With the unanimous vote of defeat by the supervisors, I assumed that AIS would look elsewhere for their playing fields. The acquisition of more land for playing fields has apparently been part of the school’s long-range plan. While AIS has explored other properties in the area, they have not proven sufficient for the school’s needs. We now understand that the girl’s school from Rosemont does not take ‘no’ lightly and has orchestrated a campaign to change the minds of Easttown’s supervisors and residents.
Taking a different approach in selling this project to the community, AIS has now developed a new proposal scheduled for presentation at a special meeting on Tuesday, June 28, 8 PM at Beaumont Elementary School. In the new proposal, AIS is offering to donate 50 acres (of 108 acres) to the township as open space. In addition, the new plan includes a reduction from the school’s original proposal by one playing field and two tennis courts and a reduction to the proposed paved parking spaces. Mounting a major PR campaign designed to promote the playing fields in Berwyn, the school has marketed the land development project to current AIS families, alumnae and friends through letters and a newly designed, “Hawkins Property Information Center” website.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines, the neighbors to the proposed playing fields are organizing their own campaign to fight back. In a show of solidarity, the Hawkins property neighbors have created their own website, Protect Easttown: Working to Keep Easttown Residential Saying NO to Zoning Changes. The neighbors who oppose the proposed playing fields want to clarify that the issue is not about AIS but rather the issue is about changing the zoning ordinances. A zoning change would permit AIS’s planned multi-sports complex in a residential district, forever altering the character and integrity of Easttown Township.
I have had several emails from Easttown residents in regards to the Hawkins property but none of the communication supports the proposed AIS plan. One individual who wrote to me explained that they purchased their home next to the Hawkins property because they were told the Hawkins farm property would not be developed; as it was protected under a conservation easement. Since purchasing their home, the proposed playing fields project has developed and these owners are now faced with the possibility of living next door to a sports complex rather than the quiet, peaceful protected property that they thought would be their neighbor.
With the battle lines drawn for Tuesday’s special meeting, I decided to drive to Hawkins Farm today and see the location of the proposed playing fields. I admit that looking at the acres of bucolic fields and mature landscaping; it was hard to visualize soccer and softball fields, a turf field, tennis courts, running track, gatehouse with restrooms and a parking lot. As I stood in the shadows of Mrs. Hawkins historic stone house and barn, watching the ducks on the pond, I am challenged to believe that this proposed AIS plan would have met with her approval.
To the neighbors of the Hawkins Farm, you have my best wishes for Tuesday night.
Additional posts on Agnes Irwin School’s proposed playing fields in Easttown Township: