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Antrim Township inches closer to nuisance ordinance

Residents could take complaints against neighbors to court

Residents could take complaints against neighbors to court

June 25, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Complaints about weeds, smoke and other neighborhood nuisances might soon be sent across the hall of the Antrim Township municipal building to the magisterial district judge.

The Antrim Township Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance that would give residents the right to take a neighbor to court over an alleged nuisance.

The discussion Tuesday came on the heels of a complaint by residents Janet and Elwood Helman of Hades Church Road, who allege they are being smoked out of house and home by a neighbor's open burning.

"Our neighbors have burned everything from chairs to waste and even railroad ties," Janet Helman said to the board in May. "The smoke is so bad our house looks as if it is on fire."

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Zoning Officer Angela Garland said other residents have made similar complaints this year about smoke from open burning, and while it has been the most common nuisance complaint, it is not the only one. Residents also have complained about overgrown weeds and grasses.

The ordinance, she said, gives residents the ability to take action against a neighbor in court for a number of nuisance complaints, where Magisterial District Judge Duane Cunningham would determine if a nuisance to public health, safety or welfare has occurred and if a fine should be imposed.

Helman thanked the board for considering the ordinance, but questioned why she should have to pay to take her neighbor to court just to get some relief from her problem

"So you are telling me every time (my neighbor) burns, it is money out of my pocket to take (them) across the hall?" she asked.

Township Manager Ben Thomas said, under the ordinance, the plaintiffs can ask the district judge to order the defendant to pay the court costs along with any fines issued.

While Helman said she was pleased to see the board considering some action that would help her situation, other residents felt the ordinance fell short of a real solution to the problem.

Francis Malachowski said the township should not fine for nuisances but rather ban open burning in residential areas.

"Why do we even have a burn barrel policy?" he asked. "I think you are behind the eight ball on this one, other townships have stopped it (burning), so why not us?"

Acknowledging Malachowski's concerns, supervisors chairman Curtis Myers said one fell ban on burning is not the answer.

"Your liberties stop and start where the next person's liberties stop and start, I don't want to take away liberties," he said.

The board will review the proposed ordinance during the next two weeks and on July 8 it will vote whether to advertise it for public hearing.

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