Sides skirmish over Wild Acres Clubhouse Rebuild
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch - October 28, 2021
DINGMANS FERRY -- Does rebuilding a clubhouse fall under the provisions of a township's subdivision and land development ordinance?
That discussion was the thrust of a special meeting held last Wednesday by the Delaware Township Board of Supervisors regarding Wild Acres private community's plans to rebuild its clubhouse. The meeting was a continuation of agenda items that were not covered during the customary bi-monthly meeting held a week earlier.
Marshall Anders, an attorney representing the homeowners' association, jousted with township Solicitor Thomas Farley while a Wild Ares homeowners' association board member and Nicholas Hewes, senior project manager of MKSD Architects.handling the project design, also participated in the discussion. Hewes was on a teleconference call. They argued that the project does not fall under the jurisdiction of the SALDO in the township ordinance.
"In no way does it affect public use," said Anders in his presentation to the board. "People in the community voted for this and have the right to make that decision. One community building does not affect the public or township in any fashion."
Supervisors countered that the public can come into the community to the building. "Just because it's in the association does not mean it's not in public use," said Farley.
The SALDO sets guidelines for sewer, septic, streets, sidewalks, lighting and stormwater.
Hewes argued that the new clubhouse "has the same footprint" as the existing one. Farley said, upon viewing the plans, the new clubhouse is not identical to the existing one and said stormwater requirements have changed over the years.
Anders said it is not a land development and cited three court cases in which the ruling on SALDO issues favored the community. "Just putting a roof over a patio is not a land development," said Farley of one of the cases.
Farley said the SALDO not only covers land development but any non-residential building. "The clubhouse is a non-residential building. That alone makes it a land development," said Farley, who stressed that no township regulations are prohibiting development, just regulating it.
A Wild Acres HOA board member present at the meeting questioned whether this situation "would open a Pandora's box" of numerous, time consuming and costly conditions. Supervisors pointed out that a $1,500 application fee and $7,500 funds in escrow are the only obligations.
"The intent is to make the project safe for the community and the public, not to drag it out," said Farley.
Farley afterward said it is up to Wild Ares to decide whether to move forward with compliance or litigate it in the courts.
"The ball's in your court," said Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson to the Wild Acres representatives.
Also at the meeting Ronald Shaskan was approved unanimously by the supervisors to fill a vacant seat on the township's Recreation Committee and voted to table the decision on Dana Laux filling another vacant seat. Shaskan was on hand to discuss his views as a committee member. He said he'll wait until he begins his tenure to completely determine his outlook. The board agreed to advertise for a third vacant seat on the committee. It also approved advertising that the Rec Committee meets the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the township Emergency Management Building from October through March and at Akenac Park April through September.
Supevisor Jane Neufeld continued the discussion of prior meetings about spending federal funds from the American Rescue Plan earmarked to the township for COVID relief. "The money can be put to very good use and get a lot of things done," said Neufeld, who said the funds come in two payments totaling $742,000..
Neufeld said road projects "are a high priority for 2022 and there are a number of small cost items that the American Rescue Plan can do."
The board approved paying Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC $4,625 for 2021 ARP consultation services from the ARP for guidance on spending the funding.