Owners of Foxley Farm in Ligonier Township blast neighbors' intent
The owners of a Ligonier Township farm that hosts weddings have accused their neighbors of intentionally scuttling the business as a means to bolster other local venues.
In a court motion presented on Friday, Foxley Farm owners Maggie and PJ Nied claimed someone vandalized their property by hanging a dead skunk from a sign late last year.
The battle over the 60-acre farm has been ongoing for more than a year. The township has maintained local zoning laws forbid the farm, located in a residential district, from hosting public events.
The dispute intensified this week as the Nieds formally asked the court to throw out an agreement reached last year allowing them to hold events on the property through the end of 2013.
“This is the act of a desperate woman who has been the only one violating the law,” said attorney William Sittig, who represents three neighboring families who have opposed the activities at the farm.
In April 2013, a consent order approved by the courts and signed by the Nieds and their neighbors limited the farm in the picturesque Laurel Highlands to hold just 11 events last year.
During a contempt-of-court hearing last month, Maggie Nied testified the farm hosted 16 weddings last year and has more scheduled for 2014.
Westmoreland County Judge Chris Feliciani is considering the contempt request filed by the neighbors.
Nied family attorney Patrick Doheny said his clients, in a separate legal action, now want last year's consent order to be nullified.
“Because it was the product of fraud, mutual mistake, duress and/or illegally selective enforcement of the township's ordinances, the consent order ... must be vacated,” Doheny said in court documents.
Doheny suggested the neighbors' opposition is part of an attempt to steer business away from Foxley Farm and to other local venues such as the Rolling Rock Club, Ligonier Country Club and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.
Doheny suggested township officials have targeted the Nieds and not enforced zoning ordinances against other venues.
Sittig said his clients only want to restore calm to their neighborhood.
The legal wrangling occurs as Ligonier Township officials are expected to consider an amendment to the zoning ordinance to establish an agricultural tourism district that ultimately could allow Foxley Farm to host certain events.
The proposal was pitched by attorney Mark Hamilton, the township's special counsel hired to oversee the Foxley Farm legal issues.
Hamilton could not be reached for comment.
The new request to vacate the consent decree was put on hold.
Feliciani ordered lawyers for the township and the neighbors to file written opposition to the motion within 20 days.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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