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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: January 16, 2004
Byline: Joe Barron

Black Horse development approved

Disregarding last-minute pleas from members of the public to delay its vote, the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners gave its final approval Wednesday night to the development of the property surrounding the Black Horse Inn.

The 6-1 vote gave Moreland Development Corp. of Bryn Mawr permission to proceed with the building of a Walgreens pharmacy and a combined liquor store and office space behind the Black Horse.

In return, Moreland agreed to give the historic tavern to the township.

Joshua Petersohn, a principal of Moreland, said the deed could be delivered to the township only after the final building plans are recorded with the county.

Petersohn declined to offer a firm time for either the recording of the plans or the start of construction, saying only he would proceed as quickly as possible.

Moreland purchased the Black Horse and its lot from the Mendelson family trust in October. The final price was $3.8 million, according to Petersohn.

The board's approval depended on Moreland's fulfillment of several conditions, including the resolution of questions raised by the township engineer regarding technical details of the plans and the posting of a financial security to guarantee completion of the property.

None of the conditions altered the basic design of the development, which calls for a 14,820-square foot Walgreens pharmacy, and a second building with 15,416 square feet of retail space on the first floor, including 10,000 square feet reserved for a liquor store, and 6,000 square feet of office space on the second floor.

Before the vote, several spectators asked the board to delay action for 30 days.

The commissioners had not given the public adequate notice of the vote, they argued, and the postponement would allow the township to plan for the restoration of the Black Horse, as required by its agreement with Moreland.

Commissioner Kathleen Lunn, who cast the sole dissenting vote, echoed the spectators' sentiments and said the extension would also give the community the chance to determine whether Moreland's design could be brought "more into harmony" with a pedestrian-friendly, village atmosphere.

In response to complaints of inadequate public notice, Commissioner Glenn Schaum, president of the board, said that since January 2000, 48 public meetings have been devoted to the issue of the Black Horse.

His comment prompted Rob Ryan, a resident of Franklin Avenue, to retort that of those 48 meetings, the public was adequately notified of probably no more than two.

Marc Perry, the only commissioner besides Lunn to speak before the vote, thanked the Springfield Township Historical Society and the many interested citizens for their long insistence that the Black Horse be saved.

The board of commissioners, the planning commission, the developer and the public worked hard to ensure the tavern's preservation, and while the plan might have flaws, it was ready to move forward, Perry said.

In 50 years, he said, when his children are walking along Bethlehem Pike, the Walgreens may no longer be standing, but thanks to the commissioners' vote, the Black Horse most assuredly would be.