South Whitehall Township Commissioners are looking at hiring a consultant to help them adopt a historic resources protection ordinance to preserve unique assets like the recently threatened King George Inn.
On Wednesday night, commissioners heard from Thomas J. Comitta, a town planner who has prepared numerous historic protection ordinances in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Comitta, who is president of Thomas Comitta Associates of West Chester, is the same consultant who helped the township craft its comprehensive development plan in 2009.
He told commissioners he would gather historical resource information from a number of sources, prepare a list of historical resources, work with township staff to prioritize those resources, map them and draft a proposal for legislation that would go through multiple steps of public review.
The ultimate aim of any law would be to try to preserve historic structures by, for example, requiring demolition permits for certain buildings, encouraging adaptive reuse, adopting regulated historic overlay districts or other creative means of encouraging preservation.
The proposed cost of Comitta’s services are $41,500, which prompted Commissioner Glenn Block to ask whether there is some way to reduce the cost.
Comitta said the township could compile its own inventory of historic buildings and reduce his team’s work by a week. Commissioners asked him to revise his fee based on an assumption that this would be done.
Comitta responded to a township request for proposals on crafting a preservation law that was advertised after public outcry over the proposed demolition of the 257-year-old King George Inn on Hamilton Boulevard.
Developer Atul Patel has proposed demolishing the stone building and two neighboring retail structures and building a new commercial neighborhood with a bank, a restaurant and a drug store.
But after hearing from township officials about their concern for the historic building, Patel has temporarily put those plans aside and is considering alternatives that would allow the King George to remain standing, according to township solicitor Joseph Zator.