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Building permits on hold for new homes in Antietam Commons

Two Washington Township staff members unable to collect on letter of credit

May 06, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- The Washington Township Supervisors decided Monday the township would no longer issue building permits for new homes in the Antietam Commons development, but the developer hadn't been notified by Thursday at noon.

"I'm not aware of that," Ray Rachuba, a representative of North Welty Road LLC, said when contacted by a reporter.

Township Manager Mike Christopher said the supervisors' solicitor, John Lisko, was writing a letter to Rachuba.

"As of this moment, no building permits will be issued for any new units," Christopher said, saying existing Antietam Commons homeowners would be permitted to build decks or additions if requested.

The supervisors met in a closed-door session on Monday and announced their decision afterward. They offered few details, other than to say they did not receive money from an expired letter of credit.

"It looks like it's headed to litigation, so we don't want to talk about it," Lisko said.

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On April 23, the supervisors sent two staff members to Cleveland to submit paperwork claiming $632,700 from a letter of credit associated with Antietam Commons. The Ohio Savings Bank is in receivership, so the township submitted its request to the FDIC.

"Because Ohio Savings Bank was taken over by the FDIC, the FDIC wasn't issuing any more letters of credit," Rachuba said, saying proceeds from lot sales would go to the FDIC.

"We haven't heard anything from the bank (regarding the claim) as of right now," Christopher said when interviewed at noon Thursday.

Christopher reiterated the township doesn't have an adversarial relationship with the developer, but it wants the money to ensure the public infrastructure, such as roads and walkways, is completed.

"The supervisors haven't taken any steps to litigate because we're still working through it," he said.

Rachuba said he already planned to de-record an unfinished portion of the development and put it on hold. That would affect about 55 lots west of North Welty Road.

"It doesn't make sense to sell them at today's prices. We're at the point we're losing money for every lot we sell," Rachuba said.

He had planned for homes to be built where there are already streets and connections for sewer and water. Antietam Commons lost one homebuilder, but retained Ryan Homes, which is marketing the site. Rachuba said another homebuilder has shown interest in working in the development.

The lot prices are now one-third of what they were when Ryan Homes first signed on, Rachuba said. Approximately 30 single-family houses and 30 to 35 town houses have been built, he said.

When Antietam Commons was approved in June 2006, the developer expected that construction would start on 50 houses each year.

"We haven't come close to that," Rachuba said.

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