Lackawaxen launch site argued again; battle is over nonconforming use
Like an angler presenting a dry fly in a favorite Lackawaxen River fishing pool, the town presented its proposed regulations for use to the current owners of the parcel of land known as the Threshman property on the Lackawaxen River. And just like what happens all too often while fly fishing, nothing rose to take the bait.
At December’s town meeting, solicitor Anthony Waldron broke the news. The townships’ proposal to landowner Kittitanny Canoe’s (KC) was rejected. KC owner David Jones maintained his company is in compliance with township ordinances and is not operating illegally. “I’m running a green business. This is eco-tourism.
And this is the perfect fit for not only the town but the river. Why is this even an issue? This is a grandfathered existing business. They’ve admitted that. We’ve provided the proof, the evidence, they have that.”
KC bought the property in 2010 from the Threshman family, who operated a livery business from the site for decades. It’s agreed the property enjoys grandfather status as a non-conforming livery use. Similar businesses on the Lackawaxen were prohibited in 1992 by the township. To keep that status, the business must maintain continued use of the property, and can’t shut down for a year or more and maintain status without filing with the town for an extension. Therein lies the hook the township hopes to set.
“In the mid 2000s [while owned by Threshman] there’s indication they stopped for a period of time. In 2006, we had some bad floods,” Waldron said. “It’s the obligation of the property owner, in this case Ewell Threshman, to file certificates of intention for the years that it was not in operation. We never got that; I checked the records.”
Filing for the extension is the landowner’s responsibility; proving the one-year gap is the town’s responsibility. Waldron says in KC’s evidence, those years are vague, meaning no receipts, no affidavits, just a handwritten tally of boats KC claims were launched from the property.
Jones claims that the township just pushed their regulations “down our throats,” and that neither he nor his attorney had input in the matter. That’s not true, according to Waldron, who contends a KC attorney was present in developing the terms, even suggesting several conditions contained in the proposal.
The conditions addressed several concerns brought up by residents, including expansion, excessive drinking, road use and canoe storage. Jones says the towns regulations are unfeasible. “You can’t strip search people,” he said, “it’s against the law,” contending a “no alcohol” policy is impossible to enforce. His trucks he said are legal, and his drivers licensed.
Jones boasted of a perfect driving record for his company: there were no accidents and no tickets from launching there. He insisted he has no interest in expanding into non-boating activities. The ability to store boats on his property, he said, enables him to transport the watercraft in off-peak times, reducing traffic when all other paddlers are moving their boats. If only KC boats were allowed to launch from the site, which is one condition, Jones said the public, which he says is challenged to find a safe and legal area to launch, would be punished. “There are a lot of people that want to launch there. And some of the people are Lackawaxen residents.
These people have used this launch for years and years.”
Jones said, using National Park Service guidelines, he educates boaters on safety issues and on respecting private property and the dangers and legal ramifications of over-imbibing on the river.
Waldron made it clear the town is not backing down. “I’m recommending that we treat the property as being in violation.”