Mount Joy Township supervisors have approved a proposed compromise with a landlord who is suing the township over its rental property management ordinance, but it was unclear whether the landlord would agree.
The township maintains that it needs to regulate rental housing to ensure proper living conditions, prevent public nuisances and protect public safety. Kevin Timochenko, president of Featherton Crossing owner Metropolitan Management Group Inc., said earlier that he does not object to regulations, but maintains that the township’s fees are unreasonable. He also said he believes the inspections are unconstitutional, arguing that they are a violation of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.
Timochenko had previously asked supervisors to offer a volume discount for large-scale rental operations such as his Featherton Crossing apartments in Mount Joy Township. He told supervisors in December that he had been billed $6,000 for the inspection of 120 apartments even though it only took six hours to complete the work. He said he would consider $200 an hour acceptable, but said $1,000 an hour was excessive.
The township maintains that the fees are not based on the time it takes to inspect the apartments and disputes Timochenko’s contention that they are inspection fees.
Township Manager Justin Evans said the proposal approved by supervisors on Monday, June 18, would have Timochenko’s company pay the township half the fees required by ordinance and put the other half in an escrow account until a judge rules on the matter.
The next step is for Featherton Crossing to consider the proposal. Evans said after the meeting that the township approved it first so a special meeting would not have to be called for township approval if Featherton approves it. If Featherton makes a counterproposal, a special meeting will be needed, or it can be delayed until the next scheduled meeting on July 16.
There has been a new development with Featherton Crossing. Evans said there was a kitchen fire at a Featherton Crossing apartment, which was found not to have a fire extinguisher as required.
“It’s just one more reason that we need to be enforcing our ordinance,” Evans said.
Nobody from Featherton Crossing was present at the meeting. The Advocate contacted Timochenko after the evening meeting for comment, but got no response by press time.
The Advocate obtained a copy of the proposed agreement by requesting it under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. It says the township and Featherton Crossing L.P. are in a dispute being litigated in federal court over the township’s rental property management code. If Featherton agrees to the compromise, it can continue to challenge the constitutionality of the inspection requirement, but must get rental licenses, pay fees and allow inspections in the meantime. The township would withdraw the citations filed against Featherton and deposit half of the fees Featherton pays into an escrow account. It says that if a court rules that the township’s fees are unreasonable, Featherton will have a right to reimbursement.
Also at the meeting, supervisors voted unanimously to recommend Eugene Galeschewski to be the new coordinator of the regional emergency management agency serving Mount Joy Township, Elizabethtown Borough and West Donegal Township. The volunteer position has been held for 26 years by Warren Mueller, who wants to leave; Galeschewski has been Mueller’s volunteer deputy since 2012.
In other business, supervisors heard from developer Aaron Repucci of Catalyst Commercial Development and Chris Venarchick of the landscape architecture firm RGS Associates about their proposal to get farmland in the township that borders Elizabethtown Borough rezoned from rural to medium-density residential. They propose a development of single-family homes and apartment buildings on land that faces Campus Road in the township and borders the back yards of some homes along Groff Avenue in Elizabethtown Borough. Supervisors raised concerns about how such a development would affect traffic, noting that the residents of these dwellings would need a way to get to main roads. They took no action on the matter.