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Ligonier Township zoning board denies appeal

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Ligonier Township's zoning hearing board affirmed a prior decision that denied Foxley Farm owner Maggie Nied occupancy permits for two events at the farm in December 2013.

“This matter has been previously decided by the zoning hearing board — that these types of commercial events are not permitted in the current (residential) zoning classification and that, absent a legislative amendment to change the zoning ordinance to allow these events, they cannot go forward as they've been applied for,” said Craig Alexander, solicitor for the zoning board.

At its May 7 meeting, Alexander said a request had been made by Ligonier Township and the attorney representing neighbors of Foxley Farm for board member Linda McDowell to recuse herself from voting because of “a communication that McDowell wrote” voicing her personal opinion on Foxley Farm.

He said McDowell indicated she was unbiased and prepared to move forward.

“Her position is that her personal opinion is irrelevant,” Alexander said. “The law is what the law is, and she has to follow the law ... regardless of personal opinions.”

McDowell and board member Robert Ramsey voted to approve a written conclusion that the events are not allowed under the zoning ordinance.

The matter first came before the board in February. Nied appealed the decision of township zoning Officer Shelly Kaltenbaugh to deny permits for a farm-to-table luncheon for the Progress Fund, a community financing agency, and a dinner to celebrate the wedding of a soldier who had just returned from overseas. The wedding dinner was held; the luncheon was not.

Attorneys for Ligonier Township, Foxley Farm and some neighbors presented arguments then, but Alexander made no ruling and permitted the attorneys extra time for legal research.

The Nieds have 30 days to appeal the board's decision to Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court, Alexander said.

Attorney Patrick Doheny, who represents the Nieds, said he plans to review the written decision with his client and discuss whether they will appeal it.

Kaltenbaugh declined to comment. Attorney Mark Hamilton, special counsel for Ligonier Township on Foxley Farm matters, declined to comment.

Attorney William Sittig, who represents several neighbors of Foxley Farm, said his clients are happy with the outcome. “We're happy that the zoning hearing board found the way that it did and we think they followed the law,” he said.

The next zoning hearing board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 27.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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