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Settlement of lawsuits allows work on Merriam Estate to begin

This blog has commented on the struggle between real estate developers and preservationists over whether to preserve historic structures or allow their demolition in favor of new commercial and residential developments. One such real estate dispute in Lower Merion Township has finally been resolved after 13 years of delays caused by the clash of competing interests.

The Merriam Estate was first proposed for a large residential development in 2003 after its owners died and the land passed to owners who wanted to redevelop it. The estate's most prominent structure, Maybrook Mansion, was built in 1881, at the height of the Gilded Age. It occupies 20,000 square feet, comprises 35 rooms and includes a 60-foot long "baronial room." Original plans for a residential development on the estate were approved by Lower Merion Township in 2002, but litigation concerning driveway access prevented construction from moving forward.

After 10 years of litigation, the traffic and density issues were resolved. The mansion will receive a Class 1 historic status, which means that it cannot be demolished. The developer has agreed to pay $655,000 to the Borough of Narberth for its general fund and traffic improvements near the project. The recently approved plans include a 250-unit apartment building, limited residential development, open space and public trails. Construction has begun on access roads and major intersections near the property, and construction of the apartment building is expected to begin in a few weeks.

This case shows how complex land use disputes begin and how they can be resolved. Anyone involved in a similar conflict may wish to consult an experienced real estate lawyer who specializes in land use and zoning disputes. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a useful analysis of the applicable laws and zoning regulations and can assist in developing strategies that can maximize the chances of a favorable outcome.

Source: Main Line Media News, "After 13-year delay, construction work finally begins on sprawling Merriam Estate," Cheryl Allison, March 30, 2016

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