Barn animals at center of Dover Township neighbor dispute
Kathy Pentz, 73, talks about contamination damage to her property that she says was caused by uphill neighbors who built a barn for farm animals on their property in Dover Township.
Farm living isn't the life for Kathy Pentz, and the Dover Township resident doesn't think it should be forced on her.
The 73-year-old has lived on her 10-acre Skytop Trail property for 47 years, but it was just a few months ago that her next-door neighbors added a barn and chicken coop.
Since then, Pentz said, she and her husband have been dealing with strong odors, loud noises and water runoff she says has polluted her pond.
Pentz said she has complained to state and local officials to no avail.
Dover Township officials say the neighbors – April and Brad Lenhart – have a right to raise the animals and have followed all the rules.
“This is an unfortunate situation, where two people are both trying to lawfully enjoy their property,” said township Supervisor Matt Menges. “They both can’t be happy in the way they are allowed to do that."
Legal action: Pentz said the situation is confusing because Dover Township changed zoning in the Skytop Trail area in recent years from conservation to a village classification.
Township manager Laurel Oswalt confirmed that supervisors have changed zoning classifications; however, she added, both zones allow livestock and farm animals.
The switch in Pentz's area from conservation to village classification did decrease the amount of live animals allowed. Conservation allowed 2,000 pounds of live animals per acre, while village allows 1,000 pounds of live animals per acre, Oswalt said.
"An agricultural area is allowed to have big farms," she said. "Conservation is also rural, but not too far from an agricultural area. It allows homes with some acreage to have farms, horses, stables or board horses in the township. And then there's village classification, which is a little less per acre."
The Lenharts said they have a state Department of Environmental Protection-required Manure Management Plan. Property owners who build small hobby farms that house animals such as goats need to have them. The plan identifies, among several items, field boundaries and acreage, environmentally sensitive areas and manure storage structures.
Now, the Lenharts are taking legal action. For more than five months, they said, Pentz has “slandered” them.
“We have had enough and stepped forth with legal action,” the Lenharts said in a Facebook exchange. "Our seven mini nubian goats and three chickens are very well taken care of and spoiled daily. They are our family. The rest of the neighborhood makes daily, weekly visits to come spoil the goats with love as well.”
Property rights: The Lenharts purchased their residence in June 2008, according to tax documents. The animals — chickens, a rooster and goats — arrived this spring or early summer and started making loud noises night and day, Pentz said.
“The first time I heard it, I thought someone was being killed,” Pentz said. “I took off running. And then it was like,'What are you doing? Go get a gun or something.' It was these goats … they can get very noisy, they have a screechy, horrible belch out of them. That goes on 24/7, day and night, to the point my husband won’t sit out on the porch anymore.”
Zoning: Pentz said she feels her local government isn’t doing anything to “protect” her property. The state DEP said to go to local government, and local government told her to go to DEP, she said.
“My taxes are high enough,” she said. “I’m getting nothing but lip service."
Pentz's next-door neighbor, Michelle Miller, said she would approach the township about the noise and the odor, but she thinks she would be too upset.
Miller has rented the house from Pentz for three years. She was laid off in June, and she said the noise has become unavoidable. The animals' smell is more pronounced because seasons changed and the weather affected it, she said.
"You can hear the goats crying all day," said Miller, who lives roughly 50 feet away from the Lenharts. "When my air-conditioning was put in, it seems to draw the smell of the urine in, I guess, because of the humidity."
Follow the law: Pentz also pointed out that the barn’s setback is supposed to be 25 feet, and it’s closer to 10 feet.
“I expect if you are going to make a law, you are going to enforce those laws,” she said.
Oswalt said she was unaware of Pentz's setback concern. She said no one from the township has investigated it because Pentz didn't bring that concern to the township.
Pentz said a DEP representative visited her home two weeks ago to inspect her pond, which she says has been polluted by runoff from her neighbor's property.
She says she was told that if there weren’t feces floating in her pond, there’s no proof the farm's runoff affected her once clear, blue pond. The water is now brown.
“No, you don’t (need to see feces),” Pentz said. “We had plenty of rain this year. So it’s going to emulsify. It’s going to come down as whatever."
Pentz said she spoke to at least 25 people — supervisors, state officials and the Lenharts — about her concerns.
“I want it cleaned up,” Pentz said. “I don’t think it’s right that they can pollute. As far as I’m concerned, it’s pollution. It stinks.”
Supervisor's perspective: Menges said because the Lenharts have complied with local laws, there’s nothing local officials can do about Pentz’s concerns.
“(Pentz’s) request from the board seemed to me to be, ‘Change the zoning regulations' because she doesn’t like what her neighbor is doing," he said. "Frankly, that’s something we’re not interested in doing. That’s not good governing.”
Menges added he doesn’t think there’s ample evidence to show the Lenharts are the cause for the discoloration in Pentz's pond.
Zoning laws allow for the Lenharts to have the animals, he said.
They could have a horse on their property if they wanted one, Menges said, which might mean more odors and noise.