New events center raises questions about Cummins Hill safety

Westfall supervisors approve project unanimously: Developers say the center will be small scale and devoted to family parties

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  • Tim Day, president of Crawford Hill Community, addresses the Westfall supervisors (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

  • The board of supevisors (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

  • Residents came out to learn more about the events center proposed for Cummins Hill Road (Photo by Marilyn Rosenthal)

About the center

Linnea Geno stated her intentions regarding the proposed events center:
It will be open from April 1-Oct. 30 only
Geno will meet with potential guests before they booked the center
Food and drinks will be brought in and not prepared on the premises
Outside noise will stop at 11 p.m. and inside noise at midnight
Guests will be limited to 175 guests
A new driveway will give access to the property

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— An events center coming to Cummins Hill has neighbors worried, especially about increased traffic on local roads.

A crowd turned out for a two-hour Westfall town meeting on the Peckham Properties Associates, LLC-Event Center, which applied for a conditional-use permit to build an events center at 170 Cummins Hill Road. After a two-hour discussion, the supervisors unanimously agreed the project has met all the conditions required to move forward.

'Not totally opposed'Anticipating an out-of-control audience flare-up, Robert Bernathy, the township's attorney, forcefully laid down rules of order at the start of the long meeting: no shouting out, no talking among themselves, no interrupting anyone who had the floor.

One of the most vocal audience members was Tim Day, president of the Crawford Hill Community, located less than a mile uphill from the proposed center.

"We are not totally opposed, but have some concerns," Day said.

Road safety was their primary concern, he said. The proposed driveway is on a blind turn, he said, and the road may be damaged in constructing the center. He suggested that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) do a traffic study that goes beyond the posted 25-mile-per-hour speed limit to measure the speeds cars actually do, while also looking at road grades and lines of sight up and down the hill.

Peckham Properties was represented by attorney Douglas Jacobs, who responded forcefully.

"Should my client be restricted because some people drive fast?" he asked.

Day asked if Peckham Properties was going to build a residential community on the site.

Mr. Day lived in a community, said Jacobs, so why would he be against others building a community?

Supervisor Jerry Dotey asked Day how long he has lived in the Crawford Hill Community. Day answered, "One year," which led some to snicker.

A rare opportunityThe meeting was not about building a community, however.

Bernathy said the Westfall Planning Commission had recommended that the supervisors approve the center, as long as 12 conditions were met. The purpose of the meeting, he said, was not only to allow public discussion but for the supervisors to decide whether the applicant has met the conditions.

"We have a lot of folks here who just don't want (the center), but the decision by the supervisors will not be based on emotional reasons," he said.

Linnea Geno, the daughter of Geoffrey Peckham, lives on the 163-acre property with her husband and their two-year-old. She's lived there for most of her 25 years, she said.

The property borders a 30-acre parcel that includes an 1840s house and barn. The events center will be small scale, and mainly used for weekend events like weddings and family reunions. They would use the footprints of existing buildings, which would be renovated: the barn would be used for gatherings, while the farmhouse would accommodate guests of these gatherings who wanted to stay overnight.

Geno said she and her husband love their home and are attached to the land. Developing the center will allow them to make a living in a beautiful spot, where there aren't many opportunities for young people, she said. In the future, she said, the property might be used for one-day business or yoga retreats that would not require overnight stays.

Geoffrey Peckham also stressed that he was a long-time resident of 25 years, a conservationist, and a member of Trout Unlimited. He said his values go hand in hand with the way he lived his life.

Mary Ann Halkias, who lives diagonally across from the proposed site, said water was eroding her property and suggested the applicant choose a different spot for the driveway.

Bernathy noted that Westfall has no jurisdiction over Cummins Hill Road, which is a state road, and that PennDOT would have to deal with those issues.

Next up: MalibuThe board of supervisors then scheduled another conditional use hearing — this one for Malibu Land Holdings, LLC, on its proposed Foster Hill Road Wellness Center, at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the township building.

And it's expected there will be a huge crowd at that hearing too.

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