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10 acres of no man's land in Pa.

July 06, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, PA. -- Local developer Tom Shook has tried for 16 years to hand the last 10 acres of his farm over to new owners as green space for the Melrose Meadows development, but financial issues have potential owners playing hot potato with the land.

Neither Antrim Township nor the Melrose Meadows Homeowners Association are keen to own the land as open space, so the plot remains on Shook's tax roll and insurance policy, a burden that he said he is tired of bearing.

Shook said the township agreed to take ownership of the land in 1998, but after 10 years and many requests, it has yet to do so.

Shook recently wrote the township, asking it again to take ownership of the land.

Zoning Officer Angie Garland said Shook asked the township to take the land "as is."

Garland explained that Shook was to dedicate the land to offset payment of recreation fees for the plan.

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"If a developer doesn't set aside land for recreation purpose, he or she is to pay a recreation fee," she said.

Garland said as far as the township is concerned, it doesn't matter who owns the land as long as it is recreation space.

Shook said he initially tried to give the land to the homeowners association for all three phases of Melrose Meadows, but the association was not interested.

"The lot owners did not want to take control of the land. They didn't want to deal with the liability insurance," he said. "I don't want it, either, anymore."

At the June 24 meeting of the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors, Garland told supervisors they could refuse to take ownership of the land despite the decision of a former board to accept the land.

"We don't have to take it," she said. "Even if he made it into a park, we don't have to take it."

Supervisor James Byers, who was on the board in 1998 when the board agreed to take control, said with the new township park built adjacent to Shook's undeveloped plot, the township should pass on owning the land.

Shook said he never was informed that he needed to develop the 10 acres for recreation space before the township would take ownership.

"Nothing I saw mentioned that (developing the land) when we talked in 1998," he said. "Besides, what kind of recreation space would I make? There are many different kinds. I feel it should not be my responsibility to develop it."

The supervisors discussed many potential uses for the land, including a tree farm and open fields for soccer, biking and other passive sports, but tabled the issue to a future meeting.

Garland said Solicitor Deborah Hoff was to contact Shook on behalf of the township with three options - develop the land as per the plan, amend the plan or pay the township a recreation fee.

"What I heard from the board on Tuesday (June 24) was that 'as is' is not an option," Garland said.

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