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Plans to turn farmland into shopping center abandoned

November 23, 2001

Plans to turn farmland into shopping center abandoned



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - As a farmer, Carl Diller professes to know little about real estate development, but he's sure met his share of developers.

Over the past five years, many have approached him about turning his 120-acre farm near Waynesboro, Pa., into a shopping center even though the land has never officially been on the market.

None of the plans has ever gotten off the ground.

What seemed to be the most promising proposal to date was dealt a blow last week when Giant Food Stores withdrew from the project.

Giant was supposed to anchor the shopping center off North Welty Road with a new Martin's grocery store. Instead, Giant will probably renovate its existing Martin's on East Main Street, said Project Manager Tom Porsch of Caldwell Development Corp.

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Without its main tenant, the Wormleysburg, Pa., developer decided to abandon plans for the shopping center, he said.

Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher in part blamed the economy.

He said retail businesses haven't wanted to take the risk of opening new stores in the Waynesboro area even though the area needs some choices.

"When you have larger metropolitan areas of Hagerstown and Chambersburg (Pa.) on either side, you're kind of the monkey in the middle," he said.

Waynesboro developer Ronnie Martin went a step further. He said the main problem with the development is that it doesn't face Pa. 16.

"Tenants and developers want to be where there's traffic. If the township wants commercial development, it's going to have to happen along Route 16," he said.

Several years ago, the township turned down Martin's proposal for a new shopping center along Pa. 16 across from Hooverville Elementary School. He said he isn't pursuing new commercial development.

"That quenched my thirst for trying something in the community," he said.

The township is trying to encourage development off Pa. 16 so it doesn't become too congested, Christopher said.

An important step toward that goal was going to be the Diller farm shopping center. Developers were going to foot the bill for extending North Welty Road from Pa. 16 to Country Club Road.

Because the development is off, the township may have to pay for the road. Franklin County government had already agreed to pay for a bridge to span Antietam Creek.

"The road's important for the long-term transportation network for the township," he said.

Christopher would prefer that a developer build the road, not only because of the costs but also so the developer can design it to meet his or her needs.

Diller, who lives in Smithsburg, said something may yet happen with the property where he spent 20 years as a dairy farmer.

He wasn't terribly disappointed when Caldwell backed out because he's not in a hurry to sell the land, he said. It's zoned commercial and has access to public water and sewer.

"Apparently that's important for commercial development," he said.

Although Diller no longer keeps livestock, the land is not idle. The family harvested corn and soybeans this year. His son, who is a teacher, lives in the farmhouse.

The family always has the option of bringing back the dairy operation, he said.

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