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Black Horse Inn

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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: September 12, 2002
Byline: Joe Barron

Commissioners to reopen negotiations on Black Horse

The long-awaited denouement to the saga of the Black Horse Inn will have to wait another week.

In a surprising development Sept. 11, the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners tabled a vote on the fate of the historic building to pursue new ideas brought forth by the developer.

The renewed negotiations could lead to the preservation of the Black Horse at the site on Bethlehem Pike where it has stood for 250 years, according to Commissioner Robert Gillies.

"It has the potential, but everything is fluid," Gillies said after the meeting.

The board gave itself a week to conduct negotiations with the Hampton Real Estate Group, the developer of the Black Horse property, and planned to address the issue again during a budget meeting scheduled for Sept. 18.

"It's highly probable a decision will be made at that time," Gillies said.

Township Solicitor James Garrity announced the delay at the beginning of the board's regular monthly meeting.

After a heated work session Monday evening in which members of the public spoke passionately against the plan to move the inn, the board approached the developer with a new proposal for the property, Garrity said. The developer, in turn, proposed ideas of its own.

Garrity characterized the developer's attitude as more cooperative than it had been in the past.

Although the negotiations might not bear fruit and were too delicate to allow him to divulge their content, he said, they were worth a week's wait.

Under plans being considered by the board of commissioners, the Black Horse would be moved 250 feet from the pike and deeded to the township, and a new CVS and a liquor store would be built in its place.

Citizens and members of the township historical society have opposed the plan since the township and the developer signed it in October 2001. On Sept. 3, the township planning commission recommended the board of commissioners attempt to amend the plan by reopening negotiations with the developer.

Apparently, the commissioners listened.

A crowd that had gathered to hear and perhaps protest the board's decision remained quiet after Garrity's announcement.

Only one spectator spoke on the issue. Robert Cutler of Church Road, Flourtown, came forward and made the statement he had prepared, urging the board to rebuff the Hampton Group.

"We should not forget those who walked past the Black Horse during the Revolution and forged the nation," Cutler said.

In other action, the commissioners gave the go-ahead to the Morris Arboretum, allowing it to reconfigure its entrance on the Springfield Township side of Northwestern Avenue. The arboretum sought permission to align the entrance roads on both sides of the Springfield-Philadelphia border.

The board also granted a waiver for the formal land development process for the opening of two new businesses at the old Taco Bell restaurant on Bethlehem Pike. The property is being converted into a combined Dunkin' Donuts shop and Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor.