Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Agnes Irwin

Brandywine Conservancy Easement on Hawkins Property Cannot be ‘Undone’

I continue to receive interesting information on the Agnes Irwin’s proposed land development plan in of playing fields on the Hawkins property in Berwyn. As I have previously explained, Berwyn neighbors to the Hawkins property have received anonymous emails and letters from supporters of Irwin’s proposed playing fields. Some of the communication makes claims of other possible buyers, including the Tredyffrin Easttown School District. Much discussion has circled around the Brandywine Conservancy easement and the suggestion by some that the conservancy easement could be broken to allow for other usage of the land.

This may help to set the record straight. I have received a copy of a letter dated March 22, 2010 from Sherri Evans-Stanton, Director of Brandywine Conservancy to the Board of Supervisors, Easttown Township. In reading the letter, there should be no misunderstanding on the issue of the easement protection of the Hawkins property – see excerpt below:

A conservation easement is a restrictive covenant voluntarily placed on land which allows a legally qualified conservation organization (in this case, the Brandywine Conservancy) to enforce it. Conservation easements usually run with the land in perpetuity, as does the Hawkins easement. For many years, conservation easements have been recognized and enforced by the Pennsylvania courts as valid property restrictions, and the Pennsylvania legislature codified these legal principles in 2001 in the Pennsylvania Conservation and Preservation Easements Act (Act 29 of 2001).

The Brandywine Conservancy has over forty years of experience upholding and defending the conservation easements it holds and will continue to do so. It is simply not true (as we have been hearing) that the easement can simply be ignored or “undone” and a housing development, large or small, built on the property.

On the subject of Tredyffrin Easttown School District’s interest in the Hawkins property, I received some new information. I was told that this information is widely known; however it was news to me. Apparently the T/E School Board passed on buying the Hawkins property because they did not want to challenge the open space easements. (In order to build a school would have required the School Board to challenge the conservancy easement). I had previously suggested that the current school budget situation would not have been financially possible at this time. Apparently I stand corrected. I have been told that the School Board could afford to purchase the Hawkins property as the District has a AAA bond rating, but it was determined that the land was not suitable for a school (due to the restrictions associated with the property).

If the T/E School District did not think that T/E could change the easements on the Hawkins property, . . . how is that Agnes Irwin School thinks it has any better chance? Also, remember that our School Board has the ability to condemn property for government need whereas Agnes Irwin’s does not enjoy that same ability.

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