Litigation and verbal attacks in Texas Township

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 9/18/19

TEXAS TOWNSHIP, PA — Texas Township’s bimonthly meeting was better attended and more emotionally charged than usual on September 16. In the first round of public comment, Georgette …

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Litigation and verbal attacks in Texas Township

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TEXAS TOWNSHIP, PA — Texas Township’s bimonthly meeting was better attended and more emotionally charged than usual on September 16.

In the first round of public comment, Georgette Pascotto and Barbara Leo addressed the supervisors, demanding conclusion to a legal dispute between themselves and the township that has been ongoing for the past four years.

In July 2015, Kip and Dale Odell received permission from the township to place two seasonal trailers on a parcel of land across the street from Pascotto and Leo’s property on Ford’s Road. The two women objected, saying that the township’s zoning ordinances only allow residents to have trailers on “campgrounds.”

In November of that same year, after Pascotto and Leo threatened legal action against the township, the Odells submitted a conditional-use application to have their property designated a campground; Pascotto and Leo had objections to this as well, primarily arguing that the parcel was less than five acres—the minimum requirement for campground eligibility status.

After four conditional-use hearings, the supervisors voted unanimously to allow trailers on the property in December 2016.

The dispute was brought before Judge Janine Edwards in 2018, who found in favor of the supervisor’s decision. Pascotto and Leo appealed the decision to the PA Commonwealth Court, which found the supervisor’s reasoning unsatisfactory in July of this year.

“Although the board purports to set forth findings-of-fact to support those conclusions, a review of those ‘findings’ essential to the issues presented here reveals that the findings are conclusory in nature,” Judge Christine Cannon wrote.

The Commonwealth Court vacated Judge Edwards’ decision, requiring the supervisors to “render a new decision.”

On Monday night, after reading off a four-year timeline, Pascotto asked the supervisors when they would remove the trailers from the Odell property, adding that she wanted an answer “right now.”

“Well you’re not going to get one,” Don Doney responded, saying that he recently spoke with township solicitor Lee Krause, who advised him not to discuss the matter as it was still “under litigation.”

Pascotto and Leo disagreed with Doney on that point. Leo demanded that the supervisors remove the trailers, threatening a writ of mandamus, a court order to a lesser government official to perform an act required by law which the official has refused or neglected to do.

“Don, you can’t hide behind this any longer,” Pascotto said, accusing him of “stonewalling” the issue for four years. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The supervisors declined to discuss the matter further. They also declined to comment to The River Reporter.

The next public comment came from Joseph Bussard, who read a letter addressing his neighborly disputes with Carol Santos. Santos has been coming to township meetings for the past several months, asking for the supervisors’ assistance in dealing with Bussard, whose property she has described as a “junkyard.” At the previous meeting, zoning officer Jeff DeYoung reported that he sent Bussard a letter giving him 30 days to clean up his property.

On Monday, Bussard levied ethical judgments against the government officials in the area, saying that the “seven deadly sins seem to be in authority” and that “corruption seems to be the norm.” He also attacked Santos’s moral character.

Santos invited everybody in the room to take a drive past her house to see the poor condition of her neighbor’s property for themselves.

After this, another member of the public, John Bartron, stood up and pledged his support for Pascotto and Leo. He called Doney “arrogant” and an “opportunist.” When Doney responded that he wouldn’t listen to these attacks, Bartron told him to “shut up” and to go stand outside if he didn’t want to listen. Later during the second round of public comment, Bartron stood up again and widened the scope of his jibes to include other township officials, calling DeYoung “ignorant as the rest of them” and accusing members of the planning commission of dishonesty.

Doney adjourned the meeting as arguments among various members of the public became more heated.

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