2010-07-08 / Front Page

Rollback Taxes Under Clean And Green To Change

County to begin following Commonwealth Court ruling effective January 1
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

After hearing details of a Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruling on an appeal case involving Clean and Green rollback taxes in nearby York County, the Fulton County commissioners announced this week they will comply with the judge’s findings at the start of 2011.

County solicitor Stanley Kerlin shared with commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer, David Hoover II and Craig Cutchall he first learned of the 2009 case of Richard J. Donnelly Jr., MaryBeth Donnelly and Marci Gohn versus the York County Board of Assessment Appeals at the 2010 Solicitors’ Seminar recently held in Harrisburg.

Touted as one of the state’s top 10 cases, Kerlin stated the Commonwealth Court ruled on July 2, 2009, the York County Board of Assessment Appeals was justified in making the Donnelly family pay rollback taxes for seven years on the entire 32.733-acre tract that was registered under Clean and Green. Background on the case includes that the Donnellys had previously deeded a total of two of the acres to their daughter, Marci Gohn, who in turn constructed a home. In making their case, the Donnellys maintained the provision of the act was vague for due process purposes and unenforceable.

Kerlin stated that the fact the Donnellys were paying rollback taxes on the entire acreage sent murmurs through the crowd of solicitors as many other counties, including Fulton would also only require rollback taxes be paid on the two acres being deeded over to another party. In addition, unlike other counties, Fulton County has never specified who exactly would pay the back taxes and only asked for payment in full.

“I think other counties are in the same situation,” noted Kerlin, who added Franklin County will not deem the issue as a big deal as they are still working from 1960 assessed valued. “Until this case, everyone has had their own version of this reading.”

“This will put the kibosh on deeding two acres from the family farm,” he concluded.

After giving further review to the Commonwealth Court’s judgement, the commissioners agreed to set a date of January 1, 2011, to comply with how rollback taxes should be levied. By delaying the date to the start of the new year, the commissioners said anyone who is currently in the process of having their land surveyed and perked would be able to finish in ample time.

The commissioners sat down with concerned homeowners Dick and Verda Hockensmith of 4492 Timber Ridge Road in Thompson Township, who asked for assistance in solving an ongoing all-terrain vehicle issue. The Hockensmiths said the problem started approximately three years ago, and they spoke with the township around two years ago in hopes township officials would intervene.

Verda Hockensmith stated noise is a factor as is the large amount of dust being stirred up. This holiday weekend was particularly unnerving for the Hockensmiths, who reported four all-terrain vehicles were racing and showing off on the roadway. “I could taste the dust, it was so thick,” said Dick Hockensmith.

Verda Hockensmith presented the commissioners with copies of articles and ordinances that are currently in effect in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Hockensmiths were told land-use regulations are typically handled at a municipal level, and the duo were referred to the township’s planning commission currently comprised of Chairman Curtis Rine, Craig Elbin, Bob Swadley, Walker Thompson, Lorraine Milroth, and alternate Beth Hull.

The Thompson Township Planning Commission is next slated to meet on Friday, July 16, at 3:30 p..m. with the township Board of Supervisors convening later that evening at 7 p.m. The Hockensmiths were urged to provide the groups with information regarding regulations that could limit the time the all-terrain vehicles are operated and how close they can drive from other properties.

The commissioners accepted a proposal from Fulton County Historical Society member Glenn Cordell to purchase a ten-plate stove that had been previously used in the Fulton County Courthouse. In his proposal, Cordell stated a total of 14 ten-plate stoves were purchased in 1852 for use in the courthouse and jail. He obtained the stove during an auction for the estate of Helen Edwards.

According to Commissioner Keefer, the stove has been purchased from Cordell in the amount of $450. It will be placed near the main entrance of the courthouse for public exhibit.

Business manager Tim Stanton discussed a recommendation made by Craig Strait to install a grinder pump obtained through E/One Sewer Systems that will grind sewage into slurry before pumping it into the sewer. The commissioners noted there has been ongoing problems with the sewer at the Neighborhood Service Center, and usage of the building will likely increase four fold due to the domestic relations and probation staff relocating to the basement.

Stanton also touched on the possible insulation of the ceiling area above the probation office to cut down on sound travelling as well as insulating the remainder of the building’s attic and lack of ventilation through soffiting.

Chief Clerk Dan Swain was approved to attend an election officials conference at a cost of $463 plus food and mileage.

Swain reminded the commissioners of the upcoming Ag picnic on July 11 at the American Legion picnic grounds and a Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) meeting on July 7. Swain said one of the main topics of the CJAB meeting will be an initiative grant for courthouse technology. Deadline for submission of the grant is July 16.

Deidi Ritz, domestic relations supervisor, and Chief Probation Officer Roger Strait discussed personnel matters with the commissioners including a judicial appointment that will fill a vacant domestic relations enforcement officer position.

County Treasurer Monica Seville reported she has received taxes for the months of April and May from the Union Township tax collector.

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