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Black Horse Inn

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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: August 5, 2003
Byline: Bonnie L. Cook

Board set to discuss historic inn fate tonight

Springfield Township commissioners will hold a special public meeting tonight on Moreland Development's pending agreement to develop the property occupied by the historic Black Horse Inn.

According to an Aug. 1 letter signed by Commissioner Jane H. Fisher and sent to neighbors of the inn at 1432 Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown, the seven-member board could vote at the 7 p.m. session.

Fisher said in the letter that if ratified by the board, the agreement would pave the way for formal submission to the township of a land-development plan presented July 15 to the public by Moreland Development, a real estate development and management firm in Bryn Mawr.

In a separate July 16 letter, township Planning Commission Vice President Joseph M. Gerber said that after the July 15 public session, he had polled the planning body and that all but one of its members "would not be opposed to" the Moreland plan.

Timing of the commissioners' vote tonight is crucial because it tells Moreland whether the proposal will get township approval before a critical deadline passes.

Moreland has an agreement of sale to buy the property from the current owner, the Mendelson Family Children's Trust of Allentown. That agreement will expire before Aug. 13, Township Manager Donald E. Berger said.

Should that letter expire without action by the board, a plan for the site favored by Mendelson but opposed by the public would take effect, Moreland's attorney has advised.

Moreland wants to build a 14,259-square-foot Walgreens Pharmacy at the site, as well as an 11,116-square-foot liquor store. There would be 5,000 square feet of office space above the store.

Moreland also has pledged to move the 259-year-old inn across Bethlehem Pike to property owned by the Carson Valley School. The move would cost more than $325,000. What would happen to the structure after that is not clear.

Under a previous plan for the site proposed by Mendelson, the Black Horse Inn would be moved to the back of its current site and would be deeded to the township for upkeep. A pharmacy and liquor store would be built on the site.

Because the township has no historic-preservation ordinance, that plan was presented to prevent Mendelson from razing the inn.

By contrast, Moreland's plan would move the inn across the street fronting the pike, in keeping with its history. The inn served as a watering hole for farmers and merchants in the 1700s.

Gerber's letter, which is addressed to Robert C. McGrory, president of the Board of Commissioners, stresses that approval by the planners is contingent on a number of points, all to be satisfied by Moreland.

The points include preservation of the Black Horse Inn and management of traffic tie-ups on Bethlehem Pike and Bysher Avenue that neighbors complained would result from the development.

They also include landscaping and fences that would shield the new buildings from neighbors' houses and lighting that would not intrude into backyards.

Moreland Development has done several similar projects in the Philadelphia suburbs. A recent one is the Rite-Aid Pharmacy complex along Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, the former site of Albrecht's Nursery.