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December 30, 2017

Township denies Toll Brothers' massive development proposal near Brandywine Battlefield

Horsham-based developer's plan calls for 317 homes on Chester County land connected to Revolutionary War battle

Development Preservation
Crebilly Farm Tom Maher/For PhillyVoice

This photo posted to the Neighbors for Crebilly Farm Facebook page shows the farm from a distance. Opponents to a plan by developer Toll Brothers to build homes on the farm site say Hessian soldiers marched across the farmstead in 1777 before fighting – the first skirmishes of the Battle of the Brandywine – broke out there.

A Chester County township voted down a builder's proposal on Thursday night to build a large housing development on a piece of land some say played a role in a Revolutionary War battle.

Westtown Township supervisors unanimously denied Toll Brothers' application to build a 317-unit housing development on Crebilly Farm, a 322-acre parcel that sits just north of the main Brandywine Battlefield.

The plans call for a mix of single-family homes and townhouses. Toll, the Horsham-based developer seeking to realize another controversial proposal to build a residential tower in Philadelphia's Jewelers Row diamond district, had said it would keep about 60 percent of the land open if it were to build on the farm.

But the proposal drew strong opposition from those who wanted the land preserved, citing its ties to the Battle of the Brandywine. The battle's first skirmishes broke out on what is now Crebilly Farm on the morning of Sept. 11, 1777, they say.

A grassroots group that fought the proposal, Neighbors for Crebilly, lauded the decision in a statement on Friday.

"Kudos to the supervisors for standing up to Toll and protecting our history, our environment, and our quality of life," the group said.

For about a year, the application had been a matter of heated local debate in various board of supervisors and planning commission meetings. The three supervisors met in executive sessions on Dec. 5, Dec. 14, Dec. 18 and before Thursday's meeting before handing down its decision, the Daily Local News reported.

The board is expected to issue a written account of why it rejected the plan within 45 days of the vote.

The township's planning commission approved the application earlier this year, but it added 50 conditions that included moving a tavern away from Route 202, preserving all buildings on the property, keeping designated open space and building new roads.

Toll has not said whether it plans to appeal the decision.