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Monday, 15 July 2013 18:02

Body Shop Headed for Legal Battle With Manor Twp, PA

For at least two months, Manor Township, PA, supervisors have considered a local body shop a special exemption to its stormwater ordinance, but now “Steve’s Auto Body and Repair” owner Steve Slater faces daily fines if he does not comply within 30 days.

Slater applied for a special exemption from the stormwater management ordinance – which calls for a water retention pond for any structure more than 5,000 square feet – for his business along Valley View Drive, especially since he said he was not told about the ordinance until construction was nearly complete in February.

Supervisors contended during the past two public meetings that contractors should have known the requirement – while sympathizing with Slater and his business-model -, and took the advice of Attorney Andrew Sacco – who works with Solicitor Jack Steiner – during last night’s meeting.

Slater will receive a certified letter and have 30 days. If he does not begin construction, the ordinance calls for a $300 per day fine.

Supervisor Pat Fabian started conversation about the topic.

“After our last meeting, I talked to Senate Engineering and even considered the possibility of looking at changing our ordinance to make it less-stringent (but) Senate Engineering didn’t recommend that at all. There’s a reason for that to be so stringent – to protect the residents, especially in that area of Garretts Run,” Fabian said.

Fabian seconded the motion to send the letter of violation and give the 30-day window after Supervisor Paul Rearick made the motion. It was unanimously approved.

Fabian stated he has not seen any compliance or construction from Slater to rectify the problem, and is not even in complete compliance with Armstrong County Economic Development officials.

The auto body shop is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, and has to be paved.
However, Slater said he couldn’t pave until he knew what would happen with the retention pond application – even though he now faces a 90-day warning from Armstrong County officials.

He was not present at last night’s meeting – which was a few days early due to the Independence Day holiday – but talked with the Kittanning Paper via telephone following with his reaction.

Slater was upset at the decision and said he has talked with higher governing agencies that stand behind him.

“I was in contact with the (Department of Environmental Protection) in Harrisburg and they feel that (Manor Township’s) ordinance that they adopted in 2002 hasn’t followed under an act and don’t even feel it’s legitimate. They are going to investigate,” Slater said. “It has to be properly filed, and (DEP) doesn’t have any recollection on it.”

Slater’s contact with the department compared the problem to one at the State level, and said that if such a building permit was submitted without making notification of the proper requirement to the developer, that the State would have to ‘live with it.’

“As far as they’re concerned, (Steve’s Auto Body and Repair) is OK,” Slater said.

The issue was brought to the department’s attention by a group of concerned Ford City residents – who also backed Slater.

Slater has been in-touch with attorney Marty Shapiro in Butler about the issue, and is prepared to contest the action.

“I’m going to fight `em. They can send out their (letter); I’m going to fight `em, and I got the DEP on my side,” Slater said.

During last week’s rain storms, Slater said his two-foot curb held all the water from falling into the housing plan, and has photos to support that.

He was also upset about a nearly-$450 bill from Senate Engineering that he received – due to their visit in February, before the erosion and sedimentation control plan was sent.

“Senate Engineering came up to our construction site around the 14th or 15th (of February) – about three weeks before we were completely finished- and told me I needed to have an E&S plan. There was never even a plan submitted when I got a bill,” Slater said.

Manor Township also had the option to perform the work and put a lien against the body shop property.

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