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Penn National among best places to retire

May 24, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Penn National, a golf and retirement community off Pa. 997, has been named one of the 100 best places to retire in the country by Where to Retire, a national magazine with editorial content that focuses on retirement locations and trends.

Donald Zimmerman, president of White Rock Inc., developer of Penn National, said the honor was not sought out by the golf course community. "They checked us out," he said.

A brief ceremony was held at the resort Monday in honor of the recognition. Among those attending were T.K. Nitterhouse, who started Penn National in 1968. Two years earlier, Nitterhouse bought about 500 acres of farm and woodland, rounded up local investors and built Franklin County's first 18-hole golf course. The first homes were built around the course in 1970. In 1973, another 700 acres were bought and expansion began in earnest.

Today there are 650 homes at Penn National with an average of 50 more being built each year. About 90 percent are single-family homes and the rest are condominiums and townhouses.

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Construction at Penn National represents 54 percent of all the new housing starts in Guilford Township, Zimmerman said. By the time Penn National is built out, in about 15 years based on the current construction rate, it will have more than 1,600 homes, according to its master plan. New sections are opened every year.

Today the resort features a second 18-hole golf course, a 36-room inn, tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, a clubhouse and a restaurant.

While 75 percent of Penn National's residents are retired, there are no age restrictions. School buses make daily runs into the community, Zimmerman said.

Still, retirees - especially today's younger, more active retirees - make up the market for which the community aims, Zimmerman said.

"About 75 percent of the people who retire do so within 150 miles from the place where they worked and lived," he said. "They want the amenities that the warm weather places offer, but they want to be closer to their friends and families. The Carolinas and Florida are too far from the grandchildren."

He said the trend to build retirement communities above the Mason-Dixon Line is growing.

Penn National sells the building lots and does some home construction, but most homeowners bring their own plans and hire their own contractors. Plans must conform to the community's master plan, Zimmerman said.

Houses range in size and price from 1,100 square feet and less than $100,000 to larger homes costing about $300,000, Zimmerman said.

Roads and public utilities are maintained by Guilford Township.

Where to Retire uses three main criteria to rate communities: Planning and stability, amenities offered and scenic beauty.

Among those present at Monday's ceremony were Richard Browdie, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, state lawmakers and The County Commissioners.

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