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Where It Stands: Carlisle Airport, Hempt Farms still in limbo
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Where It Stands

Where It Stands: Carlisle Airport, Hempt Farms still in limbo

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Carlisle Airport

Planes sit off the runway at the Carlisle Airport at 228 Petersburg Road.

Two much-anticipated land use issues in Cumberland County are still in limbo as of this week.

South Middleton Township Manager Cory Adams said the township’s environmental study of the Carlisle Airport is done, but the data is still being processed.

The study is the first step in the township exploring public ownership of the airport, which is located within the township but serves the greater Carlisle area. The airport’s current private ownership has been looking to sell, and operating the airstrip as a public operation would open it up to enhanced state and federal funding.

The township could own the airport outright, or more likely create a separate nonprofit entity in conjunction with other municipal agencies to run the airfield.

But the first step, South Middleton officials said over the summer when the study was first approved, is to look at the airport’s current condition, particularly with regard to any liabilities for environmental work that could come along with a public purchase.

Silver Spring Township Manager Theresa Eberly also said this week that a new proposal for the Hempt Farm property has not yet been submitted to the township following meetings in December and January when residents turned out to oppose a development deal.

Shortly after January’s meeting, the township announced that the Hempt Farm ownership had asked to delay further discussion of the matter until public concerns could be addressed.

A deal between the property’s owners and the township would forestall the ownership from taking the township to court over a request to re-zone the land from agricultural to industrial.

The Hempt Farm’s owners had argued a case of “reverse spot zoning,” citing more intensive uses around the farm, and had submitted to court a relief proposal that would involve the entire 451 acres becoming industrial, which would permit roughly 5 million square feet of warehousing.

A compromise agreement considered by the Silver Spring Township supervisors would have only half of the site become warehouse-permitting industrial, with other areas devoted to public green space, housing, and retail.

But at a packed meeting last month, residents questioned if the township wasn’t selling itself short by accepting a compromise instead of pushing the issue to court.

Previous cases in which a judge sided with developers arguing reverse spot zoning — such as the Realen Valley Forge Greenes Associates vs. Upper Merion Township case, which went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — were in municipalities with much more intensive surrounding development, and residents encouraged the township to try its luck in court given Silver Spring’s geography.

Email Zack at zhoopes@cumberlink.com.

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