Sandy Beach’s proposed sale brings back memories and raises concerns

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HARVEYS LAKE – Sandy Beach, once one of the area’s most popular public destinations for swimming, sunbathing, dancing and watching drive-in movies, is up for sale and the question isn’t what a new owner will will do with the legendary site, but rather what can be done with it.

The asking price for the historic 3.29-acre property, with over 200 feet of waterfront, is $2.5 million and it contains eight subdivided lots and what is apparently a right-of-way from Lakeside Drive to the shore of Harveys Lake.

The property once belonged to the late Dr. Joseph Lombardo and his late wife Mary Lombardo and is now in the hands of their estate.

Zoning boundaries

The property is zoned C-3 which limits the use of the property unless zoning deviations can be obtained.

Michelle Boice, member of Harveys Lake Borough Council and licensed real estate agent, said permitted uses for a property in a C-3 area allow for “commercial recreational facilities; essential public utility facilities; forestry; private recreational facilities; public recreational facilities; public uses; and uses incidental to those listed.

Any other use would require a zoning change, Boice said.

Also at issue, Boice said, are sewer permits. She said only one was issued for a parcel on the property and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) placed a moratorium on approving new sewer permits.

Boice said the situation is reviewed every two years. She said most Harveys Lake properties are hooked up to a sewer system, but several properties still use private septic systems to dispose of sewage.

“Sandy Beach is a beautiful site,” Boice said. “I’m sure we’d like to see it put to good use. But it’s a pipe dream to think it could be a beach again with a drive-in cinema. He was barren for many years. We hope this turns out to be something good for Harveys Lake.

DEP Comments

DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said sewer services for that part of Harveys Lake are under the authority of the Dallas Area Municipal Authority (DAMA) and the General Municipal Authority of Harveys Lake (GMAHL).

“Both authorities remain under a connection ban,” Connolly said. “This means they cannot connect any property to the sewer system due to past sewage overflow issues and until they can demonstrate compliance.”

Connolly said DAMA had a consent order and agreement with DEP which was signed on June 21, 2019.

Connolly explained that the DEP does not directly issue sewage permits to property owners to allow them to connect to local collection systems. She said these permits are issued by the local authority, and in this case it is GMAHL and DAMA.

“The DEP does, however, provide sewer connection allowances to DAMA and GMAHL,” Connolly said. “Where each entity demonstrates that it has effectively eliminated excessive amounts of infiltration/influx from its respective collection/transportation systems, then such allocations are authorized by the DEP. Sewer connection permits are then issued to property owners at the discretion of DAMA and GMAHL.

Connolly also noted that there is a small portion of the Sandy Beach property that the DEP considers wetlands and that there would be some restrictions on the property if developed.

Efforts to contact Harveys Lake zoning officer Maureen Oremus were unsuccessful. The office was closed on Friday.

The listing agent for the Sandy Beach property is Ben Piccillo of Century 21. Piccillo said the property is located between pole numbers 192 and 195. The site is located near the state boat launch area . Piccillo said the lot contains eight subdivided parcels.

History of “The Beach”

Brian Orbin, 24, lives by the lake and has become an expert on its history. Orbin is also the founder of The Harveys Lake Record, a media and historical society that deals with all things lake related, not to be confused with the Harveys Lake Historical Society. Orbin founded The Record in 2012 with the goal of helping preserve the history of the lake for current and future generations.

“So much information gets lost over time, even with things like this, so it’s nice to have somewhere people can turn to when things are in question,” Orbin said. “As a keeper of the lake’s history, I’m always happy to help pass on whatever I can, whenever needed.”

Orbin provided historical information about the lake and Sandy Beach in particular:

• Sandy Beach opened on July 4, 1925 and operated until 1974, when a fire broke out in the original restaurant which served as a cafeteria, arcade and had a dance hall on the second floor . After the fire, Sandy Beach was not reopened to the public and two years later the dance hall/restaurant and bathhouse were dismantled.

• Sandy Beach was known as “Wyoming Valley’s Seashore at Home” and at its height in the 1950s and 1960s, several thousand visitors came each summer. The buildings were demolished in 1976 and in 1980 the property was sold for $150,000.

• The Sandy Beach Drive-In Theater was a large gravel/grass lot that was divided into multiple lots over the decades. The drive-in cinema screen can be seen in some of the images attached to this story.

“I would like it to reopen as Sandy Beach and open to the public,” Orbin said. “Not public like in a state park, but as a business with hours where people can come during the day in the summer and enjoy Lake Harveys like many generations before me did. Personally, I’d love to give my time, effort, and money to help develop it into something where the community could come together.

Orbin said it would take a lot of community involvement to make something like this happen.

“I’ve been involved in the Harveys Lake story for over a decade now and have spoken to many people over the years about the possibility of making part of the lake public again,” Orbin said. “Especially something along the shore. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has always been in favor of making something public. Now would be a good time to take action and a good time for people to use these words – a time to show they actually mean what they’ve been saying over the past decade.

Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

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