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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

parking garage and pig farm......YMCA and Foxley Farm

It has been interesting to watch the two big zoning controversies play out in the Ligonier Valley.  They are so similar.  Let's compare.

I have no inside information, just what I can observe and read in the papers but it seems to me that the YMCA and the Neids both bought real estate with a business plan in mind that did not work within existing zoning rules.

Did either the YMCA or the Neids research zoning and just make a judgment error or did they forego the search and just presume that the use they intended for the purchased land was okay?

Did either the YMCA or the Neids speak with local officials and get some sort of unofficial assurance that they relied upon?

In both cases it is the neighbors who will be most affected by a change in use, right?  The Foxley Farm neighbors argue that increased traffic and noise and what not isn't what they bargained for when they purchased their properties. They argue that what the Neids have in mind will change the nature of the neighborhood thereby lessening their use and enjoyment of their homes.  This is the very same argument made by the neighbors of the YMCA but in addition they will lose access options to the rear of their dwellings and the increased traffic won't just be during special events, it will be every day and every evening plus they will have to contend with security lighting every night changing the entirety of the evening living experience. If I were to say which group of neighbors would suffer more, I'd say it's the neighbors of the YMCA. The YMCA plans are high impact, 24/7, and they sit right up against the neighbors.

Both the YMCA and the Neids argue that their intended uses will benefit the local economy.  The Neids are a for profit business so Ligonier Township will get tax revenue. On the other hand, the YMCA is non-profit so increased traffic to YMCA business is a loss to Ligonier Borough in my view.  The borough receives no additional tax revenue from any business generated by the YMCA.  Increased traffic won't bring more parking revenue because the YMCA plans are largely centered around providing their own parking to avoid using metered borough owned spots. The business that the YMCA hopes to pull into an Excela facility is business that might have gone to other medical businesses already established within Ligonier Borough thus causing those businesses to lose revenue and hence a loss of tax revenue to Ligonier Borough. On the economic benefit argument, I'd say the YMCA has a darn weak case.

Then we have the threats.  The YMCA mutters about building a parking garage.  The Neids publicly discuss creating a pig farm.  It's funny how humans are so much alike.  Do what we want or you'll be sorry!

Going to court.  From newspaper reports it is clear that the Neids have spent alot of money defending their plans.  From what I can read about the court arguments, the representation seems level and the court battle seems fair. Now we hear that the YMCA plans to go to court for an appeal against the Ligonier Borough rejection. So the YMCA is planning to spend some of their non-profit bucks to force the community of Ligonier to do their bidding. I have concerns about the fairness of the YMCA fight, though.  I wonder who will defend the people of Ligonier Borough whose representatives voted to protect their interests over the interests of the YMCA. I do hope Ligonier Borough will carefully choose the attorney for their defense, one who isn't already convinced of the merits of the YMCA plans.  I can tell you my observations at the zoning hearing were that Atty. Flickinger was the only attorney commenting in the room whose views are in line with the borough's decision.  I'd want an advocate for the people of Ligonier Borough, not someone selected by Mr. Welty who is representing the YMCA and would clearly like to have an opponent who would be easy to beat on appeal. The decision by Ligonier Borough of legal counsel should an appeal be filed will speak volumes about their true intention and whether the rejection of the YMCA plans was for show or was a true defense of the interests of the people and what is best for Ligonier Borough.