“Common courtesy” should guide neighbors' access to private alleys

Date: November 1, 2017

Ferguson Township encourages residents who live on private lanes and alleys to allow neighbors through-access as needed.

There is no statute to regulate the use of private lanes and alleys because they are, in fact, private property.  Steven W. Bair, EFO/CFO, Fire Director and Chief of the Department, Centre Region Council of Governments, said private lanes are always a challenge when they are shared among property owners.

“In Pennsylvania,” he said, “property owners are the ‘kings of their castles’ and have no obligation to assure access to their property."

But common courtesy should guide owners in allowing through-access. “Everyone sharing a driveway should have access of use," Bair said. "This is by no means an unreasonable expectation. Ambulances and fire apparatus both need 10 feet minimum (12 feet preferred) just to pass through. In order to operate (that is, get in and out of the vehicle and have access to equipment carried on these vehicles), the width should be about 20 feet clear.” 

There may be some exceptions if the private way serves a rental property (access as mandated by the Property Maintenance Code). If new development such as a commercial structure or multi-unit rental building would be affected, the private way would need to be upgraded with access maintained.

Residents who have additional questions or concerns may contact the Township at (814) 238-4651.