NEWBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Melissa Negley is the newly elected mayor of Newburg. For the past several years, she has been in a court battle to save part of the home where she lives with her husband and five kids.
A Cumberland County judge ordered her to tear down part of her house and threatened her with jail if she refused.
“It has been terrible to have to deal with,” Negley said.
Negley purchased the historic home on East Main Street in 2015. She had it inspected and made sure the property title was clear.
“It was a girls’ seminary in the 1800s, and whenever that closed down they split it into two homes. There were no easements recorded,” she said.
The previous owner built an addition on the back of the home in 2008, seven years before Negley bought it.
“He was approved. There’s his permits, his plans, his inspections, minutes from the borough meetings saying they approved his permits and it complies with all of their codes and their ordinances,” Negley said.
Negley had no idea the renovation would turn into a lengthy legal battle with her neighbor, Barry Starliper. One year after her family moved into the house, she and her husband were served with papers.
“Papers saying that we are being sued. I believe the original listing is they wanted five feet of the house torn down,” said Negley.
Starliper was suing for an easement to access the exterior brick wall of his building for maintenance and claimed the addition caused damage to his home.
“He would like to put windows and a vent in and he wants to maintain the siding he intends to put up,” said Negley.
In 2018, Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jessica Brewbaker granted the neighbor a five-foot easement. Negley appealed to Superior Court which took another year. The state court agreed with Brewbaker’s ruling, but there was still confusion about the renovation and whether it had to be removed.
“The Superior Court read it and said, well, she is not ordering you to do that, so we aren’t going to rule for or against because it wasn’t ruled on to begin with,” said Negley.
Brewbaker then issued an order in December of 2019 clarifying.
“She gives me this order saying I have 30 days to remove two-and-a-half feet of the addition off the back of my home or I will be in contempt and arrested,” said Negley.
According to experts, there is case law to support the easement granted by the judge. The neighbor’s building extended past Negley’s before the property was split and the addition on her home was built after.
There is also case law to support Negley’s argument.
“My argument is when someone builds something and eight years goes by. You shouldn’t all of a sudden have a right to tell someone to tear it down. If you sit on your rights, you should lose your rights,” said Negley.
Negley says the court battle has already cost her thousands of dollars and will cost thousands more if she has to tear down and rebuild her home. She would also lose part of her washroom and a second-story bathroom.
Negley’s attorney is asking the Superior Court to review the judge’s ruling, which could put the threat of jail on hold for now.
“I’m hoping I get to keep my house and every inch of that addition stays where it is,” said Negley.
ABC27 spoke to Barry Starliper on the phone He said he would contact his attorney before commenting.