When Concord residents and those from neighboring communities first learned in 2012 about the possible development of 240 acres of Beaver Valley, they hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.
The best has happened.
The tract once considered for a 160-home subdivision has been deeded to The Conservation Fund to be preserved as open space. The organization led an effort among Brandywine Conservancy, Beaver Valley Preservation Alliance, Beaver Valley Conservancy, Mt. Cuba Center, Save the Valley, the township, Delaware County Council and individuals who love the land to raise the $8 million to “close the gap.” The total purchase price has not been disclosed.
“We are delighted that the 270 acres in Beaver Valley (including the adjacent Penns Wood Winery), containing such rich historic, ecological and recreational resources which we fought so hard to protect for the past 4½ years, will be conserved as a result of the efforts of the conservation groups and over 2,000 members of the community, all of whom contributed generously with their time and money to achieve this wonderful result,” said Diana McCarty, who co-founded Beaver Valley Conservancy with her husband, Jack Michel.
That “delight” follows seemingly-endless Delaware County Planning Department and township Planning Commission and supervisor (now Council) meetings, many of which were attended by more than 100 sign-carrying individuals.
The parcel, bordered by Route 202, Smithbridge Road, Chadds Ford Township and the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line, and straddled by its namesake road, was always the topic, whether or not it was on the agenda.
The land was among the 2,000 acres owned by Wilmington-based Woodlawn Trustees. The initial plan, showing 330 single, twin and carriage houses in a traditional neighborhood, 120 active adult residences and 20,000 square feet of retail/commercial space, was ultimately revised to 160 homes, each on half-acre lots. Vineyard Commons, the last iteration presented by Eastern States Development Co. and McKee-Concord Homes, received preliminary land development/subdivision approval from the supervisors last year.
The decision resulted in an appeal filed on behalf of Michel, McCarthy and Eileen Mutschler, all of whom own property on Beaver Valley Road. It was heard in the fall by Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Green, who remanded the decision to the supervisors.
As a result, an agreement was reached among Woodlawn, Eastern States, McKee and the Fund to preserve the land as open space. The deed was recorded May 1 in Delaware County Courthouse, said Township Solicitor Hugh Donaghue at the May Council meeting.
The land shares a common boundary with the approximately 1,100 acre First State National Historical Park. The intent is for the tract to be conveyed to the National Park Service for its operation, use, management and enhancement, he added.
Organizations such as Save Marple Greenspace, the grassroots effort aimed at stopping the rezoning and development of the former Don Guanella site on Sproul Road, is encouraged by the action.
“Beaver Valley’s preservation shows what’s possible for open space in Marple and in our county,” the group posted on its Facebook page. “Let’s keep this going. Let’s save more open space in Delaware County.”