PHILIPSBURG — A discussion took place at a recent Philipsburg Borough Council meeting about borough alleys and who owns them.
Borough Manager Joel Watson said there are some alleys in town where it’s up in the air on who actually owns them.
“We get calls every winter,” Watson said on the matter. “The borough abandoned 99 percent of them — other than the ones we named streets.”
Watson said it’s something that keeps coming up and didn’t know if it would be something that council could decide on.
Solicitor Patrick Fanelli said there had to have been formal action by the borough years ago in opening the alleys. However, the later “lack of action” would be the evidence that the alleys are not public.
Fanelli said council could technically “ratify” something about the alleys, but stated he didn’t think that was necessary.
“If you haven’t been acting as if they’re open, then our position is they’re not open,” Fanelli said.
Watson said they’ve had some instances where residents argue they are right of ways and that others are parking in them and blocking access. Watson stated he was always under the impression that when they were abandoned, each of the property bordering the alleys were given back the land — with one property taking one half of the alley and the other property on the other side taking the other half.
“But it’s not in writing,” Watson said. “That’s why it’s (an issue the engineers are looking into) because they’re doing some surveying for some commercial properties that have a gray area.”
Fanelli then described how alleys are given back, citing they are essentially split in half as how Watson previously mentioned. However, there can be instances where “private rights to use the alleys” could exist and vary.
“If there’s an alley that runs down for a certain block, each of the owners on that block might own half of the alley that’s adjacent to their property, but they own it subject to the rights of all the other people on the block that use it,” Fanelli said. “That’s something the borough’s out of.”
Fanelli said they had previous instances where residents have wanted the borough to decide on neighborly disputes like this, to which they had previously decided not to do.
After further discussion, council decided to continue as they have been in regard to the matter — as it is no longer borough property.