Bucks County Herald

Gerry Monigan: New Hope Notebook

Odette’s Riverhouse wins another New Hope round

It's hard to say who is more determined: the group working doggedly to build the Riverhouse at Odette's or the group working doggedly to thwart it.

Less difficult to discern, however, is which group has the upper hand.

Gateway to New Hope, the group of investors behind the now three-year-long slog to build a hotel/banquet facility on the site of the former Chez Odette, collected two key pieces of the puzzle Tuesday night from the borough council.

Their opponents, led by the Friends of the Delaware Canal, once again delivered an impassioned argument to abandon the plan, and once again they were denied. If the project finally does get built – as it almost certainly will – this group can take cold comfort in knowing it did everything it could to prevent it.

The council voted unanimously (with one recusal) to grant certificates of appropriateness (COA) for the demolition of the modern-era additions to the original River House and the moving of the 1784 structure to the plot at the intersection of South Main and New Streets.

Two weeks ago, the New Hope Historic Architectural Review Board had recommended against a COA for the move, giving the plan's opponents justification for their stance but only a glimmer of hope; the council repeatedly has given its support to the redevelopment.

At Tuesday's meeting, Brett Webber, president of Friends of the Delaware Canal, reiterated several of his group's positions, including that removing the River House from its original site would eliminate a “significant contributing structure” to the canal, which is a National Historical Landmark.

Sandra Dillon, who helped launch an online petition to “Save Historic Odette's,” seconded Webber's contention that the new construction could be moved onto the north end of the property, allowing the original structure to remain where it is.

Clearly, though, the Gateway group and the council do not believe that is a viable alternative.

The options, as councilor Laurie McHugh surmised, were to grant the COA, in which case the building would be moved, or deny the COA, in which case Gateway would resort to its initial plan to knock down the building and reuse some of the stone in a faux relic.

The council, with the exception of Claire Shaw, voted to grant the COA. Shaw recused herself, citing a possible financial interest, as her house sits directly adjacent to the Odette's property.

As council president in 2014, however, Shaw refused to recuse herself, saying, “I have no intention of recusing myself from the decisions on this project. The location of my property to the proposed site is not a conflict of interest.”

She had participated in every previous vote on the project and had accused HARB of treating Gateway unfairly.

Regardless, Gateway must submit its revised plan, which now will include moving rather than demolishing the building, to the planning commission and the zoning hearing board. Because the plan includes no other changes and its other aspects have been approved, it is expected to get relatively quick responses.

Still, ownership of the parcel where the building would be moved has yet to be transferred from its current owner, New Hope's American Legion post, to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which would then take ownership of the building, as well.

John Hallas, director of parks for the DCNR, attended Tuesday's meeting and said the state has the money to maintain the building once its moved, and that it would be part of “the new master plan” for the site, which includes Lock 11 and the Locktender's House.
was retained.

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