Peters Township takes construction business to court

May 19, 2017
Peters Township Municipal Building

Peters Township ordered construction of a driveway at a business in a residential zone had to cease or it would take the business owners to court.

This week, the township made good on its threat in its request for an injunction against Bruno and Marlene Pepenella, owners of 636 and 638 East McMurray Road, where equipment has been stored since the 1960s.

John Smith, Peters’ solicitor, wrote in documents filed with the court the Pepenella property previously qualified as a “legal, non-conforming use” within the township’s zoning rules.

In October of last year, township officials became aware the Pepenellas were expanding a driveway and sent them a notice that, by doing so, they were violating the township zoning ordinance. The Pepenellas asked that their case be heard by the township zoning hearing board. They requested a special exception and challenged the zoning officer’s interpretation of the local zoning ordinance.

The board denied the Pepenellas’ project Dec. 20, noting Bruno Pepenella refused to answer questions and walked out of the hearing. A neighbor has concerns about the use of the driveway. The board determined by a 4-0 vote that the driveway would likely be used for purposes related to a construction business, which would be “a disruption, a nuisance to the neighborhood and would create safety concerns.”

The Pepenellas did not appeal the zoning hearing board decision and the township reiterated its position in a Dec. 22 letter, asking them to cease construction of the driveway.

Three months later, in correspondence with the Pepenellas, the township told them to remove the driveway by April 15 and warned it would take the case to court, requesting the couple pay fines and costs.

A few days later, Bruno Pepenella responded he would not comply and would fight the township in court. In the letter, he said he met with a township engineer and representative of PennDOT, resulting in the installation of a storm sewer through his property. Pepenella then decided to build the driveway “to maintain the storm sewer. I stated this on my application for the driveway. It is not meant for business use.”

Washington County Court did not immediately set a hearing date.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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