Part II

Early residents of Ithan Mills recall that our southern end of Radnor Township was far less populated than it is today. No homes stood on surrounding forests and meadows that became Fox Fields, Cornerstone, Portledge, Laurier, Countryview Drive, Wyntre Lea Drive, Haviland Lane and Radnor Chase, and it would be over a decade before traffic appeared on the finished Blue Route section bordering Ithan Mills. Parents of children long since grown recall how the Ithan Mills kids would enjoy exploring the woods and streams around their new neighborhood, often disappearing for the entire day in what now seems a safer, simpler world.

The early years of Ithan Mills saw the gradual building out of all lots by developers Leon Kazanjian and Robert Bruce at prices around $100,000. But the landscaped look of today’s Ithan Mills, with evergreens, flowering trees, green lawns and attractive shrubbery, bears no resemblance to our beginnings.

Original neighbor Glenn Coughenour and family arrived in July 1979. He recalls “The common ground was bare dirt, as were most of the lots” and “the only trees were those along the Roberts Road right-of-way between here and the Hills of Bryn Mawr, the woods (along) the Blue Route project, and the woods on the Ithan School site.” Glenn refers to early residents as “settlers” for their pioneering spirit and hands-on approach to shaping Ithan Mills into what we see today.

Anne Castellan arrived in 1977, and remembers that her lawn didn’t even grow enough that first summer to require cutting.

Then as now, owners of each lot became voting members of the Ithan Mills Homeowners Association. The builders still controlled many votes, which led to a dispute over the common areas. Though homes were built all around it, the land was never properly graded, seeded or landscaped and was littered with construction debris. Residents wanted it upgraded for recreational use, and after several years of negotiation the developers agreed to make it presentable and turn it over to the Homeowners Association.

1984 and 1985 saw energetic discussions about what to do with the common ground now under neighborhood control. Some favored installing a swimming pool and tennis courts on the flat section behind #40-#54 Haymarket Lane. Those homeowners were opposed, causing a divisive rift in the neighborhood, though the issue became moot when construction and insurance costs were deemed impractical.

At the April 1986 Homeowners Association, “Common Ground Use Rules” were adopted. Regular grass cutting was contracted, and liability coverage for the common property was purchased. One year later, liability concerns motivated a vote to remove a tree house built in the common area by neighborhood children.

Another “hot button” issue emerged almost immediately as the Township surprised Ithan Mills on August 1st, 1986 by repaving our streets with a sealcoating technique that blackened shoes and cars and left loose gravel everywhere. Neighbors complained, petitioned, wrote letters (one referred to Drakes Drum and Haymarket as “a quagmire of loose stone and asphalt”, another provided a multi-year financial analysis of projected repair costs), attended public meetings and – after two years – ultimately prevailed, as the Township returned to restore a smooth surface for walking, biking, roller skating and driving, as reported in the minutes of the April 1988 Homeowners Association meeting.

In attendance at that meeting was Radnor Township Graham Andrews, who took part in our first documented discussion on installing speed bumps to solve the problem of dangerously fast drivers in Ithan Mills. Mr. Andrews spoke against speed bumps for reasons of driving and biking safety as well as snowplow access.

1989 saw an annual Homeowners Association dues increase from $35 to $50, and the first organized all-neighborhood barbecue party celebrating the start of summer. The all-you-can-eat-and-drink cost was $5 for adults, $2 for kids, and turnout was plentiful.

In July of that year, homeowners learned that Radnor Township ordinances permitted backyard satellite TV dishes up to 13 feet high and 11 feet wide, as an application was filed to erect one of these large dishes in an Ithan Mills backyard. It was nearly six years until installation took place. Today, satellite service is commonplace, using rooftop antennas that are extremely small by comparison.

In 1990, as the 12-14 year lifespan of our homes’ original oil heat systems began to expire, PECO Energy was approached about installing gas service. Four years later, after many conditions were met, PECO agreed to put in gas pipelines at no cost to homeowners. 65 homes signed up for the service.

1991’s Homeowners Association annual meeting featured a guest speaker, an expert on Islamic culture and history to talk about “The Persian Gulf After The War”. At the same meeting a 1990 motion authorizing expenditure for entry signs was re-approved with a new total cost of $3,000 (up from $2,000). Association President Bob Cherwony obtained the necessary permits to install the signs. They were in place shortly thereafter, but almost immediately began deteriorating. Complaints to the sign company had no effect until one day the signs simply disappeared. After phone calls and a meeting, all issues were resolved and the signs returned.

Prior to 1994, meetings of the Homeowners Association took place in a Board member’s house. In light of higher turnouts, the venue shifted that year to Ithan Elementary School.

In 1996 Radnor’s School Board began discussing the construction of a new elementary school, and one location mentioned was the undeveloped land that is part of the Ithan Elementary property. Residents of Ithan Mills overwhelmingly opposed this plan and the Homeowners Association made sure our opinions were communicated to School District decision makers. At a November meeting the School Board voted to build its new school on the Peterson estate just off Radnor Chester Road and purchased that land for 1.8 million in June 1997.

In May 2000, construction of Radnor Elementary was well underway. Radnor Schools Superintendent John DeFlaminis and School Board President Paul Yakulis attended the annual Ithan Mills Homeowners Association meeting to discuss emerging plans to build a new middle school. Once again the Ithan land was a location favored by many decision makers. A detailed opinion survey of Ithan Mills residents concerning middle school location issues was posted on our new website IthanMills.com, launched the previous year, revealing a high percentage in favor of a new middle school located on the existing middle school site in downtown Wayne.

On September 5, 2001 we hosted a major community forum on this issue attended by School Board members, the Superintendent, Radnor Commissioners, School Board candidates, reporters and residents from other neighborhoods. A month later the School Board voted to build in Wayne. After many digressions and delays, the groundbreaking ceremony took place in December 2005.

An attendance record was established at the 2003 annual homeowners meeting, with nearly half of all homes represented. Perhaps this was due to the newly approved use of email as official membership communication medium, or to widespread response to a new neighborhood benefit of reduced-cost lawn care negotiated by the Association Board. 24 neighbors enrolled, saving about 20% in 2003. Unfortunately, contractor interest diminished and the service was discontinued after one more season.

Also in 2003 the first “Ithan Kids Korner” was published, a compilation of summer artwork, poetry, stories and vacation reporting by young neighborhood journalists.

At the April 20, 2005 annual meeting, members of the Ithan Mills Homeowners Association voted to establish a Strategic Planning Committee, since renamed Long Range Planning Committee. At this writing the Committee continues its work incorporating neighborhood input and expert advice to shape and execute strategic planning proposals to position our neighborhood for a positive future.

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