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Neighbors fight Haycock Camping Ministries’ expansion in Springfield


Springfield Township residents opposed to the expansion of Haycock Camp went on the offensive last week, describing an increasingly inhospitable environment since 2016, and a business with little regard for their well-being.

At the latest conditional use hearing in Springtown, five longtime neighbors recounted an endless cacophony coming from the camp, including gunshots day and night, noise from increased traffic and Christian music blaring through their tranquil neighborhood, far in excess of permissible levels.

Neighbor Frank Nekoranik, a donor to the camp, said thousands of rounds were being fired all day long and added he had sometimes heard explosions at night. But when questioned by John van Luvanee, the attorney for site owner Haycock Camping Ministries, about the origins of explosions, Nekoranik conceded he could not be 100% sure they came from the 184-acre facility.

He also said there was a notable increase in traffic since a day camp began operating there in 2016, an observation supported by property owner Harry Squares.

Squares said the camp was so noisy it made it impossible for him and others to enjoy the outdoors.

“They play amplified music at all hours of the day and all hours of the night, and it is loud enough that I can hear it in my house with my windows closed and air conditioning on,” Squares said.

He added the constant shooting from the rifle range throughout the year rendered about one-third of his property unusable because of bullets ricocheting.

“Literally, you’d be a fool to be down there,” said Squares.

The resident asserted that the lead fragments from bullets fired at the outdoor range were a potential health hazard because it would find its way into the water table.

Several neighbors conceded they had enjoyed a good relationship with the camp owners — until a few years ago. They could walk around the camp property unhindered and some attended events there.

“I used to use camp leftovers to feed my pigs,” noted Judy Papavchak, whose farm abuts the camp. “The atmosphere is not what it was. It’s not friendly.”

In his opening remarks, residents’ counsel, Andrew Griffin, stressed the camp is located in a designated Resource Protection zone, the purpose of which is to protect natural features, and current and future commercial and institutional uses needed a variance. Griffin repeatedly sought to prove through the residents’ testimony that the camp had long ceased to be a seasonal operation because of people residing there in excess of the 180-day limit and fall and wintertime activities as observed by his clients, Squares and Papavchak.

Attorney van Luvanee countered the township zoning ordinance doesn’t define seasonal.

The hearing continues Jan. 9.

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