Editorial: Saving a parcel of our definition04/12/2022 03:38PM ● By Richard Gaw
In the pages of our region’s history – both in our past and in our present -- the property in Westtown Township known as Crebilly Farm has continued to figure prominently across centuries.
From his lookout on Sept. 11, 1777, Continental Army Gen. Adam Stephen saw Hessian troops marching along the 306-acre patch of land in Chester County that led to a huge defeat for the Continental Army and became the largest single-day battle of the Revolutionary War.
Bordered by Routes 202 and 926, the rolling hills of Crebilly Farm have served as an iconic centerpiece that some believe best accentuates the sweeping and natural beauty of Chester County and also acknowledges its past. For several years, grassroots community groups like Friends of Crebilly Farm and Neighbors for Crebilly have fought plans by Toll Brothers and other eager developers. Most recently, Natural Lands, the region’s oldest and largest land preservation nonprofit, has been engaged by Westtown Township and the farm’s owners to chart a conservation option for the revered property.
The fight waged in Westtown Township has become a familiar refrain throughout Chester County, and one that has too often awarded several lopsided victories to real estate developers who have slowly transformed the county’s shrinking natural landscape into a scorched-earth hodgepodge of development.
Over the past week, however, two victories of another kind aspired to reverse that trend. On April 4, the Westtown Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to enter into an agreement of sale for Crebilly Farm in order to purchase 208 acres of the property.
A second agreement, expected to be finalized soon, will enable Natural Lands to purchase up to four conservation easements on approximately 104 acres of the property. These acres, which contain most of the property’s buildings and residences, will remain on the market to be purchased by private buyers, who would be subject to the terms of the conservation easements.
In order to finalize the purchase, however, Natural Lands and Westtown Township must secure approximately $25.5 million in grant funding for the easements and the sale of the remaining 208 acres. As part of a process that is expected to last from 18 months to two years, township residents will need to go to the polls in November and vote in favor of a referendum for funding and agree to a tax increase to fund the purchase. In addition, federal, state, and county grants will need to be secured to create accessible open space and privately owned preserved land.
While the tasks that lay ahead of the Westtown Township supervisors, Natural Lands and the township’s residents appear insurmountable, saving a parcel of our definition is worth fighting for.
To learn more about Natural Lands’ plans for Crebilly Farm, visit www.natlands.org/crebillyfarm.