County should back off!
Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:00 am
Source: “County should back off!.” Bucks County Courier Times. Tuesday 22 Oct. 2013. ‹http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/opinion/editorial/county-should-back-off/article_64303ace-d3a3-5380-8912-3ce4ea924356.html›
In the case of the barn that shouldn’t have been built, the county needs to back off. Forcing the structure to be torn down or moved just to make a point or teach a lesson will accomplish nothing good. Nothing!
We refer to Sunday’s story, “County insists Northampton pole barn be moved.” In brief, the barn was built on land the township bought 12 years ago with the help of county open space funds and which it sold five years later. Out of the 52 acres the township sold to John and Susan Parsons, 49 acres fell under an open space deed restriction.
Despite that restriction, the Parsons built a 14,000-square-foot pole barn without proper permits and in apparent violation of the deed restriction.
As you might have guessed, the barn, which is more gymnasium than barn, became the subject of of litigation. Long story short, the Parsons reached a settlement agreement with the township: The barn could stay if the Parsons reimbursed taxpayers $50,000 for the litigation and inspection costs. Additionally, the Parsons would pay a penalty of $100,000 for failing to comply with township zoning and permit requirements and for violating the deed restriction. They also agreed to place an equal area on another part of the property under the open space deed restriction.
To recap: The township recovered all legal and inspection expenses and banked an additional hundred grand in the form of penalty fees. Plus, it got an equal amount of land dedicated as open space. As a bonus, the Parsons, who some describe as charitable and generous, allow the barn to be used for free by local organizations for basketball and other recreational purposes.
All’s well that ends well? If only that were the case.
Instead of going along with a deal that satisfied local officials and produced a fair, sensible, practical and just outcome, county officials got in the way. They sent a letter to the Parsons and the township stating the “county remains firm in its opposition to the location of the pole barn in restricted open space.” And since the consent of the county is necessary due to the expenditure of county open space funds, the barn has to go.
Township officials are rightly outraged, as we all should be. “And justice would be served by tearing down the barn-gymnasium, how?” asked a bewildered Frank Rothermel, elected township supervisor. Good question. One feeble answer from a politically connected critic is you can’t “expect to get away with” breaking the law.
Seems to us they didn’t. Indeed, the Parsons are paying a high price for their violations. And not only are taxpayers making out, so are local organizations in need of recreational space.
This should be a done deal. To that end, the county should back off!