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that would access Heslop Road, and would give us a secondary access, even if it is just an emergency access,” explained Thomas.
George Venesky asked McGowan, “What are your plans for that land? As in housing development?”
McGowan said he was in the land development business and depending on the economy would be developing the land for homes in the future.
Thomas reminded Venesky that “On one side of the township we are demanding an opening between Woodbury Manor and Polonia Estates for safety purposes and half a mile away as the crow flies you are trying to shut it down.”
Barbara Deaton recalled that a tree fell across Heslop Road in the past and it was closed for several hours. “If you are having a heart attack it could take several hours to open the road. Emergency vehicles could have access from the other end.”
Tom Cherry, former Administrator of the Rice Planning commission, said that he proposed rejecting McGowan’s Presidential Land Company’s plan because it did not have a secondary access according to the SALDO. “That’s when you acquired the 50 foot secondary access,” Cherry said to McGowan.
Cherry said that Rice Township had received liquid fuels for Heslop Road for about 40 years all the way to Brown Street until 2008. “The fact that we took these dollars and did not maintain the road is only a discredit to a number of supervisors, not only the people who sit here today,” commented Cherry.
“Are we going to sit here as supervisors and violate our own SALDO? I’d like to see the petitions requesting that this road be vacated, if either of the private parties Mr. Kemmerer or Mr. Karpinski put anything in writing. And I’m certain the Game Commission didn’t because I have their procedures from the game law and it requires a decision at a public meeting. There was no decision to cooperate with you in the acquisition of this road at the game commissions’ quarterly meeting this week,” said Cherry. Cherry added that if Heslop Road was vacated it would be a dead end road and would require a cul-de-ac of 100 feet to comply with the SALDO. “We are creating a problem, not solving one. A couple of tons of gravel, a tri-axel and a bulldozer could make the road passable for four wheel drives.”
Marcia Thomas said that in 2008 the state came in to inspect Heslop Road and because a vehicle could not traverse it at a minimum speed of 15 m. p. h. Heslop Road would no longer receive liquid fuels funds until such time as it was brought up to that standard. Heslop Road has been upgraded from the end of pave at 1695 Heslop Road to Harry Kemmerer’s driveway, 1800 Haystack Mountain Road (also Heslop), with 20 loads of modified about 10 years ago. The unpaved portion between the Kemmerer driveway and the entrance to the Karpinski property also on Heslop Road has been graded and improved with gravel.
Cherry also talked about public access to hunting in the gamelands. “Hunting is a dying sport. Most are now elderly, perhaps diabled or handicapped. You are not doing them any justice by not allowing them to access what were four main parking areas within the heart of Gamelands 207. I can recall the time I took my uncle after his triple bypass to drive to one of those parking areas, so that he could at least in the latter stages of his life get out of the vehicle and hunt deer. I can’t access that hill without being in a vehicle. You are stopping me from getting into the center of those gamelands. We have plenty of roads that are gravel roads. You post them as such. Travel at your own risk. We have the ability to keep that historic road open with a couple of tons of gravel so that future generations can get up there and hunt and see what is up there, and it is a very beautiful area. To sit here and think we could close this off for whatever reason is ludicrous.”
Joe Tweedle said, “Let’s go back to the history of Heslop Road. It was Richards Road, 32 feet wide. My mother and grandmother were the first settlers. When I was a little boy that was the only way I could get to our property. It was the only road from Solomon’s Gap to Nuangola Station. Nuangola Road wasn’t even built. It was maintained by John Roskos and others. It was maintained. Three years ago I drove through to Brown Street. All we are asking is to put a new pipe up there. Take a dozer and grade it off and maintain it for emergency vehicles to get it in and out,” said Tweedle, who produced an original tax receipt for his family property in 1911 for 28¢.
Richard Stofko, Park Terrace, asked how many people lived on Heslop Road up to Wilderness Estates? Stella said he did not know. “You have no idea how many people’s lives you are putting in jeopardy in closing that road. What’s your contingency plan to help those people if that road is closed? Wouldn’t making the best of it being to create the secondary access?“
Venesky said that according to the Rice Township engineer it would cost $2 to $3 million to bring it up to PennDot specs. Marcia Thomas said that an existing road does not fall under the requirements for building a new road. She made a motion to put in a couple tri-axel loads of gravel on the unpaved portion of Heslop Road and grade it. “It is public property. We own it. We don’t have to talk to PennDot about our own property. Let’s fix it up so that more people can enjoy it rather than shutting it down and limiting it. We’ve got areas up there that have been identified as Luzerne County natural resources inventory that are spectacular, singular. There are vernal pools up there. You are talking about cutting off our history, our natural resources, and access to those lands. You’ve got a developer with a legal right to access that road and somebody put a gate across it and you lied about it at the last meeting when I asked about a gate,” continued Thomas.
Stella said he never lied about the gate. Thomas said, “Somebody did because I asked about the gate and you said you didn’t know anything about it. I’ll retract that statement. What I am saying to you is that shedding light on this and having a public discourse is exactly what Sussenbach indicated to me that the normal course of events when the game commission is going to acquire property whether it is given to them or purchased is that there is a public hearing. I just heard Higgs say that there has to be changes to this ordinance as it is because there has to be changes.”
Stella said, “After hearing McGowan and these fine people I am putting a motion on the floor to table this ordinance until there is more of a review by Higgs and get back to this board.”
Harold Fisher told the board that they had their minds made up already and were wasting everybody’s time. “George sat there looking around. You paid $1900 for the lawyer to go up there and do all this research? You could have bought 3 tri-axel loads of stone to put up there and a dozer.”
Venesky said that 3 years ago the game commission came to the township and indicated that either by adverse possession or eminent domain they were going to take the road over. Thomas said that was news to her. “When I spoke to Officer Sussenbach and asked him for any correspondence whatsoever that has taken place between the state and the township and I asked for them immediately. He said that the whole thing was verbal. Sussenbach confirmed that he was not personally aware of correspondence. It was not from his office.
Karl Kaminski asked PA Game Commission Land Management Supervisor Pete Sussenbach for his input. Sussenbach said that the game commission manages activities on their lands, and cannot put funding into a road they don’t own. There has been a major impact on Gameland 207 from unlawful use of ATV’s on the Brown Street side. Sussenbach said his staff put up the gate across Heslop. A two man crew from gamelands 91 put it up after the PGC discussed it with the private land owners. A second PGC Officer Michael Beahm, PGC Land Management Group Supervisor for Carbon, Luzerne, Lackawanna and Monroe counties stated “we jumped the gun”. The gate was taken off the posts that were installed in cement and now lies at the site.
The motion to vacate Heslop Road was tabled with all supervisors in agreement.