Suit flows from hydrant decision

BY STACI WILSON

A water hydrant installed early last year in Montrose sparked a controversy that has found its way to the courts.

Hydrant owner Craig Stevens, of Silver Lake Twp., has brought suit against the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board and Zoning Officer James Smith.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 17 in the Susquehanna County Prothonotary’s office is an appeal to the Zoning Board’s Dec. 18 affirmation that the hydrant was in violation of the borough’s code.

Peter Bieri of Speer Law Firm, Kansas City, Mo., is representing Stevens in the suit.

The hydrant-fill site, located on the Monica Marta dental office, on Jessup St., was installed by Pennsylvania American Water Company on Jan. 24, 2012.

The borough zoning board found that the placement of the hydrant in a residential neighborhood on a conditional use lot was in violation of the town’s ordinance.

The hydrant is used to fill a water truck to deliver fresh water to people in Dimock Twp. who maintain their water has been tainted by natural gas drilling.

In the court documents filed, Stevens said that water is provided at no charge and no delivery fees are assessed to the recipients. Stevens, and recently other contributors, have paid the water bill, according to the filing document.

The borough’s zoning officer filed several code violations and cease orders for the hydrant’s use during 2012. But Stevens’ requests for the specific code violations had gone unanswered, according to court papers.

The violation notices were issued in March, July and August of 2012.

The suit against the board alleges that no specific code had been cited in the violation and no information regarding how to appeal a violation had been given.

According to the documents filed, the borough’s code allows for hydrants and other equipment in land use.

Stevens maintains in the suit that the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision was not in accordance with Montrose code and that the board failed to ever provide a notice of decision on the appeal of the second Notice of Violation issued July 17, 2012.

As of Thursday, Jan. 24, the Zoning Hearing Board had not filed a response to the suit and no court date had been set.