Published: December 5, 2018

Mars mulls water service for developer



J.W. Johnson Jr.

MARS — Though a proposed housing development near the borough has drawn opposition over the past few weeks, the developer told borough council Monday the project will likely proceed.

The development borders the borough in Adams Township and is at the end of Pine Avenue.

The development would consist of eight “higher priced” homes, according to a letter sent from Mayor Gregg Hartung to more than 600 residents last month.

During Monday's meeting, property owner Russ Howell said the homes would be in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.

The plan is currently being considered by the Adams Township Planning Commission.

The developer has asked the borough to provide water service to the sites. According to the letter, two plans have been presented for the proposal.

The first option would see water wells drilled for each house. It does not include a buffer at the borough line, and a stubbed road would allow for future connection to other developments in Adams Township, “with no limit to increased future traffic.”

The second option would have water provided to the plan by the borough, with a booster pump paid for by the developer and ongoing expenses paid for by the homeowners association. A tree line buffer would be built at the borough line, and a closed cul-de-sac would prohibit future connection to other developments.

According to the letter, the plan would not provide any tax revenue to the borough as it is technically situated in Adams. The only potential revenue would be from the sale of water, estimated at about $6,000 per year once all homes are built and occupied.

The letter also notes that during the construction phase, Pine Avenue and adjoining borough streets would see an increase in construction-related traffic.

“Borough officials are concerned with the increased traffic this housing development will create and the strain to our existing water system,” the letter states.

The letter also outlines additional concerns borough officials have with the plan, including whether the connection would create a throughway on Pine Avenue; damage done to borough streets; increased storm sewer run-off and flooding potential on Grand Avenue; and whether the placement of a retention pond on Stanton Avenue would impact property values.

In the letter, residents were asked to give feedback on the plan for council review before making a decision.

During Monday's council meeting, Robert Bost, council vice president, said about 30 letters or comments were received before the meeting. He said because of that, council had not yet reviewed the responses, and would do so before any decisions were made.

However, the public comment period of the meeting lasted 45 minutes, and saw several residents voice concerns and ask questions of the developer and property owner.

Allan Beechy of Sheffler and Co., representing the project he described as the Howells Plan, said the project was on hold with Adams until a decision could be made on which option would be used.

He said that decision could not be made until borough officials decided whether to provide water service. He added the proposal submitted to the township included the throughway option.

He told those gathered that if Mars provided the water and the cul-de-sac option was chosen, it would take an additional three months to start the process over.

That includes resubmitting the drawings, applying for permits and advertising and holding public hearings. Because of that, and a desire to have plans ready for an April start date, he asked council members to make a decision Monday.

Bost reiterated that council had not yet read the letters and still had lingering questions that needed to be addressed, and thus could not make a decision.

That led Beechy to say he would proceed with the initial plan to drill wells. He said that plan would require the application for provisions to an Adams zoning ordinance in the plan's district to allow for drilling.

“We're confident we'll get the variance,” and proceed, Beechy said.

That sentiment was echoed by Howell, who said he intended to proceed with or without the borough's help in providing water.

“As a property owner, I fully plan on developing my property,” he said. “Basically, we've outlined two options for you. It's either Mars water is provided and we provide the cul-de-sac, it's closed off, or option B, we follow Adams Township's current rules and regulations to provide future extension to the north as per code. We're not doing anything that's illegal.”

Councilman Bradford Price asked the residents in attendance if they had a preference after hearing the new information from Beechy and Howell. Many still shared concerns over the connector road and the increased traffic. Beechy said he felt “completely confident” the cul-de-sac could not be later opened up for access.

Beechy asked council to make and approve a motion Monday giving access to Mars water under the condition that the developer meet any terms outlined by the borough.

Residents, however, expressed their displeasure with the idea, saying they didn't feel like they could trust the developer.

Additionally, Chris Reese, borough solicitor, advised council that such an agreement would need additional detail, as well as talks that included Adams officials.

“We can't just say we'll take it on faith,” he said.

Bost said council will meet twice later this month to discuss the borough's budget, and will have a chance to consider the matter then. He said officials would contact Beechy and invite him back when they were ready to have discussions.

In the meantime, residents and borough officials said they planned to attend the Adams planning commission meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to seek clarification on the plan's status. Beechy said he anticipated asking for an additional extension on the project during that meeting.