Zoning Hearing Board Decision Leaves Future of Valley Forge National Historical Park at Risk

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   October 8, 2008
Contact:   Cinda Waldbuesser, Senior Pennsylvania Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Phone: 215.327.2529


Zoning Hearing Board Decision Leaves Future of Valley Forge National Historical Park at Risk

Philadelphia, PA—Last night, after months of public debate, the Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board voted to deny the appeal filed by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and local residents challenging the validity of the ordinance that allows incompatible commercial development on private land within Valley Forge National Historical Park.

“The Zoning Hearing Board made the wrong decision,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA Pennsylvania senior program manager. “Valley Forge National Historical Park is a national icon that deserves better, and NPCA will continue fighting to protect its historic character.”

The appeal filed by NPCA and Lower Providence residents asserts that the ordinance is spot zoning because the development it permits is inconsistent and incompatible with the neighboring national parkland and other open space. Under Pennsylvania law, spot zoning is illegal.  The appeal also claims that the ordinance is preempted by federal law because it would undermine the National Park Service's role in managing Valley Forge National Historical Park.

“We await the Board’s written decision to learn its precise reasoning, but we believe that the decision is contrary to the law and is wrong,” said Waldbuesser.  “We put on a very strong case, including testimony from national experts, which clearly illustrates that the ordinance is spot zoning and is preempted by federal law.”

Experts including the Coalition of Park Service Retirees, the National Park Service, and planning and traffic experts testified against the incompatible development proposal.  The American Revolution Center’s proposed development would be constructed on land almost totally surrounded by national parkland, in a location not easily accessible by park visitors. The proposal would change the character of Valley Forge by allowing a museum; a conference center, a 99-room hotel; as well as parking lots for buses, RVs, and cars on what now is open meadows and woods—an area that was vital to the Continental Army encampment during 1777-78.

“Valley Forge National Historical Park serves as an irreplaceable living classroom for those who seek to learn more about the encampment, a seminal time in our history,” said Adrian Scott Fine, director, Northeast field office, National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “We are concerned that the negative aspects of the American Revolution Center development will substantially outweigh its positive features.”

The Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board now has 45 days to issue its written decision. 

“Once the Board issues its written decision, we plan to appeal,” said Waldbuesser. “The integrity of Valley Forge remains at risk and we must ensure our national icon is protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

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.

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