During a Lower Gwynedd Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, the board unanimously passed a measure directing the town solicitor to investigate obtaining an injunction to stop further clearing. Residents at the meeting spoke out against the tree-cutting and Lower Gwynedd Supervisor Edward Brandt called it an "environmental travesty."
On Wednesday, Tornetta sent in a tree clearing device to take down another swath of trees in an area adjacent to the Polo Club Estates near the SEPTA railroad tracks, said Andrew Greene, project director for the proposal.
"We're pleased that we were able to obtain a temporary stop order," said James Garrity, township solicitor. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get a permanent one."
Officials from Tornetta could not be reached for comment after the injunction order was granted, but Greene previously said that the firm was ''not cutting down trees just to cut down trees.
"We're preparing the area for survey work and for future development," he said. "We're not doing it to play games or to spite anyone. We have a legitimate developmental reason for clearing the areas."
The restraining order stipulates that Tornetta must allow up to 10 officials from the township, as well as personnel from the Department of Environmental Resources, Montgomery County Soil Conservation Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter the tract.
The future of Penllyn Woods has hung in the balance since 1987, when the township rejected a Tornetta development plan for the construction of 108 homes on the land. The township condemned the land in 1988 for open space, offering the appraised price of $650,000. But earlier this year, the condemnation was declared void by the state Supreme Court. The township is currently awaiting a new appraisal so it can re-condemn the land.
But these efforts may be futile in light of an unrelated Commonwealth Court ruling in July that said second-class townships, such as Lower Gwynedd, did not have the authority to condemn land for open space.
In an attempt to reach a settlement, Tornetta offered in August to reduce its development plans by 30 percent and sell the township 20 acres of the parcel bordering the Wissahickon Creek for $600,000. The township countered by offering $1.2 million for the 77 acres. Still, no settlement could be reached.
Tuesday's hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. at the county court house in Norristown.