The Manheim Township commissioners Monday night approved the controversial 76-acre Oregon Village mixed-used development of 554 housing units, restaurants, stores and a 120-room hotel. The vote was 3 to 2.
The majority of the commissioners ruled that the Hurst brothers, owners of the Oregon Dairy supermarket and family restaurant, proved that the two-site complex they want to build along Route 272 in the township’s northeast corner complies with land-use regulations that allow for a village-style development.
“I do not see how this development does not meet our ordinance,” Commissioner Donna DiMeo said in voting yes.
DiMeo noted that if the commissioners rejected the developer’s village concept, he could still build commercial uses such as a motel, bank, day care centers or even an adult entertainment shop on the tracts, which are zoned for business.
“Whether we are for or against developing, I must follow the law,” DiMeo said before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100, most of whom opposed the project.
Joining DiMeo in voting for the project were commissioners David Heck and Albert Kling. Voting no were Thomas O’Brien and Samuel Mecum.
Victor Hurst, the developer, told LNP that groundbreaking was at least two years away, and that traffic improvements would happen first.
The developer must complete a new traffic study as one of the 19 conditions the commissioners set in approving the conditional use. The project requires lengthy review under the township’s subdivision and land development ordinance.
“The commissioners have done a tremendous job in hearing both sides of the argument,” Hurst said. “We’re obviously pleased with the vote.”
Parties who object have the right to appeal to Lancaster County Court.
Perception issue raised
In addressing the commissioners after the vote, Julie Miller, an attorney representing three parties who objected to the project, said commissioners Heck and Kling should have acknowledged before voting that their campaign committee last September received $960 in political contributions from the Hursts.
“It’s possible that there is not a thing wrong with it,” Miller said. “However, I think it creates a perception problem, at least from my clients’ perspective.”
Heck and Kling had said the contributions would not influence their vote.
An opposition group, Respect Farmland, had called on Republicans Heck and Kling to recuse themselves because they accepted the contributions. In November, the pair face Democratic challengers Barry Kauffman and Allison Troy, who opposed Oregon Village.
The vote exposed a Republican/ Democrat divide, with all three Republicans voting yes and the two Democrats voting no.
“We’re not done right here,” Mary Haverstick, Respect Farmland’s co-founder, said of the fight against the project. “I think the citizens are going to ask for better representation.”
The approval concluded a 10-session conditional use hearing that since January has divided the community between those who consider the village-style project good planning and those who objected to its impact on traffic, village life and Plain sect families in the existing village of Oregon.
Impact on Amish
Donald Kraybill, a retired Elizabethtown College professor and authority on Amish culture, testified for the opponents in April that the Amish were so concerned about the influx of traffic that some may sell their farms and move.
Amos Beiler, a member of the Old Order Amish Church, attended the vote and told LNP afterward he was disappointed, expressing concern about traveling safely by horse.
William Crowe, of East Oregon Road, told the commissioners that the site for a development of this scale “is probably uniquely the worst place that you could do this because of the influx of Amish and agriculture.”
“I’m disappointed that the people lost tonight,” he said.
In explaining his vote, O’Brien said it’s not smart growth “to build this at the expense of our Amish neighbors, who will face potential negative impacts on their income and difficulties attending school and religious services.”
“This project could force the actual fabric of our community right out of our community,” he said.
Mecum concurred with O’Brien, saying, “I don’t see how anyone could seriously argue that this plan is compatible with the character of the immediate vicinity.”
The $120 million development was within a village growth area designated by Manheim Township and the Lancaster County Planning Commission.
The Hursts proposed 554 housing units, much of which would be built next to or near new commercial uses, including an enlarged Oregon Dairy supermarket, a hotel, a banquet center and shops.
Below is a video of the vote and public comments.