Opponents of the American Revolution Center have filed an appeal challenging the validity of the zoning ordinance amendment that allowed the project to move forward.
The appeal was filed yesterday with the Lower Providence Township Zoning Hearing Board by several residents and the National Parks Conservation Association.
Thomas M. Daly, president and chief executive officer of the American Revolution Center, said he had no comment.
The appeal contends that, if approved, ARC's project will interfere with Valley Forge National Historical Park's congressional mandate to manage its lands and preserve the history of Valley Forge and the American Revolution. While the land for the center is owned by ARC, it is within the park's congressional boundary. The appeal also says the ordinance is spot zoning, which is illegal in the state.
The Zoning Hearing Board had turned away a similar appeal earlier this year because at that time no development plans had been filed by ARC and the board said a "triggering event" was needed.
That event was a preliminary opinion by Michael Siegel, the township zoning officer, dated May 5 that said ARC's plans comply with the provisions of the ordinance amendment.
The preliminary opinion is a rarely used provision of the state's planning law that is meant to help landowners and prevent someone from challenging the validity of an ordinance after the landowner has gone through the land development approval process, said Mary Ann Rossi, a land-use attorney with MacElree Harvey in West Chester.
"It's not something that's done all the time," she said. In her experience, it is usually used as a last resort, she said.
The ARC owns 78 acres along Pawlings Road that is within the boundary of Valley Forge National Historical Park. It is seeking approval to build a three-story, 142,000-square-foot museum, a four-story, 145,000-square-foot conference center with up to 99 rooms of lodging, and a 1,700-square-foot building with maps and bathrooms.
When first proposed, the museum was to be constructed next to the park's Welcome Center as part of a public-private partnership. The ARC dissolved that partnership early last year, citing disagreements with the National Park Service over fund-raising, project management, and control of assets.