Managing Editor
Is it all right to have a commercial access along Towpath Road on the Lackawaxen River for boaters? Although Euell Threshman ran a business there for rafts, canoes and kayaks for many years, Lackawaxen Township Supervisors are investigating whether the practice should continue. The Lackawaxen is celebrated for its Class I and Class II rapids, caused by releases of water from the PPL power plant at Kimbles. It is considered a good river for people learning to paddle. Numerous people attended the Township meeting Sept. 24 concerned about it. Complaints have been raised about use of the access, including trucks hauling boats on the Towpath and instances of people trespassing on private property to get to the river on their own. Threshman died April 22, 2010. There are indications he had been in business at this location at least since 1965. Threshman lived at the property and charged people to take their raft or boat into the river. Commercial liveries and private persons gave him business. Upon his death, his heirs put up the property for sale. In August 2010, Kittatinny Canoes purchased the Threshman property, said Township Solicitor Anthony Waldron. There has been limited use of the property since that time as a commercial river access. Although public or commercial accesses on the Lackawaxen River are not allowed by the zoning ordinance, an exception was made for Threshman’s business, since it was “grandfathered”- it started before the zoning ordinance was adopted in 1977. As such, Waldron explained, it is a “nonconforming use.” By law, a nonconforming use is transferable to a new owner, who can continue the way the property was utilized. If there is a break in the activity for over one year, however, the nonconforming use no longer applies. Waldron has been conducting research to see if commercial use of the river access has been conducted without that interruption- since before Threshman’s death, to the present. By law, it does not matter how often the business is practiced within that year. He noted this was not like a store, where there are easily identifiable hours of operation. Kittatinny supplied information from their logs about when the access was used. Waldron said there were certain years where there was no information supplied. In 2001, the Township denied an expansion of the business. Rowland General Store had made an application to the Township be allowed to rent rafts and canoes and launch them at Threshman’s. The solicitor related that Kittatinny’s counsel holds that the business is nonconforming use, and should be allowed. Waldron advised the new owner to apply for a Certificate of Use from the Township, to show what they can and cannot do. Commonwealth Court allowed that a “natural expansion” of customers for a business zoned as a nonconforming use was allowable. The municipality, however, can regulate expansion of the property or structures, up to 25 percent. Kittatinny’s lawyer indicated that there was no plans to expand the facility, Waldron related. Whether operation of the business was ever interrupted for more than a year, is up to the Township to prove. At Waldron’s request, Kittatinny removed a sign designating it as a Lackawaxen River access. Dimitri Zaimes, owner of Two River Junction, Lackawaxen, said that he runs a responsible business and gives strict instructions to his customers wanting to use the river, about safety and respect of property rights. He suggested that people will find a way to get their boats to the river, and it was better if the Township had one legal access that could be regulated. He reminded that the Lackawaxen is designated as a navigable river by the state. A woman in the audience added that although Zaimes doesn’t condone mischief, it still happens and the State Police may take “45 minutes” to respond. One man implored the Supervisors not to take a position against boating, which he described as a nice activity that people enjoy. Zaimes suggested that reasonable concessions could be reached with the owner. Chairman Brian Stuart said that a baseline of information was needed, to see if there were gaps. If abandonment of the use cannot be proven, negotiation may occur with Kittatinny over how the river access is used. He stated that their strategies and how they will negotiate will be discussed in executive session. The fact that it was now autumn, Stuart, said, buys the Township several months to work this out before next year’s boating season.