The Curious Case of Public Space in Narberth Borough

Should eminent domain be used to create a piazza in Narberth?

The site in question. Image via Google Street View

The site in question. Image via Google Street View

Narberth Mayor Tom Grady will hold a public town hall meeting next week to discuss the “vision for Narberth’s downtown and public areas,” Main Line Times’ Cheryl Allison reports. Sounds great, right? Well, not if you’re Kenneth Corl, the owner of the property in which Narberth Borough is looking to either purchase or possibly take through eminent domain in order to create the new public amenity.

A meeting on Monday saw the Narberth Borough Council vote to postpose action on an ordinance that could have kick started the process to acquire the land at 100 Forrest Avenue. Corl has visions of building a fitness center on the site and estimates he’s spent $500,000 renovating the gas station’s building and removing the underground tanks. He recently purchased the property from his niece Raquel, who inherited it from her father after his passing. That is where it gets a little tricky. From the Main Line Times:

Borough officials had issued permits for work connected with the renovations, and were thus aware of his business plans, Corl said. Nevertheless, the borough in November approached Raquel Corl with an offer to purchase the property for $350,000, he said. When she declined, Borough Council authorized solicitor Marc Jonas to prepare and advertise an ordinance stating the intent to purchase or take the property.

It’s a prime location across from the street from the Narberth Train Station and residents voiced their concerns at the meeting on January 12. They seem split as to whether or not Corl should be able to proceed with his plan (after all, he does own the property) or if this is an opportunity for Narberth to create some sort of public space. Borough Council hasn’t said much about their plans, only listing the intended use as “parking and a staging area for public events.”

Georgette DuBois, current president of the Narberth Civic Association, said an “overarching concern is the lack of information, echoed over and over” by citizens. That has “led to lots of misunderstanding and upset.”

The public meeting will be held Wednesday, January 21 at Borough Hall starting at 7 p.m.

Narberth council postpones action on potential taking of 100 Forrest Ave. [Main Line Times]