The Board of Supervisors held the 2nd in a series of special meetings to discuss future plans for the Brightside Farm. The meeting was held at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154. Hugh D. Willig, Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, Kevin R. Kuhn, Ed Theurkauf, Linda M. Csete, Township Administrator and those on the attached list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 7:35 P.M.
Mr. Theurkauf began with a review of the restrictions on use imposed by the County Grant funds to be received and by the Bond Issue which originally financed the purchase of the property. The general guidelines are that any use, including a continuing use as a farm, must be structured as a non-profit operation. Real creativity would be needed for the farm to continue a farm use, but it could be accomplished as a partnership with an agricultural educational institution such as Penn State. Clubs can function, although those utilizing any of the existing facilities are acceptable under the bond issue, but not the county grant. Any general parks and recreation use is permitted without restrictions.
Mr. Theurkauf said the Brightside farm is in proximity to the Horseshoe Trail, which leads from Valley Forge Park to the Appalachian Trail and therefore has great local and regional significance. There is a link to the Horseshoe Trail south of the Farm. More horse trails in the vicinity lead to Pigeon Run. There are other existing trail links off site but near the farm including links at Charlestown Oaks, Aston Woods, and leading to the Great Valley Middle and High School property. Charlestown Oaks will have 252 townhouses units with minimum recreation area in their backyards, but containing a large trail system. Deerfield is a proposed subdivision across from the farm that is employing the open space option for development. It will provide for a major swath of open space along Yellow Springs Road to preserve the viewshed and will save on of the Township’s most valuable visual resources.
More specifically, Mr. Theurkauf described the site as a typical farm, with a farmhouse and cluster of buildings that include a stone bank and two other barns. He displayed an Area Context drawing and a Site Analysis Drawing, indicating that the site includes flood hazard and wetlands areas that would constrain the uses there. Historically, these areas were used for pastures. The rest of the farm has reasonable agricultural soil suitable for gardening or park uses. Playing fields would require a much flatter terrain. Most of the property is in the slope range of 8-10%, and with earthwork, a spectator area could be built into a slope. The woodland areas are not extensive and the growth is 2nd growth woodland and hedgerows. The high ground water area is subject to seasonal saturation and will constrain potential uses.
Mr. Theurkauf displayed Concept Plan #1, which features the farm building compound, cropland, heritage gardens, meadows, a CSA and an equestrian facility. The Heritage Garden would form a historic backdrop to the Wisner-Rapp House through the employment of historically appropriate landscaping. The Rapp House could be restored and continue to be used as the Historical Society office, with records maintenance and meeting accommodations. This plan would allow for community gardens, a picnic and camping grove with some parking facilities.
Concept Plan #2 featured a community park including playgrounds, fitness area, picnic area, a smaller equestrian facility, pasture, CSA, meadow and cropland. It has more of an active component to serve the needs of the residents of Charlestown Oaks and Deerfield.
Mrs. Ewald asked how the site will be accessed, and Mr. Theurkauf indicated orange arrows on the concept plans that depict vehicular access. Mrs. Ewald suggested that parking be addressed in the beginning rather than after specific uses are decided. Bob Jones said the uses will dictate where the parking goes. She said she liked the idea of Heritage Gardens, which could be maintained by area horticulturalists and amateur garden enthusiasts who would adopt pods of the garden. Rosemary Philips said the garden is a good idea, but requires a lot of maintenance and time. She reminded the Board that there is no water service at the Rapp House. If it is going to continue to serve the Historical Society, water and septic are needed. Mrs. Ewald said the Brightside Farm Committee had a suggestion to install a windmill to bring in the water.
Mr. Jones asked if there is an idea of the maintenance cost on the various uses. He said he liked the idea of the type of use that would encourage more open space use in the Township, for example, equestrian use that brings in people who want to own larger properties. Mr. Theurkauf noted that the County Grant allows for a group sponsoring an equestrian facility. Mrs. Ewald cited the Northwest Equestrian Facility in Philadelphia, which is a public park run by the City. She said she, Mr. Hogan and Alix Coleman visited the site and photos are available.
Sue Staas said her concern continues to be the cost of long-term maintenance and operating expenses and the possibility of continuing significant outlays. She recalled that Bill Gladden from the County Parks & Rec Department said there are ways to make a property carry itself. She’d like to see the property open to the public and carry its own costs to the extent possible. Mr. Willig said the Township will have to run the programming unless it is willing to forgo the county grant. Mr. Kuhn said the people present seemed unwilling to have a higher intensity use in order to get the grant. He said, for example, that a lower intensity use, such as having an individual grow and sell off hay would be unacceptable under the grant.
Debbie Kuhn asked if Mr. Theurkauf could review the grant restrictions again for those who arrived late. Mr. Theurkauf provided a summary of his opening comments, stating that the township cannot make a profit from the farm under either the grant or bond issue restrictions. He suggested an educational partnership such as an agricultural-farming internship with rotating student managers. Mrs. Ewald suggested a model farm operation, like Springton Manor or a 4H group that can operate through Penn State. Mrs. Staas said the bond issue allows for programs as long as they are 1 year contracts and not long term operations, and that the County was amenable to many such programs. Mr. Gladden offered to review program suggestions and work with the Township on the possibilities. Ben Bingham said that although the farm is too small for a viable dairy, a self-sustaining operation could be developed.
Mr. Kuhn asked for Mr. Theurkauf’s opinion as a professional land planner with a farm background on what would be an ideal design. Mr. Theurkauf said he thought the site functioned very well as a farm. Bob Elmer suggested maintaining an agricultural farm but diversifying it to meet the county’s requirements with picnic groves, trails, a heritage garden, and buildings for public events. He recommended logging proposals with a form and creating a mission statement for the Farm. He suggested a questionnaire for the public. Mr. Theurkauf said the visioning meetings are intended as the public forum and it is hoped the uses can be narrowed down beginning this evening. Consider uses with the parameters of their being active or passive.
Mr. Kuhn said his vision is to leave it as much a farm as possible. Heritage Gardens would be great except for the deer problem. He’d like it to look like it did three years ago when it was operating as a farm. Mr. Bingham said building stone walls, with materials available on site, could handle the deer problem. Mrs. Kuhn added that most public gardens today are fenced for the same reason. Unobtrusive mesh fencing could also be used, and it’s inexpensive.
Jean Lacy said she likes the idea of it remaining a farm and wants the view to be preserved along with the country feeling. Russ Hanscom agreed that he’d like it to stay as it is. Mrs. Staas said the uses should remain passive, with the wetlands intact. She said the Township already has active recreation at Charlestown Park and it’s not needed here.
Vincent Kling said the land should be used at nature’s direction and not man’s. Remaking the land for our own purposes creates strong impacts, long term consequences and higher expense. Instead, designing the use to fit the land as it is will assure that those uses provide a long term service to humanity. He added that offsite impacts should be as much of a concern as onsite uses. He noted that people will be driving to this park, not walking to it, and is concerned with unsightly parking lots. As a property in the heartland of the township, parking should be minimized. The natural aesthetics of the site are worth preserving.
Sue Staas suggested easing the property to allow for trails, viewshed preservation, and agricultural uses, and then selling. Mrs. Kuhn added, or to sell part. Mrs. Ewald said this action would break a sacred trust between the Board and the residents. She took issue with the suggestion. Mrs. Staas said tonight’s meeting is a visioning session and everyone was invited to put ideas on the table. She thinks it should be considered. The property would appear as it does now but would be owned privately, subject to the easement restrictions. Mrs. Kuhn said this is how the French & Pickering Creeks Trust operates. The easement is donated and the sale doesn’t turn a profit. The proceeds would be used for procuring more open space elsewhere. Mrs. Ewald said the public would never trust the Board again if it took such an action, which she called morally bankrupt. Rosemary Philips said when the Township bought the land, the intention was to stave off developers, and she believes most residents were happy to use the Township money this way. However, it doesn’t preclude looking at options, including easements and selling. She thinks there is merit in the suggestion. With appropriate easement language, the property could be preserved as most of the township now wants, with passive recreation, trails and public access. Mr. Willig noted that the Agreement of Sale with the School District is that if the Township sells the land within 10 years, the School District gets a prorated portion of any profit.
Mr. Connolly said he is committed to sharing and listening to all comments, and yielding the floor while others speak. He said this process should be about the ideas and not about people. He said the demographics in the Township show the population is getting older, and there are not as many children in the community. He suggests not letting the funding restrictions dictate what the Township does. Mr. Theurkauf will work to fit the uses in with the restrictive strictures. He said his vision is that the land should remain the same, but allowing the community a place to gather. Centers for various uses can be developed around the existing facilities, as this tract has good buildings available. He said a CSA, Nature Center, Educational Center, and Equestrian use could be considered. By bringing in chartered non-profit organizations, the Township would be relieved of management responsibilities. There are funding possibilities with this type of partnership as well. He cites the PMYC and PASC at Charlestown Park, which maintains over half the park. He estimates the Township costs for maintenance of Charlestown Park is less than $10,000 per year. He sees possibilities of an art studio, partnering with the Nature Center, a residential use for the Rapp House and a water retention design to serve as an ice skating rink in winter. He suggests that parking be arranged along the existing entrance roads, which would decentralize it. He noted that large market for CSA’s, with shares sold out at the Fisher Farm already.
Mr. Jones said he’d like to see numbers on what was spent so far, what the Township wants to do, and long term maintenance costs. He asked for a confirmation on whether an equestrian use is acceptable under the bond issue.
Fran Rodgers said she’d like to see a time table developed and prioritization of the proposed uses. Mr. Willig added that this would be similar to the Master Plan done for Charlestown Park. Mrs. Staas asked if it’s possible to sketch out the proposed uses and see how the fit is, include a rough timeline, and get funding questions answered, before the next visioning session. Mr. Theurkauf said his Concept Plan #1 depicts a strong conservation ethic, and Plan #2 combines conservation and a community agenda.
Proposed uses were listed on the blackboard with indications of whether they are permitted under the two sets of restrictions. Those present were asked for a show of hands on each use, with the following results. A show of hands of those opposed was not requested in every instance. Fifteen people participated in the voting. Mr. Theurkauf and the administrative staff members present did not vote.
|#||Proposed Use||Allowed under County Grant Restrictions?||Allowed under Bond Issue Restrictions?||Number in Favor of the Proposed Use|
|1||Community Garden Plots||Maybe – if fees are nominal||Yes||13 (1 opposed)|
|2||Public Greens (Civic Space)||Yes||Yes||13 (1 opposed)|
|3||Environmental Programs||Yes||Yes||13 (1 opposed)|
|4||Trails||Yes||Yes||15 (0 opposed)|
|5a||Limited Equestrian Uses||Maybe||Maybe – must demonstrate use to general public and fees minimal||15 (0 opposed)|
|5b||Expanded Equestrian Use||No||Maybe – must demonstrate use to general public and fees minimal||0|
|6||Community Supported Agriculture||No||Yes – with an annual contract||10 (2 opposed)|
|7||Township Offices||No||Yes||6 (5 opposed)|
|8||Heritage Gardens||Yes||Yes||12 (1 opposed)|
|9||Active Recreation & Play Areas||Yes||Yes||0|
|10||Summer Camp Programs||Yes||Yes||9 (3 opposed)|
|11||Military Vehicle Museum & Office||No||Yes||0|
|12||Antique Auto Association||No||Yes||0|
|13||Community Hall||No||Yes||13 (1 undecided)|
|14||Hostel||No||Yes||12 (0 opposed)|
|15||Model or Working Farm||Maybe||Yes||13|
|16||Music, Theater & Arts Programs||Yes||Yes||14|
|17||Other Educational Programs||Yes||Yes||13|
|18||Ease property and sell||Not applicable||Not applicable||3 (11 opposed)|
Comments on the above listed uses were as follows.
Mr. Theurkauf will distill the information from this evening’s meeting and create a report that will be put on the website for public comment. The Brightside Farm Committee will be asked for its review and comments.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:30 P.M. The next business meeting will be held on June 17, 2002, 7:30 P.M. at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154. The next Brightside Farm meeting is scheduled for July 22nd.