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Somerset Borough suing Divinity Investments, owner of Cherry Lane Estates

September 22, 2018

Somerset Borough has sued the owner of Cherry Lane Estates in an attempt to recoup more than $300,000 in past-due water and sewer bills and force the cleanup of 14 fire-damaged trailers.

On Sept. 14 officials filed two civil complaints against Divinity Investments, of Chambersburg, in the Somerset County Court of Common Pleas. The first requires the company to pay $321,773.89 in water and utility services.

“Divinity purchases water for the Park in bulk through the Borough’s single master meter, maintains private water and sewer lines to service individual mobile homes, and discharges sewage collected from the lines in the Park into the Municipal Authority’s water and sewer system at a single connection point,” the complaint states.

In April 2017, Divinity and borough officials signed an agreement to help Divinity pay off delinquent water and sewer bills. This agreement included clauses requiring Divinity representatives to provide written reports every two weeks to the borough and “aggressively” deal with water leaks on the property.

“Since May 25, 2017, Divinity has failed to pay the monthly water and sewer charges and the monthly $2,000 payment as required,” the complaint states.

The borough’s other civil complaint holds Divinity responsible for not cleaning up fire debris and not securing unoccupied mobile homes. The complaint says there are 14 fire-damaged or destroyed mobile homes in the park, with 64 vacant and unsecured mobile homes owned by Divinity.

“The unsecured remains of the fire-damaged or destroyed mobile homes create a haven for vagrants, unauthorized persons and scavengers, a habitat for rodents, and an unsightly and hazardous condition for the remaining residents of the Park, and their invitees,” the complaint states.

Copies of both complaints, along with the borough’s agreement with the company for payment of delinquent water bills, can be found on the left side of this web page.

Cherry Lane has been the site of 13 fires and two attempted arsons since early May. Police also believe two fires set on Sept. 18, 2016, and July 5, 2017, both at 122 Gary Lane, were set by the same individual.

Borough solicitor James Cascio said he could not speak on the record to the Daily American about the complaints, saying in a statement that it’s the borough’s policy “to not discuss pending litigation outside of court.”

“The complaints reflect the borough’s assertions that the landowner is and will remain responsible for the conditions on the property and for the full amount of the utility services provided,” he wrote in his statement.

Borough Manager Michele Enos said the borough has estimated the cost to demolish each trailer at $5,000 to $10,000.

As of Thursday, authorities were not able to deliver the civil complaints to Divinity Investments and owner Thomas Mongold. Divinity has 20 days to respond to the complaints once served.

Somerset Borough police attended a civil hearing before District Judge Ken Johnson Thursday involving Roof Garden mobile home owner William Anderson and High Top LLC, which is also owned by Mongold, who was expected to attend. Anderson claimed High Top was not complying with the state Manufactured Home Community Rights Act of 1976 regarding lot rents and increases.

Johnson awarded more than $6,100 in monetary damages to Anderson, and Mongold never appeared despite High Top filing an intent to defend the company at the hearing.

During the hearing, parks manager Cindy Duerring said Cherry Lane residents have not received an invoice from the owners in four months. Residents have been putting their rent money into an escrow account.

Somerset Township Municipal Authority manager Carolyn Zambanini said the authority has a $180,157.29 lien against High Top for unpaid water bills at Roof Garden mobile home park. Zambanini said there are no plans to shut the water off at this time, with authority members trying to work with High Top on the bills.

“They make payments,” she said. “Of course the balance is a concern for us, and we’re working towards trying to get that resolved.”

Divinity Investments officials and Mongold did not return calls from Daily American reporters Wednesday. In a June phone interview, Mongold said county and local officials are responsible for cleaning up debris from the trailer fires.

“They went to the tax sale last year, and Somerset takes possession of those homes,” he said.

Mongold added no homes in the trailer court are insured.

Jane Rizzo, county chief assessor and tax claim bureau chief, said Divinity Investments still owes $64,621.31 in delinquent taxes on trailers and land in the 104-lot park. The estate is listed on the county’s upset tax sale list. The sale is scheduled for Tuesday.

″(Divinity Investments) does have up until the time of sale at 11 a.m. to pay that,” she said.

Rizzo added two people have come to her office to make inquires about purchasing the estate.

County upset tax sale search: http://www.co.somerset.pa.us/pages/taxsale.asp

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