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 Developer withdraws Liberty proposal submits alternative plans that call for more homes.

Erin Negley
Evening Sun Reporter

Thursday, November 06, 2003 - Liberty Development Corp. withdrew plans for its controversial 1,140-housing unit development Wednesday night, but the company has submitted two alternate plans to develop both sides of the original tract of land.

The difference?

The latest two plans are separated by a narrow strip of land that may bisect the original 770-acre property.

The original plan for The Community of Liberty covered nearly 710 acres along Tract and Pecher roads. Preliminary plans included 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.

A citizens group, Save Our Liberty, formed in opposition to the development, arguing it would destroy the township's rural character.

The developers stopped public hearings for the Community of Liberty to resolve the "title issue" of a strip of land resident John Tomko says he owns. The plans called for a planned residential development, which requires one contiguous piece of land.

After Wednesday night's supervisors' meeting, Ed Wormald, director of operations for The Wormald Companies, said the developers withdrew Community of Liberty plans "for the good of the township." The Wormald Companies owns Liberty Development Corp.

"We wanted to pursue one plan at a time," he said.

Tomko said he met with representatives with The Wormald Companies, and he still owns the land. He declined to talk about their meeting.

In the meantime, Liberty Development Corp. submitted plans in September for the eastern portion of the proposed development ­ Liberty Valley. On Oct. 15, plans were submitted for 106 homes on the western portion of the land, a project to be known as Liberty Estates. Combined, the plans include 147 more homes than the original Community of Liberty.

Liberty Valley includes 1,181 houses on about 445 acres along Crum and Tract roads. The plan calls for a retail center, a community center, horse stables, open space, sports fields and equestrian, walking and biking trails.

The community calls for 596 single-family homes, 278 of which will be "empty-nester homes;" 20 estate custom homes, 273 townhouses and 312 condominiums.

Liberty Valley, a 14-phase development, is to open in 2006 with 13 townhouses and 35 single-family houses if approved. Each building phase will start by 2016 and the site will be built-out by 2021.

Condominiums will average $155,000, townhouses will average $215,000 and single-family homes will range from $245,000 to $325,000. Estate and manor homes will range from $295,000 to $380,000.

The development includes more than 75 acres of "prime farm" soil in the northern part of the parcel; 14 acres will be preserved in the development's equestrian area.

Plans for Liberty Estates, a subdivision and not a planned residential community, were not available at the township office. At a previous public hearing, Wormald outlined the plans for Liberty Estates, saying the development will include 106 homes on two-acre lots and will not include walking and riding trails that created a buffer between the original development and neighboring lots.

He said he prefers the original Community of Liberty Plan over the combined Liberty Valley and Liberty Estates plans. The original plan has a greater number of single-family homes, which are preferable in the current housing market, Wormald said.

If only one development is approved, it will still be built, he said.

The township will hold the first Liberty Valley public hearing 6:30 p.m. Nov. 24.

Residents at Wednesday's meeting wanted time to allow the township's planning commission, engineer and Adams County Office of Planning and Development to review the plans and make recommendations before the hearing was scheduled.

"We want to follow the law and we want enough time to do it well," said planning commission member Peter Foscato.

Township solicitor Walton Davis added the township has plenty of time to receive recommendations, even if the hearings start before the recommendations are complete. During the first two public hearings held for The Community of Liberty, the lengthy testimony did not allow attorneys to address the recommendations before the hearings were postponed.

The township must hold a public hearing for the Liberty Valley plan within 60 days of its submission, or Nov. 29, Davis said. If the hearings are scheduled after the deadline, the developer could file an appeal and Liberty Valley would be automatically approved.

Members of the audience claimed the 60 days didn't start until Wednesday, when the developer submitted additional information to the original plan.

But the township's zoning ordinance does not require a complete plan, Wormald attorney James Strong said. And Davis said the township couldn't delay the hearing because the plan was incomplete.

"This is too important to make a test case," Davis said.

The supervisors scheduled two more public hearings Wednesday night. The first, 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, will cover the planning commission's 3-2 recommendation to eliminate planned residential developments from the current zoning. Those developments are not included in the township's proposed zoning ordinance, which planning commission members should complete by Nov. 19.

The second public hearing, 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13, was scheduled to discuss the township's proposed zoning ordinance changes.

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