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Petition takes aim at development

Residents worry about flooding

JACKSON TWP — Opponents of a potential development vow to take action to prevent any construction that harms surrounding areas.

An online petition posted to thepetitionsite.com on March 15 by Harmony resident Josh Meeder had more than 800 signatures as of Tuesday.

Township manager Chris Rearick said Creative Real Estate Development has indicated that it may submit a land development proposal in the next few months for property bordering Mercer Road, Wise Road and Route 19.

In the meantime the developer has submitted an application for grading on the property and plans to dump soil there that will be excavated from a recently approved Murphy Tractor business along Route 19.

In the petition, titled “STOP! The Creekside Manor Project from filling the flood plain and destroying wetlands,” Meeder claims that any development on the property would harm the flood plain, wildlife habitats, historic sites and property values.

Part of the property is in the flood plain set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and residents are concerned that filling in and developing this land would make potential flooding worse.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Connoquenessing Creek flooded causing extensive damage to homes and businesses.

Meeder said both his home and the Center of Harmony building, which he owns, are on Mercer Street and would be damaged by flooding.

The petition may be the first of several measures taken by a newly formed group of residents and business owners who are concerned with the potential issues of developing areas near the creek, Meeder said.

“We will employ every legal and ethical means of stopping the fill of this area and any destructive, irresponsible development in the area,” he wrote on the petition website.

More than 75 percent of the online signatures are from people who live in or near Harmony and don’t want irresponsible development near their homes, Meeder said.

“The whole town is up in arms about it,” he said.

Their goal is not to prevent any development, but to work with the township and developer to ensure responsible development, he said.

Creative Real Estate owner Don Rodgers said the study he submitted shows that no flooding will occur and that his opponents will not be able to alter his plans.

“Our science proves it’s not going to flood them. I have my state permits to fill the site. The state will not issue permits if it’s going to cause problems to adjoining property owners,” he said.

Creative Real Estate originally proposed in 2002 a housing plan on the property to be called Creekside Manor, which was met with opposition from residents and the borough.

In 2004, Harmony hired an engineering firm to review a hydraulic study submitted with that application and make comments to Creative’s engineers and Jackson township, said Mayor Cathy Rape.

“We had an independent hydraulic engineering firm check the numbers and they had a few comments about what his (Rodgers’) engineer said,” Rape said.

However, the plans were dropped after the flooding following Hurricane Ivan, she said.

The residents in Harmony do not oppose Murphy Tractor, but they do not think it is wise to dump soil in the flood plain, Rape said.

The grading permit has not yet been granted and needs township, state and federal approval, Rearick said.

“He’s made application for the grading permit. Any land development would go through standard process for review once it is submitted,” he said.

Creative Real Estate already has received a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Butler County Conservation District, said Amanda Witman, state Department of Environmental Protection information specialist.

The permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources such as ditches and pipes that discharge pollutants into waterways, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

The DEP waterways and wetlands program is reviewing its application for a Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit which includes a hydrology study on the impacts on floodplain, Witman said.

“DEP is the lead agency for these types of earth disturbance activities and their impact on the environment,” she said.