The pond on Charlene and Mike Scuvotti’s land once was filled with crystal-clear spring water and croaking frogs. But that pond and other features of their picturesque South Strabane Township property were washed away in recent years and replaced by a muddy mess of rainwater and sludge they claim is coming from the uncontrolled stormwater runoff of a nearby commercial development.
The feud between the Scuvottis and the developer of Meadows Landing, just above the hill next to Route 19, is literally spilling over as water pours down the hillside and onto the couple’s Pine Valley Road property.
“Now, we have a leaking, seeping trench,” Charlene Scuvotti said of two dry creek beds that turn into rivers when it rains. “It never dries up now. I can’t cut the grass. It’s sopping wet all the time. This is getting really tiresome for me. I’m getting tired of people not abiding by the rules.”
Scuvotti and her husband blame Gerard Cipriani and his Meadows Landing development for not controlling the runoff. The Scuvottis say inadequate retention ponds and trenches at Meadows Landing funnel water to their property.
Cipriani said the complaints coming from the couple are only happening now because they no longer can use the small swath of his property right behind their house they had maintained for years before construction crews began moving dirt in 2012.
“We’re bordered by a lot of neighbors and have heard no other complaints,” Cipriani said. “We’re disappointed that they have continued in this practice, because they had used our property for years as their backyard.”
He admitted there are likely runoff problems from large storms, but Charlene Scuvotti said it’s now after every rainfall. She said the two dry creeks that border her property became unintended discharge points for the development in 2012, causing routine flooding near her driveway and in the pond.
Scuvotti spent nearly an hour during the township supervisors’ Tuesday night voting meeting explaining her problem and asking them to take action against the developer. She accused the developer of making changes to the original site design plans approved by the supervisors in 2007 and not following the township’s stormwater control ordinance in 2011.
“You’re either ignoring him doing it or letting him do it. Either way, it’s not good,” Scuvotti said. “I deserve for you guys to enforce your rules. I’m not making them up.”
But Supervisors Dan Piatt and Ed Mazur pointed out the design plan was “grandfathered in” before the new ordinance was passed, and that it would be up to the state Department of Environmental Protection to enforce its laws. Washington County Conservation District officials have been to the site for inspections and noted compliance issues, but said the DEP is responsible for citations and fines.
“That’s what they call a Catch-22. You can’t get there from here,” Mazur said.
“Well, his water is getting here on my land from there,” she said. “I’m sorry that I’m in a panic, but it scares me.”
Piatt said he and Mazur will meet with the township engineer next week and walk on the site to see for themselves if there’s a drainage problem from the development. He added they will review the original plans to see if the developer went beyond the scope of the original project or is violating the permit.
The Meadows Landing project along Route 19 includes the Washington Area Teachers Federal Credit Union that will open next month, a 50,000-square-foot medical facility affiliated with Washington Hospital that will open later this year and eventually a GetGo convenience store and gas station. Restaurants and business offices also are planned for the site.