Residents Vent Anger At Delco Council

Posted: September 06, 1990

When the Delaware County Council approved the sale of the historical Rose Tree Tavern last month, there was no public debate in advance of the decision - something that disturbed a group of Upper Providence residents.

So on Tuesday, five township residents showed up at the weekly council meeting to berate council members for approving the sale and conversion of the county-owned building to a restaurant and inn with no warning to the public.

The sale to three local brothers was approved early last month. Not even township officials were informed of the county decision, said the township's manager.

The Upper Providence group was led by former township Councilman Anthony Potts, who compared the county's actions to the sort of thing communist governments in Eastern Europe once did - "giving special favors to a favorite few, making government decisions in secrecy."

The project still must be approved by the Upper Providence Planning

Commission and Township Council.

In 1988, Potts was a member of a township committee that recommended turning the early 18th-century tavern and an adjoining 3.27 acres into a municipal government complex.

The county opposed that. Now, Potts is opposing the county plan to sell the building to the Rose Tree Tavern Partnership for $75,000.

The buyers are three former Ridley Park residents, brothers J. Patrick, Michael and John Nilon, who operate the City Tavern in Philadelphia. Michael and John Nilon live in Wallingford, and Patrick Nilon lives in Wilmington.

The land, also owned by the county, would be leased for 32 years, starting at $6,000 a year for the first 10 years.

Too low, Potts said. "This puts you in the league with some of the S&L deals."

Council members did not respond to Potts during the session, but at a news conference later they defended the sale price, saying that the partnership faced investing hundreds of thousands of dollars before it could earn any income.

Council members said that, when renovation costs were factored in, the project could cost more than $1 million.

Patrick Nilon added that the brothers' proposal was first submitted to the county two years ago. He said Upper Providence officials were aware of their proposal.

The brothers plan to turn the building into an upscale restaurant, but first will have to move it 150 feet back from the intersection of Providence and Rose Tree Roads so the intersection can be widened.

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