Disgruntled residents of the Heritage Highgate development along Yorkshire Drive in Breinigsville lined the walls of the meeting Thursday night.
The owners are not allowed to build a fence or put a shed on the back 30 feet of their properties, and they asked the supervisors to modify the easement restrictions to allow them to use the land. But supervisors said there was little to be done.
That 30-foot easement, specifically from the 800 to 1000 blocks of Yorkshire bordering Twin Ponds Road, was designated as an open space buffer before the first house was even built.
“After all, we own that 30' of conserved area,” said Chad B., one of the residents organizing the effort. “We maintain it, treat the lawn and obviously pay taxes on it.”
The supervisors said there was nothing they could do.
The intent of that easement, said Dean Haas, the township engineer, was to create a buffer and preserve open space. “But the buffer was never planted, which makes it look worse than it should be,” he said.
The President of Heritage Homes Group, Anthony Maras, told the crowd that if the township says the buffer is ready to be planted, the company will do it when the weather makes the most sense.
But the look of it wasn’t the only issue for homeowners. Some said the developer’s salespeople duped them. According to people at Thursday’s meeting, they were told they could use that back 30 feet.
“The [salesperson] put stakes along my property and said I could put anything I wanted there; no one would stop me,” said one resident. “But that wasn’t the case.”
Supervisor Chair Edward Earley said he sympathized with the residents, but the easement was a condition of their deeds; there wasn’t anything the township could do about it.
During the planning process of the development, that easement, said Township Attorney Andrew Schantz, was made a part of the plans, and those plans are in full compliance with the township’s zoning regulations.
“The supervisors don’t have the right to just [modify the easement],” Schantz said. “We’d need a release from every homeowner … you can pool your funds and hire legal council to investigate your options.”
“This is totally uncharted waters,” said Supervisors Sam Ashmar.
Modifying the easement would affect previously approved plans as well as the individual deeds for each private property. And, Schantz said, even if it was possible, it could set a precedent that the supervisors might not want to create.
Mostly, the residents blamed Heritage, and they sought help and guidance from the supervisors. In the end, the group decided to take Schantz's advice and look into hiring an attorney.
“This isn't a personal issue, at least not for me,” said Chad B. in an email. “I believe that sometimes common sense and logic are lost in modern day government. The residents of the Highgate community will work hard to restore logic and protect our interests.”