Among the many land-use strategies advanced in the Comprehensive Plan, the most consequential may be those that guide development in residentially-zoned areas. Chief among these strategies is the creation of a “Form-Based” zoning code that supports and reflects the historic character of Lower Merion’s traditional neighborhoods. Such a code would require all new construction in traditional residential neighborhoods to be compatible with existing development. The Comprehensive Plan recommends this strategy as a means of maintaining the character of the township’s older neighborhoods. Form-based zoning also has the potential to create a disincentive for the demolition of historic houses. Under modern zoning, developers are sometimes motivated to demolish historic houses so that they can build larger homes in their place. Form-based zoning, however, disallows new construction that is inconsistent with the size, shape and scale of surrounding development and therefore, helps deter demolition.
205 Llanfair Road, Ardmore
Architect: Horace W. Sellers
The rambling stone residence at 205 Llanfair is the work of Horace W. Sellers, a noted architect to whom many historic homes on nearby streets are attributed. The house is tucked away on a nearly two-acre property forested with shade trees. A tributary of Mill Creek passes through the lot’s western corner. The house, which is an exceptional representation of Arts and Crafts architecture, was featured in the AIA Journal (a publication of the American Institute of Architects) on its completion in 1912.
205 Llanfair sold at auction in 2016. The current owners have expressed their intent to demolish the house, subdivide the property, and build two identical homes on two newly-created lots. Under a form-based zoning code, this outcome could possibly have been avoided, as a developer might not realize sufficient profit to rationalize the demolition of the house and the redevelopment of the property.
The Lower Merion Conservancy urges the owners of 205 Llanfair to explore options that do not involve the demolition of the house. The owners might consider selling the property to a buyer who would preserve the house and conserve the land. They might also work to negotiate the sale of the property to a group of conservation-minded neighbors. A property owner in nearby Wynnewood did exactly this when she sold her six-acre Toland Farm property to a group of neighbors. These neighbors pooled their resources, purchased the property, and placed a conservation easement on the land. The easement permanently restricts development on the historic farm land. The proposed subdivision plan of 205 Llanfair, which will introduce inharmonious construction to its century-old neighborhood, could make this scenario worth pursuing.