July 9th update; They wrote a “Draft” of a land and building grab. It’s called: “The Blighted Property Report” presented by the Blight Committee but they didn’t sign the report. It’s being done in your name, you as part of “The People” in whose name you allow government to act. You, as I am doing, should at least respond.

You can read the “Draft” report here . You can read my response below.

CITIZENS COMMENTS ON THE BLIGHTED PROPERTY REPORT:

RE: INTRODUCTION

The report should have emphasized the decades long successful use of The Mill Race Inn as a restaurant and a wedding and celebration destination. It overlooked a scenic waterfall. Inside there was a restaurant called “The Waterfall Room” with tables next to a large window that looked out onto the waterfall only feet away which made it a preferred Bucks County destination.

The Mill Race Inn was a charming, romantic rendezvous in Holland. A beamed  Bucks County fieldstone building erected in 1787 the Inn had a magical atmosphere. The original stone walls were never covered by stucco a ploy which  became popular to cover flaws and cracks in other stone structures. The Mill Race’s old fieldstone walls were built on a solid foundation.

The Mill Race exemplified 18th century Bucks County charm. The  building has solid stone walls that are without cracks, meaning the foundation is extra strong because it was built to house an overshot waterwheel that powered a large, heavy grinding stone. The foundations were built to carry the additional weight. That’s why the foundation and the walls are in such good condition. For use as a restaurant, the foundations and walls are over-built.

The Mill Race Inn served as a distinctive anchor destination for Bucks County for over two centuries.

For countless years people enjoyed the unique character of the Mill Race. They  were disappointed when the business had to close. The quiet restaurant with a waterfall that at one time powered a commercial waterwheel used to turn the heavy grinding stone; long before the discovery of electricity, the Mill Race was used to convert grain to flour, but it was forced by nature to close for repairs.

But the Blighted property report begins with a mendacious presumption, viz.; The Mill Race is blighted.  It is not.

Instead of beginning with an Objective Analysis, the report begins with censure. The conclusion mirrors the presumption. It’s a false presumption, false dilemma, begging the question and circularity.

 If the report is accepted the Mill Race will be condemned,- taken by The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority and sold as part of a political process like what happened in Richboro with the Schoolhouse being flipped, (supposedly because of insider information), with a 300% return. Insider deals don’t make profit which is a legitimate return. Insider deals involve fraudulent conversion and should be prosecuted, not praised as profit- making deals.

The “Report” failed to note the good condition of the building. The structural integrity was flippantly condemned without a look inside the building.

The report ignored the obvious fact that the empty building was still being kept up reasonably well, which up-keep preserved The Mill Race in the rather good condition in which it is found today.

The blight committee also failed to note the building’s protection methods, the boarded up nature of the building, the strong locks and barriers to entry that are in place and intact. The Blighted Property report is extremely biased against the property.

For example, page six of the report states: “The surrounding area is adversely affected.” That’s untrue on its face because the property at Bristol Road and Buck Road, one property away from The Mill Race was just upgraded with an expensive new building. The only possible reason the report would fail to notice the really nice new building one property away from The Mill Race leads to the conclusion that the report is not to be trusted because it is untrue. The surrounding properties were not adversely affected; they were positively affected by The Mill Race. How could that be? How could a property that the Blight Committee decided was blighted affect the area in such a positive manner?  The inescapable conclusion is: The Mill Race, an irreplaceable community treasure, is in remarkably good condition.

An additional example of the biased nature of the report is: it fails to note that although there are weeds are growing in the previously grassy areas, those weeds are no different than the weeds that grow on many township owned properties including some of the parks in an environmentally sound process called “wilding” where the flora is unattended and left to grow in an as-is natural and wild condition.

The Mill Race is unoccupied. Note this well. Unoccupied, boarded, bolted and locked against entry. No one is in danger inside an unoccupied building because no one is in there in the first place. Faulty logic.

The police reports of improper activity on or in the property are non-existent; at least none are listed in the report.

The grass that the committee claims is growing too high is only visible to someone determined to go out of their way to search for high grass.

The stones in the walls of the building are intact. There are no cracks. None of the stones or bricks is missing. The siding and the general condition of the basic building appears solid. The report has no information about the interior of the building so the committee never entered it yet it presumes to know it is in a “complete state of disrepair”. What a preposterous confabulation.

The report takes the negative alternative claiming: “the building is subject to further deterioration” but the report fails to mention the building is also subject to repair and renovation after which it would pass the entire township building code and the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction code.

After all, the building was occupied for hundreds of years and met or exceeded all of the required government codes and was therefore approved by government for hundreds of years and it is still structurally sound.

Further, all property is subject to deterioration. That’s the natural effect of the weather and it’s positively mendacious to even suggest that the natural laws exempt all property except the Mill Race Inn. That’s why buildings require maintenance.

The building has several appurtenances, small and medium sized attached sheds or covered walkways over which some areas of some of the roof’s have begun to collapse but the building itself appears not only intact but the siding and the trim is generally in good appearance despite having no maintenance done in anticipation of a sale. The aforementioned covers or small roofs are easily removed or demolished and rebuilt.

The report lists two violation notices but fails to note those notices are contested and the township will hold hearings in July 2013 on the objections to the violations.  

The report on page three states, quote:

“In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused significant damage to the Mill Race Inn. In July of 2001, there was further damage when the dam broke as a result of pressure from driving rains.

To this day, the Mill Race is an eyesore, especially given its location as a focal point in the village of Holland. As a result it has a blighting influence on the surrounding area and properties.” End of quote

COMMENTS:

Neither the damage nor the further damage is listed in the report. There are a series of poorly reproduced photos but the reader is free to figure out their purpose. Perhaps the poor photos are meant to show the building is in poor condition. A short visual inspection even by one not learned in building inspection would reveal the fundamental strength of this great Bucks County Landmark.

 

Driving rains did not cause any damage to the dam. Driving rains do not cause pressure on a dam. Rains cause water and the water from rains are supposed to be carried away and dissipated by the storm drain system maintained by the township.

 

It requires prolonged high rates of rain in hours and inches per hour to increase the flows sufficient to overcome the storm drain system. High rates of rain that are properly channeled into a storm drain system do not cause damage. Improper or insufficient drainage can cause high flows. The high flow rate, not the pressure, may affect a dam.

Years ago the bridge was replaced. The dam was re-aligned. The waterfall was re-directed. The view was changed, lessened. The Mill Race Inn was damaged after the old bridge was “replaced/upgraded/repaired” by PennDOT. They had rebuilt the containment walls that direct high water, creating a situation where high water has nowhere else to go but toward the Mill  Race Inn as that’s where the containment system directs the water once it reaches the right depth.  You can look at the channel and see that once the water gets to the right depth it must shoot into the back of the Mill Race Inn.  It may have been for looks or they may have not cared or they may have done it on  purpose but the bridge replacement helped doom the Mill Race Inn.  The owners apparently lost their life savings after the water shut down their Inn. Nobody is willing to mention the bridge causing the damage.  For all the years  before that the channel was slightly different and overflow was not right into  the back of the building like the reconstruction caused.  The brothers did not
have the money/means to fight PennDot so the government is now taking the property after PennDot caused the problem in the first place.

Additionally, The streambed has been disturbed over the years by sanitary sewer pipes that have been placed in the streambed. The effects of the streambed disturbance are neither noted nor analyzed in the report.  

An eyesore is not caused because a property is a focal point as the above quote alleges. It’s not an eyesore.

Neither is a property an eyesore because its location makes it an eyesore.

The comments of the committee are self-serving, false and deceptive. They should be ashamed for writing such a bad report. the Mill Race Inn should be saved, not condemned.

In addition to not proving the point about being an eyesore, the quote from the report violates the rules of logic. The report is rife with false assertions. The conclusions do not follow from the facts because many of the facts are false.

 

Comments about: PROPERTY HISTORY AND CONDITION

The self-serving quote above: “In 1999 hurricane Floyd….” is repeated and should be ignored as biased.

 The report goes on to list 15 alleged types of violations but only two violation notices are included in the report. Violation #1 is about high grass. Violation #2 is a catch-all that contains an un-numbered list which includes violations that are simply false. The beginning of the list notes “Roof, wall and foundation damage resulting in structural instability of the building” but none of the alleged damage is listed.

An inspection of the exterior stone walls shows no cracks in the stones therefore the likelihood that the foundation is damaged is certainly low and probably only more purposeful prevarication.

 It is impossible to determine if there is any damage to the walls or foundation without an inspection of the interior of the building but there is no interior information in the report. None

 The report states: “Chimney in a state of disrepair and structurally not stable.”

But the chimney is standing straight and tall. All of the bricks are intact. There is a photo taken from an unspecified distance that shows all of the bricks in their correct locations.  

 It requires a close inspection and analysis to identify structural instability yet there is no mention of a close inspection, no mention that all of the bricks are in place and not even a dimension or any numerical information about the structural strength of the chimney. The facts that there are no missing bricks go to validate the structural stability of the chimney and the wrong conclusion in the report.

 The report states there are “Holes in the exterior walls….” There are none. Not one hole.

 

In fact all normal openings in the walls were government approved when the building was being used. All of the normal openings have been covered rather well, in some cases with lag bolts holding metal shields.

 

The report states: “Broken windows providing access to the building”. The broken windows have been covered from the inside with strong plywood thereby preventing any access through any window. Same for the doors which have been sheathed with heavy plywood or locked with wooden beams and large padlocks.  It would take an unusual assault to gain access to the inside of the building.

 

COMMENTS ABOUT “ATTACHMENT E”

The building is not occupied therefore the township code relating to occupied buildings does not apply.

The electricity to the property is off therefore there is no danger of electric shock. The gas and electric services are off. The water is off.

 

There are more exposed copper wires on the Municipal Authority Solar Array than on the Mill Race property.  In another self-serving comment the report states: “…the property remains in a complete and total state of disrepair.”

That is simply untrue.

  • The building appears structurally sound.

  • None of the exterior stone walls are breached.

  • Many of the windows have intact storm windows and screens.

  • The siding is remarkably attractive, intact and provides evidence of the care given to the fundamental elements of the historic building.

  • Heavy covers are in place and intact to prevent entry.

  • There is no evidence of entry.

  • There is no evidence provided in the report of any entry.

  • The report has a close up photo of a window with no cover on it. The intention is to show people can get inside the building. But the window is fifty feet above the ground on the fifth floor and cannot be reached with a forty foot ladder.  

  • The parking lot is fundamentally intact.

  • There is a post near the roadway that has been standing for decades and shows no signs of any damage. The idea in the report that the building is too close to the road is simply a false and inflammatory statement which runs against the evidence.

BUCKS COUNTY AND NORTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP POLITICS

Until 2012, just last year, Northampton Township has been managed by one political party often to the detriment of the citizens’ interests which were placed behind the interests of the small cadre of politicians which, for example controlled the millions of dollars of taxes and fees citizens were required to pay for the services of government. A series of scandals came to light and the opposing political party began to manage Northampton even though many contracts and agreements made during the previous hundreds of years could not be changed. Political inertia does not always work in favor of the people.

 

The effect on projects like the Mill Race are not easy to identify but getting projects approved by local and state planning boards, zoning boards, park and recreation boards, County boards of Health, Historic commissions and other people, boards and procedures can make some projects impossible.

The WAWA in Holland offers some insight. WAWA bought the shopping center and wanted to demolish the buildings and replace them with a new building and a gas station. The township, under the previous administration, made the project so expensive that it was withdrawn. It had to be cancelled because the political cost was far too high.

 

On the other hand, projects that are wasteful, like the recently approved Solar Panel setup for the Municipal Authority which was sold to the township by a candidate for Township Supervisor are approved despite objections from knowledgeable citizens who speak at the public meetings but who have no political power of influence. Some citizens complained about the solar energy project but the project was approved and constructed. The benefits are so marginal that the payback period is longer than the projected life of the solar panels. The project was approved because the Federal and State governments offered Federal Renewable Energy credits that are not available to government entities like the Municipal Authority so the bait seemed enticing but the cost compared to other alternatives was so high that without the Energy Credits the project would never be considered commercially viable. Solar Panels are not sufficiently efficient to use for electricity production.

 

CITIZENS CONCLUSIONS

The Blighted Property Report for the Mill Race Inn is extremely biased, superficial, self-serving and essentially false. The report should be condemned and withdrawn.

Then we should work to restore The Holland Mill Race Inn.

 

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