If you heard a sigh of relief Tuesday in York Township, it was probably coming from everyone directly involved in the four-year Heritage Hills development saga -- although not, perhaps, from some neighbors of the Mount Rose Avenue resort.
Following a public hearing, the township Board of Commissioners approved a plan to rezone the area from farming/open space to medium-density residential, clearing the way for homes to be built there.
The hearing was basically a formality, since York County Common Pleas Court Senior Judge Eugene Fike sided with Heritage Hills Associates late last year, reversing the township's initial denial of the zoning change.
"At the order of the court, this board -- with the support of our staff -- we have proceeded to honor (the requirements) of that order," Commissioner Robert Steele said during Tuesday's hearing.
At the end of this long, drawn-out affair -- which included numerous public hearings, dozens of hours of testimony and a brief court battle when the developer filed an open-records request for a commissioner's personal computer -- no one got everything they wanted.
Heritage Hills initially wanted to rezone the 126 acres behind the Mount Rose Avenue resort and build a higher-density traditional neighborhood development.
Fike sided with the township, which rejected the plan for lacking sufficient detail and wrongly including the golf course among the development's required "common open space." However, the judge ruled the township had no basis for outright denying the rezoning request.
In February, the two sides wisely agreed it was, in the words of Heritage Hills attorney Stacey MacNeal, "in the best interest of everyone to move forward."
Instead of further appeals dragging this case on, the township indicated it would grant a zoning exception, and Heritage Hills scaled back its plans, opting for a medium-density residential development of 160 homes -- about half of what was originally proposed.
It's the type of compromise that should have been made years ago, rather than wasting time and money fighting a long, sometimes ugly, legal battle.
Still, some township residents, particularly those who live near the planned development, have legitimate concerns about the new plans, such as infrastructure improvements in the area and higher taxes.
Dr. Douglas Schmitt, who lives on Heritage Hills Drive and attended the hearing, asked the commissioners to keep those issues in mind as the project moves forward. He suggested they negotiate with the developer to decrease the number of planned houses.
Heritage Hills partner Matt DeRose said Wednesday there are no final drawings for the development, so maybe something can be worked out that addresses residents' fears.
Such a move would help solidify the newfound spirit of cooperation -- and go a long way toward putting this mess to rest for good.