The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 28, 2014

1872 map could affect Richland-Adams border dispute

JOHNSTOWN — A surprise 1872 map introduced in a court hearing on the Richland-Adams township line dispute could affect at least

300 properties.

Originally, Adams Township asked the court to accept a survey showing about 12 properties affected. Most are currently being assessed in Richland Township, but would be recognized as Adams Township properties if the survey is accepted.

But during a hearing last month, the attorney representing Richland introduced the 142-year-old map, prepared two years after Adams Township was created out of Richland Township, said William G. Barbin, Adams Township solicitor.

The hearing was put on pause until the additional property owners could be notified.

“The Philadelphia company made a map that drew the line as coming from the point of the Little Conemaugh River,” Barbin said, noting the location at the confluence with the Little Conemaugh’s South Fork is 7,700 feet north of the long-accepted intersection of the Adams-Richland and Conemaugh-Richland township lines.

It puts much of the Mount Hope and Ragers Hill areas in Richland Township.

The old map also shows a straight-line border south to the Somerset County line, placing some Richland-assessed properties east of Scalp Level Borough in Adams Township.

Attorneys on Tuesday agreed to notify the additional property owners in case they want to be heard.

“The attorneys got together and realized there are people who could be affected who had no notice of this,” Barbin said.

Although the 1872 map’s border was seen again on a U.S. Geological Survey map around 1914 and on a state Highway Department map in 1915, Barbin does not believe the boundary location is credible.

“There is plenty of contrary evidence,” he said, noting that other older maps show the line very similar to one surveyor Frederick J. Brown of Sidman identified during his study about 10 years ago.

Adams and Richland township split the cost of Brown’s study, ordered after a traffic accident damaged the Naugle Road bridge over Sandy Run near the boundary line. Township officials wanted to know which municipality was responsible for the bridge. Brown’s work showed it in Adams.

Then there is the 1931 court ruling in a case involving Richland and Conemaugh townships. That ruling established the Richland-Conemaugh township line, but also identified the intersection point for the Adams-Richland line.

It’s right where Brown’s survey showed it was all along, Barbin said.

Richland’s attorney would not discuss the maps and surveys.

“We have had a policy of not commenting on pending litigation,” Jeffrey D. Truitt said from the Thomas, Thomas and Hafer law firm in Pittsburgh.

The current court action began when developers David Horten and Sam Carpenter proposed an 81-lot residential development along Solomon Run Road, including Richland and Adams township property.

The question arose: How many lots would be in each township? 

Developers of Watkins Glen pushed for a township line shown on county tax maps that puts most of the development in Richland. But Brown’s survey showed all but a handful of lots in Adams Township.

Any court ruling could force some students to change schools because Adams Township is in the Forest Hills School District.

Barbin said attorneys hope to notify affected residents by Feb. 12 for a hearing in early March.

Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

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