Judge: Ruling soon for Ardmore development project

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dmuth's picture
Last seen: 14 weeks 2 days ago
Joined: 2005-09-12 :35

We got coverage over on Philly.com today, check it out!

I think the township's argument can be summed up as "they shouldn't be allowed to challenge our decisions". And there we were thinking we lived in a participatory democracy. Silly us!

Fortunately, the judge saw through their cunning ploy and proceeded to question their attorney as well as ours.

Here's the full article:

HARRISBURG - After a hearing Monday, a Commonwealth Court judge said he could rule before the end of the year whether to allow the controversial mixed-use development on Cricket Avenue in Ardmore to proceed.

The project, replacing the township's Cricket Avenue parking lot with an eight-story residential and retail tower and parking garage, has generated loud and sustained opposition from some residents who say it is too dense for downtown Ardmore. But it has the backing of Lower Merion Township, the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority and the state, which granted Dranoff Properties $10.5 million in redevelopment funds.

The latest, and possibly last, legal challenge to the project was filed in August by the Save Ardmore Coalition, a group of taxpayers who argue that the state grants should be revoked because the plan no longer includes improvements to the Ardmore Train Station as proposed when the grants were approved by the Legislature in 2007.

If President Judge Dan Pellegrini allows the case to proceed, it could imperil the project, already beleaguered by years of changes and delays and facing an April deadline to break ground before the $10.5 million grant expires.

Attorneys for the township, the Commonwealth and Dranoff argued that the case should be thrown out because the coalition does not have standing to challenge the decisions of government agencies.

Deputy Attorney General Lucy Fritz told Pellegrini that allowing this challenge would "open the floodgates" for any taxpayer to challenge any individual grant.

"There are thousands and thousands of RACP applications that the Office of the Budget is currently reviewing," she said. "The legislature has invested us with the discretion to oversee this program. . . . You would be eviscerating that discretion."

Pellegrini said the standing issues in this case are unique and aggressively questioned attorneys on both sides. Beyond that, he said, it would come down to interpreting what the legislature meant when it approved the grant for projects at or "related to" the train station.

"They can define ['related to'] any way they want to define it. But they didn't," Pellegrini said.

Attorneys for the township, the commonwealth and Dranoff argued that it meets the job creation and economic stimulus requirements for the RACP program and would be transit-oriented development.

The coalition argued that adding a few new parking spaces - 35 of them and currently proposed for a maximum of four hours - won't help commuters or the dilapidated train station.

"You can't have parking for a transit center if the transit center isn't being built," said Mark Freed, the coalition's attorney. "It's morphed into a residential and commercial development."

Pellegrini said if no settlement is reached, he could rule within two weeks.

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