Church Lane plans withdrawn

by Tom Beck
Posted 11/15/23

The future of 42-68 Church Lane, a parcel for which developers had proposed a five-story, 125-unit apartment building, is “to be determined.”

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Church Lane plans withdrawn


The future of 42-68 Church Lane, a parcel in which development company Olympia Holdings planned to construct a five-story, 125-unit apartment building, is “to be determined,” the parcel’s owner, David Minnick, told the Local, after Olympia informed the city that it plans to withdraw its plans to seek permits to build the project.

 City spokesperson Bruce Bohri confirmed in an email to the Local that Olympia is no longer seeking to build the project, which residents almost unanimously opposed.

Yvonne Haskins, an attorney who represented near neighbors in zoning hearings, told the Local that she was “ecstatic” about the news.

“Near neighbors and I worked very hard to defeat this proposal as presented,” she said. “It was overbuilding in the worst way.”

The parcel is the former home of Nolen Building Materials and has sat vacant for months.

The Local’s calls to the development company, Olympia Holdings, went unreturned. Minnick, who had plans to sell to Olympia had the company gotten the necessary permits, told the Local in a phone call that Olympia withdrew its plans because of neighbors’ opposition. He also said that he wasn’t sure if the company’s plans were to seek a lower scale project or give up on the parcel entirely.

“At this point I don’t know,” he said. “Right now we have nothing in the works.”

Loretta Witt, board president of Historic Germantown, told the Local that she was “proud” of how the community rallied to fight the project.

“Our community came together in a passionate and reasonable way to ultimately oppose this proposal by the developer for what was to be an enormous building that’s out of scale for Church Lane,” she said.

Despite neighborhood opposition, Minnick called Olympia’s plans for the property “beautiful.”

“[Olympia] had a beautiful plan, and I can’t believe the neighborhood didn’t want it, but they didn't want it,” he said. “Nobody’s more disappointed than us.”

Neighbors’ opposition to the project primarily focused on both the project’s size and lack of parking.

“I can tell you that nobody that I've talked to is in favor of this project,” said Jim Dragoni, a near neighbor, at a May public meeting held for the project. “It will block out the sky. It will block out the light. It will block out the tree line. It is massive.”

The original plan for the project included 148 units and 74 parking spaces, but in an effort to placate neighbors, the company later reduced the amount of units to 125 and increased the amount of parking spaces to 93. The development team’s architect, Kevin O’Neill, called the changed plans “a reasonable compromise” at a later meeting held in June, but it wasn’t enough to quell neighbors’ concerns.

“You're not having people [living] there who are going to use the [Route 23 bus] and walk over to Chelten Avenue to catch the train at night; they're gonna be people who have their own vehicles,” said another resident, Neil Kugelman, who works as a realtor in the area, at the June meeting. “There's a lot of demand for parking, and there are very few parking places for the people who live on Church Lane.”

But for the time being, Minnick said, “the city has another vacant lot on its hands.”