Seats were full at a public meeting for neighbors of Jubilee Ministries’ newly acquired North Lebanon Township property Tuesday.

At the meeting, Jubilee CEO Ryan Newswanger unveiled plans for Jubilee headquarters to be constructed at the 420 E. Kercher Ave. property.

Read More: Jubilee Ministries buys 103-acre farm in N. Lebanon Twp., quiet on plans for now

The rough plans include an approximately 45,000-square-foot processing center for donations, potentially a small office building, and a ministry building intended to house 45 to 70 students in Jubilee’s aftercare program.

Artist’s rendering of the planned development, provided by Jubilee CEO Ryan Newswanger. Left: donation processing center. Center: office building. Right: ministry building.

The property is zoned agricultural, so these uses are not permitted by right. Newswanger said that while plans are still in the works, they hope to obtain a text amendment to the zoning ordinance with North Lebanon Township.

Jubilee’s plans for the property only make up around 25 acres of the 103-acre property. The remainder would continue to be leased out to a farmer, Newswanger said.

A conceptual plan for the property including farmland. Slideshow presentation at Tuesday’s meeting.
A conceptual plan for the used part of the property, including a garden for students to work growing their own food. Slideshow presentation at Tuesday’s meeting.

Newswanger said the site was selected largely due to its agricultural setting, as well as proximity to utilities and space available. The site is not currently connected to water and sewer, but is within close proximity to water and sewer lines.

He said Jubilee plans to spend around $10 million on the project, and intends for the buildings to look agricultural in nature. He says Jubilee has no intention, as of now, to expand beyond current plans.

He said Jubilee’s goal is to “enhance and improve our aftercare program” both through 45 to 70 individual efficiency apartments (as opposed to shared living spaces) and agricultural opportunities for students.

The 9-12+ month aftercare program is intended to reform men and women coming out of prison. The program is voluntary and participants, from both local and state prisons, have their schedules and finances tightly managed, Newswanger said.

Jubilee CEO Ryan Newswanger presents plans for the property. (Emily Bixler)

If this plan comes to fruition, students will work on site at the start of the program before finding work at participating employers in the community.

In response to concerns from members of the public surrounding safety, Newswanger said that the property would be outfitted with many constantly monitored security cameras. He also said that the program does not admit any tier 3 sex offenders or sexual predators.

With regards to other sex offenders, he said: “They’re in the community now. There’s already 124 sex offenders who live within 5 miles.”

He also said that in the program’s 30 years, Jubilee has had zero issues with students engaging in criminal activity during the program. Students are also subject to random drug and nicotine testing.

“With the limits of who would want to come, who can come, and the strictness and structure of the program, we’re just not dealing with major issues in our aftercare program,” Newswanger said.

Newswanger claimed the program is highly effective and, over six years following graduation, has a 22 percent recidivism rate.

The plan received nearly unanimous pushback from community members attending the meeting.

The seats were full and some were standing at Tuesday’s meeting. (Emily Bixler)

Common points of contention included safety, property value, and environmental concerns.

Multiple members of the public were met with applause following critiques of the plan. Several pledged to be there to oppose the plan if and when it is up for approval by North Lebanon Township supervisors.

Others brought up concerns regarding increased traffic causing potential additional danger at nearby intersections. The processing center currently has 62 staff and would be otherwise staffed by students in the aftercare program, Newswanger said.

According to its most recent Form 990, Jubilee had revenues of around $5 million in 2020. It operates six thrift stores and employs 14 chaplains at nine correctional facilities in Pennsylvania.

LebTown covers North Lebanon Township as part of our Civic Impact Reporting Project, so we will provide updates as they come.

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Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.


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