LOCKPORT - One bad apple ...
Or, in the case of Woodward Township, a small handful of "bad apples" has convinced the township supervisors to terminate the leases of all 56 lots along the Susquehanna River with the plan of developing new, more stringent lease agreements.
The unanimous action at Tuesday night's supervisors meeting came before a packed township building, filled mostly with river lot leasees.
However, the supervisors emphasized to the gathering that all but a handful of lease agreements will be renewed next year, with the same lot as in previous years. The few who have violated rules will not be renewed, opening up those desirable lots starting next year to those people at the top of a waiting list that numbers over 100.
Township solicitor Bob O'Connor said the supervisors came to him a few months ago seeking a solution for "ongoing problems" of people not complying with terms of the lease.
The lots cost $350 per season, which runs from April 1 through Oct. 31, with an additional fee for campers. With the new leases could come an increased cost, supervisors indicated.
The previous ordinance, O'Connor said, allowed for an automatic renewal of all leases each spring. That will not be the case with the new leases.
"The only way to terminate these agreements is to bring a landlord-tenant proceeding, which, of course, would incur money and time for the township. Or there is a provision in the lease agreement which calls for the passage of an ordinance which would, in essence, terminate all lease agreements," he said. "After researching which avenue to pursue, the most expedient and cost-effective way to do it is to terminate all of the lease agreements."
But O'Connor agreed with the supervisors that a majority of the agreements will be renewed after a new lease is drafted in the next few months.
"There are going to be some who are not going to be renewed," he said. "Apparently, they have not been complying with the rules and regulations in regard to the lots. The rest of you will have your leases renewed. You will have the same lot that you currently have. But there will be some additional regulations that will be imposed. It's just cooperating and having respect for your neighbors."
The solicitor quelled rumors that the termination was in response to the action a few months ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prohibit any construction or excavation in the township's floodplain.
Instead, he said, the lease termination is due to problems, like people sub-letting their lots for double the price of what the township charges, violating parking regulations, trash problems and more.
"I can go on and on and on. These people have been warned. They've been confronted, but they continue to do the same thing," he said. "The easiest way is for the township to wipe the slate clean and start over again, but this time the leases will not be automatically renewable. Consequently, if there is a bad tenant during the course of the summer, they will not have their lease renewed. This gives the township the ability, without having to resort to legal action, to simply not renew the lease."
Supervisor Chuck Rine emphasized that the few who will not have their leases renewed have already received a letter in the mail.
"If you received no warnings, there will be no surprises," he said. "If you get a lease in the mail, it will be a renewal. I'm telling everyone here, you will get your lot. There are only a couple of people who won't."
However, Rine added, those who do receive a new lease agreement and do not comply will lose their lot. Upon questioning, supervisors said they are considering allowing a warning from the township to before a lease is terminated in the future.