Neighbors oppose First Energy tree-cutting plan in Peters

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Residents of the Windermere development in Peters pleaded with council Monday, asking for their support in an ongoing battle against First Energy, which plans to clear cut and spray trees within a 100-foot right-of-way of a transmission line that cuts through the neighborhood.

“Their approach is extremely aggressive,” said resident Don Rizer. “They aren‘‍t using the easement — they’‍re abusing it.”

Mr. Rizer and his neighbors said they were told by First Energy representatives that any tree with the potential to grow 10 feet or larger would be cut down.  He fears the landscape would be scarred for years by the work, which he and neighbors believe is unnecessary and excessive.                                 

“We‘‍re not looking for a fight with First Energy,” Mr. Rizer said.  “We would like to find a middle ground.”

Council President James Berquist said First Energy told board members at a recent meeting that the company is determined to eliminate certain trees to prevent damage to high-tension electric transmission lines, which can sag as much as 20 feet.

“They’‍re a lot more aggressive than Allegheny Power was, there‘‍s no question about it,” said township manager Michael Silvestri. Allegheny Power was the previous electric utility in the region.

Mr. Rizer and his neighbors said company representatives have differed on what they’‍ve told families, including whether spray herbicide would be used on tree stumps.  

Mr. Berquist said company officials told him they would not spray the herbicide throughout the area, only on cut stumps.

Neighbors Gina Ciminel and Paula McLuckie expressed concern about the contents of the herbicide and the effects on the landscape after the clear cutting.

“They’‍re coming through and they‘‍re going to ruin Peters Township,” Ms. McLuckie said.

The neighbors will sponsor a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the community room of Beinhauer Funeral Home on Route 19.  All residents and officials are invited to attend.

Also Monday, Kathy Ann Drive resident Marie Miller asked council to consider reducing the speed limit on Valleybrook Road from 35 to 25 mph due to speeding and safety concerns.

The road previously had two speed limits of 35 mph and 25 mph, but the the speed limit was changed to 35 mph along the entire road about 10 years ago, Mr. Silvestri said.

“Valleybrook has changed a lot” in the years since the speed limit was changed, Ms. Miller said.  “It just seems harder and harder to cross the street, and there are a lot of accidents there.”

Because the road is owned by the state, council members could petition the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on the road, based on site distance issues and accidents.  Members said they would consider the request before the road is reopened to traffic next month. Much of Valleybrook has been closed to traffic due to a major reconstruction project at the intersection of Route 19.

Also Monday, council:

• Approved a subdivision creating two 10-plus-acre lots at the corner of Johnston and Thomas roads.  The subdivision was requested by David and Cathy Johnson and approved by the township planning commission.

• Agreed to combine two commercial lots at the corner of Route 19 and Hidden Valley Road for future development.  The existing buildings will be demolished.  The site had previously been home to Domino’‍s Pizza and Ernie‘‍s Esquire.

• Declared part of the township zoning ordinance invalid and proposed a curative amendment in line with Act 13, the state law governing Marcellus Shale gas drilling.  Changes in the statewide law regarding well placement will require the township to tweak its ordinances over the next six months.

• Told resident Peter Glasser they would check on whether there are piles of horse manure along walking trails at Peterswood Lake. Mr. Silvestri said riders are not observing a township law requiring them to clean up after their animals.

• Approved an agreement with Rochester, N.Y.-based General Code Publishing to recodify township ordinances for a base fee of $13,900.

• OK’‍d an agreement with PNC Equipment Finance to lease a new firetruck for $449,966 at an interest rate of 2.47 percent over five years.

• Agreed to participate in arbitration to resolve a lawsuit from Appalachia Industries over a contract dispute relating to repair work on the Sugar Camp Bridge.

Janice Crompton: or 412-263-1159.

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