Reversal is sought on Glen Afton ruling

June 05, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The attorney for the developer of the proposed 169-unit Glen Afton Acres housing development in Washington Township said Wednesday he has asked the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to reconsider a May ruling that went against his client.

Waynesboro attorney Stephen E. Patterson filed the application on behalf of Mary Elgin of Hagerstown, owner of 140 acres of farmland on Harbaugh Church Road that she wants to turn into a residential development of single- and multi-family homes.

Patterson said the project is not necessarily dead.

"We feel that the Commonwealth Court made an incorrect decision," he said. "We want another look."

The Washington Township Supervisors approved the subdivision in November 2001 over the objections of local residents and the township's planning advisory board.


The residents' group appealed the supervisors' action in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in March 2002. The court's three-judge panel issued a 30-page opinion last July supporting the supervisors.

Among the issues in the residents' appeal was whether the supervisors had authority to grant two variances sought by the developer.

The township's zoning ordinance requires planned residential developments to be served by roads at least 24 feet wide. Harbaugh Church Road is less than that in places.

The ordinance also requires developments to have access to an arterial road. According to the township's comprehensive plan, the closest arterial road is Pa. 16, which has access to Harbaugh Church Road through Midvale Road, which is not arterial.

On May 16, the Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the supervisors on five of the seven issues listed in the residents' appeal. It sided with the residents on the two road variance issues when it said only the township's zoning hearing board had authority to grant such variances.

Township attorney John Lisko told the supervisors, who with Elgin also are named in the litigation, that they had three choices following the ruling - do nothing, file an application for reconsideration to the Commonwealth Court or file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The supervisors voted to take no action, opting instead to let Elgin and Patterson make the next legal move.

Patterson said he also has the option of appealing to the State Supreme Court and can seek the road variances before the township's Zoning Hearing Board.

Lisko said he would have to show a hardship before the zoning hearing board. "And that could be tough," he said.

The group of about 40 residents fighting the development is represented by Hubert Gilroy, a Carlisle, Pa., attorney.

"I don't know if it means an end to the development," Gilroy said.

Gilroy said the Commonwealth Court's ruling is significant because the developers can't go forward unless they get the variances.

"I don't think they meet the requirements," he said.

Greg Small, a member of the residents' group, said the group sees the Commonwealth Court's ruling as a victory for their side.

"It goes to what we have been saying," Small said. "The supervisors don't have the authority to grant the variances."

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