Janice Kennedy of Middlesex Township claims excavation for the Weatherburn Heights residential development has created a cliff on the west side of Deer Meadows Lane, causing dangerous conditions.
MIDDLESEX TWP — A neighbor of the township's first upscale residential development said she has been hurt by the construction for more than two years, and neither the township nor the developer will help her. But developer Dominic Gigliotti Sr. said he has “bent over backward” to help Janice Kennedy, the landowner. Kennedy owns five acres on Deer Meadows Lane, which runs along Eagle Ridge Drive, the main entrance to Weatherburn Heights. The first half of the plan's first phase is done and some homes are occupied. The second half of the phase has been approved by the township supervisors and construction is expected to begin within a few weeks, according to township manager Scot Fodi. Kennedy said her problems began in April 2010 when workers began clearing and grading the land for the large residential development. That, said Kennedy, is when she first noticed what she would learn was a diesel derivative in her tap water. “I went to wash my face, and I smelled it,” Kennedy said. She said excavators at the development told her they had hit an old petroleum line during their work. She took a water sample to the Alcosan waste water treatment plant in Pittsburgh, where she had worked for 30 years before recently retiring, to have it tested by chemists. Kennedy said the water tested positive for a diesel derivative so she alerted Fodi, Gigliotti and the state Department of Environmental Protection. She said Gigliotti and Fodi told her that per township regulations, her water was tested before work on the development began. That test revealed bacteria, Fodi said. The DEP representative checked for leaks on her property and never questioned the developer, according to Kennedy. She said four of her cats died from drinking the water, and she had to import water for herself, her pets and her horses. One day that July, Kennedy hiked to the site of the line break to see the situation for herself. While there, she slipped and broke her wrist. After making her way home, she turned on the water only to find a muddy liquid pouring out. She said she again received no results from the township, the developer or the DEP. Kennedy said she showered at work and imported water until November 2010, when she learned the developer must provide a water supply to neighbors near the development whose water was ruined by construction. Gigliotti said that although Kennedy's well water was bad before construction on Weatherburn Heights began, he paid $8,500 to extend the Water Authority of Adams Township line to her property as a courtesy. He said he also paid excavators working on Weatherburn Heights to connect the line to Kennedy's house. “All she had to do was pay the tap-in fee,” Gigliotti said. Kennedy did pay the $1,300 tap fee and was connected to the public water in the spring of 2011, but she said that Gigliotti should reimburse her for that cost as well. Gigliotti said he also sent workers to cut up some large pine trees that had fallen across Deer Meadows Lane after excavation at the development. But Kennedy said workers left branches and debris on the ground. The fallen trees have caused Kennedy's most recent problems. She said that in addition to creating a cliff on the west side of Deer Meadows Lane, the lack of a barrier there allows vehicle headlights to shine into her home as Weatherburn residents travel on Eagle Ridge Drive. When neither the township nor Gigliotti would provide a barrier for the lights, she erected two large sheets of plywood next to her home to alleviate the problem. Kennedy also said guide rails should be installed on Deer Meadows Lane before snow comes, but she was told last week by Fodi to send a letter requesting the guide rail to Gigliotti. “I don't think this is right,” Kennedy said. “This is a dangerous environment. I don't want to go through another winter worrying about someone going off this driveway.” Fodi said township zoning requires developers to provide a buffer between new developments and existing homes, but that work is not required until the entire development is complete and the township takes over the roads. “When the buffer is put in, hopefully that will abate the situation,” Fodi said. The second phase of Weatherburn Heights received preliminary approval from supervisors in March. It is not known when construction on that phase will begin. Depending upon housing market variables, it could conceivable be several years before Gigliotti must create the buffer barrier between the plan and Kennedy's property. Fodi said during approval proceedings for the development, supervisors did not require Gigliotti to provide buffers before the completion of the entire project. He said future developments would be scrutinized more closely. “You try to anticipate everyone's concerns at the outset,” Fodi said. Kennedy said she has been poorly treated by the township and developer. “They've taken my privacy. I'm in a fish bowl here,” Kennedy said, “and in return I've gotten dirt, noise and continual headlights.” Kennedy said she will address the matter at the Dec. 19 supervisors meeting.