Fight over Delco’s Scant Open Space Leads to Three Lawsuits in Two Years

Members of an anti-development group stand on Marple Township-owned land. Image via Charles Fox, Philadelphia Inquirer.

Housing developers who followed township growth plans in proposing new projects are now suing after the local governments backtracked on promises.

A surge in public opinion has created immense pressure on what remains of Delaware County’s scant open space, and three such fights have landed in court over the past two years, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report by Caitlin McCabe.

Growth plans in places like Marple Township have prescribed the need for senior housing despite a lack of open space — Delaware County’s 10.6 percent of open space is the smallest ratio in the Delaware Valley. But recent projects have been stopped in their tracks by a stream of resident opposition.

In one lawsuit, residents sued Concord Township over its preliminary approval of a 150-home project on 240 acres, and succeeded in stopping it. In the other two legal cases, the developers are suing Marple Township for breaking promises and dragging its feet.

“There’s less land out there to develop now,” said Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission Director of Planning Patty Elkis. “People are getting savvier about what they want from their community, and demanding more from their officials to make sure it’s more of a development that fits.”

Read more about Delaware County’s open space battles in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.

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