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Source: Chestnut Hill Local
Date: April 7, 2005
Byline: Submitted by the Board of Commissioners of Springfield Township

Opinion: Leadership change will help inn effort

One of the leading reasons why Springfield Township continues to be such a wonderful community in which to live and work is the number of tireless, dedicated volunteers in the community. Our volunteers include formal boards and committees, the township emergency services personnel, civic organizations, athletic leagues and individuals who lend their time and talent to our community. The Board of Commissioners and Springfield Community are forever grateful for the selfless efforts of all the individuals involved. With that in mind, we would like to address why the entire board recently suggested the need for a change in leadership in one of the township advisory committees, the Black Horse Inn Advisory Committee (BHIAC).

For approximately 15 years, and very intensely for six years, the Board of Commissioners past and present, and many members of the community, have taken steps to save the Black Horse Inn from demolition. Concessions by the developer and community were required to make this wish a reality. More recently, in order to further the process, the township authorized an architectural assessment and the creation of repair specifications. At around the same time, the township formed the Black Horse Advisory Committee to take up the reins of working through the process and advise the Board of Commissioners and the township as to the best options and alternatives open to all of us.

Recently, an energetic group of interested residents, soon to be legally organized as the "Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike," joined efforts with the BHIAC and Springfield Historical Society to address the challenge for a true community-based, not government-based, Historic Renovation Project. This unified effort to preserve a piece of our local history is exciting to the Board of Commissioners and gratifying to once again see how the residents of Springfield Township step up to support their community.

It is this public/private partnership and the Board of Commissioners' sincere understanding of the vital role played by all of Springfield Township's volunteers donating their time and energy that has made our recent decision with regard to the chairmanship of the Black Horse Advisory Committee so difficult. But we would like to assure the volunteers to the Black Horse effort that our decision was not made in haste and was arrived at only with the future well-being and potential success of the Black Horse project in mind. The way in which the decision was made, we believe, was appropriate, given various circumstances that, at the time, did not provide the luxury of a public debate.

More to the point, the township has been placed under severe time constraints by legal documents requiring the township to pursue the needed exterior renovations to the inn in a specified, timely manner. While in the best of all worlds, a renovation of the inn that upholds the highest standards for detail and authenticity might be preferable, we are faced with the more immediate dilemma of limited funds and having to maintain as high a renovation standard as possible within a narrow time window that, if exceeded, could result in the demolition of the inn. Fortunately, we have all benefited by a strong volunteer force of experts, and have the assistance of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which has been kind enough to provide written guidance on how such a renovation might meet with federal and state historic standards.

So, in summary, the Board of Commissioners would like to take this opportunity to assure all of the volunteers and others concerned with the well being of the Black Horse Inn of the board's dedication to supporting the community based renovation effort. The Board of Commissioners unanimously made this decision, like so many before it, with the strong belief that this will allow this project the greatest opportunity for success. Please look forward to improvements to the inn and thank you for supporting this, and all volunteer efforts in the township.