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Developer willing to sell property near Pa. wetlands

September 18, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The developer who wants to turn approximately 10 acres of land abutting Happel's Meadow Wetland Preserve into 18 single-family homes said Washington Township intended the land for development.

Thomas Mongold, a representative of Kylea & Associates Inc., said in a telephone interview Friday that Washington Township zoned the land for low-density residential development before his company purchased it in 2004. Since the purchase, many members of the community have questioned the ability of the land to be developed.

Washington Township recently began the process of trying to buy a portion of the land from the developer following concerns of potential damage to the adjoining wetlands by the proposed Blue Oak development.

Mongold questioned the recent change of intent saying, "If the land was not to be developed, why was it zoned for development?"

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Kylea & Associates purchased the land for $13,500 per acre in 2004, according to deeds filed in Washington Township. The company purchased the land because, according to Mongold, Washington Township zoned it for development and because it is connected to public water and sewer. He said, there is "little land available" with this combination of features.

However, Mongold admitted that Kylea & Associates offered to sell a 6.31 acre parcel of the land to the township. When asked the exact price offered, he said the figure of $50,000 per acre previously cited in the Herald-Mail was accurate.

According to Mongold, the developer has invested almost $40,000 into the property for topographical studies, wetland assessment, mapping and surveying. Additionally, if developed, he estimates the land would be worth $90,000 per acre.

A group of residents from the nearby Pennersville Road area claims the company's asking price is too high in light of what it paid for the property. Saying the land is "worthless" because of its wetlands, Michael Bonarrigo of Pennersville Road called Kylea & Associates' asking price "obscene profit."

Mongold argued that $50,000 per acre is a "very fair" price, saying it accounts for the developer's previous investments and losses from not developing the land.

Washington Township Manager Michael Christopher has said the township is willing to purchase the 6.31-acre parcel, but cannot pay more per acre than the land's appraised price. Christopher also said the township does not know the appraisal price.

The offer to purchase the 6.31-acre parcel is still available, according to Mongold, but if Washington Township does not purchase it, Kylea & Associates will go forward with development.

Township supervisor John Gorman previously said that, ideally, the township would like to purchase the entire property. Mongold emphasized that Kylea & Associates does not intend to sell the smaller parcel along Pennersville Road, but will develop it as planned.

Happel's Meadow is a 70-plus-acre wetlands maintained by the township and dissected by Pa. 16.

Doris Goldman of Waynesboro, Pa., who holds a Ph.D in biology, volunteered to inventory the plant and animal life in the Meadow.

Her on-site research identified nearly 200 plant species, including 88 of which are on the Pennsylvania endangered list.

Happel's Meadow is also home to deer, muskrat, voles, mice, mink, frogs, salamanders, turtles and bobcats, according to Goldman's research.

Kylea & Associates and Washington Township are still negotiating the property.

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