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Black Horse Inn

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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: September 13, 2004
Byline: Joe Barron

No state funds for inn renovation

The Black Horse Inn will have to find its angel on another shoulder.

A prospective $1.2 million state grant for the renovation of the inn, which appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital Budget for 2003-2004, will not be funded this year, Springfield Township Commissioner Marc Perry said Tuesday.

Reporting to the township board of commissioners, Perry said Gov. Edward G. Rendell had deleted the Black Horse Project from the capital budget.

The governor has the discretion to decide which items in the capital budget will be funded, Perry said.

The news, which Perry said he received last week, left township officials wondering how to pay for repairs to the building's exterior, which are scheduled to begin this fall. Under the terms of an agreement worked out between the township and the developer of the site, the township must restore the fašade of the Black Horse, so that it will not sully the view of the new retail buildings behind it.

Township officials believed they would definitely receive the state money if they could raise half the amount of the grant — $600,000 — as stipulated by the law.

"We were under the impression that this was a done deal," Perry told the other commissioners.

The purpose of the state capital fund is to generate employment, and apparently, the governor did not believe the renovation of the Black Horse would generate sufficient employment to justify the grant, Perry said.

The governor signed the $6.8 billion capital budget June 22. At that time, the budget included $1.2 million for the Black Horse, although state Rep. Larry Curry, D-154, who inserted the item in the bill, said he would need to write to Rendell to convince him to approve the project.

Tuesday, township officials spoke of writing to Rendell again, perhaps to request half the original grant amount, they said. Perry called the idea a "long shot."

In addition, the governor could approve the full grant when he reviews the next capital budget in 2005, though Perry added the possibility of this, too, was slim.

Township Manager Don Berger recommended a meeting with the architects working on the Black Horse to determine how the schedule for repairs could be strung out to accommodate the township's budget.

The township's Black Horse advisory committee would solicit voluntary donations from Springfield residents in the meantime, he said.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners agreed the township's prospective historic preservation ordinance should include language allowing them to deny demolition permits for historic buildings.

Township Solicitor Jim Garrity advised the commissioners that state courts have allowed the denial of permits, so long as the denial does not deprive land owners of all the economic benefits of their properties.

The township planning commission, which is drafting the preservation ordinance, requested advice on the matter in August.

The township commissioners agreed to ask the planning commission to take a multilevel or "funnel" approach to the ordinance.

Under this concept, they said, demolition of older, potentially historic buildings could be delayed for 60 days while the township determines if they meet specified criteria for historic significance. The township could deny demolition only if a building meets all the criteria, they said.

For buildings that do not meet the criteria, the 60-day waiting period would provide an opportunity for the township to discuss other options with the property owner, they said.

Garrity recommended the criteria for historic significance be as detailed and specific as possible. The more precise and justifiable the language, he said, the better the chances that the ordinance would withstand scrutiny by the courts.

"The first time you deny a permit, you're going to get sued," he said.