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Several were surprised, but hailed the decision as "good governance." It was an example of local government listening to its citizens, said Tupitza, who said he expects Hurst to start a legal battle that will reach the county and state courts.

Any decision to take the sliver of preserved land would meet immediate opposition, Tupitza said.

“I don’t really believe the township would take the steps to do the condemnation, because I don’t believe they want to start a war,” Tupitza said.

He called this a “really simple case." “Can a municipality condemn private property that’s subject to a conservation easement for the purpose of making that property available for private development?

But conservation activists say the future of land preservation in Lancasater and Chester Counties and all over Pennsylvania hinges on the fate of a patch of Lancaster County farmland that is less than a third of an acre.

In the early 2000s, he and his wife, Esther, preserved the farm on which they raised their eight children.The project would include 53,400 square feet of retail space, a 70,000-square-foot supermarket, a new restaurant, a 120-room hotel, a bank, and a 450-seat banquet room.It would add 565 houses and apartment units to a town with about 16,000 residences.At the center of the controversy is a proposal by the Hurst family, owner of the popular Oregon Dairy complex, to build a 75-acre housing and retail development on property it owns not far from a busy highway in growing Manheim Township, outside Lancaster City.The plan suffered a setback last week, when township commissioners cast a vote against the development, which is in an early stage of the approval process.

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