THORNBURY LAND USE DISPUTE

As many of you may already know, West Chester United Soccer Club/Penn Fusion Soccer Academy (the Club) has been drawn into a dispute with Thornbury Township – Chester County (the Township) over the lease and use of the Thornbury Soccer Park (TSP) Complex. Thus far, our attempts to negotiate in good faith with the Township to find a fair and equitable resolution have been unsuccessful. We have a responsibility to our membership to bring this matter to everyone's attention and let you know what we are doing to resolve this issue.  

Below is a short summary of the situation. A more detailed outline covering the history of the dispute is included in the appendix to this letter and will be posted to our websites, along with a Q&A that addresses questions that have come in. 

  • In 1997, West Chester United and elected officials of Thornbury Township mutually entered into a 99-year lease for the use of the TSP complex.
  • In 2005, the Club and the next set of duly elected Township supervisors revisited the original contract, mutually concluded it was a good agreement for all parties, and signed a second agreement acknowledging that the original lease would remain in full force and effect.
  • In 2015, the newly elected Township leadership didn’t like the terms of the mutually agreed-upon terms of the existing lease and began making claims that the lease was invalid and that we were operating in violation of the lease. Their end-goal was to shorten the length and increase the annual rent payments to the Township. 
  • The Township filed a lawsuit against the Club, putting the future of our club and the use of the TSP complex in jeopardy.   

The Township’s lawsuit is predicated on a few assertions:

  • First, that the Township, as a government body, did not have the authority to enter into a 99-year lease in the first place back in 1997. 
  • Second, that even if the 99-year lease is legal and the Township had the authority to enter into it, the Township somehow is free to cancel it at any time (for any reason, or even no reason at all). 
  • Third, the Township claimed that the Club was not allowed to use the clubhouse for its offices and that the Club should not be permitted to rent the fields to other sports organizations (even though the lease does not prohibit either of these actions). 

The judge overseeing the case recently ruled that the Township’s first two assertions are incorrect, ruling that 99-year leases, such as our lease with the Township, are valid and enforceable, meaning that the Township has no legal authority to cancel the lease. The third assertion is now moot as the Club has already moved our offices to the current location on Bolmar St. in West Chester, and the Club has temporarily stopped renting the fields to other sports organizations. Despite this ruling and our willingness to support the mutually agreed-upon terms, the Township is now trying to appeal the judge’s decision rather than drop the lawsuit.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! 

Even with the recent ruling in our favor, we want the Township to hear from you, the people in our community, about the importance of providing a safe space for kids and families to enjoy the great game of soccer and other outdoor activities. Without hearing from large numbers of local residents, the Township will continue their attempt to take our fields away - and cause the Club to continue to incur legal expenses in defending against the Township’s lawsuit and appeal. Please take the time and let your voice be heard. Below are a few things you can do to help us save our fields and ensure the future of West Chester United Soccer Club. 

What’s next, and how can you help your club? 

We are still hopeful that we can reach a resolution with the Township. With that said, here are a few ways you can help your Club:

  • You can attend a public meeting and express your concerns about the Township’s position. The calendar of events can be viewed here (scroll down to see the calendar of upcoming events).
  • You can write a letter or an email. With over 2,000 active families currently in our Club, and thousands more whose children grew up as part of our programs, you have the ability to make a strong (but respectful) statement of support for the Club. Correspondence should be sent to:

Thornbury Township

Attn: Judy Lizza, Township Manager 

8 Township Drive

Cheyney, PA 19319

JLizza@Thornburytwp.com 

  • Submit a letter or editorial to the Thornbury Newsletter. Submissions should be sent to the Township’s Secretary, Teresa DeStefano – tdestefano@thornburytwp.com

The Club will continue our efforts to reach a common-sense resolution in this matter with the Township.

If you have questions regarding this matter, we ask that you please direct those to PR@WCUSC.org and we will respond as best we can. Please do not engage your child’s coach, club managers or staff. They have been instructed to refer all questions to members of the Board of Directors who are authorized to discuss the case.  

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