Peters Township periodically fields requests for the municipality to take over responsibility for private roads.
A recent request was made for something similar with stormwater detention ponds.
Township council Monday authorized staff members to inspect two ponds in the Woodlands of Peters Township residential development and report back to council on whether to accept them in their current condition.
The applicable homeowners’ association submitted a letter to township planning director Ed Zuk citing new storm-water requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, as administered under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Program. The letter states the hope “the township may prefer the control of these ponds so the engineer can assure all cleanings are done in a timely and approved” manner.
Thirty residential developments in Peters Township have private stormwater management facilities, either detention ponds, which hold water temporarily, or permanent retention ponds.
Township manager Paul Lauer advised against the municipality taking over any of the latter.
“It was always the belief that these ponds should be in public ownership, because even when the homeowners’ association is assigned responsibility for maintaining them, we have responsibility for their maintenance,” he told council. “And it isn’t normally just sending a letter to people saying, you need to maintain your pond. Normally, there’s pushback, because there can be expense to doing this work.”
At the same meeting, council approved a $43,400 contract with LM&R Excavating of Beaver County to rehabilitate four ponds, which are among the nearly 60 owned by the township.
Regarding the Woodlands of Peters Township ponds, Lauer said the homeowners’ association performed maintenance on one fairly recently.
“My guess is that maybe part of the motivation for wanting the township to take those over is so they don’t have to bear that expense going forward,” he said.
He told council members to expect more requests if they eventually decide to accept the Woodlands detention ponds.
According to a list provided by the township, 30 private stormwater management facilities are in place within local residential developments.
“If we’re going to start doing this, there has to be some rational basis by which we accept, some criteria,” council chairman Frank Kosir Jr. said. “Otherwise, I don’t see how we can justify to the taxpayers who live in one neighborhood, ‘No, we’re not going to take yours, but we took this other one.’”
Solicitor John Smith pointed out the township’s accepting of private roads generally is contingent upon them being up to public standard. He suggested the same standard should apply to ponds.
“Then the HOA would have to put them in position where the township then could accept it, versus giving the township one in disrepair,” he said.
Councilman Frank Arcuri’s provided the lone vote against pursuing the Woodlands request.
“The problem I have is spending other taxpayers’ money to maintain something that isn’t the township’s responsibility now,” he said. “I understand that ultimately, that burden is on us. But if we’re inspecting them routinely and there are only 30 of them, then that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Lauer explained the ponds have a purpose beyond serving the residential developments for which they were built.
“The fact of the matter is that who they provide protection for are downstream property owners,” he said. “They don’t necessarily provide protection for people in this plan, but rather the people who live down below this plan.”