The south driveway of the Starlite Inn in Hermitage is at the center of a dispute between the owners of the inn, who have been granted an easement by a judge to use it, and the owner of the property the driveway is on.

As Robert Elia speaks, you can almost hear the Rolling Stones’ song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” playing in the background.

As Elia tells his story, he hasn’t been able to get a decent attorney or judge for his civil cases. He speaks of the judicial system and judges and their decisions as “ridiculous,” “radical,” “nonsense” and “a farce.”

Earlier this year, Superior Court reinstated a jury’s decision that went against him in a lawsuit stemming from an accident in which he was injured. Last week, the court rejected his appeal in a land dispute.

“It’s an example of the bad legal representation and poor decision by judges, but has nothing to do with fairness and honesty,” said Elia, of Hermitage.

Superior Court, in a decision handed down Nov. 17, backed previous rulings by former Mercer County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Wherry and Judge John C. Reed.

Wherry set out these facts:

In 1967 and 1968, a corporation Elia controlled bought two parcels of land on the west side of South Hermitage Road. On the northernmost property, which is 350 wide and 650 feet deep, sits what is now known as the Starlite Motel. A 50-by-650-foot property to the south is undeveloped, but Elia had an auxiliary entrance to the motel on it. The main entrance to the motel was on the north side of the property.

Elia owned the land until 1996, and he sold the motel property to Parth Inc., which later sold it to Chitra Corp. A successor corporation, Hermitage Hospitality Corp., now controls it. He still owns the driveway property to the south.

Elia said there was never any discussion about Parth buying property for the southern driveway, or otherwise securing its use.

In the mid-1990s, PennDOT widened South Hermitage Road, installed curbs where none had been before, and built a 10-foot-high retaining wall on the west side of the road, which is the east side of the motel parcel.

Elia built two tiers of railroad ties and trucked in dirt on the driveway parcel, blocking about half of the driveway.

Elia said he installed the ties and dirt to improve the appearance of the lot and help direct storm water that the road widening had caused to come onto the property.

He also sent a letter to Parth saying he was ending the company’s use of the southern driveway. Parth sued and Common Pleas Judge Thomas R. Dobson issued an injunction preventing Elia from blocking off use of the driveway.

Elia said he had to remove the work at his own cost, and is responsible for maintaining a usable driveway.

Wherry later determined that the remaining driveway, on the north side of the motel property, was steep, creating hazardous conditions when it becomes wet or when snow falls or ice develops. Parth claimed the driveway had to be closed at times.

Wherry also accepted Parth’s claim that about 10 vehicles coming in the driveway had crashed into the motel.

Traffic exiting the motel from the north driveway cannot properly see traffic in either direction.

Elia argued that he never had any problems with cars or garbage trucks using the north entrance, and only one accident.

Wherry granted an easement by necessity. The “nature and topography” of the north driveway renders it unsafe for exiting motorists, and occasionally unsafe for those coming in, especially during bad weather, he said.

“With only the north driveway, Plaintiff is unable to use its land for its intended purpose,” Wherry concluded.

That decision rendered the driveway parcel virtually unusable, Elia said Wednesday. He has wanted to develop it, but some franchises who have shown interest will not buy it without control of the driveway section, he said.

Buyers do not want to be stuck maintaining a driveway for a neighboring business, or take on the liability for a driveway someone else is using, Elia said.

In his appeal, Elia said photographs and testimony about the accidents should not have been entered into evidence, testimony about other possible solutions to the problem should have been allowed, and Reed should not have denied a post-trial motion for relief without reviewing the testimony of the original hearing.

According to Elia, the testimony about photographs and accidents was uncorroborated by police reports, insurance claims or any other means.

Elia said no one considered moving the driveway to the center of the property, but Wherry said in his decision that a relocation is not possible because most of the motel is below the elevation of South Hermitage.

A three-judge panel of Superior Court said the photographs were properly admitted because they made Hermitage Hospitality shareholder Amrut Patel’s testimony “more intelligible.”

Patel’s discussion of the accidents also was proper because he was describing what he saw of their aftermath, the court said.

Elia was prohibited from discussing what could be done to improve the condition of the northern driveway after Patel’s attorney objected that Elia was not an expert. Superior Court agreed and noted that Wherry had specified that Elia said he intended to call two PennDOT engineers to testify, but never did.

Concerning Reed’s decision, Superior Court said Wherry had written two opinions, both with extensive findings of fact, discussion and conclusions. Reed had ample basis from these opinions on which to rule, and Elia never presented any information from transcripts that was not apparent elsewhere in the record of the case.

Elia said Wherry and Superior Court have allowed Hermitage Hospitality to take his property without compensating him.

“It’s theft of my property,” he said.

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