Development in Clay Township still having problems

By on September 28, 2016

Clay Township’s Wildflower Pond Development continues to have problems, and nobody wants to pay for them.

Sidewalks are cracked and uneven, making it difficult to navigate, especially for the disabled. Street lights are missing, driveways are too steep, and large trees are growing out of the water retention basin.

Questions of financial responsibility continue to hound the township supervisors and the development homeowners.

Wildflower residents attended the Sept. 12 Clay Township meeting to air grievances, again, and ask the supervisors for help.

As usual, the supervisors agreed the residents need help, then turned the meeting over to their solicitor, Jennifer Mejia, who explained in two hours time why little help would be forthcoming.

Mejia and township engineer Bob Lynn of Hanover Engineering told the residents that the township doesn’t own the sidewalks, which are the responsibility of the homeowners for maintenance and repair.

Joseph Stoltzfus, of Flaxen Lane, a disabled veteran, said when he was considering moving to the development in 2005, he questioned his realtor about the cracked, slanted, and broken sidewalks.

At the time, he was told that the supervisors knew about the problem and would be fixing it.

So, he moved in. By 2006, he was totally dependent on his motorized chair for locomotion, but the sidewalks were in such bad repair they were too dangerous for him to use. Instead, he drives on the streets of the development.

“Everybody knows the sidewalks are wrong, but nobody wants to do anything about it,” Stoltzfus said.

Because of the uneven sidewalk surface, Stoltzfus said he gets “launched” into the street, causing concern that the chair may tip over.

“When did you know it was wrong?” Stoltzfus asked the supervisors. “Why didn’t you say to the developer ‘you have to come up with a plan before you can keep building’ … that’s not rocket science.”

The supervisors maintain they are not responsible for any part of the development, while the residents worry about financial costs associated with repairing the sidewalks. Residents want to know why their streets haven’t been dedicated to the township.

They also want to know who is responsible for the cracked sidewalks, fearing litigation in the event of a fall.

Meanwhile, the developer, Dr. Carlton Busco, is reportedly not responding to their concerns.

While Stoltzfus has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union to apprise them of the barely navigable sidewalks, Mejia said that ADA regulations don’t cover private residences.

The ADA was signed into law in 1990 to guarantee people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Stoltzfus maintained the sidewalks are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If you can’t even have a safe pathway to your mailbox, then you are being discriminated against,” he said.

Mejia replied that it’s a “gray area” whether the sidewalks are ADA compliant or not.

Along with sidewalks, homeowners in the development have asked for help to have proper streetlights, a walking path, and regular maintenance on the development’s retention basin, which is prone to sinkholes.

Their worries have increased during the past year as the developer, Busco, has been in the process of trying to formally pass the responsibility of a number of aspects of the development to the homeowners.

When Mejia explained that the homeowners’ association existed primarily for the maintenance of the development’s storm water retention basin, she was shouted down by a few residents who said no homeowners’ association exists.

Check. It doesn’t.

In response to Vicki Stoltzfus telling her no HOA exists, Mejia said there are documents put on record relating to an HOA.

“From the township’s perspective on the plan, it was anticipated that there would be a homeowners’ association,” Mejia said.

Some issues simply aren’t the bailiwick of the supervisors, Mejia said, for example, if outside laundry lines are allowed or where a recreational vehicle may be parked.

The township isn’t taking a position on whether the HOA is functional or not, either, Mejia said.

“So we can do anything we want to do there?” asked Stoltzfus, Vicki’s husband.

Nancy Craven, a homeowner in the development, and daughter of Gary and Dorothy Craven, who also live in the development, said her parents, who use walkers and a motorized chair, have to go down their driveway on an angle because to go straight down would be too steep and they could fall.

“Any of you can come and we’ll give you a walker or his electric cart and you can see how hard it is (to drive on the sidewalks),” she said.

The sidewalks were repaired by the township to some extent in 2011, but, according to resident Gary Craven, the repair work made them even worse.

“Somebody is not doing their job right,” he said. “We don’t want to go another 10 years; we want the township to take over the streets. We thought the township would plow snow, too, but they don’t.

“They want us to be responsible, so if something goes wrong, we have to pay for it. Eleven years have gone by and nobody’s done anything.”

Resident Justine Groth, Flaxen Lane, asked if the sidewalks could just be removed.

“They are a nightmare; uneven, cracked and crumbling,” Groth said. “I won’t even walk on them.”

Engineer Lynn said he has inspected the sidewalks and the heavy “cross slope” of the walks between the curbs and driveways is a problem. To change the sidewalks would make the driveways even steeper.

“The cross slope is an issue and we’ve been trying to get it resolved,” Lynn said. “We’re having the same issues you are; we can’t get hold of the developer.”

Wildflower resident Dave Golias wanted to know why the township hasn’t been more aggressive in addressing the ongoing problems.

Notice of deficiencies are being relayed to the developer, Lynn assured the group.

“The communication really isn’t there,” said Township Manager Bruce Leisey. “He (the developer) only takes action when threatened with litigation.”

“It’s really sad when our only option at this point is to get a lawyer and sue,” Vicki Stoltzfus said.

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