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Foxley Farm loses appeal of pair of permit denials

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Ligonier Township's zoning hearing board voted to affirm a previous 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 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 hearing board.

At Wednesday's meeting, Alexander said a request had been made by Ligonier Township and the attorney of neighbors of Foxley Farm for board member Linda McDowell to recuse herself from voting on the matter because of “a communication that McDowell wrote” voicing her personal opinion on Foxley Farm. He said it was up to her whether she could have an objective, unbiased opinion in voting, adding that McDowell indicated she was unbiased and prepared to move forward.

“Her position is that her personal opinion is irrelevant,” he 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 approved a written conclusion stating the events are not allowed under the zoning ordinance.

The matter first came before the board in February when Nied appealed the decisions 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 at her residentially zoned property.

Attorneys for Ligonier Township, Foxley Farm and the farm's neighbors presented arguments at the February hearing, but Alexander made no ruling and permitted the parties extra time for legal research in the dispute.

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

On Wednesday, attorney Patrick Doheny, who represents the Nieds, said he plans to review the board's 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 on behalf of the township.

Attorney William Sittig, who represents several neighbors of Foxley Farm, 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 nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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