Pine supervisors informed of property owner complaint
Friday, January 10, 2020 | 12:01 AM
A Pine Township man is aggravated by what he says is the township’s refusal to repair damage to his property.
Evan Gerson addressed the board of supervisors during the first meeting of the year, asking for help. He said a contractor hired by the township caused the damage. Calling it a last-ditch effort before proceeding with litigation, Gerson said he wanted the board to review the situation before he takes further action.
At the heart of the issue is a stormwater detention pond at the rear of Gerson’s property which the township is responsible for maintaining, per an agreement with the homeowner’s association.
Gerson purchased 521 Salem Heights Drive in April 2018, and shortly thereafter, realized the pond was not functioning properly and was turning the back of his property into a swamp, he said.
The township added the pond to its work list for 2019 and authorized a contractor to perform the work. LM&R Excavating started work in the late summer or early fall, township Manager Scott Anderson said.
The contractor allegedly cut a road through North Park from North Ridge Drive in order to access and move equipment to the pond. After a park ranger reported what was happening, Andy Baechle, director of county parks, stepped in.
“The contractor said the township gave them permission (to go through the park), and the township said they didn’t,” Baechle said.
The contractor made it right, Baechle said, by regrading the area, purchasing the native seed mix they required and paying $250 per tree for five trees removed, plus additional funds for the planting. It will take time, however, for the scarred land to heal, Baechle said.
After that, Gerson claims, the company finished the pond project quickly and left behind a number of issues. He alleges that the company removed more vegetation and landscaping than necessary on his property, without his awareness or authorization. There are now issues with erosion on the hillside causing runoff into the park, he said. Gerson also claims his landscape drainage was damaged.
The contractor was not immediately available to comment.
When he brought the concerns to township officials, Gerson said they came and inspected the property, and told him the work was done satisfactorily and according to code.
However, Gerson said he has a report from the state Department of Environmental Protection from a post-construction inspection on Nov. 7 stating several violations were found.
Anderson said he saw a report, not from the DEP but from the Allegheny County Conservation District, and that those items are things the township has told Gerson with which they could comply.
“We concur there are some things that need to be done per the county conservation district letter, and we fully intend to do it as weather permits,” he said. “And we’ve told him that.”
Gerson’s attorney presented the township with an estimate from a landscape contractor requesting additional trees and landscaping, Anderson said.
“I guess because he claims we did something to (the landscaping and trees). But we have before-and-after pictures that show we really didn’t,” he said. “That’s the puzzling part. That’s where we disagree.”
Anderson said he is hopeful that the two sides can come to an agreement.
“We’ll work through this with Mr. Gerson if he’s willing to do that to come up with a reasonable solution,” he said. “Right now, we’re just a little far apart.”
Because the supervisors were not aware of the situation, township solicitor Gary Gushard offered to put together a packet of information, including all correspondence between Gerson’s attorney and the township, for their review prior to the next meeting on Jan. 20.
Gerson said that if he is forced to pursue legal action, he’s confident the court will side with him.
“We believe that our case is a no-brainer and we’re going to win,” he said. “We absolutely believe they will lose in court. As a tax-paying citizen of the township, this was my final attempt of acting in good faith before proceeding with litigation to make sure the board was aware and the information has been presented to them in a transparent way.”