K. Hovnanian drops plan to build 67 townhouses by Underground Railroad site

The homebuilding company did not say why it was no longer considering the Plymouth Meeting location, which includes three historic structures and wetlands.

Abolition Hall in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. (Google Maps)

Abolition Hall in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. (Google Maps)

A company that proposed to construct a townhouse development on a historic Plymouth Meeting homestead in Montgomery County has dropped its bid to do so.

The move comes after nearly five years of local battles over K. Hovnanian’s plan to build 67 townhouses next to Abolition Hall, which was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

In a July 22 letter sent to the director of planning and zoning for Whitemarsh Township, developer K. Hovnanian formally withdrew its application for the project.

The company did not say what prompted its decision, and a lawyer representing K. Hovnanian could not comment on the motivation.

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Local preservationists had fought the proposal from the start. The 10 ½-acre site includes historic buildings that hosted abolitionist meetings before the Civil War and sheltered people escaping slavery as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Sydelle Zove, a member of the group Friends of Abolition Hall, said the withdrawal is welcome news for residents eager to preserve the past.

“This was a major stop, a busy stop on the Underground Railroad,” Zove said.

The future of the property is unclear. According to Zove, during a Thursday night meeting when local officials announced news of the withdrawn applications, they also mentioned that the property owners are in discussion with other developers.

Zove said she is optimistic the township will eventually be able to acquire the property and develop a plan that emphasizes preservation of its historic legacy.

“Ensuring that this property does not end up in the hands of a developer, I think, that’s the overriding goal here,” she said.

Whitemarsh Township’s manager, Richard Mellor, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

All three of the buildings on the former homestead site are on the National Register of Historic Places. The parcel also contains about eight acres of open fields that Zove said are ecologically important wetlands.

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