Ardmore development moves closer to approval

Posted: April 12, 2014

In a raucous meeting that didn't end until 1:15 a.m. Thursday, members of the Lower Merion Township commissioners' Building and Planning Committee approved the preliminary land development plan for an apartment and retail building and parking project.

Three commissioners voted against it, while 10 voted in favor of moving it along to next week's full Board of Commissioners meeting for final approval.

While the project still would have to go through other township reviews, get permits, and meet more conditions if it is signed off on next week, the remaining actions would require only administrative approval from township staff.

Wednesday's meeting was "the end of the public review and approval process," said Elizabeth S. Rogan, president of the board.

The plan from Dranoff Properties calls for construction of an apartment building with retail at ground level and parking.

Critics say the project is too big for its site and neighborhood. Proponents claim it would boost downtown Ardmore by drawing young residents to live in a transit-friendly building near the train station.

The meeting's more than five hours of discussion on the proposal was punctuated by tetchy exchanges among commissioners, staff, and audience members.

The last dustup came around midnight, between Commissioner Lewis F. Gould Jr. and Philip S. Rosenzweig, the Building and Planning Committee's cochair.

In a last round of commissioner comments before the vote, Gould scolded Rosenzweig as being "boorish" in how he had laid down rules at the meeting's start for what could be discussed about the project.

Rosenzweig supports the project, while Gould opposes it if it is given state funding, which currently is in question.

Gould also was critical of his colleague's comments about another commissioner, Cheryl B. Gelber, who announced during the meeting that she had gone from being a supporter of the project to opposing it. Gelber was not at the table for the vote.

Rosenzweig used his comment time, he said Thursday afternoon, to reply that he wouldn't "lower myself to respond to Commissioner Gould's venomous comments."

The sniping among commissioners began last weekend in a series of heated e-mails.

610-313-8109 @carolyntweets

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