Feud over horse, alpaca manure takes tough turn in Zerbe Township
ZERBE TOWNSHIP - Dean Whary says township officials aren't doing their jobs to rid the community of a nuisance - which reportedly includes the stench of alpaca manure.
Carol Whary, his neighbor and stepmother, says the township shouldn't be involved in a family dispute in the first place.
No matter who is right, Zerbe Township's zoning board, supervisors, code enforcement officer and police department have found themselves in the middle of this long-festering family battle between Trevorton Road neighbors.
After more than two years of trouble, it came to a head this week when Carol Whary was arrested for not paying an ordinance violation fine from April. But it doesn't appear that's going to end this unique dispute.
Dean Whary, of 465 Trevorton Road, Zerbe Township, just 50 yards east of his stepmother's house, has addressed Zerbe Township supervisors at meetings repeatedly over the last six months, asking them do so something about the manure pile on the property of his neighbor and stepmother, Carol Whary, 439 Trevorton Road (Route 225), about a half-mile east of Trevorton.
She maintains two horses, six alpacas and a rooster at the home she once shared with her husband, Haven D. Whary, who died in November 2010.
"I don't have any problems with the animals. It's the manure and the fact its been there for two years that bothers me," Dean Whary said in an interview at his home on Thursday. "In the summertime, it stinks that bad that you can't even open up your windows."
He pointed out one pile from a distance on Thursday that appeared to be about 10 feet long and 3 to 4 feet high.
The township tells him they have done all they can, citing her for code violations, and encourage Dean Whary to take further action on his own.
He believes, however, the township simply needs to enforce its laws.
"There is a court order on the books from action that the zoning hearing board and the supervisors brought up first," he said. "Why are they backing away from it now?"
Todd Kerstetter, zoning board solicitor, said it's a difficult situation.
"Zerbe Township has to tread very carefully when being brought into the middle of a dispute between neighbors," Kerstetter said. "Our only issue is that the property owner is not following conditions imposed on their variance, and we have to uphold the integrity of our decisions and codes."
Township solicitor Roger Wiest would not comment on the matter, citing the fact he has done legal work for both parties, and referred all questions to Kerstetter.
Variance for animals
In 1994, the Wharys applied to the township zoning hearing board for a variance that would allow them to raise horses on land split between manufacturing and residential zones. The board approved the variance, but imposed two conditions: the horses cannot come within 200 feet of Route 225, and that they "clear their property of manure on a regular basis so as not to create a nuisance."
The Wharys appealed to Northumberland County Court and later to Commonwealth Court, but both entities affirmed the conditions set by the township.
Complaints from neighbors began after Haven Whary's death, prompting a letter from Kerstetter on April 18, 2011.
"There is no question that the animals were within the 200-feet prohibited zone," he wrote about his visit to the property four days earlier. "Moreover, piles of manure are not to be stored on the property, and there are two large piles in plain view."
The letter said enforcement action would be taken if the situation was not remedied.
Four months later, code enforcement officer Ronald Lesher issued a 30-day notice to Carol Whary to either correct the problem or file an appeal with the zoning board. Neither was done, and a citation was issued.
At an April 24, 2012, hearing before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III, Carol Whary was found in violation and fined $100. She was also ordered to pay $350 in attorney fees. It wasn't the first time she was cited by code enforcement.
For her part, Carol Whary believes the township is overstepping its bounds because of her step-son.
"The township should have nothing to do with this. This is a civil family dispute because he (Dean) didn't get what he wanted," she said, accusing him of not being satisfied with the distribution of his father's property after his death.
The 60-year-old widow accuses Dean Whary and others of tampering with her mower (which is why she was cited for high grass, she claims), throwing firecrackers at her alpacas, shooting BB guns at her windows and cutting her fence.
Dean Whary says none of that is true - and that township and state police have proven that with their investigations - except for the fence-cutting. But he had a good reason to cut it down: "She put up the fence on my property," he said.
He confirmed that and gave her 60 days to take it down. When it wasn't removed, Dean Whary said he cut it down. When she had it erected again, he cut it down again.
As for removing the manure, she said the no-trespassing sign Dean Whary erected prevents her from getting a truck down the hill to the pole building where the manure piles are located.
"I can't get a truck down there to have it hauled away," she said.
The animals are her friends, are very well cared for and she wouldn't give them up, she said.
As for her stepson's disdain for the manure, she said, "I don't know why he has a problem now with the smell when he used to clean the stalls."
Chief, constable arrive
Carol Whary, who authorities say has ignored repeated attempts to have a bench warrant served on her for the unpaid fine and costs dating to April, was outside discussing the dispute with a reporter and photographer when Zerbe Township Police Chief Robert John pulled up to her home, which sits close to the highway.
He later told The News-Item he was driving by and saw her outside, then checked with Constable Glenn Masser to see if the warrant was still active. It was, he was told, and so he turned around and came back.
"Carol, there is a bench warrant out for your arrest, because of unpaid fines," John informed her.
Masser soon arrived, and Whary was handcuffed and taken into custody. She remained calm, and shook the reporter's hand before being transported to the Shamokin office of Magisterial District Justice John Gembic III, who questioned her as to why she hadn't made a payment.
"I've tried to take care of it," she said, noting she has been sick and that she didn't have any heat at the start of the winter and used what money she had to buy a heater.
Gembic released Whary and set a payment determination hearing for Feb. 21. On that day, Whary, represented by a public defender, will discuss the money she owes to other sources and work out payment arrangements for her fine.
"I don't want to put a 60-year-old lady in jail," Gembic told here, "so we will meet to try to arrange something."
"I will do what I have to do in order to get it straightened out," Whary told the judge.
Meanwhile, John on Thursday bumped up the township citation on the manure to a civil complaint, and a hearing for that is set for the day after the payment hearing.
"Defendant has not paid the fine and fees and has made no efforts to clean up the manure pile or otherwise comply with the ordinance and decision of the zoning hearing board," the complaint reads. "In light of the continuing violation since August 2011, the township is requesting daily fines in the amount of $500 per day."
Quality of life
Meanwhile, Dean Whary says what upsets him most is that the township established the variance 19 years ago but continues to say "it's a civil issue" whenever he raises it.
"They filed the citations and applied for the court order, but the supervisors say they don't want anything to do with it," he said. "What about our quality of life?"
"Whatever is going on between the two of them is their dispute," Kerstetter replied. "We will not be put in the middle of it because of our one code enforcement issue, which is a small part of it all."