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Jim Thorpe Council's 'castle' decision headed to court

Published January 02. 2012 05:03PM

A man who wants to construct a type of miniature castle on the side of a hill in Jim Thorpe, but who has had his plans rejected by Jim Thorpe borough officials, is appealing to Carbon County Court.

David Peiffer of New Cumberland, and Amel International Trade of Michigan, the latter being the title owner of the real estate, are specifically appealing a sewage permit revocation and the charging of an "arbitrary set fee of $700" for a public appeals hearing.

The castle project, as it has been dubbed, is called this because Peiffer and his mother, Rosemarie Peiffer also of New Cumberland, want to erect a small house on Hill Street, on the hill behind the Mauch Chunk Opera House, on the site where the former Erwin Castle once stood.

There are some structural remains of the Erwin Castle, which the Peiffer's said they will utilize during their home construction.

Rosemarie Peiffer, who has relatives in the local area and is a native of Carbon County, would move into the home after it is built.

The crux of the appeal is that the Peiffers were initially issued a permit to install an on-lot septic system. The permit was issued by the borough's Sewage Enforcement Officer, William Brior, who, according to the appeal, "found the lot location and percolation tests acceptable."

The permit was issued on July 19, 2011.

The Peiffers hired Walsh Construction Company to install the system at a cost of $39,000, the suit states.

The suit continues, "Appellants through their agent and project manager Terrill McLean applied to Carbon County Conservation District July 22, 2011 for approval of an erosion and sedimentary control plan for the excavation and installation of an on lot sewer system for Lot 52A.

"On August 12, 2011 Appellants received such approval and were advised that they could begin installation."

The complaint claims that Jim Thorpe Borough manager Wesley Johnson contacted Brior and complained that the on-lot system should not have been approved because Hill Road had central sewage available.

On Aug. 29, in response to Johnson's complaint, Brior issued a letter to Peiffer revoking the permit "for the stated reason that representatives of Mr. Peiffer had given Mr. Brior false information in connection with the application.

Specifically, Mr. Brior's letter alleges, " ... Patrick Walsh and Terrill McLean, stated central sewage was not available to this property and that the property was located outside the service area of the Jim Thorpe Municipal Authority."

Following a hearing, the borough council voted to affirm the decision of Brior to revoke the permit.

Peiffer alleges in his appeal that the Jim Thorpe Borough Council "acted arbitrarily and capriciously and committed a manifest abuse of discretion and/or an error of law which impinged upon appellants' use and enjoyment" of the property in question.

He also argues that it would be impractical to pump sewage approximately 170 feet up an extremely steep grade which would require not one, but a number of grinder pumps and perhaps holding tanks on various man-made plateaus dug into the hillside.

The second alternative was constructing an approximately 610-foot-long sewer line extension from the building site to the existing sewer, which is located close to the intersection of Broadway and Hill Road.

"Neither of the alternatives for connecting the real estate to the central sewage proved feasible," says the appeal. "The first alternative was not realistic due to the topography of the real estate, engineering concerns, and financial costs, not only of installation but of maintenance.

The second alternative was approved in theory by the borough, but the borough, by and through its borough manager, failed and refused to enter into a mutually agreeable and reasonable development agreement for the proposed sewer line extension to be paid for by the Appellants."

Sought specifically in the suit is that the appellants "respectfully request that this Honorable Court to sustain their appeal and reverse the decision of the Borough Council and order the issuance of the permit for the on lot septic system; and grant any other relief necessary."

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