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Rezoning of open space golf course denied

The owners of the Valley Green Golf Course in York, Pennsylvania, sought the rezoning of their property from open space to allow residential development on the property. Township officials denied the request by a 4-1 vote, bowing to pressure from community residents who packed a meeting of the Newberry Township board of supervisors.

Rezoning decisions often involve competing interests such as the desire of a property owner to make the most economically beneficial use of their land and concerns by community residents about congestion, traffic, aesthetics, and other secondary impacts of a change in the character of the land use. Supporting or opposing such rezoning proposals is best done with the assistance of experienced attorneys who can incorporate into their arguments legal, practical, and public relations elements.

The golf course, residents emphasized, was really the only remaining open space on the township, and they wished to have it preserved. One of the board members voting against the rezoning pegged her opposition to a new residential development on the land to the inadequacy of local roads and bridges to handle expanded traffic that would accompany the construction of such residences. The property owner, however, is widely expected to further appeal the board's action, while the Valley Green Residents Organization, representing many who live in close proximity to the golf course, was also expected to continue its strong opposition. There is a one month period during which an appeal may be filed to a court.

The property owner had revealed plans to use the land currently utilized for the 18-hole golf course to construct a residential development that would incorporate both duplex apartment buildings and single homes. Any appeal of the rezoning rejection would face the burden of showing that the board either abused its discretion or acted illegally on the basis of an unconstitutional ordinance.

The only member of the township's board who endorsed the rezoning proposal argued that the golf course's current open space zoning constituted illegal spot zoning. It was, he asserted, the only private land in the board's jurisdiction that had an open space restriction imposed on it. Prior rulings by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court defined spot zoning as when an individual property is treated in a manner different than other surrounding property without a specific reason. When the open space zoning restriction was placed on the golf course, there were other nearby properties that really amounted to open space, such as athletic fields used for soccer and ball playing that were not restricted in this manner, the dissenting board member asserted, making the zoning of the golf course discriminatory.

Source: YDR.com, "Valley Green Golf Course will remain open space" Sean Adkins, Oct. 24, 2013

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