Dems push for saving Beaver Valley property

CONCORD — Democratic candidates for the township board of supervisors and Delaware County Council gathered with environmental activists Sunday afternoon to push for the preservation of Beaver Valley as open space.

The 325-acre tract bordered by Route 202 and Smithbridge Road is currently owned by Woodlawn Trust, but the trustees are looking to sell the parcel for a mixed-use development. Several developers have submitted plans for the area, which include zoning changes to allow for various residential and commercial configurations, all of which have been tabled for now.

But local activist and Save the Valley member Ken Hemphill said Sunday that it is imperative the space be maintained as truly open — without asphalt walkways or chain-link fences telling residents to keep out.

“The developers, they’re not even happy with what they’re allowed to build on the land, which is 162 houses and 188 apartments and some small commercial space,” he said. “They want to build 550 houses and 220,000 square feet (of commercial space).”

While ostensibly aimed at maintaining awareness about Beaver Valley, Sunday’s event also offered an opportunity for county council candidates Bill Clinton and Patricia Worrell to join Concord supervisor candidates Dan Levin and Dan Foster in presenting a unified front for open space preservation. 

Levin and Foster said they are running in the predominantly Republican township because they don’t see any real restraint in the development already taking place and hope to curtail any future homes springing up. Foster said Concord had experienced an influx of more than 7,000 new residents over the past decade, which is straining the Garnet Valley School District.

Worrell, who chairs Chester’s zoning board, said residents benefit deeply from open space — not the least of which comes from higher property values.

“The average home might expect to see a $10,000 benefit from its proximity to ample open space, and this in turn produces higher tax revenues for our county, our municipalities and our schools,” she said.

Clinton, a founding member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project, added that open spaces allow for low-cost recreation, provide for 7,000 jobs and generate nearly $300 million in annual revenue in the southeastern part of the state.

He advocated working first on crumbling infrastructure in the eastern part of the county before expanding new services in undeveloped space in the west, and said he would lend equal weight to open space advocates and commercial developers if elected to county council.

Pete Peterson, spokesman for incumbent Republican County Council candidates Mario Civera and David White, noted council is already working on a three-part open space plan that includes a greenway in the western part of the county.

Civera also said Monday that council attempted to save 35 acres of green space around the Little Flower Manor site in Darby, but has been hampered by a local plan to install a BJ’s wholesaler at the site. 

He added that council already spends “every dime” it can to preserve and maintain infrastructure in the eastern part of the county, and that it would work with Concord to provide whatever funding is available to preserve Beaver Valley. 

“Whatever we can do, whatever moneys we can put aside, (we will),” he said. “The open space is, I think, it’s a priority. ... Right now, we want to work with Concord Township with that and keep that as open space.”

Incumbent Republican Concord Supervisor Dominic Cappelli has estimated that the township could buy the tract from Woodlawn for about $15 million to $20 million, but that would likely raise taxes by about 200 or 300 percent.

Fellow Republican incumbent Supervisor Libbi Salvucci, appointed to the board in 2012, said she is committed to keeping the area zoned for residential use, but would cooperate with federal or state governments interested in buying the property.

“The Democrats could purchase the property themselves if they had the money!” she said in an emailed response. “However, Concord Township alone should not be forced to burden the taxpayers with such a bill and should not raise taxes to do so.”

Hemphill is hoping local pressure can drop that sale price lower, however, and that some consortium of buyers or a well-heeled philanthropist can be persuaded to step in.