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Tabora Farms appeal heads for court


The dispute over Tabora Farms in Hilltown isn’t over yet.

On Monday, Hilltown’s Board of Supervisors authorized Township Solicitor Stephen Harris to file an appeal of a local zoning hearing board decision that resulted from a zoning dispute between the township and the family-run orchard that’s also home to a deli, bakery, outdoor events and more.

Harris intends to file the appeal with the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

He said the hope is that the township and Robert Gundlach Jr., attorney for Tabora Farms, can come to an amicable agreement before the matter comes before a judge.

Harris said it was necessary to file the appeal because there are elements of the zoning hearing board’s decision with which the township disagrees. He declined to elaborate on particulars, but noted a lack of appeal would have let the decision stand as is, which is unacceptable to the township.

“This appeal allows us to preserve our rights to further discussion,” Harris said.

A number of lengthy hearings involving extensive testimony and cross-examination before the zoning hearing board played out over months in 2018.

In December, the board made a decision that placed restrictions on Tabora Farms’ operations, while also allowing certain business functions that had been disputed to continue. Those include allowing the deli/bakery/store operations and permitting certain entertainment events to proceed, provided they are related to agriculture – what’s called “agritainment,” according to officials.

“We are pleased that our overall business structure has remained intact and that our bakery, deli and store are finally approved,” farm owners Caleb and Patricia Torrice said in a communication to this newspaper not long after the ruling.

During last year’s zoning hearings, Tabora Farms drew both vehement support from some community members and biting criticism from neighbors who said that frequent, loud, large-scale events at the 10.6-acre farm were ruining quality of life.

Following complaints from neighbors, Hilltown officials last year issued citations against Tabora for alleged zoning violations that included expanding a parking lot, operating a deli and setting up a residential apartment above the store at the farm at 1104 Upper Stump Road without township approval.

According to testimony from the township’s zoning officer at a summer hearing, Tabora was also cited over outdoor events. The zoning officer, Dave Taylor, said events like “zombie paintball” had reached a level where they were straight entertainment instead of agricultural-related tourism – and thus not permitted under the rural residential zoning on the property.

In September, Caleb Torrice testified that uses mentioned in citations were already existent on the property when he and his wife bought it.