Farm owners want historic property rezoned industrial

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
The barn on the Weeden property, formerly known as the Shelly farm, has a history with Mormons who settled west of Greencastle in 1849. The picture at the top makes the barn one of the most photographed in the United States, said Matthew Weeden.

The Antrim Township Board of Supervisors gave Matthew Weeden a cool reception on his request to rezone his family’s property from agricultural residential to industrial. He attended the Jan. 14 meeting to explain the background for his father’s rationale. Richard Weeden, a resident of Florida, purchased the farm at 2388 Buchanan Trail W. in 2010. Locally, it is referred to as the Shelly farm.

Matthew Weeden, Wellsville, said they planned to maintain and improve the historical site, which was part of a Mormon settlement years ago.

The desire to change the zoning was to maximize the value of the property, he stated. The barn was over 40-feet high, which was allowed in an industrial zone. The 140-acre site had two public sewer lines on it, public water, access to two state roads, capability for expanded electrical service, and provided plenty of area for green space.

Weeden referenced the 1992 and 2012 Antrim Township Comprehensive Plans, which encouraged development of land with those criteria. Though the family had not been in contact with any companies, he saw the property as ideal for a large e-commerce business. It would be developed as a whole.

Weeden did not want the farm to become community commercial in the front and agricultural in the back, as was in the plan under the township’s proposed zoning changes. That would require a subdivision of the space.

A township committee is reviewing the ordinances, and after legal and editorial reviews, hopes to advertise and adopt zoning changes in 2014. Zoning officer Sylvia House said the change would allow people to live and work from the same location along the Route 16 strip.

She cautioned the board that the property was not suited for industrial, because of the many permitted uses. They included manufacturing, warehouses, offices, terminals, schools, lodges and health clubs, as well as a conditional use as a junkyard. She asked for a vote so Weeden would at least know his chance of success if the matter went into a hearing during the normal rezoning process.

James Byers was not in favor of the change, calling it spot zoning, and probably illegal. John Alleman, Pat Heraty, Rick Baer and Fred Young III did not offer any support either.

Antrim solicitor John Lisko did not recommend taking a vote.

“Voting tonight is pre-judging without hearing all the facts,” he said, but added that if the Weedens proceeded it might not be worth it.

“You have the right to continue, but it’s not looking good.”

History

Sidney Rigdon brought 200 Latter Day Saints followers to Greencastle in 1849. He was in a struggle with James Strang and Brigham Young for leadership of the church after the death of founder Joseph Smith. They called their settlement the New Jerusalem and published the Conococheague Herald, forerunner to the Echo Pilot. A few years later the community dissolved.

The barn was a temple, Weeden said. It has an animated picture on the north side allegedly showing Jesus Christ riding a donkey east toward Jerusalem.

What’s next?

If the Weedens want to pursue the matter, they must file a zoning change application with Antrim Township, accompanied by a $500 fee. Antrim will advertise a hearing, in which the public can support or oppose the requested change. Then the supervisors will make the final decision. House said they would base that on the Municipal Planning Code guidelines concerning spot zoning, fitting the Comprehensive Plan, and what the community and board itself wanted to see occur in the township.