Volunteer fire department in feud with conservation district over parking lot
The fire company and the city conservation district are butting heads over a parking lot built that the district believes could do harm to the environment
By Patrick Campbell
MOUNT POCONO, Pa. — While the Pocono Mountain Volunteer Fire Company is used to fighting battles close to home, they never thought they would find themselves in one over a parking lot.
The fire company and the Monroe County Conservation District are butting heads over a parking lot built without proper permits that the district believes could do harm to the environment.
"Obviously the fire company does not want to pollute anything, which we haven't and have the site set up not to," said Logan Evans, company president. "If we had a problem, we would be the first ones to address it."
The fire company had been looking to create a better parking area for their annual carnival, their largest fundraising event, and began construction of the lot during the spring on land leased from the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport, adjacent to the property. They built the lot with donated asphalt millings and volunteer labor provided by members of the fire company.
However, when the Monroe County Conservation District (MCCD) became aware of the lot, they stepped in because the fire company did not possess the proper permits.
The size of the parking lot means it requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, according to Adam Schellhammer, MCCD president.
"Anything over one acre of earth disturbance requires an NPDES permit," Schellhammer said. "It's unfortunate, we wish they would have been notified ahead of time so they would have known what was required before they started the project."
Schellhammer says the MCCD was notified about the lot via a complaint on July 19. Evans claims the work began during spring and that most of it was completed by the time the conservation district came to the site.
Evans says the district then asked the fire company to halt any further work on the lot because they were doing so without proper permits. The options available included applying for the NPDES permits, which Evans says costs $20,000, or reduce the size of the asphalt lot.
According to Evans, the fire company simply cannot afford either of those options.
"We certainly would have weighed cost options," Evans said. "Removing that parking lot would cost the same if not more than the other option. The moral of it is we need an affordable option."
Both parties have meetings with the Department of Environmental Protection later this week to discuss the issues and try to come to a compromise that would work for both parties.
Evans added that the lot was built to accommodate more guests for the carnival that is vital to their operation and he expected more cooperation from another community-minded organization.
"We're just hopeful as a public service agency we're going to get some cooperation that we have yet to receive," Evans said. "This wasn't some big commercial construction project, it was the volunteers themselves working on nights and weekends to accommodate for much needed fundraising."
Schellhammer says he understands the situation the fire company finds itself in is unfortunate, but the MCCD has to make sure protocols are followed for the best interests of the environment.
"We have to look at every site the same, those are the state regulations," Schellhammer said. "We have to approach every site the same way. It's unfortunate it has become public like this."
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