locally owned since 1854

Farm, land on market for $11.9 million; family has owned Lower Swatara property since 1933

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 8/8/18

Sitting on the porch of their home at 2400 Fulling Mill Road, Tom and Tiz Williams recalled memories of life on their farm — planting trees with friends from other countries, painting rocks …

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Farm, land on market for $11.9 million; family has owned Lower Swatara property since 1933

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Sitting on the porch of their home at 2400 Fulling Mill Road, Tom and Tiz Williams recalled memories of life on their farm — planting trees with friends from other countries, painting rocks imprinted with fossils with their grandchildren, and sitting on the porch shelling peas or cutting up beans.

Tom grew up on the farm. Now, they have decided to sell the 239-acre Lower Swatara Township farm.

Times change, Tom said.

“See our hair. What does that tell you?” Tom said.

“We’re at the point that there needs to be a change, and it doesn’t seem like any of the descendants are ready to pick up on farming as it was. So that’s where we’re at at this point,” Tiz said.

According to the Williams’ Realtor, Jim Koury with Lemoyne-based RSR Realtors, the farm was placed on the market about two months ago.

The total tract has 239.84 acres, stretching from Oberlin Road down to Route 283 and from Longview Drive to Nissley Drive. The whole tract is being listed at $11.9 million, though it has been divided into four parcels.

• Parcel one is to the north and is bordered by Oberlin Road and homes along Mic Nan Drive and Goldcrest Place. The parcel is 39.1 acres and being listed for $1,955,000.

• Parcel two is the largest of the four parcels and includes the Williams’ farmhouse, which was built in 1777. It features seven bedrooms and an indoor pool, according to RSR’s website. There is also a three-bedroom guest house, barns and outbuildings. This parcel is 152.08 acres and is bordered by Fulling Mill Road, Longview Drive and Nissley Drive. The parcel is listed at $7,604,000.

• Parcels three and four are south of Fulling Mill Road, on both sides of Kunkel Elementary School. They are being listed at $1,655,500 and $755,000 respectively. Parcel three forms an “L” shape around the elementary school and is bordered by Fulling Mill Road, Longview Drive and Route 283. Parcel four, which has 15.55 acres, is located across from the school on Lumber Street. 

According to Koury, they just received an offer for parcel three, which is made up of 33.11 acres, from a local developer. Koury said he was hoping to get it under contract.

Farm history

Tom was raised in the farmhouse, and Tiz grew up on a farm in Fisherville. The Williams have lived on the farm throughout their 50-plus year marriage.

His parents bought it in 1933, and Tom described it as a general farm with a mixture of cows, chicken, pigs, horses and crops. It became a dairy farm, and while Tom and Tiz grew the herd to around 150 cows, they later decided to switch to crops — corn and soybeans specifically. 

“And now it’s time for change,” Tiz said.

Some of Tom’s siblings were involved in the farm, but Tiz said that they were the ones who continued the work on the farm.

Growing up, Tom said he always wanted to be a farmer.

“My dad and I farmed together and formed a partnership, and I gradually bought him out,” Tom said.

Tom and Tiz raised their children on the farm, too. Tiz said they learned to milk cows and work on the farm, but they also attended college.

Over the years, the Williams have taken elementary students on farm tours and hosted people from across the world, some who came to the United States to learn more about the farming industry. There are trees across the farm planted by people to whom they played host.

Tiz remembered planting a tree with two Japanese students who were staying with them. After they planted the trees, they turned buckets over and sat down.

“They said, ‘Now what are we doing?’ And we said, ‘Waiting for it to grow,’” Tiz said.

After they sell the farm, Tiz said they might move to a smaller house or perhaps travel.

“We don’t know what’s next for sure,” she said.

What could go on the farm

Tom said they hope to sell the farm for a commercial or industrial use so that the land will still be used to produce something.

“We feel the tract is screaming for some alternate uses other than what is currently allowed in the current zoning district,” Koury said.

According to township Planning and Zoning Coordinator Ann Hursh, the tract is zoned residential agricultural, and she said the land could be used for single-family detached dwellings, places of worship, public and private educational facilities, public recreation, municipal buildings, and various agricultural uses such as raising crops, storing and packing fruits and vegetables, roadside stands, and raising of animals.

During a township board meeting, two neighbors that live on Nissley Avenue asked about the farm’s sale.

“Right now we have problems with traffic,” said one of the residents, Mary Golab. Traffic is getting worse, she said, adding that cars have crashed near her neighbor’s property on the corner of Nissley Drive and Route 441.

“Once, five minutes before the girls were playing at the basketball hoop, the second car crashed,” Golab said.

She said she was also concerned with traffic with Kunkel right across the street.

“As of now, there’s been no changes,” board president Jon Wilt said of the zoning.

Golab said she read a news article that she said encouraged a potential buyer to work with the township to develop the land, possibly into mixed-use or residential.

“I had heard that, too, that they wanted them to contact us. Again, I think that’s wishful thinking on the developer’s standpoint,” Wilt said.

Township solicitor Peter Henninger said: “For anybody to develop that property, they would have to come before the board and they would have to submit an application for rezoning.”

In an interview, Koury said they were hoping to identify a developer for something “palatable to the township and neighbors.”

What exactly that could be is up in the air, though he added that he did not envision a big box warehouse coming in.

During the meeting, Henninger said he recalled speaking to about six engineers over the past 10 years about the land.

“They could put some houses on there, but that would be governed by the zoning requirements in the agricultural district. They cannot put any commercial or industrial as it stands right now,” he said.