Compressed natural gas station on hold pending easement issue

MANSFIELD – Richmond Township – and anyone wanting to develop land along old Route 15 south of the new Route 15 overpass – has a “flow easement” problem with the state Department of Transportation, according to township solicitor Jeff Loomis.

The issue was brought to light by Pyramid Brokerage Co.’s managing director Mike Manzari, who is developing a new Dandy Mini Mart compressed natural gas station on property that formerly housed Chesapeake Energy offices. He called the township after learning of the 30-year-old easements on properties located from the overpass to Lowe’s Home Improvement store.

Manzari said a “potential buyer” of the property called him after looking into obtaining a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT.

According to Loomis, during the 1980s, an occasional water flowage easement was signed by landowners, giving PennDOT the right to flood the properties.

But, the agreement also prohibits property owners from making any changes that might affect the flow of water, such as raising the properties’ above the flood plain and, in this case, putting in asphalt driveways and compressed natural gas pumps.

Loomis said PennDOT doesn’t have a lot of information on the easements and spoke with the department’s communications officer, Jeffrey Wenner, of Montoursville.

According to Loomis, Wenner still is waiting to hear from PennDOT’s chief counsel as to the agency’s position on the issue.

“An engineering analysis showed the highway would cause occasional flooding. So you can’t raise any of them (the properties) because it will cause water to potentially affect the adjacent properties or roadway,” Loomis said.

The question was raised by meeting attendee Roy Cummings as to why Lowe’s was granted a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT if the property was subject to the easement.

“Jim Krise, who is in charge of highway occupancy permits, said he had never even heard of the flowage easement and he is the one that issued permits for the Lowe’s store,” Cummings said.

Apparently, Cummings, said “every property owner either agreed to it or (the easement) was confiscated by the state.”

He said he was told that “the procedure for being able to do something is to get a building permit from the township, then the state would look at it and if it didn’t have a negative impact on Route 15, they approved it.”

Loomis said he would continue to call PennDOT until he gets an answer.

In other business, the supervisors reviewed a preliminary design for its new meeting room to be constructed inside the two garage bays adjacent to the township offices in the old township building.

According to township secretary Deb Kotulka, the meeting room will be handicapped accessible and will include handicap accessible restrooms and a kitchenette.

“We can use this then as a classroom, too, and for voting,” she said.

Engineer Donald Wilcox, of Wellsboro, did the preliminary design.

“After we get the drawings set, we will have a pre-bid meeting,” Kotulka said.

Though she didn’t want to divulge an estimate of the cost, she did say the project would be paid for entirely by natural gas impact fee monies.