A group of students at Ithaca College in Ithaca NY is dedicated to helping residents and businesses of Ardmore PA fight the abuse of eminent domain. The Township of Lower Merion PA is trying to acquire 10 historic properties and businesses which would be turned over to a private developer. Every one of these properties is occupied and several are second and third generation family businesses!
The Township as instituted a project known as the Ardmore Transit Center. This ambitious $140 million plan requires the destruction of those 10 properties in order to construct a much larger complex that would include retail space, residential units, and a parking garage. The central focus is around building a new SEPTA/AMTRAK train station, which everybody agrees needs to be done. The demolition of this block of stores is not a necessity for the project; it is as the Township has argued a necessity to give developers enough interest to even consider the project.
As the Township continues down its path, the businesses that are slated for demolition are unwilling to sell their property. Since this is the case, the local government has gotten all required permission to use Eminent Domain through designating the area a Redevelopment Zone. The businesses and residents have been met with deaf ears from the Township Board of Commissioners when presenting options that do not include the destruction of these businesses. The Urban Land Institute was also brought in by the township for $110,000 to do a study which recommended NO DEMOLITION of properties, yet the study was promptly disposed of by the Commissioners. They have proceeded since this study, done in September 2004, to pass their proposed Option B to destroy these properties. The Township has received approval through all levels of County legislature and has begun solicitation for Request for Proposals from potential developers. The implementation of this Transit Center is imminent unless something is done to prevent the taking of these properties for the use of a private developer.
Our goal, working in conjunction with the building owners, business owners, and residents is to stop the Township of Lower Merion from using eminent domain to implement the project as proposed. The architects for the Township, the Urban Land Institute, and architects for the business/building owners have all developed plans that could meet the needs of Ardmore without destroying these historic properties.
We have developed a website at www.PreserveArdmore.org hich focuses on saving the town from the Township’s plans. The website contain information regarding what can be done that will not require the use of eminent domain. This entire Township of over 60,000 residents is waiting on the outcome of Kelo vs. New London and the only way to make the abuse of this law more prominent is to get people informed.
David Aiken: Daiken1@ithaca.edu
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