MIDDLE SMITHFIELD TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Township officials are taking legal action against the new owners of a once-iconic attraction in the Poconos.
A Buddhist group wants to turn the former Fernwood Resort into a ‘World Peace Center’, but a massive fire four months ago put those plans on hold.
From the road, the former Fernwood Resort still looks rundown.
“It’s not very attractive and it’s unsafe,” says Annette Atkinson, Supervisor, Middle Smithfield Township.
But there are two noticeable additions; new signs and a Buddha statue covered in tarp.
“Cosmetically, there’s not been much improvement,” Atkinson observes.
In early June, a fire gutted one of the property’s main buildings. Eyewitness News was there as one of the owners arrived to check out the damage.
Today, the burnt-out structure still stands.
“We really had hoped that structure would be torn down by the end of September, that’s what we were told,” explains Judith Acosta, Zoning Administrator, Middle Smithfield Township.
During a recent spot inspection, the zoning officer also realized people are occupying unsafe buildings without proper permits.
“Using the building for sleeping quarters, office work, conferences, there were some people in there working on artwork,” Acosta adds.
Middle Smithfield Township has just filed an injunction against the owners.
“An injunction is basically a time-out. It asks everyone to stop what they’re doing until things can be sorted through,” Atkinson explains.
Township officials say the new owners have been cooperative, but the main concern is safety.
“A fire could happen. I mean, the electrical hasn’t been inspected. Anything can happen,” Acosta says.
A Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal has not determined what caused the fire in June.
The Township’s legal action will now make its way through the court system.