Judge rules on Foxley Farm
A Westmoreland County judge has ruled a consent decree limiting the number of weddings that could be held at Foxley Farm is valid.
Judge Chris Feliciani will next determine whether the Ligonier Township farm's owner, Maggie Nied, violated that order when she continued to play host to events, including at least two weddings this year, on the 56-acre property.
An attempt to negotiate a modified settlement, at the judge's urging, was short-circuited when Nied and her lawyers left the Westmoreland County Courthouse immediately after the July 29 daylong hearing.
“No comment,” Nied's lawyer, Patrick Doheny, said outside the courthouse.
“I'm always ready to sit down and talk,” said Gary Falatovich, Ligonier Township's special counsel for Foxley Farm.
In an April 2013 consent order signed by Nied, her neighbors and Ligonier Township officials, Foxley Farm owners agreed to hold 11 weddings through the end of 2013.
Nied's neighbors wanted the weddings to stop, saying the large events attended by as many as 200 guests caused noise and traffic congestion in the quiet countryside.
During a hearing earlier this year, Nied admitted she played host to 16 events in 2013 after approval of the consent order. During nearly four hours of testimony, she said Foxley Farm hosted at least two additional events this summer.
Attorney William Sittig, who represents the neighbors, said he wants the judge to fine Nied for violating the consent order.
“We're asking for the money she gained by throwing those weddings to pay for attorney fees,” Sittig said.
Feliciani said he will decide whether Nied is in contempt of the consent order after he receives written arguments from the attorneys within 40 days.
Nied contends that the agreement was based on fraud and was negotiated by her former lawyer, who was allegedly working in concert with township officials.
Her former lawyer, Scott Avolio, now serves as the solicitor for Ligonier Township and has recused himself from Foxley Farm matters.
Nied testified on Tuesday she only agreed to the order after receiving assurances last year from Ligonier supervisors that an amendment to the zoning ordinance would be approved to allow Foxley Farm to host weddings.
Attempts to amend the township's zoning laws have failed.
Nied claimed she never reviewed a final version of the consent agreement.
Feliciani said he did not believe Nied was unaware of the terms of the consent order.
“Ms. Nied's testimony is somewhat incredible ... that she would not at some point demand a copy of the court order,” Feliciani said. “It seems incredible to this court that any party to the consent order would believe government action would be taken automatically.”
Sean Gallagher, the second attorney with Nied's legal team, said in court they will challenge the township zoning ordinance, saying it violates her constitutional rights.
Meanwhile, Nied and her legal team contend they won approval last month to classify Foxley Farm as a bed and breakfast, a designation that would enable her to host weddings and overnight guests under existing zoning laws.
Township supervisors said that request was rejected in early June.
Feliciani, who is transferring this week to the criminal court division, said that issue will be resolved by another judge later this year.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sarah Meade crowned Miss Ligonier 2015
- 1st memorial bench dedicated along Ligonier Valley Trail
- Fort Ligonier revives costume contest for local youths
- Burning ordinance sent to Ligonier Township supervisors
- Children work to help with Friendship Park rebuild
- Ligonier Township to look into computer, phone upgrades
- Highland Games return with full slate of entertainment
- Ligonier Borough board denies restriction request from Fort Days committee