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Hellam board denies Mifflin House demolition

A photo of the historic Mifflin House in Hellam Township. A permit to demolish the house was denied by township officials on April 6. Photo courtesy of Randall Harris and Preservation Pennsylvania.
  • The Hellam Township Zoning Hearing Board voted to uphold the decision to deny the Mifflin House demolition.
  • The solicitor has 15 days to submit the decision in writing, and the company then has 30 days to appeal.

The Mifflin House in Hellam Township is not facing demolition — for now.

Tthe township's zoning hearing board voted to uphold an earlier decision denying Kinsley Equities II a permit to demolish the Mifflin House on Tuesday, July 25. The house has ties to the Underground Railroad.

The board voted unanimously to uphold the denial. 

Meeting: Kinsley Equities II had applied for a permit to demolish the building, but in April, zoning officer Rachel Vega denied the request.

She cited the 18-year-old land subdivision plans that state “existing farm complex to remain” on property, which includes the Mifflin House and several barns and sheds, located on Cool Springs Road in Hellam Township.

That plan was approved by township officials and submitted to the York County Recorder of Deeds in November 1998, making the plan a legally binding document, Vega said.

At the meeting last month, the board heard testimony from the township's solicitor, representatives from Kinsley Equities II, and the public. The vote was then postponed to Tuesday.

During Tuesday's meeting, acting chair Michael Rhoads said it was "troubling" that Kinsley Equities II never brought in eyewitness testimony, despite a lot of people in the area who were involved in the initial planning process.

Tim Kinsley, of Kinsley Equities II, was present during the meeting but left immediately after the decision. He could not be reached following the meeting, and he did not immediately respond to a voicemail left Wednesday afternoon.

The board's solicitor, Peter Solymos, said he has 15 days to provide the decision in writing to Kinsley Equities II.

Once the company receives the decision, he said, the company has 30 days to submit an appeal, which would be handled in the county Court of Common Pleas.

Tim Kinsley, of Kinsley Equities II, and the public wait during the Hellam Township Zoning Hearing Board's meeting Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

Reaction: During last month's meeting, there were so many people in attendance — about 70 —  that the meeting had to be relocated to the township garage.

Tuesday's meeting didn't have quite the crowd. About 20 people attended.

Don Bair, a board member for Historic Wrightsville Inc., spoke in favor of Vega's denial during the meeting last month. Bair was happy with the zoning board's Tuesday decision.

"It's a huge hurdle we overcame tonight," he said.

However, Bair expects Kinsley Equities II to appeal the board's decision, saying the company's "not used to losing."

Randy Harris, from the Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society, was also happy with the decision.

"This is great. This is fabulous news," he said.

Future of historic Mifflin House still unclear

Harris said the society is tasked with looking at and researching historic properties for the board once demolition is suggested. They are then asked to provide an alternative to demolition to the board.

Harris said that with the decision Tuesday, the society will have more time to look at alternatives.

Harris said he didn't know if Kinsley Equities II would appeal the decision but said he hopes the company does not.


Tim Kinsley, of Kinsley Equities II, listens during the Hellam Township Zoning Hearing Board's meeting Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

Previous meeting: Kinsley testified during last month's meeting that when the subdivision plans for the properties were submitted, there was always an agreement that the Mifflin House would remain so that the owners could continue farming.

Kinsley also contended that at the time the subdivision plans were approved in 1998 and during subsequent meetings, no one indicated the house had to be preserved.

He said that after he told township officials of his intention, they sent him a letter indicating that the township would like to see the house preserved but that doing so was not obligatory.

Kinsley said he was "stunned" when he found out his demolition application had been denied.

The next zoning hearing board is Aug. 22, if needed.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.