Lawsuit Filed Over Museum Complex Approved Near Valley Forge National Historical Park

Valley Forge National Historical Park is again witnessing a battle -- this one legal -- over plans by a group to turn 78 acres into a museum complex. Photo of General Washington's Valley Forge headquarters by Hendricks NY via flickr.

A lawsuit has been filed in a bid to halt a museum complex from being built on 78 acres surrounded on three sides by Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Bringing the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was the National Parks Conservation Association, which was joined by residents from the town of Lower Providence Township, Pennsylvania. The filing argues that township planners approved an unlawful zoning ordinance to permit the American Revolution Center to build the complex, which is designed to feature a hotel and restaurant along with the museum.

As required by Pennsylvania law, NPCA and local residents first filed an appeal with the Lower Providence Zoning Hearing Board. On October 30, the Zoning Hearing Board issued its written decision denying the appeal.

“The Zoning Hearing Board made the wrong decision,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA senior program manager in Pennsylvania. “The ordinance is preempted by federal law and is spot zoning, as the substantial evidence we submitted to the board clearly established.”

The appeal filed by NPCA and Lower Providence residents asserts that the local zoning ordinance is preempted by federal law because it would interfere with and undermine the National Park Service’s role in managing the national historical park. The appeal also claims the ordinance is spot zoning, which is illegal under Pennsylvania law, and permits development that is inconsistent and incompatible with neighboring national parkland and other open space.

According to NPCA, ARC’s proposed development would "change the character of Valley Forge by allowing construction of a new museum, conference center and 99-room hotel, and parking lots for buses, RVs, and cars on historic land that is now open meadows and woods."

ARC's project has also been opposed by Valley Forge officials as well as the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.