Date: September 20, 2002
Byline: Joe Barron
Commissioners approve Black Horse Inn moveIt looks as though the Black Horse Inn will move.
At a special session Sept. 18, the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve a land development plan for the Black Horse property on Bethlehem Pike.
Seth Mendelson of the Mendelson Family Trust, owner of the property, said work on moving the historic inn would begin as soon as possible.
The commissioners' vote followed a week of negotiations in which the township and the Mendelsons discussed additional ideas to preserve the inn.
Township Solicitor James Garrity announced at the beginning of the meeting the negotiations had not borne fruit, and he declined to specify the ideas they involved.
"It didn't go anywhere, and you never know what'll happen," he said. "In a perfect world, maybe these negotiations will reopen."
Under a stipulation agreement involving the township, the Mendelson Family Trust and the Hampton Real Estate Group, developer of the property, the township will allow a CVS pharmacy and a combination liquor store and office building to be built on the property.
In return, the Mendelsons and Hampton agreed to move the Black Horse to the rear of the property and deed it to the township.
The agreement provoked opposition from residents and the township historical society, but speaking before the vote, Commissioner Tim Lawn said it preserved the inn in a way that addressed the interests of neighbors and taxpayers, as well as the property owners.
"Tonight, I'm positively convinced the only way to save the inn is to honor the stipulation agreement," Lawn said. "We've responded the only way we can to save the inn. Short of this, it's going be a pile of rubble."
Without the agreement, the owners retained the right to demolish the inn.
Commissioner Mark Perry of Erdenheim cast the dissenting vote. After complimenting the board for their "diligence" on the issue, Perry said, "I think the community would just be better served with the Black Horse as it is."
CVS insisted the inn be moved so that the pharmacy would be fully visible from Bethlehem Pike, according to Mendelson, but Scott Kreilick of the historical society, who spoke to the board many times in opposition to the move, held open the possibility that CVS executives may yet change their minds.
Kreilick said the township historical society had contacted the National Historical Trust in Washington, D.C., and the trust had spoken with vice presidents of CVS on Sept.17 and would continue Sept. 19, explaining the historic significance of he inn.
"I don't think that they know that there's opposition," Kreilick said, even though the historical society sent a petition to CVS asking that the Black Horse remain where it is. The petition contained more than 3,000 signatures.
According to Kreilick, the CVS, Rite Aid, Eckerd and Walgreen pharmacy chains have an informal agreement with he National Trust in which they have agreed not to demolish buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Black Horse is not on the register, although it is eligible for inclusion, Kreilick said.
"I'll always be an optimist," he said.