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Residents hope to raise money to buy property near Pa. wetlands

September 13, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - "We will get this saved, one way or another," Thomas Halligan said, motioning to the wooded area behind his property.

Halligan is one of six citizens from the Pennersville Road area who met on Tuesday to show their determination to prevent the development of property that lies between their homes and the Happel's Meadow Wetland Preserve.

Thomas Mongold of Mercersburg, Pa., owns the land and has proposed it as the site of the 18-lot Blue Oak development.

According to the group, developing the land would be a travesty from every angle.

"This property is a mix of certified wetlands, swampy areas and wet land," Michael Bonarrigo of Pennersville Road said. "It is type C soil, it's not safe to build on." The group illustrated Bonarrigo's point by telling about their neighbor on Pennersville Road.

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"There is so much ground water," Terry Sebold of Pennersville Road said. "Our neighbor's house has floated, and he is on drier ground than this development would be."

In addition to the risks potential lot-owners would face, the group alleges that developing the property would result in the destruction of the wetlands surrounding and running through the proposed Blue Oak development.

"Wetlands have no boundaries," Bonarrigo says. "If you build this close to them, they will be affected."

Outraged by what she says are the forseeable consequences of the proposed Blue Oak development, Elaine Gladhill of Carrosmar Farm Road says the group has a specific goal of preventing even one parcel of the development from ever being built and are working to raise money to reach that goal.

The group claims that Mongold offered to sell a parcel of the land to Washington Township, and that they are working to raise money to take some of the burden off the taxpayers of Washington Township.

Sebold says that while Mongold has yet to quote an exact price for the property, the group anticipates the price to include significant profit. Regardless of the price, Gladhill says the group is pursuing avenues of funding to purchase the property.

While the group does not want the land to be developed, it does want it to be used. The group says they would like to see the property used as dry access to the Happel's Meadow Wetland Preserve.

"We would like it to have walk-ways, boardwalks, and even a little education center so that people can come and learn about the wetlands," Halligan says.

Bonarrigo claims that using the property as an educational facility would be affordable, saying that only "sweat equity" would be required to create the facility. He also said that using the land for education would require little change and would not damage the wetlands.

Washington Township currently owns the Happel's Meadow Wetland Preserve and purchased 5 acres of adjacent land to the proposed Blue Oak property in late 2005.

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