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Antrim development par for the courses

October 13, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A 192-unit housing development proposed in Antrim Township, Pa., is one of several across the state that would close and eliminate golf courses.

GIBG Golf LLC has proposed the single-family houses on land now used for the Greencastle Greens Golf Course, two miles north of the intersection of Pa. 16 and U.S. 11 in Franklin County.

The Connecticut-based firm and other developers are listed on similar plans in Lancaster and York counties, according to township officials in those counties.

"Often, golf courses are like any other open spaces that are zoned residential and not protected," said Ann Hutchinson, who is director of municipal conservation services through Natural Lands Trust, a nonprofit organization that works in land protection, conservation planning and land management.

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Whether land is developed and the type of development that happens is based on how a local government has zoned a property, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Spokeswoman Christina Novak said.

"You can't really single out a golf course from any other residentially-zoned land," Hutchinson said.

She doesn't think golf courses are any more attractive for a developer than other land, but instead attributes the trend in the southern and central parts of the state to already-existing development pressures.

"There is just clearly a market for new houses," Hutchinson said.

West Manchester Township in York County has two golf courses within its limits and two others split with adjacent municipalities. GIBG Golf LLC, whose representatives did not return phone calls, bought both the golf courses within the township with plans to develop them, Township Manager Jan Dell said.

"It's in a very high-growth area," Dell said.

Early in the year, West Manchester Township fought the developer to protect the courses, Dell said.

"After that first meeting, it was apparent it was going to be a long, drawn-out process with all the litigation," Dell said.

The Antrim Township proposal has already reached the courts, with Greens at Greencastle LP, on behalf of neighboring property owners, filing for an injunction to halt the project.

West Manchester Township recently reached a settlement, Dell said, that preserves the Honey Run Golf Course and leaves the Hawk Lake Golf Course with a mix of uses including 20 percent open space.

Keystone Custom Homes has applied for a conditional use permit for the nearby Springwood Golf Course in York Township, according to Township Manager Elizabeth Heathcote.

"In this case, they are requesting a conditional use permit for a traditional neighborhood development," Heathcote said. It is one of the first stages in the planning process, she said.

Heathcote said she also has heard talk about a development being proposed on the Heritage Hills Golf Course in York Township, although no plans have been submitted.

The Lancaster New Era reported last month that 159 houses are proposed on the Hawk Valley Golf Course in Brecknock Township, but township staff there refused to comment.

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