Date: October 11, 2001
Byline: Joe Barron
Possible final deal for inn approvedCommissioners approved variances for the Hammond Development Group in return for the developer preserving the Black Horse.
The Springfield Township Board of Commissioners voted Oct. 10 to ensure the Black Horse Inn will remain standing.
The question of where remained open.
The board unanimously approved an agreement with Hammond Development Group of Allentown granting the company permission to build on the inn's 3-acre lot.
In return, Hammond agreed to withdraw its application for a permit to demolish the inn. It will also drop its appeal of a decision by the township zoning hearing board denying the variances it needs to develop the property.
Under the terms of the agreement, Hammond may build a CVS Pharmacy and an expanded liquor store along Bethlehem Pike, but it also promised to move the inn to the rear of the at its own expense and donate it to the township.
Hammond might also keep the Inn on its original. site if it can create a suitable arrangement for its new buildings, according to Township Solicitor James Garrity. In that case Hammond would retain ownership of the inn, Garrity said. The vote followed two hours of discussion between the board and Springfield residents. Most residents who spoke opposed the plan and asked the board to consider other solutions.
Steve Wilmot of Bysher Avenue objected to the granting of variances that would allow Hammond to build parking lots in a residential zone.
"My main concern with this is taking residential property and changing it to commercial," Wilmot said. "These people bought their homes with the feeling they had residential property behind them."
Board members responded that the variances were a necessary compromise.
"The only reason we considered granting them any variances at all is to save the Black Horse," said Commissioner Robert Gillies.
T. Scott Kreilick of the Springfield Township Historical Society pleaded for the commissioners to consider an alternative plan he submitted at the board's work session Oct. 8.
The historical society and Keystone Hospice proposed that Keystone build a 38-bed hospice at the back of the property. Under the plan, the inn would remain on its original site and be converted to retail and restaurant use.
Representatives of Keystone will meet with Hampton's lawyers Oct. 17 to discuss buying the lot, Kreilack said.
Commissioner Tim Lawn replied that the commissioners liked Keystone's proposal, and the agreement with Hammond would not prevent the hospice from pursuing it.
In the end, approval was the only way to preserve the inn, officials said. Township Solicitor James Garrity said Hammond would go ahead with the demolition unless the board reached a decision that evening.
"It is not something that can be further postponed," Gaffity said. "The developer has made that clear."
The township had no reason to deny Hammond a demolition permit, Gaffity said.
"This is still America, and private property is still private property," he said.