Letter to Members and Friends of the Conservancy

Dear Members and Friends of the Conservancy:

As those of you who have been our members since the first days of the Conservancy know, the preservation of as much of the Ardrossan farm as possible has been our highest priority.    The magnificent property, in addition to the mansion, contains over 300 acres of pristine fields and woods,including land along the Darby Creek adjacent to the Willows and Skunk Hollow Park.

In 2006, we supported and actively worked for passage of a Township-wide referendum that approved — by an 80% margin — the floating of a bond issue of as much as $20 million to purchase open space.   It was known at the time that the principle use of the funds would be to purchase as much of Ardrossan as possible.

We have continued to work toward that end in the intervening years, including working with the Scott family, the Township, preservation experts and other Conservancies in developing plans for the property.

A major step toward the accomplishment of that goal has now taken place.  The Board of Commissioners announced that they have received a commitment from the owners to sell over 71 acres of Ardrossan for approximately $11.6 million dollars, $9.6 million — LESS THAN HALF the authorized amount — to be paid from the bond issue. The balance will be paid by State and County grants and private fundraising. The Board of the Conservancy unanimously supports the BOC’s decision to accept this proposal.

The acquisition will achieve several environmental and ecological goals.  First, 44 acres of the land (the so-called “Wheeler” and “Quarry” tracts) are located along the West side of Darby-Paoli Road between the Willows and Saw Mill Park.   By incorporating these tracts into the land already owned by the Township, the Township will have a park of uninterrupted land running from the North end of the Willows almost to Goshen Road with trails and forested woodlands.   Second, by owning both sides of Darby Creek through that entire area, the Creek can be protected both from the standpoint of purity of the water but also against downstream flooding which affects our downstream citizens and those in downstream townships.  Third, the acquisition of the so-called “Rye Field”, consisting of more than 27 acres of rolling open space along Newtown and Darby-Paoli Roads, will protect one of the most precious views in the Township from development.  And fourth, the funding of this project will permit the Scott family to proceed with a development of only 67 homes when, by right, they could build almost three times that many on the Ardrossan land to maximize their financial benefit.   By limiting the development to 67 homes, wide swaths of the land in the development area itself will be left as open space under “density modification”, which allows the building of homes on less than the two acres instead of the two-acre minimum presently provided for as “of right” for this property.   For this reason, in addition to supporting the Township’s purchase of the 70-plus acres, we are supporting the Scott family’s Petition for Conditional Use approval to use density modification in developing other portions of the property.

As wonderful as these developments are for those of us committed to the preservation and protection of the environment, the completion of this transaction will be vigorously opposed by some in the Township.    Some — especially the neighbors of Ardrossan — are vigorously opposing the development largely on the ground that they do not want a development within view of their homes;  they propose a different development that would move the homes to the south and west of the property.  They have not, to date, however, offered an alternative plan that would provide the same level of environmental and ecological protection as the present plan or provide the owners with a comparable level of compensation.

A somewhat broader group opposes the deal in its entirety, arguing that the property is undevelopable due to steep slopes and wetlands, and that the Township should spend no money at all for the land but instead insist that it be given to the Township free in exchange for development approval.  In fact, large portions of the property to be acquired are developable; and, apart from the question whether that kind of a deal would be legal (and some believe it is not), the fact is that the Scotts have made it clear that the 67-home development will not go through at all — and they will exercise their right to develop the land more intensely — if they are not given some recompense for their giving up that right.  In fact, as “of right”, they have the right to build 167 homes on that property.

There have been and will be letters to the editor, blogs, and petitions opposing the completion of this project.    We will be involved in supporting it; we hope that our members will support us in this effort and will be as vocal in supporting the acquisition as those opposed will be.

We urge our members and all others who support the preservation of open space to turn out at the Board of Commissioners meeting on November 11 — when an ordinance to approve the purchase will be introduced — and at any subsequent meetings to support the BOC’s decision.

We encourage you to visit Radnor Township’s website at www.radnor.com as well as our website at www.radnorconservancy.org to learn more. Our website includes a link to view the Township’s executive summary plus a third-party report outlining the economic benefits of preserving open space near Ardrossan.

Our best regards,

David C. Toomey, President for The Radnor Conservancy Board