Antrim stalls Moss Spring settlement agreement

PAT FRIDGEN

Plaintiffs in the Moss Spring Estates lawsuit involving Antrim Township thought they had closure March 30, but the special meeting by the Board of  Supervisors just brought confusion. After an executive session, the supervisors present, Rick Baer, James Byers, Curtis Myers and Fred Young III, reconvened. The five residents in the audience expected approval for a settlement agreement brokered between Antrim solicitor John Lisko and Moss Spring legal counsel. The panel unanimously approved three motions, one of which revised the agreement. The supervisors did not give any explanation to the audience.

"We don't know what happened," said one Moss Spring homeowner.

The first motion approved the Settlement Agreement and Mutual General Release but with changes, which had to be approved by attorney Linus Fenicle. Chairman Baer was authorized to sign the documents after the revisions had been seen by Fenicle.

The second motion approved a Joint Motion for Declaratory Order and Order of Court in a revised form. That also had to be approved by Fenicle.

The third motion accepted the withdrawal of Lisko as solicitor/attorney for the Moss Spring litigation if Lisko and Fenicle agreed that was in the best interest of the township. Fenicle, from the law firm Reager & Adler, P.C. was hired to act as co-counsel or alone in representing Antrim in the lawsuit. His hourly rate was set at $150.

Any agreement will end up before Franklin County Judge Richard J. Walsh, who has been presiding over the case.

The history

Residents in Moss Spring Estates filed suit against Frank C. Plessinger and P&W Excavating in early 2008. They added the Borough of Greencastle, including the mayor, borough manager and council members, to the civil suit equity action that March. The Moss Spring Homeowners Association was named another defendant in August 2008 and Antrim in March 2009.

Plessinger is the developer of the neighborhood, which straddles the borough and the township.

An issue first arose in December 2006 when Phase I residents, living in the borough, received a letter stating they were part of a homeowners association. Some had lived in their homes for many years and had no awareness of such a requirement, and no title search had ever revealed the information.

According to discussion at a February 2007 township meeting, Plessinger appplied to Antrim in 1996 to create a planned residential development in Moss Spring. Because a PRD required mixed-use housing, Plessinger said the borough lots would be single-family and the township lots in Phase IIA would be villas. Antrim required a note on the land development plan that the PRD would have an HOA.

Fourteen Phase I families banded together to fight becoming part of the HOA, since Greencastle has never had a PRD ordinance. The plaintiffs estimate they have spent $80,000 to preserve their autonomy. They are: Dale and Susan Angle, Jack and Nancy Dunn, David and Jody Ebbitt, Lester and Kelley Everetts, David Forrester, Twain and Tana Glaser, Sean and Alice Guy, Mark and Tara Litrenta, Thomas and Susan Mills, James and Kristen Mooers, John and Kathryn Olivier, Jeffrey and Cheryl Smith, Robert and Marla Westley, and Bret and Dana Wollaston.

Antrim's role

According to court documents, the Moss Spring residents allege Antrim cannot enforce its PRD ordinance against non-township residents and does not have the authority to impose an HOA on the plaintiffs. Walsh's opinion and order in March 2009 told the plaintiffs to add Antrim to the lawsuit.

The amended complaint states that Antrim failed to tell the borough it had approved plans that would adversely affect Greencastle residents, and that Antrim did not follow through and make sure Plessinger complied with the PRD ordinance. It also noted Lisko was on record agreeing Antrim could not impose an HOA in the borough, but the township had not done anything to prevent the HOA from enforcing its regulations on Phase I residents.

The Moss Spring homeowners asked the court, among other things, that they be excluded from the PRD and the accompanying HOA.

Antrim has paid nearly $9,000 in legal fees for the Moss Spring litigation.