No decision made on Ligonier Township B&B request
Though Foxley Farm owners Maggie and PJ Nied's were not present, Ligonier Township supervisors held a conditional-use hearing June 10 on their request to operate a bed and breakfast and a social-recreational club.
No decision was reached after the hearing was conducted by attorney Gary Falatovich, who was recently appointed as special counsel for matters involving Foxley Farm.
The Nieds contend they have won approval by default.
Last month, the township planning commission voted to recommend to the supervisors the bed and breakfast request, which would allow for overnight accommodations for as many as 15 guests. The commission did not recommend the club request.
Last week, several residents spoke in favor and against the Nieds' proposals.
Falatovich then went into the hearing, presenting correspondence from attorney Shawn Gallagher, who is representing the Nieds but was not present at the meeting.
In a June 6 letter to zoning officer Shelly Kaltenbaugh, Gallagher asserted the township failed to hold a hearing within the time limit set by the state Municipalities Planning Code.
Gallagher asserts his clients are entitled to a deemed approval of their requests.
The board disagrees, Falatovich said.
Gallagher told Falatovich in another correspondence that the Nieds would not be attending the hearing. Gallagher asked that the township forgo the hearing and said the deemed approval should be advertised. Kaltenbaugh told Falatovich that the application was accepted by the township between April 29 and May 5. But Gallagher contends the application was accepted April 1, meaning the 60 days to schedule a hearing had expired June 2.
Falatovich said an April 24 letter from Kaltenbaugh indicated that the Nieds' application was returned because a consent order between the Nieds, the township and several neighbors of the farm “precluded them from filing these particular conditional use requests.”
Falatovich said the order specifically indicates the Nieds agreed to not seek approval for weddings at their farm unless a zoning amendment or legislation was enacted to allow such activities in the farm's residential district.
In an April 29 correspondence, Gallagher questioned Kaltenbaugh's return of the application and requested a hearing, Falatovich said. The application then went before the planning commission.
In a letter dated May 30, Kaltenbaugh informed the Nieds of the commission's recommendation and alerted them that the application would go before the supervisors on Tuesday.
“Obviously, (the Nieds) haven't put anything on the record to meet their burden for the conditional use, so it would be a denial,” said attorney Bill Sittig, who represents several neighbors of the farm. “We strenuously disagree with the allegation that this isn't a timely hearing.”
The application “should have never been accepted,” Sittig said, citing the alleged violation of the consent order. The Nieds “agreed in the consent order that they would never ask for weddings again, unless there was a zoning amendment or state legislation, so we shouldn't be here,” Sittig said.
Supervisors will issue their written determination within 45 days, Falatovich said.
On June 9, Gallagher filed a complaint in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court seeking approval of the application. On June 11, he declined to comment beyond the correspondence with Kaltenbaugh and Falatovich.
In related news, Maggie Nied filed an appeal in county court regarding the zoning hearing board's decision to deny occupancy permits for two events at the farm in December. According to court documents filed by attorney Patrick Doheny, Nied wants a judge to reverse the board's decision and award the permits. A hearing has not been scheduled.
Sittig said the filing is “just another in a series of desperate legal attempts to conduct illegal activities at Foxley Farm.”
Zoning board Solicitor Craig Alexander and Falatovich could not be reached for comment.
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.