|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||September 16, 2008|
|Contact:||Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA Pennsylvania Senior Program Manager, 215.327.2529|
Experts Testify Against Outsized Development Proposal at Valley Forge National Historical Park
Philadelphia, PA—Tonight, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and five local residents expect to conclude several weeks of testimony before the Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board concerning the township’s decision to allow an oversized, commercialized development proposal on private land inside Valley Forge National Historical Park. The Coalition of Park Service Retirees, the National Park Service, and planning and traffic experts are among those who presented testimony.
“If built, the American Revolution Center complex will forever change the character of Valley Forge National Historical Park, its historic landscape, and the neighboring community,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA Pennsylvania senior program manager.
The appeal filed by NPCA and Lower Providence residents challenges the Living History Overlay District ordinance, which is inconsistent and incompatible with the neighboring national parkland and other open space. If permitted, the ordinance would undermine the National Park Service’s role in managing Valley Forge National Historical Park.
“If the American Revolution Center is permitted to build its complex on the private land within the boundary of Valley Forge National Historical Park, it will have significant impacts on the park, and could set a bad precedent throughout the National Park System,” said Bill Wade, chair of the Executive Council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. “Valley Forge and any impacts to it are as important to Americans living in California or Florida as they are to those living near the park.”
In her testimony, Deirdre Gibson, chief of planning and resource management at Valley Forge National Historical Park, said that the development proposed by the American Revolution Center (ARC) would interfere with the Park Service’s ability to carry out its new General Management Plan, that it will damage both natural and cultural resources, and will hinder the park’s ability to provide visitors with a seamless experience.
During his testimony, land planner Tom Comitta, president of Thomas Comitta Associates, described the ordinance as spot zoning and incompatible with the surrounding land, which is federal historic parkland and open space. Comitta also testified that it would be appalling if everything permitted by the ordinance was built. Under Pennsylvania law, spot zoning is illegal.
“This is special interest legislation tailored to a specific property,” said Comitta. “There is nothing about this land that warrants different treatment. In fact, just like the surrounding parkland, the property in question is open, green space.”
Traffic expert Norm Marshall, a principal at Smart Mobility, testified that traffic congestion will be exacerbated by the commercialized development proposal, impacting local neighborhoods, as well as the safety of visitors. According to Marshall, intersections that are already failing and others which are close to failing, will be further impaired by the development allowed under the Living History Overlay District.
ARC’s development would be built on historically significant land almost totally surrounded by national parkland, in a location not easily accessible by park visitors. The proposal includes a conference center; a 99-room hotel; and parking lots for cars, RVs and buses on what is now open meadows and woods—an area that was vital to the Continental Army encampment during the winter of 1777 – 1778.
The next hearing is scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m. before the Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board at the Lower Providence Township Building in Eagleville. After NPCA finishes their case this evening, Lower Providence Township and the American Revolution Center will begin their defense.
Since 1919, the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 342,000 members, and allies work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.