On December 11, MWA and Diamond Properties LLC (owner of Mountain Pines Campground in Melcroft) held oral arguments in front of the Judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County. Oral arguments provide the opportunity for a judge to ask specific questions and for each party to explain the reasons why they think their position is correct on the issue.
Seventeen people attended in support of the Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board and MWA! Diamond Properties only had one, their local business manager. This was outstanding! Thanks to the community for showing up and wearing green in solidarity!
For those who weren’t able to attend, here’s a quick update and recap of the arguments that afternoon:
- No new testimony was offered since this appeal argument is to go off of the record from previous hearings. The judge heard over 1 hour of argument from Diamond Properties/Mountain Pines and then heard from the Fayette County Zoning and Heard Board Solicitor and Maddie Hinkle, representing MWA.
- The three conditions that were appealed were:
- A limit of 90 campsites
- 1 fire ring per 10 sites
- No permanent structures
- The first condition under appeal seemed to be of the most importance to the appellant. Diamond Properties said there is no legal justification for this number, to which the court seemed to disagree. The court’s argument was that the Zoning Hearing Board had jurisdiction to make common sense decisions regarding land use, one of which would be overcrowding. The solicitor then stated the county’s case as to how they calculated the 90 site number based on existing county ordinances.
- On the second and third conditions, the court’s position seemed to be less clear. There is no legal standing in the zoning ordinances that define campgrounds limiting structures of fire rings. The court did point out that there are ordinances regarding smoke, odors, noise, public safety etc.
- The court made multiple mentions that a township could at any time enact ordinances restricting campfires and permanent structures and cautioned that should an ordinance go into effect, that the fire rings and structures would have to be dismantled.
- It was also interesting to note that, in spite of Diamond Properties’ repeated attempts to dismiss all of our testimony as complaints without legal standing, the court decisively disagreed. Pennsylvania law considers expert testimony not only of experts in a given field, but also to lay people based on their experience. Given our extensive experience dealing with the nuisance of Mountain Pines, the court considers our testimony as expert testimony.
Major consideration should be made of the extensive testimony that was offered to the Zoning and Hearing Board. The community rallied hard to protect their quality of life and the quality of the Indian Creek Valley. That was noticed not only at the ZHB hearings but also in the appeal court.
There is one brief filed by the solicitor that Diamond Properties didn’t receive, and the judge gave until Jan 15th for that brief to be reviewed by Diamond Properties. Any judgement or subsequent hearing will be decided upon after that.
From all of this there is more work to be done to solidify the conditions. We recommend attending upcoming Saltlick Township Meetings along with MWA to support efforts to develop more detailed ordinances that apply to campfires and permanent structures.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Saltlick Township Meetings are the 1st Tuesday of every month at 3:30pm. 147 Municipal Building Rd., Melcroft, PA. The meeting dates for the first quarter of 2024 are as follows:
- Tuesday, January 2 @ 3:30pm
- Tuesday, February 5 @ 3:30pm
- Tuesday, March 5 @ 3:30pm
Again, thanks to our community for showing up! Your support means everything in cases like this.