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New event venue in Mifflin Township gets conditional approval

The Lycoming County Planning Commission approved the development of a special event venue in Mifflin Township, with conditions, Thursday evening after a lengthy discussion on the possibility of a graveyard existing on-site and a crucial piece of the property missing from the title to the land.

Shawn and Wendy Fink constructed “the Taj Mahal of pavilions” on their property along Seely Run Road, east of Salladasburg, and hope to use it for future events, said Joshua Billings, subdivision and land development administrator.

“It’s beautifully done,” Billings said.

However, there could be two snags: The potential of there being unmarked graves on the property and the legal ownership of an existing right-of-way to get to the pavilion.

There are no records indicating a graveyard exists on the property, nor are there any physical signs such as grave markers, said Scott Williams, the Finks’ attorney.

However, in the process of the Finks seeking legal ownership of a plot of land including a long-used right-of-way on the property, some people have indicated there may be unmarked graves.

“We have been told by some people in the area that they think it was (a graveyard), so we have been asked to address that issue,” Williams said. “We’re not sure if there are bodies buried in that area.”

J. Michael Wiley, solicitor for the commission, suggested notes on the engineering plan, which were requested by the zoning hearing board, be revised from saying “historic cemetery” to “possible graveyard.”

Using the phrase “historic cemetery” makes it sound as if the graves do exist and may have historic significance, he said.

“That change is consistent with the zoning hearing board language and then you have still left open the possibility it’s not there at all,” Wiley said.

The other issue revolves around a plot of land the original owner carved out for unknown reasons back in the mid-1800s.

“Since 1852, this little piece here has essentially disappeared (from legal documents),” Williams said. “It’s been used by the owner (Fink) for farm machinery and farming. The plan is to acquire the piece again, bring it back into the title.”

To do this, Williams must try to identify all of the original owner’s heirs living today. It could take between one and two years, Williams said.

“That’s going to be a difficult task, but that’s what we’ve committed to do,” he said.

Those issues do not obstruct the planning commission from approving the Finks’ request, Wiley said, so long as a legal right-of-way exists that can be used to access the property even should the Finks not be able to claim ownership of the one on that “missing” piece of land. And one does, Shawn Fink said.

The commission approved the Finks’ request with conditions, including state Department of Environmental Protection approval.

In another matter, the commission approved a multi-lot subdivision for Troy Musser in Porter Township, dividing a property on South Broad Street into three lots sized 1.37, 1.26 and 1.32 acres.

The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 17 in Executive Plaza.

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