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Guest Opinion

Historical Society’s proposed land sale at odds with its mission


The April 4 edition’s front page article by Freda Savana (“Bucks County Historical Society’s Doylestown Twp. land eyed for luxury homes”) clearly and concisely covered the April 2 Doylestown Township Supervisors meeting and the proposed sale of land currently in the hands of the Bucks County Historical Society to custom builder Rich Zaveta.

The deal with Zaveta Construction has been discussed and coupled with some strategic timing. An attempt to put the wheels in motion to sell land willed to the BCHS by the Hart family is underway. Containing at least two historic buildings dating to the 18th century along with the society’s collections/curatorial facility containing innumerable artifacts acquired by the BCHS, this is a serious decision worthy of further discussion.

The society’s director — Ms. Kyle McCoy — seems anxious to move forward with this sale, despite proclaiming to be “…charged with collecting, preserving and interpreting the rich history and culture of Bucks County and the Delaware Valley region.

As the primary inheritor of the material and intellectual legacy of Henry C. Mercer, the BCHS is custodian of a regionally and nationally significant collection of tools and artifacts that illuminate the history of pre-industrial America to c. 1850.”

This land, these buildings and the artifacts stored and protected on the property represent what the Bucks County Historical Society is supposed to be caring for, not auctioning to the highest bidder. Perhaps Ms. McCoy needs to be more specific in her justification for pursuing this deal and more transparent about her plans and the society’s financial plight, for a start.

It would also be of interest to know what the BCHS plans to do with the vast number of historic objects and equipment currently housed in the collections facility located on the property, of which many people outside of the organization may be unaware.

As much as this seems to be about the BCHS and its failure to uphold its responsibility to the community and its history, it’s also about Rich Zaveta. He states this is “responsible development.” How about just “responsible?” How many more million dollar homes do you need to sell, Mr. Zaveta? How many more historic properties and natural areas have to be gobbled up?

Once these properties are gone, there’s no getting them back. Our community boasts a strong connection to and pride in history and nature that he seems to be doing his best to erase in the name of profit.

If the BCHS is in legitimate financial trouble, perhaps a large donation of the profits from some of your other projects that wiped out historic properties would help the BCHS more than buying up its tiny piece of preserved history and bulldozing it away.

Why can’t the BCHS partner with The Heritage Conservancy to preserve this land courtesy of Zaveta Construction? That would be “responsible (non)development.”

The environmental impacts have to be looked at. Thirty-six units multiplied by one car per unit equals 36 or so cars heading in and out of a spot that’s now got 36 or so deer (and plenty of other animals) living there. Where will they go?

We all know we are experiencing storms and flooding more seriously than ever before. So we’re going to take 24 acres of forested land and vegetation and build over it? Is that really a good idea?

The borough and neighboring townships have been working on expanding and connecting biking/walking paths through our community in an admirable attempt to promote more pedestrian/cyclist-friendly alternatives and less reliance on automobiles.

A recently completed stretch of this path passes in front of the entrance to the proposed construction site. Do we need more activity/congestion/automobiles in that spot?

Let’s think this through.

Mary Hughes lives in Doylestown.

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