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Borough suing private scrap yard over junked mobile homes and other debris

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 30 2012 10:34:31 PM CST
EASTON, Pa. -

Officials of a tiny municipality in northwestern Northampton County are taking legal action against a private scrap yard that they say has become a dumping spot for junked mobile homes and other debris as well as a health hazard.

The borough of Chapman filed a civil suit Thursday in Northampton County Court against the late George and Celia Charles of 432 North Second St., Allentown, who are listed as owners a 26.5-acre parcel of land along Monocacy Drive (Route 987) and Main Street. (George Charles died in 1984 and Celia in 2009.)

On Friday, the Charles' son, George Charles Jr. of Allentown, who is executor of his parents' estate, told WFMZ.com that he has already done several things to the scrap yard requested by township officials and called the lawsuit "mission creep. They get you to do one thing and then they try to get you to do something else."

The suit says borough officials found large quantities of junk, including construction debris, foam insulation, wire, tires, sheets of rusted corrugated metal, broken televisions, and a severely damaged house trailer with gun targets attached to it.

Neighbors say the accumulated junk on the property has become a home for rats, groundhogs and raccoons, according to the suit.

The borough says in its suit that the Charles' estate has ignored requests to clean up the property, and that the current condition of the property is a safety threat to small children as well a pollution threat to ground and surface water.

The suit asks the court to order that the Charles estate be made to remove the debris, construction materials, tractor trailers and damaged mobile homes or to allow the borough to clean up the property and collect the costs from the estate.

George Charles Jr. told WFMZ.com he has been at odds with borough officials on various matters since the mid-1980s. (Charles said his father bought the property to use as a private scrap yard in 1966, and that he joined his dad as a partner in 1978.)

Charles said the most recent dustup with the borough began in May, when solicitor Gary Asteak sent him a letter telling him to get rid of about 150 tires whose wheels had been sold for scrap. Charles said about 100 of the tires were disposed of by May or June, and the rest about a month ago.

Then, on Oct. 24, Charles said he received another letter, this one telling him to clean up his property and to relocate a storage trailer and a tractor trailer along Main Street, outside a fence on his property.

Charles said he phoned Asteak and they agreed Charles would move the office trailer "as an act of good faith" from outside the fence to about 100 feet inside the fence.

Charles said he agreed with the borough that the office trailer, which has been at its current location for a decade, had become "an eyesore." "It was broken into several times over the last four or five years, and was set on fire sometime over the summer," Charles noted.
"They [borough officials] started giving me a rash of crap about it [after the fire], saying it should be boarded it up, which I did about three weeks after the fire."

Charles said he hired a tow truck operator who tried unsuccessfully to move the office trailer inside the fence on Thursday, adding that the effort to relocate the office trailer would continue next week.

As for the tractor trailer, Charles said he wanted to keep it outside the fence "because it screens the property, and I can back into the trailer and unload my truck into it for storage."

Charles said the borough's lawsuit and its list of new demands came as a surprise to him, and that he was unhappy borough officials went on to his property uninvited.

"My property has been continuously vandalized and arsoned, but they [borough officials] are not worried about the crime, only the after- effects," he said. "Besides, they had no business being on my property without my permission."

WFMZ.com reached out to the borough solicitor, but two calls on Friday went unanswered.