Different plaintiffs. Different arguments. Same outcome.
A Lancaster County Court judge has rejected another effort to overturn Manheim Township’s June 2019 approval of the proposed Oregon Village on Oregon Pike as an allowable use.
Judge Leonard Brown III found that the township’s board of commissioners properly weighed – and discarded – the points raised by James Garland, owner of the nearby Reflections restaurant on East Oregon Road, nearby farmer Lester Oberholtzer of John Landis Road and township resident Martin Wenrich of Creek Road.
Oberholtzer said Friday the plaintiffs have yet to decide whether to appeal.
Brown’s Nov. 16 decision came three weeks after he turned down an appeal from Mary Bolinger, owner of the nearby Olde Oregon Farmhouse, a bed and breakfast. She had maintained the commissioners failed to take into account the project’s impact on her business.
Bolinger, through her attorney, on Tuesday filed a notice in county court saying she is appealing the ruling to Commonwealth Court. The substance of her appeal will come in a subsequent filing.
75-acre development planned
Oregon Village is a $120 million mixed-used development proposed in 2016 by the five Hurst brothers, who include the owners of Oregon Dairy on Oregon Pike at Jake Landis Road.
The 75-acre project would replace the Oregon Dairy supermarket and restaurant with larger facilities, develop farmland into homes and redevelop the idle Shawnee Resort site diagonal from the dairy into a 120-room hotel and more housing. In total, 554 housing units would be built.
The board of commissioners’ task was to decide whether to allow the project as a conditional use – that is, a use that’s permissible if certain conditions are met. They approved the Hursts’ request by a 3-2 vote.
The Oregon Village acreage is zoned for business but has a village overlay too. The overlay allows – as that conditional use – a mix of medium-density and higher density residential development, plus offices, stores, restaurants and lodging.
Brown saw no merit in the plaintiffs’ claim that the development would hurt Reflections as well as the community’s health, safety and welfare.
Garland, the restaurant owner, said his business would suffer because the development’s road design calls for shutting down two of three ways to drive directly to his restaurant. Construction of Oregon Village also would deter customers from traveling to his business, he said.
But Brown felt otherwise. Garland’s claim that Reflections would be harmed because the road design would create a 52-second detour “is not persuasive,” the judge said. Further, Garland’s claim that added traffic in the area would hurt Reflections “is patently illogical,” Brown said.
“It is just as likely, if not more likely, that Reflections Restaurant will enjoy an increased number of customers in the coming years due to the development project as it would see a decrease in current regular customers. Mr. Garland’s speculative concerns over the development project are not enough for this court to overrule the decision of the Board,” Brown wrote in his ruling.
In addition, Brown rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that Oregon Village would hurt the general welfare of the community, especially the 250 Amish and Old Order Mennonite households in the immediate area.
“While the court is sympathetic to the plight of the Amish and Old Order Mennonite in relation to the development project, the objectors failed to offer sufficient evidence …,” the judge wrote. In contrast, the Hursts showed how their road and traffic designs included special features “to accommodate horse and buggy travel.”
Neither was Brown moved by the plaintiffs’ claim that the board – including two commissioners who together received a total of $965 campaign contributions from the Hursts, as was previously reported – unfairly favored the Hursts. Brown said the plaintiffs raised this issue too late to be considered.
Brown shot down three other arguments presented by the plaintiffs too.
The plaintiffs said that the Hursts’ own traffic impact study showed the development would worsen traffic congestion. But Brown ruled that traffic issues are not relevant to a conditional use hearing; they can’t be raised until the developer takes the next procedural step – submitting a land development plan.
Brown also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that Oregon Village’s architectural stylings did not comply with the zoning ordinance’s requirements. The judge said he saw no reason to overturn the board’s decision to side with an expert called by the Hursts who said they did comply.
In addition, Brown turned aside the plaintiffs’ complaint that Mary Haverstick, the spokesman for farmland preservation group Respect Farmland, was improperly blocked from participating in the hearing. The board said it did so because she is not a township resident. The judge said that point should have been raised by Respect Farmland to be considered.