This is Ligonier's friendly neighborhood blog and an attempt to recapture our lively opinionated debates in a free speech zone.

Please join our conversations. Contributors welcome.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 was the year politicians seemed to have agendas differing from many who live in the borough and township - leaving residents deeply divided and some heartily discouraged.....

Ligonier Township appointed attorney Mark Hamilton in January as its representation for matters involving Foxley Farm, to avoid a conflict of interest with its new solicitor Scott Avolio. The farm's owners, Maggie and PJ Nied, want to host weddings and other events at the farm, which are not permitted on their property under the current ordinance. The Nieds, Ligonier Township and several neighbors of the farm have been involved in an ongoing dispute in Westmoreland Common Pleas Court over the issue.
In January, the Nieds appealed the decision of township Zoning Officer Shelly Kaltenbaugh to deny occupancy permits for two events at the farm in December 2013. The appeal was denied in May.
In February, Ligonier Township filed a civil complaint against the Nieds, alleging they violated a township ordinance by holding a wedding at their farm on the weekend of Dec. 27, ignoring a cease-and-desist order.
In May, Hamilton resigned as special counsel to the township after the supervisors voted to shut down an “agritourism” zoning amendment he proposed to allow farms to hold social events in certain districts. In June, the supervisors appointed attorney Gary Falatovich to the post.
Also that month, Ligonier Township supervisors denied the Nied's request to operate a bed and breakfast and social recreational club.
In July, Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani heard arguments as to whether the farm can be classified as a bed-and-breakfast under the township's zoning code, and its neighbors filed a zoning appeal in which they asked Feliciani to uphold a township ruling that rejected the Nieds' request to have their farm approved as a bed-and-breakfast. Also that month, Feliciani ruled that a 2-13 consent decree that set a limit on the weddings that could be held at the farm was valid.
In September, Feliciani again upheld the consent decree, stating that the Nieds could appeal that decision while other matters are legally contested among them, township officials and neighbors of the farm.
The proposed Ligonier Valley YMCA expansion plans reached a snag with Ligonier Borough Council in January regarding a land use issue to use its commercially zoned property for professional medical offices and adding a surface parking lot.
Borough council withdrew an appeal to Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas in February, to avoid continuing litigation and expense and approved the parking lot in March. Ligonier resident Gay Wasserman filed an appeal against the decision on April 2.
The YMCA board of directors appointed Larry Stormer as its new chief executive officers in May, replacing Ben Wright, who resigned in February.
Council approved an ordinance in March to abolish the planning commission and establish a planning committee comprised of three council members. Two council members, Judy Hoffer and Jim McDonnell, challenged the action in March, claiming council did not follow the state Municipalities Planning Code's procedures for making the amendment. Westmoreland County Judge David A. Regoli dismissed the case and denied a motion for reconsideration from attorney Richard Flickinger, representing Hoffer and McDonnell. They later filed an appeal of the decision in commonwealth court.

Read more: 
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook