Abolition Hall Developer Issues Odd Press Release

Yesterday, the developer of a proposed townhome community on the Abolition Hall property in Plymouth Meeting (Whitemarsh Township), K. Hovnanian Homes, had a public relations firm send out a press release. The content of the press release was odd.

If you aren’t familiar, Abolition Hall, and other structures and fields surrounding it, were part of the Underground Railroad. It is located near the intersection of Germantown and Butler Pikes.

Without getting into all the details, the proposal is to build The Villages at Whitemarsh, a 67 unit townhome community on the property (mainly a field that has most recently used for farmland).

The press release highlighted that K. Hovnanian Homes had sent a letter to the Montgomery County Commissioners regarding the proposed development and commitments it feels it is making in regards to the preservation of the historic nature of the property. The letter sent was highlighted in the press release’s secondary headline. It stated, “Letter sent to County Commissioners outlines action steps.”

Who sends out a press release announcing they sent a letter?

Why would they send a letter to the County Commissioners? They have no role in the approval process. It is a Whitemarsh Township issue.

So we asked.

We replied back to the public relations person’s email asking why the developer would send a letter to the County Commissioners when its a Whitemarsh issue. The response was, “The letter was sent to the county commissioners to update them and outline the developer’s commitment with the proposed plan.”

But again, why update them? They have no role.

The proposed development has met with pretty tough opposition from a community group, Friends of Abolition Hall. The following was posted to social media after the release of the press release. It is a portion of a message issued by Sydelle Zove, the leader of the group:

Today, a PR firm hired by K. Hovnanian issued a press release that quoted extensively from a letter they sent to the Montgomery County Commissioners. The Commissioners have no formal role in this decision-making process, but clearly they talk to the Supervisors. So this was a way of sending a message to the Supervisors. The letter and press release argue that this plan “fully preserves” the historic structures. It also states that they are creating a welcome park. We’ve seen no evidence of either of these. It goes on to note that there will be a walking trail across the site that will be part of the County’s trail system. Well,the County hasn’t even seen the current plan, although it did comment on an earlier version that had no trail. Finally, it argues that the Comprehensive Plan calls for high-density housing on this tract. That’s just not the case. You decide if this is what some people call “spin doctoring.”

The third hearing on the proposed development is Thursday, May 24th at 7:00 p.m. at the Whitemarsh Township Building at 616 Germantown Pike in Lafayette Hill.

View the letter here and the press release here.

Photo: Facebook page of the Villages at Whitemarsh.