Preserved Farm

This preserved farmland in Martic Township was the focus of a lawsuit to try to stop the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline from being built through it.

Lancaster Farmland Trust has settled its lawsuit against the builder of the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline and a landowner who, the trust claimed, violated a conservation easement on a preserved farm in Martic Township.

The settlement does not stop the pipeline from being built through the farm, as the nonprofit trust had hoped in filing the lawsuit.

But a renegotiated right of way easement adds protections to the land, said Karen Martynick, the trust’s executive director.

The Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. also agreed to pay the trust $12,470 for the right of way and pay almost $25,000 in the trust’s legal fees.

The dispute involved a 139-acre preserved farm sold in 2015 to Robert and Mindy Hostetter on Red Hill Road.

The previous owners, the James Hale Steinman Residuary Trusts, had donated a conservation easement to the trust that specifically stated various man-made activities, and specifically listing pipelines, could not be built on the property.

The trust’s lawsuit alleges the Hostetters had no authority to grant a right of way for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline to go through the property, made three weeks after they had purchased the land. The Hostetters were paid nearly $50,000 for the easement.

When the Hostetters and Transco refused to terminate the easement agreement, the trust sued.

A Lancaster County court judge twice refused motions by Transco to dismiss the case.

Transco terminated the agreement with the Hostetters in March and initiated eminent domain procedures against the Hostetters and the trust.

The trust and Transco then negotiated a settlement with a new right of way agreement.

“The most important thing to us was that the land was treated appropriately and, to the greatest extent possible, restored and protected in the future. Our mission is to preserve and steward Lancaster County's farmland, so that was our priority,” said Martynick.

Christopher Stockton, spokesman for Williams Partners, owner of Transco, said, "We are pleased to have been able to reach an amiable and mutually beneficial agreement with all parties involved, including the landowner and the Lancaster Farmland Trust." 

The pipeline easement involves 1.5 acres of permanent right of way and 2.2 acres of temporary work space.