Opposition to Hempt Farms redevelopment unanimous at public meeting

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Residents at a Silver Spring Township supervisors meeting Thursday were unanimous in their opposition to a proposed redevelopment of Hempt Farms along Carlisle Pike.

The farmland across from Cumberland Valley High School is made up of nine different parcels encompassing 451 acres and is owned by HSS Investors, LLC. The group wants to redevelop the property into a mixed-use space.

But residents call that farm an icon and a landmark in the township, one they want to see preserved.

“You better think about it and think hard,” said John Archfield, addressing the board of supervisors.

“Am I now going to wake up to an orange glow in the sky at night?” asked one man, whose property is surrounded by HSS’s parcels of land.

“They’re just taking too much of our land away,” said Jeanne Ritter, of Mechanicsburg. “I love the horses. When I’m stressed, I come out to visit the horses. It makes me really happy to see the horses, and the open land, and the sunsets and sunrise.”

Before the board on Thursday was an out-of-court settlement agreement that is seen as a compromise after HSS sued Silver Spring Township last year. The plans were tabled at a December meeting until this week.

The agreement incorporates residential, commercial and industrial space, including a business park that involves plans for warehouses. The original proposal (before any litigation) included a plan of just warehouses on the 451 acres, totaling millions of square feet in space.

Charlie Courtney, an attorney for HSS Investors, said the township’s own comprehensive plan labels the Hempt Farm property as a designated growth area.

“This site was identified as a future development parcel, so it wasn’t something that was gonna be preserved. It was gonna be developed, acknowledging everything that’s happened around it,” said Courtney, referring to the commercial businesses adjacent to the farmland.

But many voiced concerns over a loss of history and heritage if the land were to be developed.

“As a kid, I grew up in Camp Hill, New Cumberland, and we took family drives just up the Carlisle Pike to see the Hempt Farm horses,” said Barb Yoter. “I just love it, gives me a smile every day going to work seeing those horses.”

“The township is and has been my life and an integral part of my heritage,” said Katie Hollinger. “I’m saddened to see so much of our open space and farmland converted into unbridled development. Our schools are overcrowded, our commute times are increasing, our air quality is worsening, our wildlife is being forced out, and our beauty is diminishing.”

Archfield said he realizes that development is a part of life but countered with the argument that preservation can — and should — play a role.

“There’s life in [the] ground and you want to cover it with concrete, macadam, huh?” he asked the board. “We voted for somebody who’s gonna represent us, somebody who has feelings, who has love for this community.”

Supervisors said that after they were sued by HSS, they thought it best to keep the township out of litigation, citing similar past judgments by a court that didn’t go in their favor.

Residents, though, demanded the township fight the development even if they lose.

“You better think about it and think hard down deep in your conscience,” Archfield said.

The supervisors are expected to take action and a potential vote on the settlement agreement at their Jan. 22nd meeting.

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