Date: May 25, 2001
EDITORIAL: Make Springfield safer for historic buildingsThe zoners decision this week to not grant Hampton Real Estate Group relief in the proposed development of the Black Horse Inn tract sure tastes like victory for those who oppose razing the building. But it's not.
The brutal truth is Hampton has development rights of the inn and can still demolish it. In fact, the developer has already applied for a demolition permit, which was returned for being incomplete. Eventually, though, the permit will be filled out and the township will have to give it the OK.
So what are residents and the historical society to do?
Well, from our vantage point there are two real options.
The first option puts the developer, the historical society, the township and other interested parties at the bargaining table.
If saving the Black Horse is important enough, some kind of compromise can be reached between Hampton and the township. Hampton could exclude the Black Horse from its plans in exchange for leniency on zoning and planning issues.
The other option involves the historical society raising funds to purchase the Black Horse if it ever came on the market again. Springfield Township residents have a great knack for pulling together and raising money for a cause.
There have already been more than 3,000 signatures of concerned citizens gathered by the society. If fund-raising events were organized, we are sure enough money could be gathered to at least get Hampton to consider selling the inn as an option.
Hampton's plans to flatten the inn have raised a tidal wave of emotion among many in Springfield. It's time to ride that wave and try to preserve the inn.
But if it is too late, then it is also time to learn a painful lesson.
If people in Springfield are concerned about saving the historical treasures in the township, an ordinance should be created to do so. Other neighboring municipalities have safeguards and regulations for what can and cannot be done to buildings and properties considered historically significant. If such an ordinance existed, the plight of the Black Horse would be different.
A referendum on November's ballot could be used to gauge resident interest in spending taxpayer money on the creation of a historical ordinance.
Maybe then other historically significant buildings in the township will be safer than the Black Horse is now.