April 21, 2011 —
Support for the Hawley Silk Mill project has been nearly universal. Praised for its innovative steps in updating the bluestone building that dates back to the 19th century, the project has brought new economic life to the area, and is billed as the “most prestigious business location in the region.”
Already over 200 students and business people have taken occupancy in the building, and investment in the project has topped $12 million.
But the project hit a snag a few weeks ago, and forward motion was stopped. At a meeting of the Borough of Hawley Council on April 13, it was explained that construction work began on a parking lot near the building before the project partners had received a necessary right-of-way from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
A council member observed the work on March 14 and inquired about why it was ongoing. A week later, the project was issued a notice of violation. The work was stopped but only for a couple hours, before it began again. On March 30, the council took the matter to court and got an injunction, which carried with it a $500 per day fine.
At the meeting, Anthony Waldron III, an attorney and partner in the project, said that required payment for the right-of-way, $13,000, had been deposited in a bank, and Waldron had a letter from PennDOT that recognized the sale. That was enough for the council to allow work to proceed again. But Waldron suggested that the council could have worked more closely with the project partners before taking the matter to court.
Another partner, Grant Genzlinger, told the council that 75 people are working on the site every day, and that a simple phone call to him might have settled the matter without going to court.
Council attorney Robert Bernathy rejected the notion that the council had acted too hastily, and he noted that Judge Raymond Hamill signed the order granting injunctive relief. Bernathy said, “So obviously there was merit to our taking the position that the people who are elected around this table have the affirmative obligation of enforcing their own decision and the township ordinances. If we don’t enforce those decisions, there’s not reason for us to be up here.”
Council member Mary Sanders said, “We have a communications issue. We were supposed to be meeting every month with your manager down there and that didn’t happen. And when you have a council member saying you’re digging, and we don’t have the financial guarantee that’s supposed to be in place, that is a big deal.” Sanders also said that the council has been and continues to be very supportive of the project.
While work was allowed to proceed, the project will be required to have an additional conditional use hearing to modify the existing permit, unless the actual deed is in place within 30 days of the meeting.
Waldorn later explained that a road in front of the Silk Mill had been moved in the 1960s, but a right-of-way remained on the books. It was the opnion of the borough council that this right of way had to be removed before work on that particular part of the site could proceed.
The partners first contacted PennDot about the matter in March 2009, and it has taken until now to have the matter nearly resolved.