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District will appeal alleged violation

| Friday, Aug. 22, 2008

Southmoreland School District will appeal a ruling from Scottdale that lights at Southmoreland Elementary/Middle School violate the borough's nuisance and zoning ordinances.

Borough Manager Barry Whoric sent a letter dated Aug. 18 to Superintendent John Halfhill, indicating that residents on Fountain Mills Road had complained about the building's exterior lights. The letter quoted from the borough's nuisance ordinance, that defined a nuisance "to cause glare from lights or noise as to cause annoyance to residents or, interference with the normal use of adjacent properties."

Halfhill explained that the borough's code enforcement officer had found the district in violation. In order to comply, Halfhill explained, the district must "eliminate the light glare currently projected on neighboring residential properties." He said the district has 30 days to abate the problem, or 10 days to file an appeal with the borough's Zoning Hearing Board. The appeal will cost $300 plus advertising. Either the borough or the district may then appeal the ZHB's decision in the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas.

Kenneth Millslagle, director of the district's physical plant, reported that an independent test Wednesday night revealed the lights 50 yards from the building found they yielded 0.1 foot candle power.

"There was no light at 100 yards," Millslagle said.

He said that under the lights, they yielded 7.6 foot candles. "They are meant to wash the wall," he said.

For comparison, Millslagle also tested the light on Halfhill's porch, which measured 0.3 foot candles.

Millslagle said the borough's code enforcement officer "has been on the site since the beginning. There are no specific (light) numbers in the letter."

Solicitor David Petonic said the borough's ordinance does not specify a certain foot candle intensity results in a violation. "It just says glare."

Director James Rausch said the borough approved the building.

Petonic told directors they should fight the borough's ruling. He added, "I think it's a crying shame to have one political subdivision fighting another political subdivision."

Director Sam Accipiter moved that the district appeal the ruling to the ZHB with the stipulation that if the board determines the district did not violate the ordinances, the borough would pay the $300 plus advertising. The motion passed unanimously.

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