Long Lane vs. Acorn Lane at township meeting

By on October 16, 2013


Melinda S. Elmer Record Express Correspondent

, Staff Writer

"The township may act as a mediator, but it can’t compel people to move their mailboxes to Acorn Lane, and it can’t compel the post office to deliver up there," Elizabeth Township Solicitor Josele Cleary told residents of Acorn Lane and Long Lane in an attempt to resolve an ongoing problem at the intersection.

A group of neighbors led by resident Harry Turner asked the supervisors months ago to do something about the allegedly dangerous intersection. The Acorn Lane residents asserted that bushes on a property at the corner of Long Lane and Acorn Lane obstruct the view of traffic on Long Lane as they try to turn from Acorn Lane onto Long Lane.

Long Lane is a township road and Acorn Lane is a private driveway off of Long Lane and leads to about 30 homes.

Cleary explained that the township has jurisdiction only over public roadways. The right-of-way on Long Lane is 33 feet wide, or 16 1/2 feet on each side of the center line. Acorn Lane was constructed as a private road and was never given to the township. The township has no responsibilities or rights on Acorn Lane.

The subdivision plan that created Acorn Lane indicates clear-sight triangles on both sides of Acorn Lane, but because the property on the east corner of the lane was pre-existing, the new subdivision could not make demands on that property. Cleary explained that Pennsylvania property law is firmly on the side of the property owner. Pennsylvania property law allows a property owner’s right to subdivide lots because of existing conditions on an adjacent property, and a newly created lot may not make demands on an existing property.

The Acorn Lane residents contend that bushes in the front yard of the property at the east corner of Long Lane are causing the sight problem. The homeowner says that the 33 Acorn Lane mailboxes placed on her property without her permission are the problem. The township says the mailbox posts are in the township right-of-way, not on private property.

Cleary said the township has the right to remove brush, vegetation and trees in the right-of-way, and Township Road Superintendent Glenn Martin has trimmed the bushes in the right-of-way at this location. Cleary explained that residents do have the right to place mailboxes within the township’s right-of-way, but not wherever they want in the right-of-way. The township does have the right to tell people to move mailboxes to another location to improve the right-of-way.

Acorn Lane resident Dirk Schoenberger said that the supervisors had been asked "to improve the sight distances at the intersection, but were intimidated into thinking this is a mailbox issue by a woman who has never gone through proper channels." He said the township seems willing to "inconvenience 33 people to appease one."

Schoenberger says he can see over the mailboxes when he tries to pull out of Acorn Lane onto Long Lane; the bushes are the problem.

The homeowner will not remove the bushes as long as the mailboxes are in front of her house, in an attempt to preserve her privacy.

Supervisor Chairman Brian Wiker said the township engineer performed a study that determined that the mailboxes were more of an obstruction than the bushes.

"I’m satisfied that we didn’t follow through with our original motion (to remove the bushes) because it was wrong."

Supervisor Jeff Burkholder noted that the bushes had been trimmed recently.

A resident asked where the mailboxes might better be placed. Past discussions included options on Acorn Lane and two locations on Long Lane. The US Post Office will not make deliveries on private, unimproved and unmaintained lanes, which it contends is the case with Acorn Lane. The two locations on Long Lane are also unacceptable.

Wiker replied that the township cannot tell residents where to place their mailboxes. They can only say where they may not be placed.

Schoenberger said the supervisors have done nothing, even though the township’s insurance agent said the bushes must come down. Cleary repeated that the township does not have the right to go onto private property, outside of the right-of-way, and remove vegetation. The insurance agent may say what is safer, but does not have the legal authority to make requirements.

Wiker agreed with Schoenberger that the board has decided to do nothing.

"We all want people to be safe. Harry Turner originally approached us because of safety at the intersection, but sometimes good intentions backfire. The engineer says the (Acorn Lane resident’s) mailboxes are more of a problem than the (Long Lane resident’s) bushes. I’d rather back off and take no action."

"An alternative is to move the boxes and you figure out where to put them," Wiker continued. "Another alternative would be to ask the post office to deliver up the lane."

Supervisor Rodney May offered blank US Post Office petition forms for the Acorn Lane residents to fill out to request mail delivery on their street. There were no takers.

One resident said the petitions wouldn’t make a difference. It wouldn’t improve safety at the intersection. Another said that the post office has already said it will not deliver up the lane.

"I feel helpless sitting here, but we can’t do a thing about it," said May.

The supervisors did pass a motion to post a speed limit of 40 on Long Lane.

They passed another motion "to end this discussion as a business item and leave well enough alone, but to support a petition of the post office to move the mail boxes."

Resident Harry Turner said he will go to the Zoning Hearing Board for redress. The supervisors said there is nothing more legally to be done. Turner then said he’d go to the county commissioners to get something done since the supervisors won’t do anything.

On another topic, Dave Snavely, representing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee, presented the supervisors with checks totaling $3,500 for the purchase of bronze plaques representing all branches of the armed forces. These plaques will be placed on the memorial wall at Elizabeth Township Park. Remaining funds will be used to "add a plaque with the names of local service members who died, with additional room for hopefully no more names," said Snavely.

The supervisors thanked the veterans. May also thanked the residents who use the park and pavilion and keep it clean and tidy. He said the restroom facilities will be open into November, weather permitting.

Resident Barry Lieberman noted some erosion in the Elizabeth Township Park in the "swamp" area. May said the township is aware of the problem and it will be addressed.

The supervisors received a letter from the insurance company stating that cancer is now considered an occupational disease for firefighters. The township helps to cover insurance costs for volunteer firefighters.

The supervisors were asked to contact state legislators regarding House Bill 1271, pertaining to the Prevailing Wage Act. For more information, see http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2011&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1271.

More ELIZABETH TWP., page A7

About lititzrecord