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Time is running out for seasonal residents of Shelly, Beshore islands; Sept. 30 is the deadline

By David Barr

davidbarr@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 9/1/17

Families who have used Shelly and Beshore islands for generations are now facing the strong possibility that those days will be over when this month ends.

On Sept. 30, recreational lot licenses …

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Time is running out for seasonal residents of Shelly, Beshore islands; Sept. 30 is the deadline

Posted

Families who have used Shelly and Beshore islands for generations are now facing the strong possibility that those days will be over when this month ends.

On Sept. 30, recreational lot licenses between York Haven Power Co., which owns most of the Susquehanna River islands, and their tenants on Shelley and Beshore islands expire. Barring a compromise, about 250 seasonal residences no longer will be accessible, other than for owners to remove personal items. The residences would be torn down by fall 2019.

“It eliminates a community of people who have been here for as long as I can remember at least,” said Derek Krehling, spokesman for the Lake Frederick Homeowners Association, which represents residents of the islands.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, Londonderry Township board of supervisors chairman Ron Kopp, manager Steve Letavic, and solicitor Jim Diamond held a press conference to reaffirm that the township “really didn’t have a choice” in this matter. The sticking point is floodplain ordinances and insurance, and the involvement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In April 2016, Londonderry Township and York Haven Power Co. entered into an agreement that said the power company would cease issuing recreational lot licenses to island residents at the the conclusion of September 2017.

The township was under pressure from FEMA to begin strictly enforcing its floodplain development ordinance, which was adopted in March 1980 but rarely enforced on the islands for most of its existence. Londonderry Township, officials say, must get into compliance or lose the ability for any of its homeowners to buy government-backed flood insurance. If it fails to meet FEMA standards, it will lose eligibility for all types of disaster relief, including infrastructure repairs following floods in the township.

“We don’t have a choice,” Kopp said.

Lisa Milbrand, a Lake Frederick Homeowners Association board member, is one of those people who has been coming the islands for years. Her parents installed a residence on Shelley Island in 1988. Milbrand has a residence a few hundred yards away from her parents’ place and a bit farther up from Krehling’s residence.

“These aren’t just summer homes, this is a community of 500 families that would give and do anything for each other,” Milbrand said in a text message. “It’s not only an impact on us as island residents, it will impact all surrounding communities.”

Said Krehling: “This compliance agreement eliminates millions of dollars in equity the homeowners have invested over the last several decades. It also eliminates an estimated one million dollars annually the islanders contribute to the local economy.”

Legal action?

Krehling said it is too soon to say if the association will file a lawsuit to allow the association to try to implement its plan before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“If we decide we have an avenue of litigation based in sound legal action, and not just a stunt, we rule out nothing at this point.” Krehling said in a text message. He wouldn’t go into detail about it would take for a lawsuit to be filed or the time frame.

York Haven licenses about 180 lots of Shelley Island and about 65 on Beshore Island, according to Dauphin County records. About 20 lots on Bare’s Tip at the southern end of Shelley Island are privately owned and leased. 

There are about 500 total island lots in the township. Three other river islands are also home to summer retreats. Sixty properties on Beech Island are privately leased to cabin owners under a perpetual 99-year agreement, while lots on Hill Island and Popular Island are also privately held.

What would happen next

There are three key dates in this process. The first is Sept. 30, when the recreational lot licenses between York Haven and the tenants or island users expire. As part of the agreement between York Haven and the tenants, tenants have 45 days to remove their personal items and other property from the islands. That is the second key date, which is Nov. 14. The third and final key date is Oct. 31, 2019, as that is when all buildings must be removed from the islands.

In the time between November 2017 and October 2019, the islands are not open to residential use. However, there is no rule or agreement preventing future use of the islands after October 2019, provided the builders are in compliance with the floodplain ordinances.

“We know it’s a very emotional issue,” Diamond said, echoing Kopp saying that the township “really didn’t have a choice” when it came to coming into compliance and continuing to receive insurance and aid from the government.

Compromise offered

Krehling said he is aware that some, not all, properties would have to be demolished and replaced, but he believes the rest can be brought into compliance if given the opportunity to do so.

The association has an alternate plan that it believes would work in everyone’s benefit.

There are three requirements that must be fulfilled with the plan, Krehling said: Residences must be in compliance with FEMA regulations, York Haven must be in agreement with the plan, and there must not be a financial cost to the township with bringing the properties into compliance.

The association’s plan calls for the association to do its own lot assessment and develop engineering plans for each lot. Then it would come down to how the buildings would come into compliance. Either the association would pay for the repairs and the individuals would reimburse the association or each individual would pay for the repairs, bypassing the association.

No sale

The Press & Journal reported in August 2016 that lawyers representing the homeowners association had contacted York Haven about purchasing Shelly and Beshore Islands.

According to Krehling, that option was not feasible as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the governing agency for power plants, would have to give permission to release Shelly and Beshore Islands from its control.

Calls to representatives of York Haven on Friday were unsuccessful.

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