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Linglestown Gazette: How to avoid property owner heartaches

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to avoid property owner heartaches

An op-ed by BB ...

I've seen it happen dozens of times over the years – a housing developer spends months, sometimes years, working to get a plan approved, and then adjoining and nearby property owners catch wind of what’s in the works when the proposal is up for final approval. There’s plenty of heartache and gnashing of teeth, as local officials have no choice but to OK a plan that has a ton of last-minute opposition.

This scenario is playing out right now in Lower Paxton Twp. for several property owners who live in Centennial Acres located off of Patton Road. They are about to have their view of Blue Mountain permanently altered by a 91-home development planned by McNaughton Homes. Residents are nervous, and rightly so, about the need for large ponds to be constructed to control storm water. These monstrosities will hold hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and will tower above their homes on the mountainside. Who wants the majestic Blue Mountain to be altered like this? No one.

But township zoning regulations allow homes to be built there and McNaughton has been working to meet government requirements associated with their plan since September 2007, while the overwhelming majority of Centennial Acres residents who are fretting got involved earlier this month. For good and not so good reasons, they entered the game in the ninth inning, two outs and a batter at the plate who has two strikes.

The residents, who have been assisted by Eric Epstein of citizens group SWAN, have done an admirable job trying to get their concerns addressed prior to Tuesday, Sept. 2, when the township supervisors will put their stamp of approval on the plan. I think they have a shot at getting the supervisors to require fencing around the man-made ponds to help deter kids from jumping into deep water during wet weather. Maybe, if they’re extremely lucky, the supervisors could require McNaughton to put money on deposit to cover costs if the ponds don’t work as planned and existing flood problems in Centennial Acres worsen.

So, what can you do to avoid similar emotional trauma? It’s simple – be diligent. Although it gets pooh-poohed all the time, a responsibility of all U.S. citizens is to monitor what politicians and government bureaucrats are doing, and local government is usually the source of most heartaches.

Yeah, yeah, I know … that’s easy to say but hard to do. Or is it?

Instead of you trying to do all the legwork, become a regular reader of Linglestown Gazette and the Web site published by SWAN, and check the meeting minutes posted on Lower Paxton's Web site. I try to post links to township meeting agendas and preview big issues that are up for discussion, and SWAN sends members to nearly every township meeting so they can produce online newsletters about Lower Paxton governmental affairs.

Kiss heartaches away. Diligence is only a few clicks away!

- For details about McNaughton’s proposed housing community, check out an article from The Patriot-News by beat reporter T.W. Burger.

- Using a feed is great way to automatically find out when new information is added to Linglestown Gazette. I use an online feed reader called Bloglines. To get a FREE feed to this blog, click the orange icon or the link “Subscribe to Linglestown Gazette” that are located in the right-hand sidebar.



At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Riparian rights" as it is called in the law is one of the most complicated and difficult areas of the law to master. Few lawyers have such expertise. But if water is backing up into people's basements now, it's likely that those ponds will cause more difficult problems for those residents below these new developments in the future. If this project wasn't engineered exactly right, I am sure that there will be a stream of litigation (pun intended) for some time to come. If I were the homeowners, I'd be pushing the township to require the developers to post a large bond to cover potential legal liabilities down the road. It's likely too late to stop the development, but the residents could really push hard to get this one provision passed before approval is finalized.

I'm not a Pennsylvania lawyer, having only been licensed in another state, so take this advice with a grain of salt. And maybe someone should talk to a lawyer who has some expertise in riparian rights. It's possible the township could end up with some legal liability down the road as well, so it would be wise for not only the citizens but the township to take steps to protect themselves.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger BB said...

Thanks for the info.

For the record, the developer's engineer said the detention ponds will drain into perennial streams, and, if the ponds work as designed, the post-development runoff rate will be LESS THAN what is happening now. In other words, the engineer claims the detention ponds should reduce problems caused by floods during extreme wet weather.

The engineering form retained by Lower Paxton Twp. has signed off on the plan.

For a definition of perennial stream, go here:



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