Peters council members on Monday once again found themselves in the role of mediator between two local businesses that have been anything but neighborly.
Representatives from Harbison Auto Service and Arlecchino Ristorante, both located on Camp Lane, came to council hoping to resolve an ongoing dispute that council members have already intervened in.
At issue is a small directional sign that Jonathan Vlasic, Arlecchino's owner, placed at the corner of Camp Lane and Route 19 when he took over the eatery, which had been The Classroom Restaurant for many years.
Jerry Harbison and his son Mike Harbison, owners of nearby Harbison Auto Service, took issue with the sign, saying they owned the sliver of land at the corner of Camp Lane and Route 19.
The Harbisons said they had a rental agreement with The Classroom's owners and that Arlecchino would also have to pay to lease the space. Mike Harbison, who attended Monday's meeting, could not produce proof of the agreement.
But the small piece of property doesn't appear on the Harbisons' property deed and exactly who owns it was a point of contention brought before council last year.
At that time, council members arbitrated the dispute, telling Mr. Vlasic to place a temporary sign at the corner for six months, while a permanent agreement is reached between the parties.
But now, both business owners have hired lawyers who appeared before council on Monday saying no agreement had been reached -- or even discussed -- before the six-month deadline expired earlier this month.
Lawyer James W. Haines Jr., representing the Harbisons, said that his clients would be removing the temporary sign and formally claiming ownership of the property.
Mr. Haines said that the Harbisons have owned and maintained the property for at least the past 60 years and had treated it as their own, despite having no documentation showing they owned it. He said they offered to negotiate with Mr. Vlasic, but never received a response.
But lawyer Ryan Wotus, representing Arlecchino's, said his client disputed the ownership claim by the Harbisons and believes they have "zero rights" to the property.
Lawyers have checked as far back as 1868 and can't determine ownership. The property was originally part of a larger tract of land and had apparently been abandoned in the years since Route 19 was built.
Mr. Wotus said The Classroom Restaurant had a directional sign at the corner for 30 years, entitling Arlecchino's to the same consideration.
Mr. Wotus said the Harbisons requested $350 per month for use of the property.
"That seems like a lot for a little sign," said Council Chairman Frank Arcuri.
Council members said they don't want to be involved in the dispute and advised the parties to seek court action. Mr. Haines said he would be filing a claim for ownership of the property.
"We don't have the authority to adjudicate the ownership of this property," said township solicitor William Johnson. "It's a dispute we assumed would be resolved by the property owners, but it wasn't."
In other business:
• Council voted to accept a $177,159 bid from Campbell Insurance Agency for one year of insurance coverage for township properties, vehicles, machinery and public officials. The bid was $45,000 higher than what the township had been paying for insurance coverage, due to a high number of claims from the township for vehicle damage.
• Council approved a plan by the Peters Township Junior Football Association to construct a 10-by-24-foot storage shed next to the press box at Hofbauer Field in Peterswood Park. Plans for the $25,000 project have been approved by the township building inspector.
• Council had planned to discuss whether to allow St. Benedict the Abbot Catholic Church to place signs throughout the township announcing its annual Fish Fry, but no representative from the church came to the meeting. Council tabled action on the request, but said it hopes to discourage the church from placing too many signs on public property.
• Council approved Phase 2 of the Anthony Farms housing development on East McMurray Road. Although the developer hoped to have a left and right turning lane into and out of the development, the state Department of Transportation rejected the application. The property will be limited to right turning lanes into and out of the development.
• Council accepted, with regret, the resignation of zoning hearing board member Jeff Ziffiro and appointed Stacey Noble as a full member. Ms. Noble, currently an alternate member, will have a term expiring in 2015. Reappointed were board members Trevor Farrand, with a term set to expire in 2018, and David Dickson, whose term expires in 2017. Councilwoman Monica Merrell dissented, saying she wanted Mr. Dickson to serve as an alternate, based on his attendance at meetings. Appointments to the parks and recreation board and the township youth commission were tabled so that more interviews could be conducted.
Janice Crompton: email@example.com or 412-851-1867.