Longwood Gardens want to raze them; township planners seeking another option
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Yours for the taking: three 1920s bungalows commissioned by Pierre S. du Pont to house some of his staff at Longwood Gardens.
“If someone wants to bear the cost of moving them, they don’t have to buy them,” Mary Ann Rossi, an attorney representing the gardens, told the Kennett Township Planning Commission at its meeting Tuesday night.
If the planning commission gets its wish, someone will avail themselves of the offer. Its members have been working to preserve the structures, contending that their historic significance merits the effort.
Longwood has also made its position clear: It wants the buildings razed, arguing that beautifying the corridor along US-1, near the gardens’ entrance, “will evoke the bucolic Brandywine Valley and Chester County landscape aesthetic.” Plus, rehabbing the structures, which lack insulation and usable mechanical systems, “would require a significant investment,” according to the demolition permit request.
Ultimately, the decision lies with the township’s board of supervisors, said Jim Guthrie, who heads the planning commission. He explained that because Longwood Gardens has been designated a historic district by the township, any requests to tear down buildings require a review by the planning commission, which then makes a non-binding recommendation to the supervisors. In March, the planners requested a 90-day delay to try and explore options that avoided a wrecking ball; the supervisors only granted 30.
More time is needed to try “to solve the problem,” Guthrie said. He said meetings with Longwood officials have occurred; however, they have not produced an acceptable alternative use for the buildings. He said he plans to schedule another one before the supervisors’ April 15 meeting.
At that time, the supervisors could agree to extend the delay, issue an order to permit the demolition, issue a permit with conditions, or deny the permit, Guthrie said. “Denials are usually rare,” he acknowledged.
Rossi confirmed that meetings attempting to find common ground had occurred, calling the process cordial and professional. But she indicated that Longwood was not eager to prolong any negotiations. “We do not embrace an additional delay,” she said.