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A long-planned residential development in North Cornwall Township is expected to break ground next month.

Meadow Lane Farms, on the south side of Walnut Street between 22nd and Mill streets, will include 270 single-family homes in five phases. DeSouza Brown, based in Bala Cynwyd, is the developer.

Specs on the Meadow Lane Farms property in North Cornwall Township.

Company Owner Mark DeSouza told LebTown that geotechnical studies are currently being performed. Trees also are being removed to widen the road, which is being done as a safety measure, he said.

In addition, many of the old English walnut trees were in “very, very bad condition,” DeSouza said.

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz in July wrote a Facebook post talking about the trees’ significance to the community and the environment. She told LebTown that the post generated a lot of buzz.

“I never expected so many people to comment,” she said.

On Facebook, Litz wrote in part: “Many of us ‘mourn’ the loss of the line of about 75 mature walnut trees on 22nd St. in North Cornwall Twp.”

The site of the downed 75 walnut trees on 22nd St. (Joshua Groh)
Another shot of the trees. (Joshua Groh)
The loss of the trees had a widespread impact on the Lebanon community. (Joshua Groh)

“Many of the planters of the trees from world wars are now deceased,” Litz wrote. “The proportionally spaced single line of trees lining roads in Lebanon County are … an indication that they may have been part of the tree planting program honoring soldiers – either formally or informally – after a world war or other war. Not everyone had a plaque made documenting their participation.

“I do think of the trees standing in a row that were on both 22nd St. and Rte. 422 as ‘soldier trees’ every time that I see or saw them. While property rights are guaranteed, raising awareness is one way to help educate, and hopefully stop the cutting of healthy, mature trees. Unless there’s a township ordinance, I don’t think preservation can be mandated.”

The intersection at 22nd St. and Walnut St. (Joshua Groh)

North Cornwall Township Manager Tom Long told LebTown that the municipality was getting complaints because tree branches were falling on and damaging parked vehicles. They caused power outages, too, he said.

The trees “probably would have been removed at some point” anyway, Long said.

Meadow Lane Farms also will feature plenty of green space to plant more trees, he said.

Litz said that the trees were a gateway for people coming in and out of Lebanon. But if they were diseased, she said, removing them is understandable.

One suggestion Litz made is to put a strip of grass in the road with trees down the middle, which would honor the past.

Development evolves

Long said Meadow Lane Farms can trace its start back to 2008. The development was originally going to be well over 400 houses, combining single-family and townhomes, he said.

But the zoning changed from higher density to suburban residential.

No other major development is planned for North Cornwall Township, Long said. The 2020 census hasn’t been released yet, but he estimated the municipality’s population to be more than 8,000.

DeSouza said the minimum lot size in Meadow Lane Farms is 15,000 square feet, or more than a third of an acre.

The market also is different from when the subdivision was proposed, he said, as townhouses are less in demand. And with the cost of developing land, it makes sense to build single-family homes, DeSouza said.

The first phase of Meadow Lane Farms will consist of 78 houses; a model should be up before the end of the year, he said.

The intent is to make six floor plans available, ranging from a 1,279-square-foot rancher to a 2,372-square-foot two-story house with a first-floor master suite and the option for a fifth bedroom. Some include basements.

DeSouza said the subdivision will most likely appeal to first-time move-up buyers and downsizers, as well as multigenerational families. “We have the ability to customize homes,” he said.

Prices aren’t finalized but will probably start at more than $300,000.

He said the tract, in Cornwall-Lebanon School District, is a “beautiful piece of land.”

The development’s location should attract buyers from the Lancaster, Harrisburg and Hershey areas, DeSouza said, as well as Lebanon County.

Though DeSouza Brown, which also owns and manages apartments, is in Bala Cynwyd, “central Pennsylvania is the primary thrust of our market,” he said.

For example, the developer built Heatherfield, a 2,000-plus-home planned neighborhood in Lower Paxton Township.

DeSouza Brown’s rental communities, according to its website, are in Mechanicsburg, Enola, Hummelstown and Harrisburg.

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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.