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Fence spat proves divisive

Duncansville church, businessman at odds

DUNCANSVILLE — In the poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost’s narrator quotes the farmer next door, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

A proposal for a fence between a church and a business here has turned the relationship of those two neighbors bad.

The proposal by Hicks United Methodist Church to erect a fence along the side edge of its property, abutting the property of Tony’s Antiques and Estate Services and the Duncansville Antiques Co-op, was discussed at a Borough Council meeting this week, after several representatives of Tony’s showed up to oppose it. Council tabled the matter, pending talks involving the borough solicitor, its engineer and other interested parties.

The fence would run perpendicular to Third Avenue, indicated borough engineer Tom Levine.

But the fence would shrink the turning radius to enter Tony’s Antiques, such that it would be difficult for box and trash trucks and even fire engines, business owner Tony Scaglione said by phone the next day.

It would also create a safety hazard when vehicles halted by failure to negotiate the tight turn stopped suddenly on the avenue — which doubles as Route 22 — potentially causing collisions, Scaglione said.

Scaglione believes the fence is an expression of resentment against his business for acquiring the property it now occupies, after the church tried to get it, then backed off.

The church had previously acquired a parking lot from Scaglione’s predecessor that brought the church’s property line within 19 feet of the closest antiques building, Scaglione said.

“I think they’re trying to get even with us for buying the property,” Scaglione said. “It’s a spite fence.”

The church, which sent no representatives to the meeting, had no comment, according to Pastor Rich Morris, speaking on the phone the next day.

New Mayor Eric Fritz said the church wants the fence to “delineate” its property.

The church bought the parking lot — essentially an extension of its own parking lot — when the property Scaglione occupies was Donnelly’s Antiques, according to Scaglione.

The church hoped eventually to acquire the whole of the antiques property for an expansion project, according to Scaglione.

But Donnelly’s death and the cost of demolition of several buildings on the antiques property, combined with the cost of the property itself, led to the church not closing a deal, according to Scaglione.

Then Scaglione bought it, he said.

An indication of the church’s attitude toward the boundary issue is the action of a plow driver working for the church who last year piled a ridge of snow along the line, making things difficult for him, Scaglione said.

A fence wouldn’t be a problem, except for a PennDOT rehabilitation project along Third Avenue that was planned when the department believed the church was going to consolidate the antiques property with its own, Scaglione said.

It led PennDOT to switch its initial plan for a driveway entrance at a traffic light on 13th Street, 100 feet away from the current church property, to a plan that resulted in a driveway entrance whose northern end is adjacent to where the proposed fence would approach Third Avenue, according to Scaglione.

Trucks coming in that entrance now routinely belly out onto the church property, he said.

With no fence, it’s not a problem, because it’s just an empty lot, Scaglione said.

Reconfiguring the entrance driveway to conform with PennDOT’s initial plan isn’t an option, Scaglione said.

Because the church’s rationale for the fence is for delineation of the property, Scaglione has suggested that it simply paint a line.

He’s offered to help pay for topcoating and striping the parking lot extension, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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