The Freedom Valley Chronicles: The Villages At Whitemarsh Comments On Decision Of The Board Of Supervisors

On October 25, 2018, the Board of Supervisors of Whitemarsh Township granted the conditional use application of K. Hovnanian Pennsylvania Acquisitions, LLC to develop land on Butler Pike in the Village of Plymouth Meeting.

The vote was 4 to 0 in favor of granting the application for the construction of 67 townhomes in a housing development named “The Villages At Whitemarsh”; the fifth of the five Supervisors recused herself from the vote.

The individual members of the Board of Supervisors each explained their vote. The consensus was that K. Hovnanian Homes (the trade name for Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc. which is the owner of 100% of K. Hovnanian Pennsylvania Acquisitions, LLC) met the requirements for approval of the conditional use application.

As part of the approval, the Board of Supervisors mandated 22 conditions to be met by K. Hovnanian Homes. Among the conditions are that Abolition Hall, Maulsby Barn, and Hovenden House, historic buildings at and near the intersection of Germantown and Butler Pikes, as well a house on Marple Lane shall not be demolished.

Also, that the parcel of land with the first three buildings – designated to be sold together as a package – be increased in size to 1.6 acres. In addition, there were requirements included to mandate maintenance of the four buildings as well as buffers between individual parcels of land.

You can read details about each of the 22 conditions by reviewing the entire resolution of the Board of Supervisors by clicking here.

K. Hovnanian Homes has proposed construction of 67 townhomes as part of The Villages At Whitemarsh.

K. Hovnanian Homes issued the following statement on Friday: “The Board of Supervisors approved the application last night [Thursday, October 25th] with the resolution containing the 22 conditions. K. Hovnanian reviewed the conditions and found them to be acceptable, as it further shows their commitment to fully preserving the historic buildings and maximizing open space. With these conditions, they will also be providing an even greater distance between the townhomes and the historic structures.”

The approval by the Board of Supervisors is one of the first steps to development of The Villages At Whitemarsh. A number of other approvals are still needed prior to people moving into new homes on the land near Germantown and Butler Pikes.

Abolition Hall, to the left in this photograph, and Maulsby Barn are both to be protected and maintained according to the conditional use application approved by the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors. The same protections were also designated by the Board for two other historic buildings, the Hovenden House at Butler and Germantown Pikes as well as a house on Marple Lane.

Prior to Board of Supervisors voting on this conditional use application, a number of individuals from the area commented on the plans proposed for this housing development.

As in previous hearings, most of the comments from the general public were against the proposal. Some were open to some development at this site, but were opposed to the specific proposal as presented as well specific wording in the conditions to be required by the municipality. Others were against any development at this site.

Some focused on traffic concerns, while others talked about the need for open space preservation. Many spoke about the need to protect and enhance the historic structures where human beings fleeing bondage sought refuge, and where people took great risks to speak against human slavery.

Most speakers encouraged the Supervisors to deny the conditional use application from K. Hovnanian Homes.

The Friends of Abolition Hall, a group of interested individuals opposed to the current plans for this housing development, has indicated that they will continue their efforts to change the plans for the 13.699 acres of land.

“The law provides for a 30-day appeal period, and we will be considering our options,” stated Ms. Sydelle Zove, Convener of the Friends of Abolition Hall. “The appeal, if filed, would be heard by the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown.”

“In the meantime, the developer is likely to be assembling Preliminary Plans, which will begin the municipal, county, and possibly state agency review,” Ms. Zove continued. “Once these staff reviews are completed, the plans move to the Whitemarsh Planning Commission, a local appointed board consisting of Whitemarsh residents. The Planning Commission will meet in public session to review and discuss the plans, and take public comment.”

“I believe the plans are subject to a vote by the Planning Commission,” explained Ms. Zove. “The Planning Commission also can request or recommend modifications. From there it moves to the Board of Supervisors, but keep in mind, this is Preliminary Plan review; there is a Final Plan review, and since this project is located in the Local Historic District, it also will require review by the Historical Architectural Review Board, but that is way down the pike (unfortunately).”

“We are in this for the long haul,” concluded Ms. Zove.

The image of the plan for the proposed development of The Villages At Whitemarsh is courtesy of K. Hovnanian Homes, 2017.

The artwork of the proposed townhomes is courtesy of K. Hovnanian Homes, 2017.

The photograph of Abolition Hall and Maulsby Barn is courtesy of Mr. Roy Wilson, 2018.

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© 2018 Richard McDonough