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Motion fails to take lake property

One official’s request to flex Carbon County’s muscles over a property in question near Mauch Chunk Lake Park failed because the majority felt the action was not the correct thing to do.

On Thursday, Commissioner Chris Lukasevich made a motion to direct the county solicitor to complete research on invoking eminent domain on a property that has been requesting a Jim Thorpe zoning change to allow septic within close proximity to Mauch Chunk Lake and Mauch Chunk Creek.

The motion said that the eminent domain by the county would be for the “purpose of protecting Mauch Chunk Lake and Mauch Chunk Lake Park from the ill effects of actual or potential encroachment by private or commercial development” related to one parcel in particular.

The property is owned by Ed Kanick, who said he hopes to add a maximum of nine homes on land he owns along Lentz Trail.

Commissioner Rocky Ahner said the county had already sent the borough its view on the proposed zoning change, but felt taking a resident’s property was not the right thing.

“I don’t think that’s the way to go,” he said, noting that he feels it is up to Jim Thorpe to make the decision now that is best for its residents since the borough utilizes the lake and creek for some of its water supply.

Previous discussions noted that a septic system could potentially leak into the lake, which can cause problems with water quality. The zoning amendment in question would allow on-lot septic systems for properties 5 acres or larger that are at least 1,000 feet, but less than a half-mile, from Mauch Chunk Lake.

Lukasevich said that Mauch Chunk Lake Park is under control of the county through a lease and he feels it is the county’s “inherent right to protect that lake and the recreational experiences it provides our county residents and visitors.”

He cited the letter the county sent to the borough last year, saying that it would take all steps necessary to protect the lake.

“The fact is the only way to protect Mauch Chunk Lake Park from septic or runoff from development is to go ahead and seize at a fair market value, or purchase, let’s use that term if it sounds better, at a fair market value using our legal authorities to acquire that property because regardless if it’s 10 homes on septic or 60 homes on a sewer system, there are notable ill effects that are likely to occur,” Lukasevich said.

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein also weighed in.

“While I am deeply concerned about the quality of water in Mauch Chunk Lake Park, I am sure that the borough of Jim Thorpe is equally concerned since they withdraw water for their water supply,” he said. “But I cannot support anything that would take property from this individual and Mr. Ahner stated, where does it end? I cannot support that, legal or not.

The board then voted 2-1, with Lukasevich casting the sole “yes” vote.

The zoning amendment and property in question has been the source of discussion since last year, when the proposed amendment was requested.

Kanick, in October, said that his plan was to have his family living closer together.

“We want to do whatever is required to make sure that there are no problems,” Kanick said in October. “We’re not trying to pull anything over on anyone.”

Kanick said he has worked with his engineering firm, Keystone Consulting, to design backup drain fields and add multiple other precautionary measures in case something should fail.

“The system will have an alarm on it,” Kanick said. “We are going to have yearly inspections included under deed restrictions and mandatory system pump outs every three years.”

But several concerns have been raised by various officials, including Louis Hall and John McGuire, members of the Jim Thorpe Planning Commission, who said that this would have adverse effects on the water quality of the lake if the septic were to leak.

Planners against zoning change