Carroll Twp. denies info on development; residents’ group appeals

The state’s Office of Open Records has told Carroll Township it must prove why plans for a proposed development should be kept from the public.

The township denied a request from Carroll Citizens for Sensible Growth for a traffic impact study, stormwater management plan and architectural design standards for the proposed Village at South Mountain, a housing/commercial development across from Logan Park, near the Route 74 intersection with Route 15. The township says the documents will be used in “predecisional deliberations” and invoked a right-to-know law exception.

CCSG appealed to the OOR, which wrote to the township Aug. 21 and noted that the new right-to-know law makes documents public unless an agency can prove they should be private. “Kindly explain any and all factual and legal basis for withholding these records under the ‘internal predecisional deliberation’ exception,” the open records office wrote.

The township has until Monday to respond. After that, the OOR will rule on the appeal.

The denial, appeal and OOR’s letter are all here.

A recent story in the Dillsburg Banner quoted Carroll Township manager Dianne Price as saying that the township didn’t want to keep the plan’s details from the public, but agreed to it as part of the settlement of an ongoing conflict about the proposed development.

She said the agreement applies only to the preliminary plan, and the
residents will be able to see and comment on the final plan, the Banner
reported. In an e-mail, Deana Weaver, co-founder of CCSG, said the plan will be almost completely done by that time.

Township supervisors denied Dillsburg Ventures Inc.’s
plan in 2008, the Banner reported, because the developer had not
addressed the township’s concerns and requirements under its zoning
law. But the developer appealed to common pleas court and won; the
township lost on an appeal of that decision.

 In February of
this year, the newspaper said, the developer offered to have the court
mediate a settlement based on a new preliminary plan. The supervisors
agreed, saying it was a better plan; for example, it eliminates a road
that would have gone from Logan Road to Route 15.  But a condition of
the settlement was that the plans not be made public, the newspaper reported.

About Scott Blanchard

Sunday editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.
This entry was posted in denials, Pennsylvania open records, Scott Blanchard. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Carroll Twp. denies info on development; residents’ group appeals

  1. Brad p CCSG says:

    Carroll Township enter into this agreement to “save legal fees” and it cost the citizens of Carroll Township our rights. What price do you put on your RTK?
    Carroll Township should quite trying to cover up and justifying a bad decision.
    As you perhaps already know, settlement agreements entered into by a public agency (such as the township) are NOT able to be protected from public disclosure, no matter what kind of “confidentiality agreement” is incorporated into the agreement.
    And there’s nothing in the Sunshine Law, as the OOR noted, that can be cited as a reason for not disclosing a record held by a public agency.
    More on Monday

  2. Published statements by Carroll Township Manager, Dianne Price, need to be addressed. To assert the township “had to fight to make public the settlement agreement” is puzzling. Publication of settlement agreements involving public entities is a legal requirement.
    Price explains that supervisors “saw a way to save some legal fees by not taking things to the next court level…” Carroll Township should consider the expense in property and lives, against legal fees. Denial of this plan is worth defending. Historically speaking, Carroll taxpayers have invested in worse.
    Negotiations were defined as a “compromise.” Carroll Township signed an agreement that the developer needs only to “generally” meet ordinances, not to follow them. “Ordinance Interpretation” and “how the property will be developed,” are terms of negotiation that strip away municipal law. This is not compromise.
    The issue is smoothed over with, “This negotiation with the confidentiality agreement is only for the preliminary plan… The final plan will follow the usual procedure with open review and will have lots of time for public discussion.” Absolute HOGWASH. During the Preliminary Plan phase, 95% of final development is determined. Approval of final plans is merely a formality. It can happen in one meeting cycle or in conjunction with the Preliminary approval.
    While parties to the negotiation are restricted from talking about this plan, neither the clerk at Commonwealth Court, nor I, have those constraints. The last plan submittal was filed on July 30, 2009, and the appellant has been ordered to submit final results of negotiation by November 2, 2009. So, when Manager Price said the township can pull out of the negotiations at any time, well… time is running out.

  3. Jo says:

    Is it out of stupidity, ignorance of the law or arrogance that local officials in Pennsylvania don’t get it? The law is the law, whether they like it, agree with it or disagree with it. And any time an official makes an agreement such as this one is with a developer the act can do nothing but raise red flags of suspicion all over the place and be cause for much concern by the citizenry about the official(s) and developers.

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