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Ligonier Township zoning board approves plans to convert farmhouse

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 12:17 a.m.

Officials at the Loyalhanna Watershed Association have gained the first in three approvals needed from government boards to renovate an 1880s-era farmhouse into offices for the organization.

The Ligonier Township Zoning Hearing board unanimously approved an application for mixed use on the 123-acre property, formerly known as the McConnaughey Farm, following a presentation Sept. 25 by Executive Director Susan Huba of the association.

Because more than one use one is not allowed under the zoning ordinance, the board had to grant a special exception, according to zoning officer Cindy Turley.

Two floors of the farmhouse will be used for office space and a conference room, plans show.

The barn will be used for seminars and workshops and will be available for use by other environmental groups, Huba said.

The association is now housed in the former township municipal building on Andi Lane, just west of Ligonier Borough.

“With the barn, farmhouse and our current offices in need of extensive repair work and with limited funding available, our directors decided to focus our efforts on the watershed farm project, which we feel had kind of been let go over the years,” Huba said.

“Having an 1800s-era barn myself, I know it's a lot better to use it than let it sit there and fall down,” board Chairwoman Rose Stepnick said.

The $1.5 million project will include “green initiatives” including minimally altering its footprint, reusing existing structures, using natural and recycled construction materials and making energy-efficient improvements to the structures, Huba said.

“There was really no reason not to approve this application,” board member Linda McDowell said. “It's an improvement to the property, the buildings are being renovated but their footprints will not change, and it brings to life a historic site. It's good for the (Ligonier) Valley.”

Including the former McConnaughey Farm parcel, the association owns a total of 140 acres of farmland, wetland and woodland behind its Andi Road building.

It is turning a large portion of the property into rotational farmland. Other areas will be returned to natural wetland habitat.

“It's our goal to keep that property undeveloped,” Huba said.

The former municipal building will be torn down, Huba said.

The project will need a recommendation from the township planning commission and approval from township supervisors before an occupancy permit is issued.

After that, Huba said, the association will begin a capital campaign to generate the $1.5 million.

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or