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eligibility to be listed as a “gentleman’s farm,” Wise had to concede that it would be lost. And despite confessing that every structure on the site was worthy of preservation, Wise would not go so far as to say that each resource should be preserved.
Toll's Sewage Problem
Written by Ken Hemphill
A Seventh Heaven
The fight to save an invaluable piece of the Brandywine Battlefield continued on April 19th, the day the Revolutionary War began in 1775. While visitors toured the new Museum of the American Revolution which opened earlier that day in Philadelphia, the latest act of Toll Marches on Westtown played out on the Westtown School’s main auditorium stage with the set of The Insect Play arranged behind the curtain. Published in 1921, The Insect Play puts human nature under a microscope by anthropomorphizing insects and assigning various behavior stereotypes to an assortment of creepy crawlers, among which are bellicose ants, toiling crickets, vain butterflies, and greedy beetles. If authors Karel and Josef Čapek had been witnesses to recent events in Westtown, they would surely have included “marauding locusts” in their morality play to stand in for corporate greed.
News from your Neighbors
May 2, 2017
Toll Doesn't Want You to Know
Consider also how sacrilegious it would be – if not treasonous – for a corporation like Toll Brothers to propose building houses on the hallowed ground of Gettysburg or Pearl Harbor. There would be national outrage at the prospect and their stock price would plummet. How is Crebilly any less sacred? How is it any less historically important? The Brandywine Battlefield is one of the places where America was forged and Crebilly is part of where that battle took place. It’s time to make this a national news story and for some American outrage to be directed at Toll Brothers for daring to desecrate a critical part of our history. Contact the national news outlets below (as well as others not listed) you and ask them to cover this story. The more people who do this, the more likely the story will be picked up.
What if Toll proposed building on the Gettysburg Battlefield?
Under the skillful questioning of Gill, Wise admitted that the historic serpentine Westtown Inn should be moved away from 202, agreed that having houses encroach on historic resources would create “adverse impacts on those resources,” and said that if the many historic structures at Crebilly could be adaptively reused, it would be great, “but I have not been retained to suggest adaptive reuse.” Like Toll’s assurances that they would meet the minimum environmental standards set forth by our industry-captured PA Department of Environmental Protection,** Toll would preserve as little history as possible.
Toll’s defense of their proposed destruction of various historic resources at Crebilly Farm opened the second half of the meeting.* Robert Wise, a “preservation planning specialist” who left the Brandywine Conservancy and who now works for Toll, gave the kind of presentation you would expect from a corporate developer, reassuring the audience that everything would be okay. But all was not okay with Wise as Michael Gill – cross examining for the planning commission – directed a withering barrage of potent questions at Wise who was forced to make many inconvenient admissions, one of the more embarrassing of which was that he was only hired to make an “inventory” of the historic resources, not to make recommenations how and what to preserve among them. When asked what would happen to Crebilly’s
News from your Neighbors
*The first half of the meeting concerned the proposed onsite wastewater treatment. For more on that subject, see the past article below. Curiously, the wastewater engineer admitted that he favored connecting to the existing sewer lines across Route 202. If you recall, Toll offered to do that... in exchange for 80 or so more houses. But this was part of a conditional use hearing for 317 houses. Did Toll's consultant mispeak and commit Toll to assuming that enormous expense without any "bonus density"?
Possible talking points:
• Is the Brandywine Battlefield any less important than Pearl Harbor,
Gettysburg, or any other hallowed ground?
• Should a corporation be allowed to profit from developing an
important American battlefield? Share this article link w/ them...
• Toll Brothers tried to develop land inside Valley Forge National
Historical Park but were hugely oppposed by preservation
groups. What they're proposing to do at Crebilly is worse. There
was no fighting at Valley Forge.
• To the news outlet: please help us generate national outrage at
Toll's disregard for our history...
• How would veterans feel if they knew this is how an American
corporation treated hallowed ground on which other veterans
sacrificed their lives?
The Revolutionary War is not Crebilly Farm's only connection to world-changing events
Wise said that he didn’t think the line of Hessians marching across Crebilly should be looked at as a “definitive line.” Mike Gill seized on that saying, “thank you for saying that. We can’t say for sure whether the battle was on or off the site…” Gill pressed on: “You were at the Brandwine Conservancy from 1993 to 1997. Was the Brandywine Battlefield under development pressure?” Wise responded that it was. Gill pointed out that just because Crebilly had not been identified by the Brandywine Conservancy in the 90s as being in need of protection as part of the Battlefield “[should] not preclude its actual importance” and whether it should not have been included in preservation planning. Gill ventured, “does [Crebilly] not deserve more than a marker or a [road] pull off to further our modern understanding of the battle? In light of these uncertainties, is it not prudent to shift development out of an area where such an important action took place”? Wise had to concede that he didn’t know why Toll planned it this way.
At the start of his presentation, Wise mentioned that German POWs built a barn on Crebilly Farm during World War 2, an interesting admission by Wise since it adds another component to the historic value of Crebilly and connecting it again to German history as well. After all, it was the German “Hessian Jägers” who skirmished with the Continentals on the land now called Crebilly Farm, an event which has imbued it with the hallowedness Toll would profitably ignore.
By the end of World War Two, more than 400,000 captured German soldiers had been sent to the United States. Hundreds of thousands of those were allowed to work for pay outside their POW camps under little supervision or security. Locally, the acute labor shortage on Chester County farms towards the end of the war was partly remedied by the paid work of hundreds of German prisoners bused out daily from Philadelphia to work on farms at a rate of 80 cents per day, the same wage U.S. servicemen received (per the Geneva Convention). As Bob Wise noted, one crew of German POWs worked for the Robinson family at Crebilly for a spell, building one of the barns that still stands there today. Many German POWs marvelled at their good treatment and confessed that they lived more comfortably in American POW camps than they did in pre-war “cold water flats” back in Germany. You would be hardpressed to find POWs in any other country who were treated so well. Thousands of these men even came back to visit the people they worked for during the war, further testament to the American values and decency which underlay their POW experience. It was the outcome of the Revolutionary War that allowed those values to flourish.
**The PA DEP – charged with protecting our environment – is actually suing Grant Township and Highland Township to force them to accept a fracking wastewater injection well. Story here
Toll Shoots B Movie
ADDENDUM (by Kenny Lawson): In addition to losing the actual ground of the battle, this development would eliminate key viewsheds, making it impossible for future generations to properly understand what happened here. You simply can't destroy a key 330 acre section of the battlefield and not lose the ability to understand, by observation of the fields, what occurred.
If we value freedom and liberty, not to mention the modern idea of "human rights" as defined in the Declaration of Independence, then this Battlefield must be preserved in its entirety. Look at it this way, the patriots were men and women of various backgrounds and race (the Continental Army was the last integrated army until Korea) and most of them did not read or write. There was no photography and most couldn't afford to have their portrait painted. They fought to create liberty and freedom for future generations, us. The only thing they asked is that they be remembered in the places where their ultimate sacrifice was made. They had no other way of leaving anything behind.
The Robinson's know they own a battlefield, which they chose to buy and profit from. Nobody forced them to buy it. So, when you buy a battlefield you become the caretaker of it and responsible to the people who died there to give you your rights of ownership. If you choose to dishonor those Patriots, it is the right and sacred duty of the community to step in and do what you won't. You're bound to hear the mantra of "property rights" chanted in the Robinson's defense: "they own it and can do whatever they want with their land!" When it comes to the common good and protecting our endangered history and cherished landscapes, the interests of land owners must be superceded by the public interest. The interests of communities also supercede those of developers. Thousands of communities all over the United States have done it and it should happen here. In the end, the Robinson's could have received a substantial sum for protecting the land and their community (while retaining ownership of it) but they chose to sell to Toll instead.
Neighbors for Crebilly's addition to the addendum:
Nothing is ever a done deal. It is not written in stone that Toll Brothers will destroy an important piece of our history. We plan to work relentlessly to put this Crebilly issue in the national consciousness and Toll's stockholders will not like how the national media will portray them. The facebook post for this article has reached 30,000 views and this page has received nearly 5,000 unique visits with each of those visitors representing a piece of pressure to help this story go national. But it doesn't have to be this way. As the current "equitable owners" of the land, Toll could decide to earn some good PR and negotiate with the county and township to discuss a conservation price which compensates them for their time, adds a little profit for their trouble, but which conserves the land. The money to buy Crebilly from Toll could come from a dozen different sources including the county government which leads our region in open space protection.
firstname.lastname@example.org (American Legion)
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