Peters takes residents to court over installation of Mt. Blaine gate

Published Jan 16, 2014 at 11:40 am (Updated Jan 16, 2014 at 11:40 am)

Citing a potential hazard to public safety and discrimination against the disabled who could not remove a barrier, the Peters Township solicitor asked Washington County Court to issue an injunction ordering residents of Mt. Blaine Drive to remove a gate that hinders access to their street and adjacent residential areas.

The township also is asking that the court forbid nine residents from reinstalling the gate, for which they never sought local or prior court permission, as required under the state’s Private Road Act.

Previously, the gate was locked, and a sign stating that Mt. Blaine Drive is a private road was posted nearby.

Named as defendants in the complaint were Jordan Russell, Gary A. and Rita M. Meyer, Gunther J. and Virginia C. Kaier, Doran B. and Olga Mauldin and Ray D. and Martha M. Moffitt.

John M. Smith, township solicitor, said in court documents that allowing the gate to remain would set a “dangerous precedent for many private roads in the township and undermines the township’s goal of interconnected trafficways and ease of access.” He also claims the gate violates the objectives of the Municipal Planning Code and the local Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, which provides for access to both public and private roads.

The Mt. Blaine plan of residential lots was filed with the township in 1951, but council became aware of the gate in October when it voted to have the residents remove the gate and sign by Nov. 7. The gate was unlocked, but not removed or propped open.

Peters police Chief Harry Fruecht, according to the injunction request, wrote in a report that taking time to open the gate could increase emergency responders’ response time by about two minutes, increasing the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome in a life-threatening situation. He said officers on patrol probably won’t drive on Mt. Blaine from Old Oak Road to the gate because of the inconvenience of opening the gate and refastening it.

The fire chief said the narrowness of the gate could slow fire trucks.

On Nov. 25, council wrote to the defendants telling them that the gate must be opened, and gave them until Dec. 20 to remove it.

A court date was not scheduled, but Smith brought the motion to Judge John DiSalle. Peters is seeking reimbursement for costs and attorneys’ fees.

It could not be immediately ascertained who would represent the Mt. Blaine Drive residents in an injunction proceeding, but Russell, who has lived on the private road for about eight years, said, “Ultimately, it’s a private road. We own the road. One resident complained about it. You can’t ask us to take care of a road that the public uses, or take care of liability in case there’s an accident.”

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