Save Marple Greenspace

or traffic consequences because these were not the concerns of the day. Around the time this zoning was enacted, Delaware County was still incinerating its trash and sending toxic plumes across eastern Delco. Developers were allowed to drain “swamps” and build on them. Houses were permitted on creek banks, and many streams were simply buried or channelized (like Naylors Run, for example). Those anti-environmental decisions have come with a cost that we're bearing today. For example, taxpayer money was used to purchase and demolish several houses along Rolling Road in Springfield because they were frequently inundated by a flooding Darby Creek. 60 years ago, zoning allowed those houses to be built in a flood plain. In the end, we have inherited many environmentally weak zoning laws; consequently, the current by right zoning allowances for the Don Guanella forest are no longer appropriate or beneficial to residents.

March 25, 2016

The costs of these bad decisions were paid for later by future residents, as was the case when taxpayer money was used to purchase and demolish several houses in this Darby Creek floodplain along Rolling Road in Springfield.

Environmental constraints can severely limit what theby right ​allows

By Ken Hemphill

What the Sudhop and Ravenscliff denials mean for Don Guanella

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Given these realities, the Archdiocese could reconsider its options, release Bruce Goodman from his contract, refund his deposit, and sit down with interested parties to discuss a fair sale price to save this taxpayer subsidized forest. After all, it’s official Vatican policy now to protect our environment as our “common home.”

By Ken Hemphill

What you can do to help

Clear cutting 203 acres for 10 acres of fields?

So if the township is under no obligation to rezone the forest to accommodate Goodman’s Cardinal Crossing, we’re left with the “by right.” However, extending Mr. Mastronardo’s reasoning used to deny “Woodland Preserve," township officials now need to recognize that the “environmental constraints” existing on the Don Guanella site would significantly limit the scale of any by right institutional/residential development.

The institutional zoning on this site was put in place before the EPA or PA DEP were even created. Dating back more than 50 years, the zoning therefore fails to fully consider environmental, health, quality-of-life

not enough of its fair share of open space and parklands. Cardinal Crossing, “Woodland Preserve,” Ravenscliff 4.0, and others are being seen for what they are: developers trying to cash in on Marple at the expense of residents.

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We're living with the legacy of archaic zoning laws that allowed houses to be built in flood plains, streams to be buried, and wetlands drained for private profit.  Not surprisingly, developers resist all attempts to strengthen zoning codes.

The planning commission's heavy criticism of two highly inappropriate proposals has important implications

Calling further attention to the sometimes bizarre nature of zoning, it was noted by the board that the Ravenscliff “RB” zoning was put in place arbitrarily some years ago to satisfy another land dispute on the other side of the township.  Zoning districts, then, have not been delivered to humanity via some oracle but are frequently the product of someone's whim.

Air Quality Update: December 27

It's not a done deal: January 18th

Critically, this most recent decision by the planning commission indicates that Marple officials understand the importance of considering all potential harm of a development project, even the harm from what’s allowed by right. This has become the default zoning position of many townships whose updated zoning severely restricts development on steep slopes, wetlands, riparian zones, and provides protections for trees, etc.  As the Delaware County Planning Department has stated in its review of Cardinal Crossing, the Don Guanella property is riddled with environmental constraints that will substantially restrict what can be built there. Instead of the obscenely high estimates of upwards of 1.7 million square feet of institutional space and hundreds of houses, the actual allowances would be much much less. This greatly reduces the wholesale value of the forest and puts it well within reach of being purchased by a public/private consortium. Far from being worth the $47 million that Bruce Goodman was willing to pay, this forest’s natural features greatly reduce the actual value of the forest to around $17 million.  

Former Marple commissioner Stephen Sudhop arguing for 559 units on 45 acres in a low density zoning district.

The board and the township engineer had many comments to offer as to why Woodland Preserve was wholly inappropriate. For starters, the engineer, Joe Mastronardo, said: “The board is under no obligation to change the zoning on a parcel of property.” He went on to point out that the special environmental constraints on the Sudhop site wouldn’t even necessarily yield the “by right” allowances. In other words, if the site was 45 acres and the zoning was one house per two acres, the “by right” might allow for about 22-24 houses. But the property has a ravine, a stream, and wetlands that would limit the number of houses even further. Similar points about Ravenscliff were made later in the meeting. Surely this logic doesn't just apply to properties considered on 3/24: these same conditions and exceptions must also apply to the Don Guanella forest.

Some of the residents asked why so many developers are taking substantial risks to buy large properties in Marple when the township has no obligation to change the zoning for a particular site. 

Despite the venue being too small to provide everyone in the huge spillover crowd a seat (as per PA Open Meetings Law), we’d like to congratulate the Marple Planning Board for acting decisively Thursday night to protect residents' quality of life. They unanimously rejected Stephen Sudhop’s proposal to build a virtual city in a leafy corner of the township (restricted to low density residential zoning). We won’t get into the particulars or any of the absurdities of Mr. Sudhop’s presentation except to note his claim that there has recently been an “anti-development” fervor in the township. What Sudhop has taken for an anti-development atmosphere is actually Marple residents giving voice to their frustrations that the township has more than its fair share of traffic congestion and residential/commercial density, and