No decision on legal action regarding gate on Mt. Blaine Drive

Published Nov 12, 2013 at 8:52 am (Updated Nov 12, 2013 at 8:52 am)

Members of Peters Township Council spent almost an hour Nov. 11 hearing facts about a gate placed on a private portion of Mt. Blaine Drive that inhibits, but does not prohibit, access by the public.

Eight property owners along the private portion of the road have an agreement to maintain the private section, and after complaints about speeding and excessive traffic, agreed to erect an unlocked gate that they hope will impede drivers. Their attorney, Emmanuel Anthou, told council that the street is being used as a “through way” and the excessive traffic is deteriorating the existing unpaved road surface. Only one resident has objected to the gate that was erected Oct. 20. Anthou said there are signs warning motorists of the gate.

The eight homes are part of a 37-lot plan from the 1920s and any property owner in the plan has the right to travel along the length of the road, said Council Chairman Frank Arcuri, an attorney.

Anthou told council property owners have noticed heavy equipment using the private portion, such as landscapers, further damaging the road.

The question explored by council is whether the township should be involved in a private dispute among property owners, or if public safety is compromised by the gate. Anthou said there are three other ways to enter the area.

Jordan Russell, of 103 Mt. Blaine Drive, said he purchased his house on the private portion more than seven years ago and that his children used to ride their bicycles on the gravel portion because there was little traffic. Now, Russell told council, he children cannot play in the front yard. He called the private portion a “freeway.” Russell said he believes the issue is private and does not want the township involved. However, council authorized Michael Silvestri, township manager, to contact the fire and police chiefs, along with ambulance personnel to see if any feel the gate is a public safety issue. If it is, council may take legal action. If public safety is not compromised, Arcuri said council would “waste no more time and let the private parties deal with it.”

In other action, council:

• Authorized John Smith, township solicitor, to look into what action, if any, council could take on a request by James T. Merdian to swap a portion of his lot in the Briarcliff Plan with township-owned open space because he would like to expand his driveway. Smith said the township would need court approval and that the fees and costs could be placed on Merdian. Council does not want to set a precedent on swapping private land with township-owned property.

• Council voted unanimously to accept a one-acre parcel in the Great Meadows Plan that the developer does not wish to develop. The parcel is being considered a dedicated space and is not part of the required open space land.

• Announced Sugar Camp Road is open to traffic following demolition and completion of a new bridge for the Arrowhead Trail. The road opened Oct. 31. However, the portion of the trail spanning the road remains closed until the end of next week. There will not be a formal opening ceremony.

• Announced the Valley Brook Road ramp and realignment project is once again delayed because of legal action involving property owner Stephen Szabo and the state Department of Transportation. The multi-million dollar project was set to be completed by July 2014 and currently is not to reopen until at least August 2014. The road closed in mid-May.

• Agreed to increase the budgeted $32,000 for the purchase of a public works truck to $40,000. Silvestri said there is money available in the public works department budget for 2013.

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