Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell introduced a county resolution at today’s Sunshine public meeting committing $5 million in county open space funds to help ensure the Embreeville State School and Hospital complex in West Bradford Township is permanently preserved.
“Decades ago, Chester County was the first in the region to formally set aside funds for a rigorous open space preservation program, and we continue to see the benefits of that planning coming to fruition,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “Now we are pleased to propose a significant contribution that will help restore more than 200 acres of open space that West Bradford Township residents have said they value.”
The County’s proposed resolution follows a $22.5 million settlement passed last week by West Bradford Township’s Board of Supervisors. In addition to the 200 acres preserved as open space, the settlement provides for a real estate developer to cover the cost of an estimated $13 million to demolish 16 buildings on the old hospital site; remove asbestos, mold and possible soil contamination; and seed and regrade the soil. Municipal plans being considered for part of the open space include walking trails, improved ball fields and municipal services.
The real estate developer, Embreeville Redevelopment LP, will retain ownership of an additional 5-acre parcel and will develop up to 33 single family homes on the neighboring “SPCA Parcel.” Plans for the site have been litigated for several years with Embreeville Redevelopment LP, which purchased the Embreeville State Hospital site in 2013, and originally planned 1,100 residential units and more than 50,000 square feet of commercial space.
“West Bradford residents made their voices heard: They wanted to preserve open space,” said County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “Chester County has preserved more land than the size of the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh combined, and we will continue our preservation efforts at this site – one that has been plagued by dilapidation, vandalism and environmental concerns for decades.”
In a joint statement, West Bradford Township supervisors Jack Hines, Laurie Abele and Bill Christman noted: “The Board of Supervisors wants to express its gratitude to the County Commissioners for their strong commitment to the preservation of open space in Chester County. By helping our Township reach its goal of preserving the former Embreeville State Hospital complex as open space, the Commissioners have ensured that the residents of West Bradford Township, and Chester County as a whole, will be able to enjoy this land for generations to come. This commitment from the County solidifies our partnership and greatly helps to reduce the burden to West Bradford residents.”
County Commissioner Terence Farrell added, “This proposed significant funding comes just six months after the County celebrated our 30th anniversary of preserving open space by showing the valuable economic, environmental and public health benefits that open space preservation has already provided.”
Highlights of a study of the County’s open space include:
- 28.8 percent of land, or 140,000 acres, in Chester County has been preserved as protected open space. This is an increase of 3,700 acres since 2017 that includes significant farmland preservation and state and municipal park expansions.
- Chester County has preserved more land than the size of Philadelphia.
- Homes in Chester County are valued at over $11,000 more when they are located within a half-mile of preserved open space, according to the study. In total, it is a gain of more than $1.65 billion for Chester County’s homeowners and economy.
- If protected lands were lost to development, Chester County would need to spend about $97 million a year to replicate vital services such as flood control and air and water pollution mitigation through costly alternative methods, according to the report.
- Thirty years ago, when Chester County’s remarkable growth was in its 1980s infancy but public concern began to grow over suburban sprawl, an Open Space and Environmental Task Force recommended a $50 million funding program for open space preservation. County voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum in November 1989, and funding has continued ever since.