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Preservation group forms

Josh Meeder, left, and John Ruch survey land where a developer wants to dump dirt excavated from a property along Route 19 in Jackson Township where a new business will be built. They are opposed to filling in or developing in the flood plain adjacent to the Connoquenessing Creek.
Dumping in flood plain opposed

HARMONY — A group of residents has formed a committee with a goal of preventing irresponsible development in the floodplain adjacent to the borough.

The committee, called Preserving Harmony, is a part of Historic Harmony, whose board voted Tuesday to approve its formation.

Preserving Harmony has selected Josh Meeder as its chairman and has already set up subcommittees.

It has held informal meetings attended by 30 to 40 people, but will have six to eight people on the actual committee, Meeder said.

The people involved are mostly residents or business owners in and around Harmony who are opposed to filling in or developing in the flood plain adjacent to the Connoquenessing Creek.

“We are opposed to the filling of the flood plain, the destruction of the wetlands, the destruction or adjustment of the Harmony hiking trail and the potential destruction of archeological and historic sites,” Meeder said.

Creative Real Estate Development is developing property along Route 19 in Jackson Township where a new Murphy Tractor business will be built.

The company is seeking a permit from the state to dump dirt excavated from that site in the flood plain on land it owns north of the Connoquenessing Creek.

Preserving Harmony also plans to oppose any development on the dumpsite, though nothing has been proposed to Jackson Township yet.

The group plans to launch its website, preservingharmony.com, this week and one of its first goals is to raise money to pay for a hydrologic study to compare and contrast to a study done by Creative Real Estate Development.

“We’re looking into several different options. There are a lot of regulations regarding floodplain and wetland preservation,” Meeder said.

It will also hold public meetings every other week, though a schedule has not been determined yet.

John Ruch, president of Historic Harmony, said that organization has opposed development of that property for more than 15 years.

“The effort certainly fits our mission to preserve historic sites. Our objection all along has been to prevent the filling in of the flood plain, for the safety of the community and to preserve a historic site that is eligible for the national register,” he said.

By adopting the new committee, it gains the legitimacy of a 501c3 organization and can solicit tax-deductible donations, Ruch said.

In addition to looking out for the safety of the community, Historic Harmony could be directly affected by development since it owns several properties in the flood plain, including a barn on Mercer Street adjacent to the Creative property.

Meeder made a presentation at a Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau meeting Thursday.

He said he and other members of the committee will make similar presentations at other governmental meetings to spread the word about what they are doing and to seek both formal and financial support from people.

Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, said he would consider supporting the Preserve Harmony movement, but only when the group has a better-defined mission.

“Once they get organized and have a stance, we’ll revisit it,” Cohen said. “I don’t know what they’re asking for, but if it’s just to support and preserve the historic nature of Harmony, then I’m all for it.”

Eagle staff writer Jared Stonesifer contributed to this report.