Protection of terrapin habitat a big concern

By on February 11, 2015

It’s a win for the bog turtles and other creatures, sometimes fighting for their lives in what used to be a more rural Lancaster County. For others in the Cocalico area, it’s a loss.

However the developers spin it — a tree-lined boulevard, historic architectural features mirroring the area, an old village charm, walking paths, benches, open spaces, lots of green areas — it’s all new and the original rural landscape has been changed and many say destroyed.

Photo by Michele Walter Fry Protection of the bog turtle habitat in this area of encroaching development was a key concern at the Adamstown borough council meeting.

Photo by Michele Walter Fry
Protection of the bog turtle habitat in this area of encroaching development was a key concern at the Adamstown borough council meeting.

“They talk about the tourist bureau,” said Dave Matz, Adamstown council vice president at the Feb. 3 meeting. “If they keep developing things, people aren’t going to come see a farming county because when they get here, they’re just going to see what they have at home. We can really get involved in over development.”

Gary McEwen, director of land development at Berks Homes, visited council concerning his company’s 44 lots, comprising some 300 houses to be built in Adamstown.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife representatives told Berks Homes officials that their buffers will no longer be honored at 50 feet off the wetlands because of the exceptional value of the bog turtle habitat and the wetlands. The buffers must be 300 feet off the wetlands.

“We talked to them about piecemealing it for maybe 50 acres, and that wasn’t the way they wanted to do it,” said McEwen.

“That would help retain some of the rural attractiveness of the area,” said Matz.

In addition, there are two pieces of land in Adamstown that were to go to the Lancaster Conservancy, but Berks Homes still owns them.

One out of the 44 lots, which has been kept off the market, was to be used as an emergency access to make a connection from 272 to 897. McEwen’s main concern to council was to eliminate the access.

“Lot one would be a stone drive across it forever because the connection will never happen between the two roads,” said McEwen. “What we’d like you to consider is to eliminate that emergency access so we can get that lot so we can have some use for it, sell it, and not having to maintain that access forever.”

Matz told him to take his request to the planning commission for review.

Berks Homes hopes to build 300 more homes where Adamstown and East Cocalico connect, in the area of the original Rose Hill along Routes 897 and 272. This was in the works a few years ago, but the bad economy made the land sit until late 2013 when the process was revived to build the single family homes.

And another developer, Fox Brooke, is proposing to build over 400 homes in an 89-acre lot on Route 897 across from Rose Hill in East Cocalico Township. According to the developer, its development will “promote a sense of community identification and belonging.” Some locals take issue with that description.

At the council meeting, there was also concern how Spencer Stober will put his cattle in his meadow to graze. Berks Homes and he own parts of the meadow and he’s looking to get access for the cattle. Cattle and goats grazing also enhance the habitat of the bog turtles.

The turtle is on the threatened and endangered list in Pennsylvania and is increasingly dying of an unknown disease. The Adamstown Marsh, located along the Little Muddy Creek, is nationally known for maintaining population of the turtle but is now threatened by land developers. Bog turtles are only four inches long. Because of this, they are also desirable in the black market pet trade. Bog turtles prefer to live in open, marshy meadows, which are found in Adamstown and East Cocalico.

Under regulations, it is unlawful to sell, trade, barter, possess, import, export, catch, take, or kill bog turtles.

In other news:

*A new park, Celebration Park, is coming to Brookview Estates. The project, which has been in the works for two years, will feature activities for younger and older kids. The amount of $30,000 has been set aside and Treasurer Lisa Crouse is working on obtaining a small community grant for an additional $40,000 for the 1.8-acre park. No bathrooms are planned, but the park will have handicapped parking and accessibility.

*Brandon Brinkmeyer was appointed to fill the vacancy on the recreation board through the end of the year left by Steve Ilgenfritz. Amber Kern was appointed to fill the vacancy on the planning commission created by the appointment of Jessica Kelly to borough council. Kern will complete a four-year term.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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