How Crum Creek Neighbors Began

by Liz Ball

It all began with a notice that the Maple Commissioners would be voting on two zoning ordinance amendments at their January meeting in 2005. These amendments, which had been the subject of several Township meetings and hearings in 2004, concerned allowing building on steep slopes and increasing residential density. They were requested by Pulte Homes so that they could build 218 townhouses on 35 acres of an environmentally sensitive escarpment bordering Crum Creek on State Road next to Marplewoods. Marple’s Environmental Advisory Board, water company representatives, watershed experts, some Township officials and residents who lived near the site had voiced concerns at the hearings. They felt that the environmental sensitivity of the site would not be respected and that that the development plan that this proposed zoning amendment would allow would devastate the area.

“This is the most environmentally valuable remaining underdeveloped property in Marple Township within the Crum Creek watershed” Judith Auten, President of CRC Watersheds Association.

However, most residents in the communities around the Crum Creek were not aware of what was about to happen. So in November of 2004 some neighbors joined me in distributing notices to homes on both sides of the creek alerting them to the upcoming vote at the January Marple Commissioners meeting. This impromptu effort marked the very beginning of what would become an informed and active organization dedicated to protecting the Crum Creek watershed.
We distributed another flyer in December detailing the potential environmental impact of the proposed rezoning on the area in general. We encouraged folks to attend the meeting.

There is no mention of environmental protection as an objective in the developer’s proposed ordinances. Increased density should be a bonus for avoiding damaging the environment, not for destroying it. (Marple Environmental Advisory Board)

The result was a room filled to overflowing at the January 2005 Marple Commissioners meeting. Clearly surprised by a meeting room full of very concerned residents of Upper Providence, Marple, and several other nearby communities, the commissioners reluctantly allowed them to speak. In turn, over 40 folks spoke passionately about the dangers that the Pulte plan posed to tree canopy, water quality, potential flooding and other issues. Finally, about 10 pm, the Marple Commissioners voted to pass the zoning changes. The crowd was stunned and upset. Afterward, having witnessed this event we asked each other, “What we do now?”

Several of us decided to form a group to continue the fight, not just to oppose Pulte’s plan, but to assure that something like this does not happen again in the Crum Creek watershed. We formed a steering committee, and on the advice of an attorney, incorporated as a non-profit organization named Crum Creek Neighbors. Guided by UPOS (Upper Providence for Open Space), a group with some experience in opposing environmentally damaging development, we called a meeting for early February. Many interested area residents came and signed on. They elected a board of directors and authorized them to raise money to build the membership, develop materials to educate residents of the watershed, devise strategies to oppose Pulte’s plans and fund other activities to further our new mission:
To Identify, Preserve and Enhance Sites in the Crum Creek Watershed.