has a right of first refusal on the property but has yet to exercise it. Would it not make sense to acquire the property and build the parking lot for the high school expansion project on the Doyle property? Or possibly build two schools, one for 9 and 10 and the other 11 and 12. With the existing stormwater issues and concern of the neighbors over the proposed parking lot site on Irish Road, will the District look at the Doyle property?

Some of us worried about the deep pockets of Catalyst Outdoor and its ability to fight the community over the digital billboard situation – but a quick check on Wikipedia ranks Toll Brothers (, a public company as the 10th largest home builder in the US, trades on NYSE:TOL and lists 2017 revenue at $5.8 billion!

Generally we hear rumors about a development plan before it gets to this stage but with a Toll Brothers agreement of sale and a conceptual sketch drawing filed with the township, looks like the ball is rolling fast! Many of us are troubled about the rate of development in the township and the impact on school district enrollment, traffic, stormwater, open space and on and on! The next Planning Commission meeting is Thursday, Nov. 21 and concerned citizens should plan to attend!

When Tredyffrin and Easttown supervisor candidates responded to the Community Matters question about the number one issue facing the township, real estate development was at the top of the list. In Tredyffrin Township, many of the candidates (and now elected supervisors) heard that residents wanted final land development approval to go to the supervisors. How quickly could the supervisors enact that change and will it make a difference? Remember, Catalyst came to the township fifteen months ago with its proposed digital billboard project and the township has yet to update/change its signage ordinance to address the issue. Perhaps our newly elected supervisors will provide action for the voices of the community.

If I had a vote, I’d say slow roll the high school expansion plans and thoroughly investigate ALL alternatives!

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  1. Do you really think an all D, teacher, administrator board is going to do something for citizens? It’s contract year. Millions will be added to the out of control budget for raises. That is priority one. Priority two is making sure that multi million dollar parking lot goes in for staff too. Staff is first because they’re entitled to it.

      1. Will o,

        You are correct. It has been both.

        The citizens who know what goes on are the voters with children in the schools. They don’t say anything for fear of retribution for themselves and their children. I notice rhe spell gets broken after the last child graduates. That’s when they talk.

        Get the 80% of taxpayers together. Educate them. Get them to vote.

  2. It would be an extremely expensive (and could be quite large) parking lot, if limited to that immediate purpose.

  3. The District could do so much with that added space, but seems like a waste of money for just a parking lot. I think the community was upset over Teamer Field’s costs, so how is a new parking lot going to go over? It won’t solve the morning rush hour crisis around the building, and if anything it will encourage more student drivers. And moreover, do we really want a financially careless Board licking its chops over spending more money?

    And to be honest, I’m not totally sure adding 85 townhomes is a bad idea. Yeah, I get it – construction, destruction, and all the hassles that come with it. And yeah, there likely will be even more students coming into a crowded school system. But, what’s the alternative? Do we really want it to stay the way it is?…and if so, isn’t it unfair to the owner of the property who may want to cash out? We have new multi-home construction in Berwyn and Paoli, (and more coming to Paoli), but I’d rather see high-end construction over old dilapidated buildings.

    My thoughts here perhaps will not be popular, but I’ll leave you with this: would you rather have a for-profit corporation own and fix up the property, or have this current School Board buy it and spend millions of dollars under the direction of the Business Manager?

  4. Expensive but makes sense. It could be the additional parking lot for the projected growth of staff and students as well as a playing field. As it is now some of the teams have to practice in the outfield of the baseball field or take their practices off site.

  5. I do not think that your alarm is warranted. Toll has built many nice homes in Tredyffrin. Look at Daylesford Lake. They seem to be responsible developers who respond reasonably to community issues.
    To think that this property would not be sold and developed is unrealistic. And whereas the schools could benefit from expanded facilities, I doubt that they would be able to afford the purchase price of this particular parcel.

    1. I don’t have a personal opinion about Toll Brothers one way of the other. My problem is that this property is currently zoned R-1 and that R-1 zoning does not include ‘by right’ the construction of multi-family homes. Residents purchased homes in that area based on the current zoning and yes, they knew that that the Doyle property could be sold and redeveloped — but as single family homes not townhouses! To be very clear, my objection is related to the re-zoning that would be needed to build multi-family homes.

  6. Toll Brothers are notorious for their destruction of communities-they have VERY deep pockets and will outlast the opposition. Tredyffrin is in the grip of the Smart Growthers, who prize density over everything else. The supervisors are interested in the taxes, even though the new taxes will not pay for all the costs of the new development – WE will pay.
    Only a very large, very unhappy group of citizens will get the supervisor’s attention. And even if they try to protect us, the courts will probably betray us.
    Stand up and express your outrage, loudly and often.
    More parking for the school? Why do I see almost empty school buses everywhere? Charge a stiff fee to families of children who could but don’t use the buses.

  7. I specifically voted for “new blood” among the County Commissioners in hopes that would help apply the brakes to the apparently out-of-control development in CHESCO. OK, Josh and Marian, your turn to bring it into closer alignment with EXISTING PUBLIC RESOURCES. Yes, we all know and generally support the rights of private property owners to sell, BUT what about the rights of those who live here now AND the rights of new buyers to enjoy the same quality of life? Don’t sidestep, because we know the County and Townships have ways to limit by acreage, occupancy, etc–and look to your County Planning Commission! WE WILL ALL PAY, in tax hikes, over-crowded schools and other public facillities, not to mention over-crowded roads… the list goes on and on, and newcomers will not be living as the brochures picture. I live in East Whiteland and this apparent truth is playing out throughout CHESCO! BTW, does the Head of Chesco’s Planning Commission live in CHESCO?

  8. All —
    Just received an email from Caroline O’Halloran — and I quote, “Toll deal has been tabled. Not happening. Confirmed it myself this morning.”
    We’ll take it as good news – thank you Caroline for the update!

    1. That is good news, but not a surprise. I can’t see that any Board of Supervisors in today’s climate would approve re-zoning for more density.

      Maybe this was the “real estate matter” that the School Board has been discussing in Executive Session recently. It would be interesting to see the possible business case here: what uses for the 13 acres next to the High School plus the cost avoided of, say, 25 extra students from a by-right development, against the capital cost of the land and forgone real estate and transfer taxes. It may be worth considering.

      1. Did you see the latest — the District is considering taking the property by eminent domain? But will not factor the 13 acres into the high school expansion plan! A $40 million expansion project — shouldn’t that demand the careful consideration of ALL options?

  9. I’m still waiting to see Toll or any other developer put in a development that is environmentally responsible. Instead of packing ‘luxury’ townhomes onto every square inch of the property, developers should cluster moderate-sized, well insulated, energy-efficient homes and leave open space that is planted with native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Stormwater should be handled on the property with such plantings. The plan should include amenities to encourage people to go outside and to walk rather than drive.

    If there were such a plan for this property, I’d be all for it. And given that our Board of Supervisors signed a Clean Energy Resolution in September, I’m also all for the township putting incentives in place for environmentally responsible developments.

  10. Reaching back to provide some context — Mr Doyle made a very public and personal commitment to TESD when we tabled the possibility of acquiring the land in the 90s. He shook my hand and said he would give the district the absolute right of first refusal when he was ready to stop farming the land. The motivation to take the land then was the township requirement that an expansion of facilities would require more parking. They wanted a ring road to ease the access on Conestoga Road. They were not going to grant us permission to expand the school unless we got the additional acreage at that time. It was not an example of working together. Mr. Doyle (or McDonnell — cannot remember) created a community uproar that we were taking away his family legacy. I received a death threat. The township backed down on their demands so we backed down on acquiring the property for that time. I have updated my memories on FB.
    My comment to his daughter aftr the hearing “If this is about the acreage, we have acreage in Chesterbrook we can help you relocate the nursery. If this is about the green earth of Tara, you must know that you are on the only adjacent land to the only high school in a commuity of 50,000 people. We will always want the land.”
    At the next facilities meeting, Mr. Doyle and his attorneys attended and at that time, we publically agreed to stop our pursuit of acquiring the property IF he would agree to advise us when he was ready to sell. He acknowledged and we all knew that this land could NEVER be used to add housing to the district. Kyle’s comments are correct — we may attract people but those people do not cover their own costs of educating. When we expanded CHS, we were forced to pay $400,000 in fees to the township. We were tasked with paying all costs associated with updating the roads in the vicinity, and Mr. DOyle appealed his obligation to maintain the sidewalks we put in (which every other landowner in the townships must do) and the Township agreed. So TESD has remained the neighbor in waiting — and now I learn that he had pursued a sale without any contact with those who might have been able to do this. As to the zoning — Toll Brothers is in a battle in Westtown now to take historic land for some 300 units. It’s not about the units. It’s about the land use. And as for the comments about this acquisition is unrelated to further expansion, that is chicken and egg. The plans for the next expansion are already in process and have addressed the interior space. They are spending tax dollars to accomodate enrollment. Acquiring the land, at whatever the cost, is the ONLY approach available to ever facilitate any future expansion beyond this. As far as a parking lot, that is a township regulation and relates to square footage. The snarky as always comments about teachers needing a place to park is so TE-typical. Do YOU have a place to park at work? Those are zoning requirements, not school plans. We rejected the earlier demand that we add land because the school controls who can park on our land. We could (and might ultimately have to) ban all student parking. To quote a parent from the early 90s to an administrator “I did not buy my child a new BMW to have it sit in my driveway.” Well — the obligation to provide transportation to school id codified, but the obligation to provide parking for students is not. So the extra land will absolutely influence any and all plans going forward. But the fact remains that if it is anything like the Mill Road / Penn property in the 80s and 90s, the fight over the land could go on for a very long time….and the kids are coming. It would be imprudent to sit back and wait to prepare for their arrival. And this is NOT about Toll Brothers — their developments are lovely for the most part, but if they absorb all vacant land (let’s not forget about what is proposed at Handels right now), a second $100,000,000 high school will not be far behind. THis is not short-sighted on the part of the board — though I might have asked Mr. Doyle annually what his plans were — but bravery does not always get its reward in the townships of T&E. And retroactive analysis only gets us back to Paoli and Strafford. The district did retain the Berwyn property. We do have small lots in Chesterbrook. But folks — the NO VACANCY signs should be up. If you want to be indignant, it must be in support of the Nursery ignoring a public pledge. No — it was not binding legally, but morally, it was a major step for us all.

    1. You said to his daughter:

      “If this is about the acreage, we have acreage in Chesterbrook we can help you relocate the nursery. If this is about the green earth of Tara, you must know that you are on the only adjacent land to the only high school in a commuity of 50,000 people. We will always want the land.”

      Clearly, your arrogant, rude insensitive, comment to his daughter went over BIG, because as you say above:

      “”””“At the next facilities meeting, Mr. Doyle and his attorneys attended and at that time””””

      Awareness is key. Why do we continue to elect unaware, arrogant, Directors to the School Board who continue to offend citizens without the slightest understanding of how to treat people, especially people you’re trying to negotiate with.

      You really said to the daughter:

      “””””My comment to his daughter aftr the hearing “If this is about the acreage, we have acreage in Chesterbrook we can help you relocate the nursery.”””””””

      The fact that you proudly reveal this in public says a lot.

      No wonder the Doyle’s are hostile towards the District.

  11. ahhh hold on here – am I the only one who remembers the school district talking about buying this property years ago and the residents SCREAMING bloody murder in opposition to it – how it was TERRIBLE that the school district would try to buy this nursery and take the wonderful business away from the owners. NOW you want the SD to buy it because – surprise surprise – the owners want to sell the land for big bucks to a developer.

  12. You are the reason this district struggles to
    Function in public. Your conclusion is what drives the secrecy. I did NOT offend his daughter and if you were part
    Of the history, not just a bystander, you would know that. The nursery had a very complex past—in fact the McDonnell side wanted the sale then because of an estate issue…but why explain that. This was a process over a year in duration and worked for both sides. The current discussion is because the Doyle’s are selling the land. As for your conclusions, you have suggested we were “negotiating” with the Doyle’s. Wrong. We were avoiding a conflict by letting it rest. His daughter was as much in the dark on her fathers motives. The fact that we agreed on a future course of action (which they have clearly ignored) was because we understood the underlying concerns—the land was important.

  13. Thank you Local Res. “Citizen” just wants to be sure to criticize without any knowledge. The community supported the Nursery then because they framed the discussion as an eminent
    Domain grab. That was ALL perception as the effort was to negotiate a purchase. We were never able to negotiate because the Owner framed it as the District being the bad guy. The land was NOT for sale and unless the township insisted, we
    did not need the land. When the township approved the project without additional acreage, we were only too glad to walk away. The comment to his daughter was conciliatory, not dominant, and was made in recognition of her interest in the family legacy. It is presumably why they attended the Facilities meeting and shook hands to work with us should they ever decide it was time to sell.

  14. Wow, a lot of back and forth here.

    Sounds like most like the idea of the District buying the property, and perhaps it makes sense as adjacent space is precious and otherwise non-existent. But I gotta ask – what will the District do with the land? I can’t see them just making it into a parking lot, and if they’re unwilling to change their current expansion plans, then isn’t this really going to become an issue in the future? I see no way they make the space into ball fields (although baseball/softball would need it).

    I think we may miss a golden opportunity. Throw out the current plans and really expand the school for the next 50 years. I understand there are contracts and other legal issues to deal with currently, but I fear in a few years we have a small expansion which looks out to a grassy field with some unkept trees. The Board can really show some leadership.

    ***And by the way – think the Business Manager is glad this issue has cropped up? His $1.2 million mistake just got further in our rear view mirrors.

  15. Why doesn’t anyone question the millions spent to cover the lawsuits and payouts caused by the CHS leadership? They all seem to get swept away. That should be addressed before any school expansion is even considered.

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