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Washington Township supervisors urge Gardners to donate land

August 28, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Siblings who want to develop 72 acres of their mountaintop land adjacent to the Appalachian Trail went before the Washington Township Supervisors on Wednesday to talk about their plan and ways to protect the forested ridge.

Twelve lots are proposed on property owned by Charles S. Gardner III and Letitia Gardner off Pennersville Road and Fort Ritchie Access Road on Mount Dunlop.

Two and a half years ago, the Gardners, who donated Happel's Meadow to Washington Township, asked the supervisors for their support in obtaining permits for new road access to the land. The Gardners since have received approvals from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Department of Defense.

Yet, comments allegedly made at that last meeting caused problems when the supervisors saw development sketch plans that do not show any land being donated to the township. Some supervisors referenced a Feb. 17, 2006, letter in which Letitia Gardner was thanked for offering to donate land at the earlier meeting.

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Letitia Gardner said Wednesday that she did not make that offer.

"If there was no offer, I don't know what my motivation would have been to sign a (permit support) letter that interfered with one of my missions - to protect natural resources," Supervisor John Gorman said.

"We made a stupid, careless mistake in not responding to that letter and challenging it at the time," Charles Gardner III said.

The Gardners said they want to preserve the integrity of the ridgeline, and would establish deed restrictions to keep homeowners from cutting down trees. However, township officials said they fear deed restrictions would not be enough to protect the trees.

"I've seen deed restrictions and they get broken," Supervisor Elaine Gladhill said. "Then, the neighbor has to hire a lawyer."

Township Manager Mike Christopher shared fears about both deed restrictions and the Gardners' alternate idea for a homeowners' association.

"None of these concepts protect that area from a rogue act when someone shows up with a logging truck. ... If it's a homeowners' association and deed restriction, we're pretty sure it's going to fail," he said.

Christopher and the supervisors urged the Gardners to consider donating a portion of the property to the township, National Park Service or another organization that could have authority to protect the trees.

The Gardners agreed to look at their options and return with a sketch plan that possibly reflects a stretch of preserved land extending 300 feet off the Appalachian Trail.

"My sister and I don't want it to ever be more developed," Charles Gardner III said.

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