Justice Served

Victory For Valley Over Vineyard Commons


Nov 2, 2016

The Beaver Valley Conservancy lead the legal charge.

As you may recall, back in 2015 the Concord Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to the Vineyard Commons plan (in Concord Twp, PA) despite hard evidence that the developers were in violation of 40+ instances of the township code. The Beaver Valley Conservancy appealed this decision and began a year and a half long legal battle. Recently, Judge Green finished his thorough review of the case. Note that this is relevant to the Vineyard Commons plan ONLY.

This new ruling by Judge Green invalidates the township's approval of Vineyard Commons and requires them to follow a specific set of rules to insure that approval without proper justification doesn't happen again. 

Now the Township has to:

  • Follow specific rules…not just make them up as they go along
  • Listen to our experts…not ignore them
  • Prove that we what we say is wrong…not the other way around
  • Have their analysis scrutinized by the Judge…not just impose their will
  • Pay attention to the PA Constitution…and mitigate destruction of natural resources
             

Here is a more detailed explanation of Judge Green’s Oct. 24, 2016 decision on Vineyard Commons:


What did Judge Green decide?

Put in the simplest of terms, Judge Green invalidated each of the three decisions reached by the Concord Township Supervisors in the spring of 2015 in approving the Vineyard Commons development. He remanded the matter back to the Township and ordered that it hold an evidentiary hearing to develop a record of their decisions.

A “remand” is an action within the discretion of the Judge in order to ensure that the parties are treated fairly. The Judge ordered the remand because he determined that there was no record on which he could determine whether the Supervisors had abused their discretion or committed an error of law, and that the hearing would serve to develop such a record. In essence, it’s a do over but with specific instructions ordered by the Judge.

What are the conditions of the Court’s order?

The Judge ordered that certain procedures and processes be followed.

  1. An evidentiary hearing must be held in which the parties have the right to cross examine each other’s experts. (we had asked for such a hearing, which the Supervisors denied.) The Township is required to make findings of fact, to explain its basis for the findings that it makes, and to articulate those bases in writing so that the Court can review them.

    For example, if we argue that there are certain deficiencies in the plan the Township must decide whether we are right or wrong and if they decide we are wrong, they have to explain why. The Judge will then review the record of decisions.

  2. The Court ordered that the developer’s plan and the Township’s approval process must meet the standards imposed by the PA Constitution.

What is the effect of the Court’s order?

Let’s start with the Constitution. The developers must show that:

  • The development complies with all applicable state and federal laws;
  • Any damage to environmental resources must be mitigated to the extent  reasonably possible; and
  • Any unmitigated harm to constitutionally protected resources will have to be balanced against the benefits to the community of the development.

Another effect of the Court order is that it shifts the burden of proof to the developers. So, if we allege any deficiencies to the plan, the developers must produce evidence to refute the allegation. If they can’t, then it will become an established fact in our favor. This will be the case for each of the many factual matters we put forward. The Township can no longer ignore our experts as they did during the initial process!

Now the process has to be written down and subjected to cross examination. The Township’s explanation must be in writing and the Judge will review the written explanation and make a determination.

 

Additional resources:

  1. Delco Times Article:
    http://www.delcotimes.com/general-news/20161031/approval-for-vineyard-commons-project-in-concord-shut-down-by-judge

  2. Chadds Ford Live Article:
    http://chaddsfordlive.com/2016/10/28/woodlawn-decisions-remanded-to-concord/

  3. Download the court order here:
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3gNpRqyjW3KaGx6QkFsSm9ueEk


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Save The Valley is funded exclusively by donations from people like you. Articles like these are critical in keeping the public informed about important issues relating to Beaver Valley but require donations to keep them going. If you find this article valuable, please consider making a donation today. No amount is too small. Your donations are a critical part of keeping this effort going. Please donate today!




If You Found This Article Useful...
Save The Valley is funded exclusively by donations from people like you. Articles like these are critical in keeping the public informed about important issues relating to Beaver Valley but require donations to keep them going. If you find this article valuable, please consider making a donation today. No amount is too small. Your donations are a critical part of keeping this effort going. Please donate today!

 


 

 

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