Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Liberty Project Hearing Delayed. Request by Developers Granted by Supervisors

Erin Negley
Evening Sun Reporter (10/15/2003)

Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - A public hearing for a 1,140-home housing development in Liberty Township resumed Tuesday after the developers spent more than a month trying to investigate an ownership question about a strip of land that bisects the project.

But a few minutes after the hearing opened with a roll call, Liberty Development Corp. asked to postpone the proceedings until the Nov. 5 supervisors' meeting. The supervisors agreed, 3-0.

Liberty Development Corp. of Frederick, Md., wants to build a planned residential development on nearly 710 acres along Tract and Pecher roads. Preliminary plans include townhouses and single-family homes ranging from $200,000 to $500,000, an equestrian center, walking and riding trails, a shopping area and a new township hall.

Tuesday's hearing was the third for the proposed development. The developers postponed four hearing dates scheduled in September to investigate a possible ownership problem with a strip of property ranging from 20 to 40 feet wide that may bisect the project. Resident John Tomko said there's no doubt he owns the property.

Township supervisors scheduled Tuesday's hearing to keep the process moving, said Leonard Sites, chairman of the supervisors.

"How long do you think we should delay this major item?" he asked after the meeting. "We have to have time to make a decision."

Supervisors have 30 days after the final public hearing date to make their decision about the development, said township solicitor Walton Davis. But that may be cut short if the final hearing happens after Dec. 12. The township ordinance requires a decision within 180 days from the plan's submission. The plans were submitted July 15, making the final deadline Jan. 11.

"I don't know whether this plan is going to last that long," Davis said, citing challenges to the plan that are out of the township's control.

At the Nov. 5 supervisors' meeting, the developers will reveal their progress on the land ownership issue and ask to for another postponement or schedule another hearing, said Charles Zwally, attorney for the developers. Until then, they plan to resolve the issue, said Ed Wormald, director of operations for The Wormald Companies, which owns Liberty Development Corp.

"We will be meeting with the Save Our Liberty attorney and the property owner to discuss the issue and see about a mutually satisfactory resolution," he said, declining to elaborate.

Save Our Liberty is a citizens group that opposes the proposed development.

John Tomko, who says he owns the strip of land, has agreed to meet with the developers, he said after the meeting.

"I'm always open for discussion on any type of thing," he said.

If the development is bisected by the property, the plan will not comply with the township's ordinance, Davis said. The developers want to build a planned residential development, and Liberty Township requires that a planned residential development be one continuous piece of property.

Because of questions about the strip of land, developers submitted an alternate plan two weeks ago. If the developers cannot solve their "so called title difficulties," Zwally said they will continue with that alternate plan.

The alternate plan is for land east of the strip in question. The new development, Liberty Valley, includes an equestrian center, commercial space and 1,181 housing units, Wormald. More than 40 percent of the homes in the 445-acre Liberty Valley will be attached townhouses and condominiums, as required by the township's zoning ordinance.

Township officials are waiting for their engineer to assure the new plans for Liberty Valley are complete before a public hearing is scheduled. The township must submit the plans to the county planning office for review as well.

Wormald said Liberty Development Corp. intends to submit plans for another development, Liberty Estates, on the western portion of the current plan. Liberty Estates will stretch along Pecher Road and will include 106 single-family homes on two-acre lots, he said. The proposed plan will not include the walking and riding trails that created a buffer between the original development and neighbors' land, Wormald said. He does not know when the development company will submit plans for Liberty Estates.

It is possible hearings for more than one development plan may happen in the same time period, Zwally said, but the developer prefers the original Community at Liberty plan.

"For one, we think a greater number of single-family homes are preferable (because of the current housing market)," Wormald said.

Also, the alternate plans do not include as much open space.

If both plans are approved, the developer has the right to decide which community to build, Davis said.

"We are pleased to end up with either one," Wormald said.

Read other articles related to Fairfield, Pa.