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Chester County Press

Historic store closes in Landenberg

05/05/2015 01:23PM ● By Richard Gaw

The Landenberg Store, a veritable institution that dates back to 1872 and known to thousands of locals as the unofficial town center of Landenberg, officially closed its doors last Wednesday, April 29.

Bill Skalish of Landenberg Village, LLC – the owner of the store – said that he and his wife, Beth, are currently interviewing parties who have expressed interest in taking over the business.

Skalish said that he and his wife have been surprised at the number of people who have approached them about the store.

"Based on our conversations, they all seem to want to make modifications in order to make the store more representative of a traditional country store," he said. "One couple suggested incorporating gourmet foods and dry goods as part of the business. It will be up to them what their business model will or won't be."

Skalish did not discuss the financial terms of the new lease, which he said will be drafted and finalized when the new tenant turns the key on the re-opening of the store.

Mary O'Connor, the Landenberg Store's previous tenant, had run the business with her husband, Tom, since January 2005. Over the course of the next decade, the business became the subject of intense, legal wrangling between O'Connor, the Landenberg Village, LLC, New Garden Township and other agencies.

The problems began even before O'Connor turned the key to the store for the first time. Three days before she was to open the store, O'Connor received a site visit from the Chester County Board of Health. A pre-operating inspection revealed that the septic system was overflowing and had to be pumped immediately, and on Jan. 6, 2,000 gallons of raw sewage were removed.

The septic system is located directly behind the Landenberg Store and is shared by the store and the occupants of the hotel.

By 2011, the sewage violations at Landenberg Village reached as high as the Chester County Health Department, who threatened to close the store. On April 19, 2011, Landenberg Village, LLC received a letter from the Chester County Health Department stating that a sewage enforcement officer from the department conducted an inspection of the property, and found "what appears to be raw or partially treated sewage effluent being discharged onto the surface of the ground. "This condition represents a serious health hazard," the letter read, and was in violation of five subsections of the Health Department's rules and regulations. Landenberg Village, LLC received a similar letter from the Health Department on Aug. 26, 2011.

O'Connor argued that a long-term sewage system that tied the current system into a stream discharge system to a nearby sewage treatment plant located across Penn Green Road from the store and hotel would be a more viable and healthier option. Rather, the choice of sewage removal chosen by Landenberg Village, LLC was been a pump-and-haul system.

On Oct. 5, 2011, a sanitation establishment inspection form provided for the store by the Chester County Health Department observed nine sewage overflows on the Landenberg Village property. The letter cited Chapter 46 of the Pa. Food Code Subsection 46.83, which states that sewage shall be disposed through an approved facility - an individual sewage disposal system that is sized, constructed, maintained and operated according to section 7 of the Pa. Sewage Facilities Act.

In a letter from the Chester County Health Department dated Oct. 7, 2011, Landenberg Village, LLC was cited for violating Chapter 500, Subsection 502.3.1.2 of County Code, which states that "no individual sewage disposal system, community sewage system, privy, cesspool, urinal, or other receptacle for sewage shall be constructed, maintained, or used which directly or indirectly drains or discharges over or upon the surface of the ground or into the Waters of the Commonwealth."

In a Nov. 2, 2011 letter to Landenberg Village, LLC from township Zoning Hearing Board member Winifred Moran Sebastian, the business was asked to have their sewage system fully compliant "with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, ordinances and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Chester County Health Department and New Garden Township," in addition to being given 90 days to modify its sewer/septic system, internal and external plumbing; and 90 days to install a grease interceptor in the Landenberg Store.

For the past several years, O'Connor expressed her displeasure to New Garden Township for granting Landenberg Village, LLC several extensions in order to meet these compliances, and particularly after the New Garden Board of Supervisors granted Landenberg Village, LLC the right to use a pump-and-haul sewage disposal system. The supervisors gave approval to restate an existing ordinance to establish regulations for retaining tanks for sewage in the township. Ordinance No.199, passed by a 5-0 vote, authorizes that the township, the Chester County Health Department or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit the use of holding tanks within the township as "necessary to abate a nuisance or public health hazard," and is applied to any institutional, residential or commercial establishment, providing that the daily flow of sewage does not exceed 800 gallons.

Under the guidelines of the amended ordinance, Landenberg Village, LLC is permitted to use the pump-and-haul form of sewage extraction, indefinitely.

Skalish said that he does not believe that the pump-and-haul system in place near the Landenberg Store will serve as a deterrent to someone interested in taking over the store, and said the he has no plans to modify the septic system or its current form of septic removal.

"It's operating efficiently, serving its purpose and doing well," he said. "It's also approved by the Chester County health Department."

Although Skalish chose not to comment on the specifics of his legal issues with O'Connor, he said that he was looking forward to having a new tenant in the store. He gave no timeline for when that transfer will happen.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].