INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Lower Providence Township Planning Commission has given its approval to preliminary plans for a museum complex dedicated to the American Revolution.
But the nonbinding decision came with warnings that a host of traffic concerns must be resolved before township supervisors can give the American Revolution Center final approval.
Member Frank Vibbert called the concerns "mind boggling" at the commission's meeting Wednesday night.
Chief among them is the proposed access route: a privately owned road through the Marketplace at Oaks/Route 422 Business Center in neighboring Upper Providence Township. The winding road is poorly marked and crosses a narrow bridge, Vibbert said.
The commission also recommended approval of a trailhead building once an archaeological survey commissioned by ARC for its 78-acre site passes muster with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Although the supervisors will have the final say, ARC is confident it can clear the remaining hurdles. "We feel we have a wonderful plan that will be a pleasure to implement," said Thomas M. Daly, the center's president and chief executive officer.
ARC has proposed a three-story, 142,000-square-foot museum and a four-story, 145,000-square-foot conference center with as many as 99 rooms of lodging to attract about 725,000 visitors a year.
Much of the museum would be built underground with a roof of grass, plants and other vegetation.
Except for a small stretch on Pawlings Road, the tract is surrounded by Valley Forge National Historical Park. A section of the Schuylkill River Trail, which runs along ARC's northeastern boundary, is owned by the park.
More than a dozen residents spoke out against ARC's plans Wednesday. Brad Barry spoke for many of them when he said the museum should go back to its originally proposed site, in the park near the visitor center.
Referring to Daly, Barry said: "I urge Tom to go back and work with the park and go back to the drawing boards."
The U.S. Department of the Interior agrees, park superintendent Michael A. Caldwell said, contending it would be best for visitors, for the community, for the area's infrastructure, and for the protection of resources.
Adding to potential traffic problems are plans for a 300,000-square-foot exposition center for the nearby Oaks shopping and business mall. That proposal is accompanied by a developer-funded $10 million road-improvement package for the congested intersection of Egypt Road and Route 422, Upper Providence Supervisors Chairman Robert Fieo said.
Fieo said Upper Providence was "deeply concerned" about the impact of ARC's plans, adding that no one from the center had attended township meetings or discussed its plans with Upper Providence.
"We are looking forward to some type of interaction so we can get together and hammer out the traffic situation," he said.
Daly said ARC would be "pleased" to meet with all parties concerned about the traffic issues in the region.
"One way or the other, they are all intertwined," he said.