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Proposed Middle School Clears Final Hurdle
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            A proposal submitted by the Upper Perkiomen School District to construct a new middle school in Upper Hanover cleared its final hurdle Tuesday night. The township's board of supervisors voted to grant final plan approval to the district's application during a public meeting.

            Steven Rothenberger cast the lone vote in opposition to the motion, which allows district officials to move forward with construction of the school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders on a vacant parcel along Montgomery Avenue.

            Supervisor Ben Fiorito, who made the motion to proceed, participated in the meeting via telephone. Vice Chairman Richard Fain was absent from the public meeting.

            Following the vote, Dorothy Diehl and Chairman Eugene Fried described the nature of the process as contentious. Diehl said she received threating calls from groups of people.

            "Some people attempted to lean on me, or threatened to sue me if I didn't vote yes," Diehl said. "I feel like the board extended the school district a courtesy, but we didn't get it back. I will go public if those sorts of things happen again."

            Fiorito explained that the role of every board of supervisor is to vote on each proposed development based on its own merits, not for or against any specific developer.

            "My personal opinion on the need for a school has nothing to do with my vote," said Fiorito. "That's the primary reason I have cast my votes the way I did throughout this process."

            Fried agreed with the comments from both his colleagues, adding that he has received negative comments from people on both sides, including people that have been his friends for 30 years. "You should all be ashamed," he said. "I don't want it to happen again."

            Prior to the vote, Solicitor Joseph Bresnan explained that he advised the supervisors that district officials had met all the conditions outlined in the preliminary plan approval. Bresnan also recommended that the members take action.

            Despite the legal objections filed by two Montgomery Avenue residents, the solicitor recommended that the board grant final plan approval since he has not received an injunction from a judge.

            On Tuesday, a lawyer representing a Pennsburg household filed a challenge to the district's use of eminent domain. Christopher Mullaney, representing Dennis and Shirley Giansante, who live on Montgomery Avenue near the intersection of 11th Street, filed a preliminary objection to a declaration of taking submitted by the school district in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

            The same day, a lawyer representing township resident William Chrisman sent a letter to Bresnan citing four reasons for his opposition to the proposal. Ethan O'Shea has filed an appeal of the board's preliminary plan approval for the school.

            Prior to the vote Joe Clement, a lawyer representing the applicant, recognized and thanked the board for its cordiality. 

            "The only thing we have ever asked for is to be treated like any other applicant in the township," Clement said.






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