|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||December 1, 2008|
|Contact:||Joy Oakes, Senior Director, Mid-Atlantic Region, National Parks Conservation Association, Phone: 703.224.8191|
Park Advocates Sue Lower Providence Township in Federal Court to Deny Valley Forge Rezoning
Proposed Commercial Development Incompatible with Historic Character of Valley Forge
Philadelphia, Pa. — Lower Providence residents joined the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today in filing suit in federal court against Lower Providence Township. The suit asks the court to find the recently-approved zoning ordinance unlawful that now allows the American Revolution Center (ARC) to build an oversized, commercialized museum complex on private historic land within Valley Forge National Historical Park, and to enjoin the township from implementing it. The NPCA lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
As required by Pennsylvania law, NPCA and local residents first filed an appeal with the Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board. On October 30, the Zoning Hearing Board issued their written decision denying the appeal.
“The Zoning Hearing Board made the wrong decision,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA senior program manager in Pennsylvania. “The ordinance is preempted by federal law and is spot zoning, as the substantial evidence we submitted to the Board clearly established.”
The appeal filed by NPCA and Lower Providence residents asserts that the local zoning ordinance is preempted by federal law because it would interfere with and undermine the National Park Service’s role in managing Valley Forge National Historical Park. The appeal also claims the ordinance is spot zoning and permits development that is inconsistent and incompatible with neighboring national parkland and other open space. Under Pennsylvania state law, spot zoning is illegal.
The ARC’s proposed development would be built on private land almost totally surrounded by national parkland, in a historic location not easily accessible by park visitors. The proposal would change the character of Valley Forge by allowing construction of a new museum, conference center and 99-room hotel, and parking lots for buses, RVs, and cars on historic land that is now open meadows and woods. This historic area was as significant during the Continental Army encampment during 1777-78 as the lands south of the Schuylkill River, which is where most people now concentrate their park visit.
“Valley Forge deserves better, and we must do everything we can to ensure this national icon is protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” said Waldbuesser. “The museum should instead be built in an appropriate location where it would be an asset, rather than a detraction from the park.”
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 340,000 members, including over 15,000 Pennsylvania, and allies work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.