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Readers' Views: Sale of cemetery land betrays the community

Posted 8/6/13



A grave injustice: Middletown Borough and Lower Swatara Twp. OK a plan for development of Middletown Cemetery land (“Borough, township OK plan for cemetery land,’’ Press And Journal, June 26).


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Readers' Views: Sale of cemetery land betrays the community



A grave injustice: Middletown Borough and Lower Swatara Twp. OK a plan for development of Middletown Cemetery land (“Borough, township OK plan for cemetery land,’’ Press And Journal, June 26).

Grave injustice: A violation of another’s rights or what is right, a very specific unjust act or wrong.

That is exactly what is unfolding in our community.

The Middletown Cemetery Association is selling 13 acres of cemetery property to GreenWorks Development LLC (parent company of Dauphin Street Partners) to build student housing for 700 more college students adjacent to existing graves.

Nine acres of the land sit within Middletown Borough, with a 4-acre plot in Lower Swatara Twp.

The Middletown Cemetery has been entrusted with the hallowed remains of most families in this small community, and I feel we, as a community, are being betrayed by this sale.

Imagine: You wish to visit your departed spouse, parent, sibling, or even child. Do you want to engage in that solemn action in the midst of a college campus, surrounded by noise, traffic and irreverent college kids?

The cemetery is currently a beautiful, peaceful retreat. Benches are placed throughout for quiet reflection – a place to visit loved ones who have passed on. But that serene environment is now being threatened by this impending and unnecessary development.

Would you appreciate attending a funeral during your time of grief with blaring rock music, discordant horseplay, or screeching brakes emanating from next door? How do you feel about Hardee’s cups and wrappers blowing across these graves?

I question the balance between legality and morality. Just because local zoning allows for student housing does not make it the best choice for the community.

Anyone driving along West Main Street can clearly see the disgraceful condition of poorly-developed water drainage (despite repeated warnings prior to construction approval), non-existent landscaping (let alone maintenance) and dangerous egress patterns that have been created by student housing built by GreenWworks and another developer.

These should be significant grounds for denying future development by GreenWorks.

The frequent police visits to Eagle Heights during construction for obstruction of roads by construction vehicles shows the lack of regard for the residents and compliance with the law.

The purported improved relocation of Lawrence Street is still uncompleted a year and a half later!

There are visibility/safety issues, standing water, overgrown weeds and no curbing. It is unsafe, and an eyesore at the western entrance to the Borough of Middletown.

Failure to comply with stipulations from the previous development plans should carry significant weight in denying additional construction by Greenworks.

In addition, I must point out the impact of the dramatically-increased population from the student housing that was occupied last year. Eagle Heights was transformed from a neighborhood with a mere 50 mature, longtime residents to one with 600+/- college students with no emotional investment in their neighborhood.

Reading the police logs for the last year, you will see increased police activity due to speeding, vandalism, underage drinking parties, trespassing, loitering and littering.

The existing land surrounding the graves has been farmed for over 40 years, acting as a buffer from the residential areas, but this new proposal would put dorms adjacent to the graves with a negligible setback. The western portion of the cemetery would be an island in the midst of student housing.

Our cemetery does not need to be any closer to college students than it already is. Fences cannot be built big enough to stop this intrusion.

In addition, the existing roads in Eagle Heights are not sufficient to handle the vehicular traffic from the existing student housing. The roads were built over 100 years ago and are at best 1½ lanes with no sidewalks and no street lights. A blind curve at the eastern end of Dauphin Street has been the site of many near-misses of other vehicles and the young children living on both sides of the curve.
Penn State Harrisburg is ideally located to be a commuter school, and has been for decades. Continuing education classes and online schooling make it convenient to not live right next to the campus. It is located close enough to Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities, connected by major highways and within a very reasonable commuting distance.

There is more than enough housing on campus and in Middletown to accommodate Penn State Harrisburg without this additional project.

Unfortunately, GreenWorks has already dismantled a major portion of this Lower Swatara neighborhood with student housing and has shown total disregard for the current residents.

Our once-secluded section of the township already has been forever changed, affecting our privacy, security and serenity. Though we cannot turn back the hands of time to make a more prudent decision on the development of the south side of Eagle Heights, we do have the benefit of being forewarned of what is most likely to take place if this new construction is allowed to happen on the north side.

These are changes I would not wish upon anyone, living or dead.

We must do whatever we can to stop this grave injustice before it is too late.{jcomments on}


                                         Shelly Keeney