Years of protest by Concord Township residents wasn't enough to save one of the final undeveloped tracts of open space in the community last week. So now they are turning to their next best option: Buying back the land.
On Friday, it became clear that even that plan may be longer - and more uncertain - than they originally thought.
Pennsylvania Rep. Steve Barrar (R., Delaware) hosted a meeting Friday with preservation groups, local and state politicians, and several residents to discuss how to save the Beaver Valley, a tract of land along the Delaware border.
The land - now the site of trails, stands of trees, and wildlife - was approved for development March 18 by Concord supervisors, who voted 3-1 on a plan to build 160 homes on 230 acres.
The parcel abuts more than 1,000 acres in Delaware and Pennsylvania that are federally protected from development.
But at the Friday meeting - at which more than a dozen attendees discussed options to raise the funds - much remained uncertain.
Groups opposing the development still do not know how much it will cost to buy the land. They say they have reached out to Woodlawn Trustees, the Delaware company that owns the land, as well as developers Mckee Concord Homes LP and Eastern States Development Company Inc., who are equity owners. But they have not heard back.
Barrar said he has heard the property is valued between $22 million to $30 million. The land is being appraised.
Woodlawn Trustees and the developers could not be reached for comment.
So far, nearly $5 million has been pledged by private residents, said Diana McCarthy, cofounder of the Beaver Valley Conservancy. Concord has also pledged $500,000 and Delaware County $250,000 if a bid for the land is successful.
People also looked to state grants, including one from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. But McCarthy said residents may not be able to meet the 2015 deadline, which would push the application back until 2016. Barrar said he's pushing to make money available from a proposed tax increase on drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale formation, but those conversations won't happen until the summer.
"There's a lot of hypotheticals right now," said Ken Hemphill, cofounder of Save the Valley, a group of citizens dedicated to keeping the land open. "It could be a year out before we gather the money."
The scramble to raise money to buy the Beaver Valley highlights the tensions within a community that - like many in Delaware County - has faced rapid growth and development in recent years. The community's population surpassed 17,000, nearly 21/2 times that of 1990.
"A project of this magnitude and importance is going to take cooperation from local, state, federal, and private sources, individuals, and foundations," said Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Brandywine Conservancy.
Hemphill said this is just the beginning.
"I'm very encouraged," he said. "So much has happened in the last two weeks. Some bad but a lot of good."