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Greencastle council members shocked by suit filed by Moss Spring residents

April 11, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The Greencastle Borough Council president said council members are shocked and confused that residents of the Moss Spring Estates Development have decided to sue the borough for support in its struggle against a local developer.

Residents filed a complaint in Franklin County Court in late March asking the court to order the Borough of Greencastle to enforce its ordinance and tell developer Frank Plessinger he cannot force borough residents to pay dues to a homeowners association of a planned residential development in Antrim Township.

Additionally, the residents asked the court to order the borough to remove the conflict of interest that they feel exists by having Plessinger's attorney, J. Edgar Wine, serve as Planning Commission Chairman and his legal partner, Paul Schemel, serve as Borough Council vice president.

Council President Charles Eckstine said no one on the council anticipated being sued. Rather, he said, the borough and its solicitor, Salzmann Hughes P.C. of Chambersburg, Pa., had just began re-examining the issue in February.

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The lawsuit places the council in a Catch-22 situation, he said.

"I honestly did not see this coming and I don't see how we can help," he said. "We can't enforce something we don't have in the first place."

Eckstine said the borough does not have an ordinance for PRDs.

Former Councilwoman Nancy Dunn said the borough does have an ordinance that states it does not recognize PRDs. She said it is that ordinance which the residents have repeatedly asked the borough to enforce.

Dunn, who resigned over the issue in March, said residents never intended for the issue to go to court, but rather hoped the borough would step in on their behalf

The residents first asked the borough to enforce the ordinance in February 2007.

Dunn came before council and asked the borough to tell Plessinger that he could not require 42 lot owners in the borough subdivision to pay dues to the homeowners association of his adjacent PRD in Antrim Township.

At the time, Mayor Robert Eberly told residents the borough would have little if any authority in the matter because it involved a covenant or contract between the residents and the developer.

"Covenants are outside of what a municipality can enforce," he said. "Plus, you can file anything at the courthouse if you pay the fee, but that does not make it legal."

Dunn said Plessinger filed a covenant with the court in 2001 naming the borough lots he would require to pay $720 in annual dues to his homeowners association.

Melissa Dively, attorney with Salzmann Hughes, wrote to the residents in May 2007 that the borough would not issue an enforcement notice to Plessinger.

Residents came to the borough again in February 2008 with the same request.

Brian Salzmann, partner with Salzmann Hughes, said he personally began looking into the resident's request in February, but did not have time to advise the council on a course of action before he was served with the lawsuit in late March.

While the residents never intended to sue the borough, Dunn said they were left with little choice after their second cry for help was "ignored."

"We felt we did not get a response that was satisfactory, so we proceeded to court," she said.

The borough has 20 days from the time served to respond to the case.

Salzmann said, "I cannot tell you yet what our response will be, but we will respond."

Eckstine said he doubts the borough will do anything about Wine or Schemel being in public office.

He said, in his opinion, there is no conflict of interest because Wine and Schemel recuse themselves from all discussions involving the Moss Springs issue.

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