August 4, 2018

Update on Road Case

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Photo by Joy Stamp on Unsplash

To Our Members and Friends,

We thank you all for your prayers, thoughts and positive energy sent our way for the most recent trip to the Bedford Courthouse.
To recap as succinctly as possible: Two of our neighbors, Joyce Plake and Luther Conrad were still contesting our use of the road, claiming the volume of traffic and the repairs we wish to make are unreasonable, though the judge has already agreed that we hold the dominant easement by implication and have a responsibility to maintain the roadway. This trip was our chance to fill in much of the evidence that was not entered at the initial hearing in August 2017 due to our attorney's unexpected and severe illness. The judge reopened the proceeding to allow us this opportunity and the Board, in consultation with our excellent legal team, Attorneys Passarello and Bucknum, made certain this opportunity was not wasted by preparing exhaustive evidence.
Further, on Tuesday, July 31 into August 1st, Four Quarters received nearly 5" of pounding rain which significantly collapsed the culvert near Luther's property. The road is currently impassable to industrial traffic (eg. port-a-pots, firewood, kitchen deliveries, etc.), and barely passable for emergency services and passenger vehicles.
Three major developments occurred at today's hearing:
The first that that the Board has reached a settlement agreement with Joyce Plake. She will receive a small annuity from Four Quarters and will recognize our easement and use of the road.
Second, after two and a half hours we were unable to reach a settlement with Luther, and we then moved to proceed to trial, with all our evidence showing our history as a church, our dominant easement and our reasonable use of the road. The judge decided, given that Joyce has agreed to settlement, that he would force a continuance to give the attorneys the opportunity to (potentially) finalize a settlement with Luther as well. In the meantime, we will stake out the major features on the new road so that Luther can see what they will look like, which may lead to a settlement before the new hearing in late Sept or early October.
Finally, and most importantly, the judge addressed the emergency repairs that need to be made immediately to fix the washed-out culvert. Ryan Clark, one of the engineers who has been closely involved in developing the new driveway, testified that the only way to repair the culvert is to complete the work already allowed by our DEP approved permit. Judge Livengood, over Luther's attorney's objections, agreed that we have the right to maintain the road and an obligation to do so to the Mann Township / PennDOT / DEP standards, even though this will cause us to encroach on Luther's property. This is an enormous step towards a full resolution of the case in our favor – in short, the court just ordered us to build the road that we want to build, free of interference.
The final issue of our reasonable use of the roadway has yet to be decided, but there are plenty of cards still in the deck, if we need them. Thank you again for your support - it was truly felt in the courtroom. We hope to see you, arriving safely on the new road, soon.