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Longtime planner honored as Greencastle-Antrim leaders hold joint meeting

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

It was an agricultural issue that started Joel Wenger's tenure on the Antrim Township Planning Commission, and agriculture is still on his mind as he retires after more than four decades of service.

The 91-year-old farmer received commendations from the township, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate and a standing ovation during a joint meeting of the township supervisors, Greencastle Borough Council and Greencastle-Antrim School Board on Jan. 27.

Joel Wenger received commendations from Antrim Township, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate recognizing his 42 years of service on the township planning commission.

Antrim Township is fortunate in many ways, and Wenger is one example, said Brad Graham, township administrator.

Graham gave Wenger a plaque that says "For 42 years of service to the residents of the community — It is with sincerest appreciation that we recognize your wisdom, insight and willingness to serve."

"It's fitting we're assembled together to honor this great gentleman," said Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

Importance of farming

Wenger recalls making a complaint because he didn't think an ordinance concerning permits and the transportation of chemicals being considered in the late 1970s was helpful to farmers.

He doesn't remember if the ordinance passed, but speaking up led to his seat on the planning commission. He talked to Lester Musselman, a member of the planning commission, and Musselman talked to Clendon Kelly, chairman of the supervisors.

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"Someone quit, and they put me on," said Wenger, who served on the planning commission from January 1979 to December 2021 and chaired the panel from 2015 to 2021.

The commission is an advisory board that reviews plans for buildings, subdivisions and land development and makes recommendations to the supervisors.

The landscape has changed greatly over the last 40 years, and when Wenger joined the commission there was no McDonald's, no Sheetz, no warehouses and far fewer homes.

Asked about what stands out during his service, Wenger cited Waste Management's expansion of the landfill at Upton.

"We had some pretty busy meetings," Wenger said in his low-key manner.

Wenger still farms with his son and grandson and remains committed to agriculture.

After thanking everyone for honoring him, Wenger said it is important to keep farmland because it is fast passing away, and protective measures may need more teeth or someday people will be hungry.

Moving forward together

The gathering in the high school library marked the return to joint meetings of the three local governing bodies put on hold by COVID-19.

It also served as an introduction for the new members who joined borough council and the school board this year.

The meeting featured overviews of what's going on in each area, including the school district's implementation of Destination Design and the five competencies being developed to help students be successful in life; recent and upcoming projects in the borough; and growth and development in the township.

The leaders want to meet twice a year and may develop smaller focus groups for common areas of interest.

Costly sediment reduction requirements of MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system), related to the federal Clean Water Act and Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, were a big topic prior to the pandemic.

The township and borough united to fight the mandates, then the borough received a five-year waiver from its requirements. The waiver will expire, and MS4 has not gone away, reminded Fred Young, township supervisor. Because of the amount of paved, impervious area on school district property, it could be heavily impacted by storm water fees.

There are three new members on borough council: Albert Miller, Jan Shafer and Allen Mairose.

They got involved because of MS4 "so it's on our radar," said Miller, who is council president.

The leaders also agreed it is time to update the joint comprehensive plan adopted in 2012.

"We don't have to rewrite the 300-page document ... just update it," Thomas said.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com