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Judges find no reason to stop new Pa. development

July 22, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A three-judge panel has upheld the Washington Township Supervisors' December approval of a controversial housing development off Harbaugh Church Road.

Opponents of the Glen Afton Acres development have not decided yet whether to appeal the decision, which was handed down Friday afternoon.

"I thought we had some legitimate complaints against the supervisors. The supervisors did not represent the people," said one of the opponents, Vernon M. Fox of Harbaugh Church Road.

Supervisors approved the 169-unit development over the objection of local residents and two planning advisory boards.

The Harbaugh Cemetery Association and five individuals sued the township and the developer in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

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A three-judge panel comprised of John R. Walker, Douglas W. Herman and Carol L. Van Horn heard arguments March 7 before issuing their unanimous 30-page opinion.

Opponents argued that Harbaugh Church Road is not wide enough to handle the traffic that will be generated by the 140-acre planned residential development.

They said the development goes against the township's comprehensive plan, which aims to preserve prime agricultural and forest land.

But the judges ruled that the supervisors had the discretion to approve the road's width.

They ruled that the comprehensive plan only protects farmland where public utilities do not exist. The 140 acres in Glen Afton have access to water and sewer.

Even if the development was not consistent with the comprehensive plan, that alone would not be reason to turn down the proposal, the judges ruled.

Mary Susan Elgin, the Hagerstown woman who proposed the development, is pleased with the ruling, said her lawyer, Stephen E. Patterson of Waynesboro, Pa.

An appeal would go to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, he said.

Fox said he wasn't surprised by the ruling because development seems unstoppable.

"I'm an old-timer and I guess I hate to see development and growth," he said.

Christopher Firme doesn't live near the proposed development but said he joined the lawsuit to protect farmland.

"I'm a little sad because this is just one portion of a viewshed that's going to disappear," he said. "The view from Pen Mar Park and High Rock is going to change dramatically."

The developers want to build 133 single-family houses and 36 duplexes, setting aside 43 acres for open space.

They are proposing a walkway around the development that includes benches and trees. They also plan to build two parks, featuring a ball field, playground, volleyball court and picnic tables.

Opponents said they will probably meet with their lawyer, Hubert X. Gilroy of Carlisle, Pa., before deciding whether to appeal. A meeting date has not yet been set.

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