MILL HALL — Construction on the old Lock Haven Motel is still underway despite no development permits in place.
Issues have arose since construction started a few weeks ago on the motel, now being turned into suites. One issue is with property owner, Troy Musser, not releasing any plans on the project to code enforcement or to Bald Eagle Township supervisors.
The lacking of permits could cause the township’s flood insurance premiums to double through FEMA since the building is in a flood plain. Along with the concern of insurance premiums shooting up, the building is allegedly a “complete fire trap” according to Kevin Ferrara, who was a guest at the Bald Eagle Township meeting Monday night, where other township residents voiced their issues with the construction.
The building is considered a fire risk as Musser allegedly is using wood frame construction on the building as opposed to using non-combustible frame materials such as concrete, metal or brick, according to Ferrara, a volunteer firefighter. The building, in its current state, is a fire hazard for both civilians and fire services.
Ferrara also alleged the building does not have a sprinkler system installed, which would end up not allowing approval by the township or inspectors.
If there is a fire and the building is not occupied, fire services will not enter the building and put fire fighters at risk.
Mill Hall fire chief, Tony Walker, said during the supervisor meeting that Mill Hall Fire Company has been looking into the different phases of the construction to make a decision.
“We have had some discussion on that, and as far as Mill Hall is concerned, as long as there is no life saving issue there, we are not entering,” he said.
Exterior construction has allegedly ceased on the building since the township’s building code official issued a notice to stop work on the motel under the Uniform Commercial Code, according to the township’s solicitor Frank Miceli.
Since Musser is unable to conduct further work on the exterior of the building, construction is on-going inside, still without proper permits. He told The Express the inside is almost done with plans to install carpet, appliances, bedrooms and more.
For the past few weeks, construction has been done on the exterior of the building, but without the proper land development permits.
According to Musser, the exterior construction has ceased for the time being until he works with the code inspectors and gets the proper permits. He added he only just received the stop work order within the last few days.
The township’s supervisors have no authority in the matter, according to chairman Tuff Rine. Only the township’s code enforcement group has the authority to deal with the construction and Musser.
The township had in the past delegated the duty to administer the building code to code inspection. The township lost their previous building inspector through the township, Jeff Long, about four years ago. According to Rine, since no one wanted to take over Long’s position, the township decided to go through a professional service.
“For the last four years, they’ve been handling it and according to everything Frank has told us, once we sign up with them then it is their responsibility,” Rine said. “None of the responsibility goes back onto the township. Supervisors are not in charge of giving the yay or nay regarding the construction or code enforcements/inspections.”
Supervisors have been prompting the code enforcers to step in and said that they are actively working on it.
So far, with the building code, the code inspectors have issued four summons against Musser that are scheduled for a hearing in March in front of District Judge John Maggs in Mill Hall. Miceli said the code inspectors have recently filed four to five more that have yet to be scheduled.
On Musser’s side, he urged that the “rumors” going on are not true. He said there are no citations against him involved with $1,000 fines or anything along those lines, only several summons sent to him to appear before the magisterial court. Musser is pleading not guilty, according to the magistrate’s office.
The township voiced their frustration with Musser and his construction with his lack of plans, having seen no specs and having no FEMA to protect them. Since supervisors have not received anything about the construction, none of them have any idea what Musser has even done to the building.
“We don’t have anything!” expressed supervisor Stephen Tasselli. “We are doing everything humanely possible to ask Mr. Musser to provide the things that we need. There is a whole list of them. We haven’t had anything presented to us to approve.”
Of the few things submitted for construction, the Clinton County Conservation District reviewed plans that were submitted by Musser. However the plans were submitted before they were changed, according to Miceli.
Though the township needs the necessary permits for a legal and safe construction, Musser feels they are not needed.
“We don’t believe we need it (permits) but they think we do. It is what it is,” he said.
He added that they are not mad at the code inspectors or the township and is working with the code inspectors as of recently.
According to Miceli, in the legal process Musser lacks land development permits to allow construction. The first step to approval is submitting plans for development, he said.
Once those plans are approved, then you are allowed to build in stages, he continued. At each stage, the constructor must get inspections done.
“If the applicant submits plans, plans are approved, builds the building in accordance with the plans then the code officer will issue a building permit and will issue an occupancy permit at the end of the process. This board (supervisor) doesn’t issue the occupancy permit,” said Miceli. “There are other things that Mr. Musser has applied for that were brought up at the planning commission last week … that was a sub-division that he thinks he needs and also a land development that he needs. Those ultimately will be what this board has to approve once they go through the planning process.”
Despite what Musser told The Express, the township and Miceli say otherwise.
“There haven’t been any inspections done because there hasn’t been any plans submitted and approved yet,” said Miceli. “I think they’re (code inspections) working on that.”
Tasselli added that sooner or later, Musser would have to comply and show somebody a plan in order to get a permit to occupy.
The township is not liable if a person is breaking the law, said Miceli. If Musser puts people in the building without an occupancy permit, it could lead to him going to jail, he added.
“Musser’s own attorneys have said they were trying to get him to stop,” Miceli said.
There are No Trespassing signs up at the site.
Tasselli, in the end, urged residents and people outside of the township to voice their concerns on the illegal construction being conducted.
“We are all on the same page here 100 percent,” he said. He added the township is in full support of the residents concern with the Lock Haven Motel construction.
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