Gary Newman re-filed a decades-old complaint with the borough Department of Community Planning on Thursday after he learned his original protest had been deactivated. He claimed Wilson’s property violates borough junkyard rules. Newman said junked cars and old pieces of metal clog the right of way adjacent to the property.
Wilson said her property complies with borough codes.
“In my opinion, he’s doing this because it’s four days before the election,” Wilson said.
Election-season discussion of junkyards has highlighted different perspectives held by Wilson and her opponent, Luke Hopkins, who both sit on the Borough Assembly.
Wilson has made the protection of private property rights, particularly “grandfather” rights, a central plank of her mayoral campaign. It has been an issue of concern to her since at least 2005. That year, as a private resident, she opposed a proposed ordinance that would have allowed the borough to cite people for failure to abide by zoning rules. The ordinance didn’t pass.
“Unlike the city, the borough does not have police powers,” Wilson wrote in response to a News-Miner questionnaire last month. “Therefore, we should not attempt to implement unenforceable rules.”
Hopkins was one of the three assembly members who in 2005 recommended citations to enforce borough codes.
Issuing citations would be better than hiring “more lawyers upstairs to prosecute these issues,” he said at the time.
In his response to the News-Miner questionnaire last month, Hopkins said the issue remains unsettled. “Citations should be used only after borough officials fail to resolve conflicts,” he wrote.
Newman’s complaints about Wilson’s Esro Road property pre-date her ownership. Newman filed a similar complaint in 1987 against the previous owner, Bruce Ehrens. Borough officials sent several warnings to Ehrens in the late 1980s, but it doesn’t appear the issue was resolved.
The borough has deactivated all code complaints it received before 1990, citing a large backlog. When Newman was told by a News-Miner reporter on Thursday that his complaint was inactive, he immediately re-filed it.
“(The problem) didn’t start with her, but it’s definitely accelerated,” Newman said.
Wilson purchased the Esro Road property in 2003. It’s home to dozens of vehicles.
The Wilson campaign said the vehicles have included some stored for deployed soldiers and others on which family and friends are working.
Newman said he received a call from Wilson about two years ago asking him to withdraw his decades-old complaint. Newman said he agreed to do so as soon as the right of way was cleared. Nothing happened, he said.
Wilson remembers that conversation differently. She did make the request as part of an effort to clear the slate. She said Newman did not ask for additional cleanup, though.
Esro is a private road, and property owners pitch in for road maintenance. Newman said it’s impossible to clear brush and maintain areas that are loaded with junk.
He said other property owners have kept their areas clear.
“I like to get along with my neighbors, and I like to respect my neighbors,” Newman said, “and it seems like there’s some disrespect here.”
Newman declined to say who he was supporting in the mayoral race, calling it “irrelevant.” Wilson said Newman has a prominent Luke Hopkins campaign sign outside his driveway.
Jim Lee, the borough’s deputy director of the Department of Community Planning, said Wilson’s property will be examined for compliance when an investigator reviews complaints received from the area.
If the borough determines a violation exists, a formal letter will be sent detailing steps needed to bring the property into compliance with junkyard codes.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.