Many homeowners would be ecstatic to be surrounded by 38 acres of mostly open space containing athletic fields, tennis courts, and a handful of beautiful buildings used as centers for higher learning.
But not in Merion Station, a community that's tough to please.
Neighbors there have raised objections to a plan by St. Joseph's University to refurbish sports fields that were part of Episcopal Academy's former campus.
When St. Joe's struck a deal to purchase the Episcopal site a few years back, it seemed like a win all around. Episcopal was moving to a bigger site in Delaware County and had found a single buyer for its campus. St. Joe's needed the classroom space and athletic fields for its men's baseball and women's softball teams, which now play in Norristown, and its women's field hockey team, which travels to Drexel University to practice each day.
Best of all - it would seem - the surrounding homeowners in the upscale, leafy neighborhood would be relieved that St. Joe's had no plans to substantially change the property.
Usually when such a prime piece of real estate becomes available, a developer comes along and jams as many houses as possible on the site.
Or something much worse.
But all St. Joe's wants to do is renovate the handful of existing buildings and upgrade the athletic fields by adding some bleachers, dugouts, and a sound system designed to minimize the voices of announcers.
That, apparently, was too much for some residents, whose frequent complaints suggest they have too much time - and money - on their hands.
The Merion Community Coalition gathered 275 names on a petition, launched a Web site, hired a lawyer, a public relations flack, and a sound engineer, who claimed the proposed audio system on the athletic fields would be heard a half-mile away.
Keep in mind that many of these complaining residents are the same ones who made life miserable for the Barnes Foundation, which only houses one of the greatest art collections in the world. Now, many of those same residents are upset that the Barnes is moving to Philadelphia.
These people don't like having the Barnes, and don't want it to leave. That mentality helps explain why they oppose plans that would keep the former Episcopal campus essentially the same.
St. Joe's has bent over backward to appease nearby residents, holding more than 20 community meetings, and making a number of concessions in response to residents' concerns.
Even still, the Lower Merion Township zoning board rejected St. Joe's plans last month, saying the athletic-field upgrades were substantially different from what the university told the board in 2005, when it agreed not to do any new construction on the site.
St. Joe's must now go back to the zoning board for special exceptions before eventually seeking final approval from the township Board of Commissioners. While taking those steps, the university also plans to appeal the recent zoning decision in Montgomery County Court.