If you want open space, BUY IT

There’s a ridiculous letter from Phil Heron making the rounds. Mr. Heron is the Editor of the Daily Times. He is echoing the woes of locals who protest development over open space. He talks about the wide open views in Kansas.

What the hell?

In Kansas all that open space is PRIVATELY OWNED and used to make profit. We don’t do much farming around here, the very close suburbs of a major metropolitan and World Heritage city. Our privately owned spaces will also be used to make profit, just like Kansas. Development is the only way that open space makes profit around here. If the townsfolk with their pitchforks and loud voices want some space to stay “open,” let them pool their gold pieces and buy it. Or be downright evil and abuse eminent domain by condemning the property, THEN buy it. Whatever. The owners of that land don’t have to be charitable just because you want them to be.

This crap is ridiculous. Here’s the article, making rounds on Facebook yesterday:



Letter From the Editor: Open-space dilemma hits home hard in Delco


Residents protesting the development of Beaver Valley let their sentiments be known at a recent meeting at Garnet Valley Middle School in Concord.Residents protesting the development of Beaver Valley let their sentiments be known at a recent meeting at Garnet Valley Middle School in Concord. DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Every time I hear another hue and cry about how we are losing open space, I think about I-70 in Kansas.

Have you ever driven across Kansas? I have, several times.

I will never look at our diminishing open space the same way again.

Let me ask you this: If we got into the car right now, how many states do you think we could get to in an hour or so? Three, maybe four?

Driving from one end of Kansas to the other is one day. When they say it’s flat, they are not joking. You can almost look out at the horizon and see where you are going to be tomorrow.

Almost 40 years later, one scene still stands out in my mind. I was headed back east on a blazing hot summer day, when I found myself mesmerized by a guy on a tractor.

Now I grew up in Oxford, a farm town where seeing a guy on a tractor was an everyday occurrence. But there was something different about this scene. I actually pulled over to the side of the road to take in the entire vista. I looked beyond the guy – now enveloped in a cloud of dust – in every direction. Out in front of him, behind him, even on the other side of the interstate. As far as the eye could see, there was not a single building anywhere in sight. I have no idea where this guy came from, but he was plowing up a storm. That’s Kansas. Or at least it was.

Of course, Kansas is a long way from Delaware County.

Around here, open space is a fairly rare commodity. We’re for the most part jammed in on top of each other. Don’t believe me? Have you tried to get anywhere in this county on a Friday night? I have. Every week it takes me almost as long to get from my office in beautiful downtown Primos to the Media Bypass in Springfield as it does to go from there home.

People around here take what little open space is left pretty seriously.

Don’t believe me? Ask the folks who a few years back rolled out an ambitious plan for the iconic former Franklin Mint site out on Baltimore Pike in Middletown. They envisioned building a new style of community – a mix of residential, retail and restaurants – all clustered along the Media Elwyn rail line along that open stretch of land.

Residents and neighbors didn’t see it that way. They mocked it as “The City,” and turned up the heat on Middletown commissioners to oppose the project. Today, despite several revisions of the plan, nothing has been built on that site.

A year or so later, a similar hue and cry went up when a plan was aired to develop part of what is known as the Beaver Valley tract in Concord. Anyone who has traveled that portion of Baltimore Pike or Route 202 knows what has happened to what was once the fairly bucolic portion western edge of Delaware County. It’s largely been blacktopped. The Beaver Valley is one of the last open, pristine tracts, spilling across the border into Delaware. A plan to build a huge residential development drew heated opposition from residents. Now there is word that a second development is being planned. Residents have not changed their mind. They organized themselves into a group called “Save the Valley” and are girding for battle.

Back in the middle part of the county, you’d be hard-pressed to find a busier stretch of highway than Sproul Road as it winds from Haverford, through Marple and Springfield, and then across Baltimore Pike and into Swarthmore.

So you’re probably not going to be shocked that a proposal to develop what used to be the home of Don Guanella School into another sprawling mix of residential and retail is not sitting especially well with residents.

The argument sounds familiar – it is one of the last open tracts in the central part of the county.

I certainly understand residents’ concerns.

I also am somewhat sympathetic to developers’ plight. They have made considerable investments and now find themselves vilified for their plans to cut down trees and build on what is some of the last open space in Delaware County.

I wonder what that guy on that tractor in Kansas would make of this great open space debate here in Delaware County.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at 484-521-3147. E-mail him at editor@delcotimes.com. Make sure you check out his blog, The Heron’s Nest, every day at http://delcoheronsnest.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter, @philheron.