Plans tabled for mixed-use project at former Hempt Farms in Mechanicsburg

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Another township, another big development, and residents who are largely against it.

Silver Spring Township supervisors heard plans Monday from HSS Investors, LLC. — based in Camp Hill — to redevelop 451 acres of land that is the site of the former Hempt Farms, which raised and housed racehorses for decades.

The plans call for redevelopment of nine contiguous parcels of land directly across from Cumberland Valley High School. All the parcels are owned by HSS and zoned for agricultural use. HSS wants to redevelop the land into a mixed-use space.

“We’re really not talking about whether the Hempt Farm will be developed, we’re talking about it will be developed, the question is how it is developed,” said Charles Courtney, an attorney for HSS.

Courtney said Monday during his presentation that the 451 acres, as they sit right now, create an “island of agricultural use” that can’t be rezoned the way they want under existing township rules.

Developers initially wanted to build more than five million square feet of warehouse space, but the township wouldn’t allow it. So, developers sued the township, challenging their ordinances.

That led to Monday night and an out-of-court settlement agreement before supervisors. In the agreement are updated plans that still include warehouses but on a much smaller scale. They also incorporate residential, commercial, industrial and green space all into a larger complex.

Supervisors said they agreed to work with developers to find a compromise instead of fighting the development in court because they haven’t had luck in the past with similar cases going before a judge.

Ultimately, they voted to table the new agreement, saying they want more time to review the revised plans and make sure it fits with the township’s vision for the site.

Neighbors in that area, however, are still concerned about potential traffic issues, high school pedestrian safety and the loss of old farmland.

“There’s a lot of history here, and I think preserving that history and buildings, landmarks, landscapes, is really important for future generations,” said Christine Musser, a historic preservation advocate.

“One of the things that attracted us to Silver Spring Township was the rural nature of the township and we’re losing that,” said Don Franklin, a 25-year resident of the township.

Supervisors will take this up again at next month’s meeting at which time if it’s approved, the settlement agreement will lead to land development plans.

As you heard, developers will do something with that old farmland, but it remains to be seen exactly what.

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