Code Enforcement should be uniform for ALL residents, but why are some 'friends' of West Penn Township exempt and 'above the law'? 'Selective Enforcement' excuses them from complying with local or state codes and laws and denies me the right to quiet enjoyment of property. This is my journal with comments & opinions about the code violations, law violations, and health hazards in my neighborhood.
This is the email I sent requesting information on the police reports…..I DID say, “no rush” BUT it’s been 16 days and NO REPLY AT ALL ok…….AND Lehigh Engineering STILL has not figured out how to respond to a complaint OR enforce the codes. Do they really think that ignoring me will make me ‘go away’????
Sent: Friday, February 7, 2020 3:58 PM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: RTK, Lehigh Engineer
Good Afternoon, Katie,
I appreciate your time re the RTK request. Since nobody from Lehigh Engineer had the courtesy to reply to my email, I had to bother you. I see nothing in the 122 pages of invoices you sent that shows any attempt at code enforcement since Dec. 16, 2019 – when they simply called Dan to give him an ‘indefinite, secretive’ extension of time to comply. (However, though their Selective-Enforcement may help Dan now, Non-Enforcement may result in injury since Code Enforcement neglected to board or secure a dangerous structure. One feral cat has already found the missing walls – others are sure to follow – but what if a child should follow a cat into that open, collapsing trailer?)
On another matter, I need copies of police reports re Dan for the following dates. Would you let me know the procedure and cost? Also, what forms of payment do you accept? There is no rush. Dec. 29, 2019 – Jan. 27, 2020, Feb 3, 2020
P.S. Katie: Just to let you know that when I mention “West Penn Township” in any of my online writings, I am not referring to you personally and your son is still in my prayers.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MY CHANCES ARE OF GETTING THAT SHED PERMIT I ASKED ‘RALPH JUNIOR’ ABOUT LAST YEAR??? HE DIDN’T ANSWER ME THEN EITHER — IS IT POSSIBLE THAT RALPH HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME?? DOES THIS MEAN I DON’T NEED ANY PERMITS?
Code enforcement officers usually need to complete certification programs. Most officers have a high school diploma or GED. Enforcement officers also need strong leadership capabilities, management and interpersonal skills, and excellent communication skills. (almost hurt myself laughing)
Since West Penn Township is bound by The Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law to respond to me within 5 days, I should get a reply..
UPDATE: Received reply today from township secretary. It looks like Mr. Hummel last called Dan on Dec. 16, 2019 “about cleaning property and extending time to clean up” (according to his bill for the 15 min. telecon). There are NO bills for ANY enforcement since then and NO “inspections”.
Although I have the right to ask about this notice, code enforcer, Ralph L Hummel Jr, still refuses to reveal how many more months of an “extension” he awarded Dan to clean up. I WOULD HAVE GLADLY GIVEN Lehigh Engineering Code Enforcement Company the $19.50 for a reply stating the ‘suggested’ “DATE OF COMPLIANCE”. Is Mr. Hummel afraid to admit that Dan was actually given an INDEFINITE TIME?
Along with a list of zoning violations, this is what I have to live next to. Since West Penn Township ‘complains’ of code-violation complaints and seems to have problems enforcing their own codes, perhaps they do need a higher power to help.
Why is it so difficult to get West Penn Township to enforce the codes uniformly? I even offered to pay them to just do their job. My valid complaints do not seem important to them, but when friends complain, they get prompt action. Selective Enforcement?
This news story on pressdemocrat.com shows how a grand jury had to step in to stop the Code Enforcement Favoritism corruption in a small town. Their excuse was that they did not have a Code Enforcement Officer. We do, but enforcement is ‘selective’ and not ‘uniform’. (i.e., I need a sewer and permits, but neighbors don’t)
A few interesting quotes from this article:
“~the city did nothing to stop one City Council member from living in a structure that lacked a sewer or septic system ~~ On the other hand, the city did act against a property owner who violated the city code by allowing someone to reside in a commercial building”
“~eventually was cited by environmental health officials and charged by the district attorney’s office with violating state and county health regulations. She pled guilty to a misdemeanor public nuisance charge ~”
“The only way something comes to light is if someone complains,” she said, and the filing of a complaint depends on whether the person does or doesn’t like the alleged offender.”
________________ Point Arena code enforcement under scrutiny: A Mendocino County grand jury report has found the tiny coastal city of Point Arena has a big code enforcement problem.
Apparently, the township is annoyed by so many complaints and is tired of being “bombarded” with work. (see the quotes from Dec. 2019 Board Of Supervisors Meetings) Is this lawyer really suggesting creating “A process” where, if the township feels a complaint is a nuisance or is frivolous, they can sue or fine the person who complains?? He also mentions that they can simply ignore a violation complaint for 30 days, then the complainant has to take the violator to civil court himself – and they don’t have to be bothered enforcing whatever they don’t want to enforce. Selective Enforcement or are the engineers responsible for enforcing codes simply incompetent and unable to handle their jobs in a prompt and efficient manner??
Instead of the new ‘revisions’ to our local laws they are working on, perhaps lawyer Paul John Datte can help West Penn Township ABOLISH ALL West Penn Township Ordinances – if there are NO LAWS, there can be NO ‘numerous’ NUISANCE complaints! Then, the township employees can relax and not worry about those pesky law-abiding-citizen complaints and we ALL can do whatever we please!
(I wonder how much it is going to cost me to ‘bother’ the township with further complaints of LAW or CODE violations that deny me my right to enjoy my property?
Here’s a quote from their 11/18/19 meeting :
“Chairman is concerned with the amount of money spent on investigating complaints in the Township. Every time we send our Code Enforcement Officer out to investigate a complaint it costs the Township money. Lately, the Township has been bombarded with a lot of complaints dealing with the same issue between two people. Chairman is hoping it will eventually stop and become a civil issue and the Township can get out of it. Attorney Datte said there was an enforcement notice issued and we are waiting to see how it plays out. Attorney Datte said it does look like two individuals should resolve their differences in civil court not litigating through the Township Code Enforcement.”
Here’s another meeting quote [all spelling errors are not mine, these are exact quotes]
Monday, December 2, 2019
“C. Complaints – Chairman asked Paul Datte what the Township can do if they are getting numerous complaints between two residents that seem to be having the Twp. in the middle of their dispute. Attorney Datte said if the complaint is a false or a nuisance then the Twp. can establish a process which can have a fee or a fine attached. Chairman asked how do you determine it is a frivolous compliant. Attorney Datte said the Twp. would in the first instance. Then you would have to go after the individual that made the false or nuisance complaint. The Complainant may be responsible for court fees, fines & any other fees associated with the complaint. Tim Houser feels the Code Enforcement Officer needs to be involved and enforce our ordinance. Tim Houser questioned a property that has been storing cars for a towing company. Mr. Houser wanted to know if they had a permit. Rodd White from Lehigh Engineering, LLC will look into that property. Tim Houser said if they don’t have a permit a cease & desist order should be issued. Attorney Datte said Twp. is frequently in the middle of disputes amongst neighbors when it can possibly be a civil issue. Chairman’s issue is we spentso much money investigating these complaints where can the Twp. draw the line. Attorney Datte said he cannot advise West Penn Twp. not to follow our policy. Attor Datte said there is a procedure under the Municipality’s Planning Code thatif someone feels that the Twp. is not actively pursuing enforcement of a zoning violation then the property owner can put the Twp. on notice that they intend to bring a civil action against the individual if the Township doesn’t take action within 30 days”
Are my code-violation complaints being labeled as “FRIVOLOUS Or NUISANCE” by the township? I know they are not considered important like Mr. Steigerwalt’s worries about the smelly soil across the street from him (wonder how he would like the smell of soil that has had raw sewage deposited on it for almost 4 years) and he is bothered by some blighted properties – and Code Enforcement needing to investigate Mr. Houser’s complaint of car storage on some property because they may not have ‘permits’.
For the years that he was ignored by his neighbor, Dan and I were friends and he was really trying to better himself. Although he had problems with alcohol and bi-polar schizophrenia, he was a kid that had moments of wisdom and we spent many hours talking. However, since this new ‘friendship’ with the drug-selling neighbor, this kid has become reclusive. His behavior has changed, he is becoming more unstable.
As if he didn’t have enough problems with his mental illnesses, his new ‘mentor’ is trying to get him into trouble by ‘advising’ him to do whatever makes him happy regardless of any laws or what advice I give him.
This so-called friend of his is taking advantage of a sick person – it’s ‘weed’ for now…but is “meth” the next sale?
–quoted from Schizophrenia.com
“Substance abuse complicates almost every aspect of care for the person with mental illness. First of all, of course, these individuals are very difficult to engage in treatment. Diagnosis is difficult because it takes time to unravel the interacting effects of substance abuse and the mental illness. They may have difficulty being accommodated at home and may not be tolerated in community residences of rehabilitation programs. They lose their support systems and suffer frequent relapses and hospitalizations.
Violence is more prevalent among the dually diagnosed population. Both domestic violence and suicide attempts are more common, and of the mentally ill who wind up in jails and prisons, there is a high percentage of drug abusers. Given severe consequences of drug abuse for the mentally ill, it is reasonable to ask: “Why do they do it?” Some of them may begin to use drugs or alcohol for recreational use, the same as many other people do. Various factors may account for their continued use. Probably many people continue their use as a misguided attempt to treat symptoms of the illness or the side effects of their medications. They find that they can reduce the level of anxiety or depression — at least for the short term. Some professionals speculate that there may be some underlying vulnerability of the individual that precipitates both mental illness and substance abuse. They believe that these individuals may be at risk with even mild drug use. “
The broad category of hoarding has only recently been recognised as a psychiatric disorder. It first made an appearance in the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the global reference book of mental health. But while society seems to be aware of the problem of hoarding objects, animal hoarding, where dozens or hundreds of animals can be kept under bad and unsanitary conditions, remains under-recognised.
However, this is not because it is uncommon. Up to 2,000 new cases are estimated to appear every year in the US. And this is likely to be an underestimate, because there is a lack of public awareness that it is a condition and only very severe cases are identified.
This also means that very little research has been done on animal hoarding. Most has been done in the US by a group of experts called the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. But interest in researching animal hoarding has been increasing, including two new studies published this year; one by myself and colleagues in Spain and another in Australia.
From this research, it is clear that this condition appears and has similarities across different cultures, but there are still many aspects of animal hoarding to uncover.
There are a number of symptoms, which when combined constitute an animal hoarding disorder. A prerequisite is having a large number of animals at home – we have seen cases of only ten animals, to people hoarding more than 500 in their homes. Sufferers are unable to provide the minimum standards of care for those animals and will deny or downplay the deplorable conditions they and their animals are living in.
This being such a new area of study, this is a very practical and descriptive definition of the disorder, which could change in the future when we know more about it. For example, the boundaries between functional and dysfunctional pet ownership are still not completely defined. Discovering these boundaries could lead to a different kind of definition and understanding of the problem.
However, if we take into account the current definition of animal hoarding, there are some key negative consequences of this psychiatric disorder. From the perspective of the animals, there can be severe welfare issues. Most of the animals found in animal hoarding cases are in deplorable conditions: sick, dirty, full of parasites and many dead animals can even be found when you enter an animal hoarder’s home.
Cases of animal hoarding can also lead to several public health issues in the surrounding environment including infestations of parasites, such as fleas and ticks, or environment toxicity, such as dangerous levels of ammonia from animal urine, in the air that people breath.
Then there are the hoarders themselves to think about. Animal hoarders live in the same unsanitary environment as their animals, maybe without being able to have a functional kitchen or even a clean bed to sleep.
The most common profile of an animal hoarder is a socially isolated, middle-aged or old woman who hoards cats or dogs – or both. However, men or even whole families, with children or other dependent relatives, can be animal hoarders or live in a hoarding situation. And not only dogs and cats are hoarded – other species that have been found include farm animals and reptiles.
From a health perspective, there is a way to go to understand what leads a person into these hopeless situations, where they are surrounded by dozens or even hundreds of animals and their faeces and urine. Early research shows that animal hoarding is often associated with attachment problems to other people, which leads to an excessive attachment to animals. This could be due to being a victim of neglect or abuse during childhood, as many of the known animal hoarders’ investigations indicated.
Animal hoarding sometimes appears alongside other mental disorders, like object hoarding or dementia. A common trait is the lack of insight or awareness in hoarders of their situation, and there can also be certain lack of empathy with other creatures.
Tackling the problem
Even though the exact cause of animal hoarding needs more analysis, the first steps for tackling this problem are broadly agreed on by those researching it. Earlier detection of cases could come from increasing public awareness of the problem, and a simple change in society’s perception of animal hoarding could save many animals’ lives and prevent severe human and public health consequences.
There also needs to be standardised policies for effective interventions when animal hoarding is identified. These need to respond to both the animals and the hoarder’s needs. Currently, only a few states in the US have policies in place to deal with the disorder.
It’s also important that those found hoarding animals are taken care of. At present, when a case is detected, the animals are removed but no attention is given to the person suffering. More often than not this person doesn’t realise that their animals are in poor health and are likely to soon start hoarding again. They need individual mental health treatment, as soon as possible, to prevent the usual evolution of a terrible and long-term condition.
WEST PENN TOWNSHIP ORDINANCE
ARTICLE 3: 317 C.8: Keeping of Animals and Pets.
a.) No more than six (6) customary household pets or domestic animals (e.g., dogs, cats, canaries, etc.) and no more than fourteen (14) fowl (e.g., chickens, turkeys, etc.) may be kept. Six (6) or more adult dogs or cats shall constitute a kennel
b.) Commercial Use. Commercial breeding or use of these pets shall not be permitted under this use.
c.) Large Animals and Fowl. Large animals (such as cattle, horses, goats and pigs) and fowl (such as chickens and turkeys) shall be stabled or housed in buildings at least one hundred (100′) feet from any lot line. Large grazing animals may be kept only on lots 1-1/2 acres per animal.
I was sent a threat by firstname.lastname@example.org (who called himself “MIKE”) – just because they had to clean up the property? They didn’t even to clean up entirely, just to get rid of the dead cat and some garbage. GMail does keep records if they are ever needed – and Nothing put on the internet Ever really disappears. I am being sent some video where Brittany is allegedly threatening online to “give me something else to worry about”. All threats are being recorded – as is my property.
Don’t know which West Penn Township employee shared this blog address, but “Thank You West Penn” for helping to spread the word. Usually people have to pay to get their site promoted, but I didn’t – the stats have skyrocketed and this story has reached every possible continent.
Hmmm, so I was told by a ‘close friend’ of these violators that the township gave them warning last week that a “visit” may be made this Friday (so they can “verify” that there are “NO violations” on this property?). See how thoughtful West Penn Township Zoning can be?
Sure enough, the ‘uncle’ quickly brought his backhoe over and scooped up some of the piles of manure in front of the barn — the cows are hidden elsewhere for now – don’t know where the goat and pig are. Since they had time to prepare, the only animals that will be visible may be the 4 horses. (Oh, wait! Is that a horse being taken to grandma’s house for a “visit”??) —yes it was
How many horses do you think will be on the property tomorrow after they were advised to move them – JUST FOR THE TOWNSHIP VISIT – then they may come back after the ‘report’. Are these kids smarter than an inspector?
As for enforcing the codes regarding permits – not likely – I guess the officer didn’t have to take any oath of office. Why does West Penn Township allow their Zoning officers to rob the township of well-needed funds – for the sake of gaining gratitude of residents?
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a township that respects the laws, enforces them equally, and protects the residents as promised?
A defamatory statement must be false — otherwise it’s not considered damaging.
The public has a right to criticize the people who govern them, so the least protection from defamation is given to public officials. When officials are accused of something that involves their behavior in office, they have to prove all of the above elements of defamation and they must also prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.”
“Actual malice” means that the person who made the statement knew it wasn’t true, or didn’t care whether it was true or not and was reckless with the truth
Re the overgrazing on this property:
Anders promised via phone conversation on 22Sep16 that there will be an official signed contract obtained for combining acreage – and the ‘extra’ animals must graze on that site during the day. However, there are no permits issued for housing extra animals on this adjoining property.
According to the rules, there is to be 1 grazing animal per 1.5 acres.
According to Bill Anders report on 3Aug17, there are 2 horses and 1 pony (goats penned up) and that Hertzog’s girlfriend is selling 2 horses and will get no more -animals are being cared for.
Bill Anders on August 3, did not search the locked barn to see the 3 cows. The FIRST 3 cows arrived 24JULY17 (Cows #4-5-6 arrived on 16AUG17.)
1. As I expected, the 2 horses are no longer for sale
2. As for “WILL GET NO MORE“, GUESS WHAT, BILL, They think you are a fool–Another horse just arrived TODAY, 28Aug17!!
3. Goat is not always “penned up”
4. As for animals being cared for, why are some dying? (no, the one horse did Not have cancer as claimed and 1 of the 6 calves died after being cramped in a small sweltering stall all day)
OKAY, today’s count for grazing animals on this 2.73 acres that is zoned for 1 grazing animal:
-5 cows (there were 6 but 1 died)
Photos of horse1, horse2, horse3, horse4, goat, 3 cows of July 24, 2017, 1 of the 3 cows added on August 16, 2017 -the pig must currently live in the house
…no, they do not.. there can’t be equality and uniform code enforcement when there is Selective Enforcement of laws
Having lived in this township about 20 years, I am disappointed that we no longer have equal rights when it comes to local code enforcement. Living in West Penn Township in the past was a pleasant experience. Residents were treated uniformly and the zoning ordinance was applied uniformly to all . Today, it seems as though these authorities use their power to harass some, but give absolute freedom to friends who violate the codes. Is there no code of ethics? What happened to the zoning officer’s duty to (as stated in the West Penn Township Zoning Ordinance) “to adopt rules of procedure, consistent with this Ordinance, for the purpose of ensuring efficient and uniform administration of its provisions“??
I was under the impression that all residents must pay permit fees and adhere to the rules, but it appears that friends of West Penn township or township zoning officers ( of Lehigh Engineering LLC) are exempt from obeying local ordinances and don’t have to pay a penny for permits. The West Penn Township Ordinance also states “The Zoning Officer shall not have the power to permit any construction, use or change of use which does not conform to this Ordinance“.
We needed zoning permits, building permits, an occupancy permit, and inspections when we moved here. However, this ‘friend of a friend’ is permitted to erect new buildings, barns, sheds, and electric fencing pastures – No permits required! This neighbor’s property is used as a farm for animal hoarding – No permits required! Our zoning allows 1 grazing animal per 1.5 acre – NO LIMIT of animals for this township friend – after a few deaths, they still have 10 grazers when codes allow for 1!
As of today, 17August2017, they own at least 3 horses, 5 cows (there were 6 cows but 1 died), 1 goat, 1 pig. (that’s outside – there is also what would be classified as a kennel inside)
When this neighbor purchased the 2.73 acre property, there was only 1 house, 1 barn, and 1 garage. Since 4/29/16, he has added sheds, a second barn, 2 additional electrified fenced-in pastures and more. Township claims there are NO permits issued to this property, so code enforcers “do not see” those sheds and buildings erected.
Google aerial view of property 2016: (camper & car removed by previous owner)
COMPLAINTS ARE IGNORED………….
I filed written complaints on 9/15/16, 10/26/16, and 7/11/17.
— Conversation 9/22/16 with William Anders, Code Enforcement officer for West Penn Township: Anders claims ignorance and does nothing about permits. He had no reply and said “maybe the buildings were already there” and did not care when I said that I could prove that the new owner added the structures. He stated that an inspector (the new guy) will go inspect. No reply, so I went to the township office and was told that there are NO permits paid for by this neighbor.
(I was told that West Penn Township DOES NOT KNOW WHO HAS PERMITS because they don’t keep older records on file!! SERIOUSLY???? SO, West Penn residents, DO NOT BUY PERMITS, just tell Code Enforcement that it must have been there before America was discovered!) they’ll never figure it out…
I was told that RALPH L HUMMEL Jr, another Lehigh Engineering ‘expert’ that just got his license, then visited the property but apparently he did not have the ability to recognize new structures or compare the property structures to the Schuylkill County Cama where 1 barn and 1 garage are the only structures at time of purchase.
Conversation also included the overgrazing issue: he stated that the neighbor’s girlfriend has a relative next door with 40 acres where animals can graze during the day, so she can have as many animals as she wants (The relative next door actually has only 10 acres)…HEY BILL!—-EVEN WITH THE FAKE COMBINING OF PROPERTIES, THERE IS STILL TOO MANY GRAZERS…do the math..
RESULT: NOTHING! He was supposed to have a ‘contract’ between the 2 neighbors regarding pasturing. I am assuming they got exempt from any legal inconvenience , because the animals are on this property 24/7 (except when the horses and goat are left to roam freely on my property).
I have been lied to and ignored, while my property value is being affected by this property full of animals, manure, trash piles, racks of tires, garbage, etc.
I believe that township officials have a duty to use their powers fairly and adhere to the law. It appears that this will be a long battle, and I need to gather more documents, pictures, tapes, and chronology.