Against the protests of residents in one of the region's most rapidly growing municipalities, the Concord Township Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to approve a plan to build 160 homes on an undeveloped tract on the Delaware border.
The vote was a climax of a pitched battle between residents and Woodlawn Trustees Inc., the Delaware company that owns the disputed 230 acres, now the site of horse and bicycle trails, stands of trees, and open fields.
The parcel abuts more than 1,000 acres in Delaware and Pennsylvania that are federally protected from development.
About 300 people attended the meeting at a middle-school auditorium, some shouting, "You should be ashamed," after the supervisors voted by 3-1 in favor of the plan.
"Children need open areas, and to think that it's being taken away so that developers can get a paycheck seems really immoral," said Chris Battin, who grew up in the township.
At the meeting, Woodlawn officials declined to comment, but they have said that the tract had always been set aside for development.
Opposition to any development had remained resolute, with residents staging protests and circulating a petition that garnered nearly 4,000 signatures.
The controversy over Vineyard Commons has exacerbated tensions within a community that - like many on the outer edges of Delaware County - has faced rapid growth and development in recent years.
Concord's population now surpasses 17,000, nearly 21/2 times that of 1990. For many residents, the tract in question was seen as one of the last pieces of open land in a community that has a growing number of shopping centers and restaurants.
"This is a unique tract of land and must be treated as such," said Kevin O'Donohue, the supervisor who voted against the proposal.
Supervisor Dominic A. Pileggi said that it was still possible that a nonprofit group might want to buy the land, and if the bid succeeds, the township would kick in $500,000 and the county $250,000 toward the purchase.
Tuesday's vote marks the first definitive action on the proposal. Woodlawn would have to submit a final plan for approval.