EASTERN PA. Veterans cemetery deal facing deadline

The property sale comes with strings attached.
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- Two months after federal officials selected a site in Bucks County for a new national veterans cemetery, the deal is anything but official and could be unraveling, much to the dismay of area veterans.
"It sounded like a done deal and we were all excited, then it was like getting kicked in the stomach," said Bob Hansell, 72, a Bristol resident and Korean War veteran.
On Jan. 8, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson announced the 200-acre Dolington tract in Upper Makefield Township had been selected as the cemetery site.
What wasn't announced on that day was that Toll Brothers -- the developer who sold the land to the Veterans Administration for $7 million -- wants density concessions from the township to build 235 homes on two adjoining properties that total 178 acres.
"There is absolutely linkage," said Toll Brothers attorney Edward Murphy. "There will always be linkage and I can conceive of no possibility in which there will not be linkage, and I am increasingly concerned about how we will get to that point."
Murphy and John Mangano, a Toll Brothers vice president, spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Upper Makefield Citizens VA Roundtable attended by about 75 people, including 40 veterans.
Time factor
Murphy warned that even if everyone agreed to the Toll proposal immediately, time is running out to meet the VA's Oct. 1 deadline to finalize the property purchase. Toll Brothers says the $7 million price is one-third of what the land is actually worth.
"I don't know how we can get through the zoning, subdivision and land development process and get all the permits we need by Oct. 1," Murphy said. "If we don't have all the permits and approvals, there won't be a settlement."
William Tuerk, the VA's undersecretary for memorial affairs, was unavailable to comment.
Many township residents were upset when they learned of the proposed deal, angry at the "linkage" and the planned number of homes to be built.
The Dolington property, near Washington Crossing State Park, was selected over two other possible cemetery sites: the 275-acre former Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Chester County and acreage in Riegelsville in upper Bucks County.
Veterans officials expect the cemetery to open in 2008. All veterans with an honorable discharge will be eligible for burial at the site, but it will mostly serve the region's 170,000 veterans.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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