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Radnor development proposal: A floor wax and a dessert topping, p3

8/22/2013 | Real Estate Blog

Philadelphia’s Main Line used to be one sprawling estate after another. The Great Depression, according to local historian John Marshall Groff, put an end to that lifestyle. Families lost their fortunes; the houses were sold or fell into disrepair. By the time prosperity returned after World War II, the land was too valuable to hold on to, so the estates were broken up into housing developments. The Main Line became the suburbs.

A member of the family that owns the last large estate on the Main Line is asking the Radnor Township Planning Commission to accept an unusual development proposal.

As we wrote in our last post, the first phase of the development would consist of a small number of houses on large lots with great views. The buyers would be encouraged to purchase the land their property overlooks — their viewshed — and donate it to a land conservancy. The buyer would get a tax break, the township would preserve this last remaining swath of open space and everyone would enjoy the view from and of one of the loveliest spots in the area.

The tax break, however, is only good if the land is developable. If the IRS asks the township about the land, the attorney for developer Edgar Scott III said, the township must be prepared to say, yes, it is developable.

The land also must be a gift. The buyers cannot feel strong-armed into deeding it over to the conservancy. In legal terms, the tax break is contingent on the donor’s true “donative intent.”

Another plus to the plan is that there would be many fewer homes than zoning allows. Instead of the maximum 157 houses, the new plan calls for 64 to 87 houses. Some will stand alone on the “view lots,” and others will be clustered into villages.

Maintaining open space was not the only concern voiced by the commission at its meeting in early August. Scott and his representative fielded questions about access and traffic control as well. They assured the members that their plans will accommodate more cars without making the roads any more dangerous or, again, interfering with the viewshed.

The commission must approve a change to the zoning code before the development can move forward. To date, the township has taken no action on the matter.

Sources: Mainline Media News, “Radnor Planning Commission looks at tax advantages of Ardrossan development proposal,” Linda Stein, Aug. 6, 2013

Mainline Media News, “Ardrossan, a jewel in the heart of Radnor,” Linda Stein, Aug. 7, 2013

University of Delaware Messenger, “Missing Mansions of the Main Line,” Robert DiGiacomo, 1998