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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: February 8, 2002
Byline: Joe Barron

Commission examines plan to move the Black Horse Inn

The Springfield Planning Commission took its first look Feb. 5 at the land development plan that will move the Black Horse Inn.

Before a polite but inquisitive crowd of township residents, architect James T. MacAllister of Plymouth Meeting showed the commission a rough plan for the development of the site at Bethlehem Pike and Bysher Avenue.

The plan includes a one-story CVS Pharmacy, an expanded liquor store with offices on the second floor, and 147 parking spaces. Forty-three of the parking spaces will be kept in reserve, according to MacAllister, which means they will not be built unless the owner or the township decides they are necessary.

On the plan, the Black Horse occupies a plot of ground between the liquor store and the adjacent baseball field, and its current location — fronting Bethlehem Pike — is shown as a hatched box containing seven parking spaces.

MacAllister also showed sketches of the liquor store, which will have a Colonial-looking facade. Although the plans for the CVS were not complete, MacAllister said, it would have the look of a barn or a carriage house.

"We accomplish a lot with this design from the aesthetic standpoint," he told the planning commission.

Under the terms of an agreement reached with the township last year, the developer, Hampton Real Estate Group, will move the Black Horse at its own expense in return for permission to construct the two buildings on the site.

Hampton also agreed to donate the inn to the township.

John Schaeffer, chairman of the planning commission, said at the outset that the commission's job would be to ensure the plan conforms to the conditions in the agreement.

"Our role is to review the plan and make sure it complies to the township requirements," he said. "It's the first step in the land development process. There are further steps."

Schaeffer asked spectators not to rehash the controversy over the inn and to accept the relocation as a given.

"We are constrained to follow the stipulation agreement," he said.

Despite the plea, Williams Agate, president of Alliance Realty Services of Philadelphia, prefaced his questions with his own opinion of the deal.

"It frankly makes me sick to think that anyone is thinking of moving it," he said.

Agate has proposed an alternative plan in which the Black Horse would stay where it is and Keystone Hospice would erect a new building behind it.

For his plan to become a reality, the owner of the Black Horse, the Mendelson Family Children's Trust of Allentown, would have to accept his offer to buy it.

Most of the people present appeared to accept the Hampton plan and limited themselves to suggestions for softening its impact.

Residents and business owners in the area raised questions about fencing, lighting, landscaping, and above all, the impact of the plan on traffic.

"Bysher Avenue and Bethlehem Pike is now like 42nd Street and Broadway," said Jack Foley, a resident of Bysher.

T. Scott Kreilick of the Springfield Historical Society recommended photographing the inn before the move, so that it may be restored if it is damaged or destroyed in transit.

He also asked MacAllister to consider changing the name of the development to something other than Black Horse Village.

"It's my personal opinion that that's something of a mockery," Kreilick said.

One potential bone of contention is the size of the liquor store. The agreement states that the building "shall contain not more than 15,500 square feet" — 10,500 on the first floor and 5,000 on the second.

Under MacAllister's plan, the first floor contains 10,500 feet of interior floor space, but with the outside walls, it will occupy 11,300 square feet of ground.

The commission scheduled a follow-up meeting for March 5. MacAllister said he would have the final design of the CVS ready for inspection at that time.