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Debate Brewing Over Proposed Housing Development In Montgomery County

By Justin Finch

UPPER DUBLIN, Pa. (CBS) -- Behind stone walls and iron gates, St. Mary's Villa stands like a kingdom off the Bethlehem Pike in Upper Dublin.

The roughly 45-acres property with a castle home was built for businessman Robert Mattison at the turn of 20th century.

Soon, the site could become more than 350 homes in the form of row houses, apartments and condos.

Ginny Vitella's backyard faces the Villa.

She, and several dozen neighbors, attended the Tuesday hearing when all seven Upper Dublin commissioners voted to approve the mixed-use re-zoning of the area.

"There wasn't much dialogue between the commissioners and the developers asking questions, saying 'what if we do this,' or 'can't we do this,'" Vitella recalled.

The re-zoning gives the developers called The Mattison Estate provisional permission to move forward. Eyewitness News reached out to the developers for comment, but did not hear back by press time.

"What has happened is only one thing, the property, last Tuesday night, was re-zoned."

Upper Dublin Township Manager Paul Leonard said the Villa is not on track for construction yet.

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth still own the site, and are still leasing out space to the Philadelphia-based Public Health Management Corporation, which uses the Villa to provide services to at-risk youth.

Leonard said if the developers choose not to preserve the land's history, the multi-million dollar deal could fold.

"The developers came forward with a covenant with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth to meet certain standards," Leonard explained. "From fit to finish, materials, density, all those things."

Over the next several months, the developers will present a plan to preserve St. Mary's historical items, and a land development plan. Both items must gain owner and township approval before construction begins.


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