The Schuylkill County Zoning Hearing Board held a hearing Thursday evening at the courthouse in Pottsville on whether they have jurisdiction to rule on the application of a Pittsburgh Company seeking to build a cargo airport located partly in East UnionTownship and partly in Kline Township. At the conclusion the board decided to take under advisement the arguments presented and will make a decision at a next board meeting on Nov. 18. Regardless of the decision the losing party will probably file an appeal to the county court.
The dispute is over an application filed by Gladstone Partners, LPC, seeking a special exception to the county's zoning ordinance to construct an International Cargo Airport with accessory facililties and a business park on property it has leased from Butler Enterprises. The 13,000 feet runaway would be constructed on land restored from a strip mine operation.
Strong objections are voiced by residents of East Union Township. The township had come under the county's zoning ordinance because it did not have one of its own. However, in June 2009 the township adopted its own zoning ordinance and is now contesting the jurisdiction of the county zoning board claiming the application should be heard by the township zoning board. The attorneys for the township also argued that the county zoning officer returned the application to Gladstone because it was not proper and that Gladstone never appealed the decision.
The jurisdiction question was raised before Judge John E. Domalakes who tossed it back into the hands of the county zoning hearing board to make a decision whether it had jurisdiction and that was the reason for the hearing.
If the board rules on November 18 it has jurisdiction then the hearing will resume on whether Gladstone should be granted permission to build the cargo airport and if it rules it does not have jurisdiiction the issue ends before the county board without any decision on the application.
Gladstone at the hearing presented copies of meetings held by the township supervisors in which remarks were made by two supervisors that the people of the township opposed the airport indicating they would not get a fair hearing before a township zoning hearing board.
The rebuttal by the township was testimony by a professional planning consultant, John R. Varaly, who said he assisted the township in preparing the ordinance in June 2009 at which time they discussed airports and other projects and it was the feeling of the board they should have their own boards to control what should be built in the township and many residents complained of having to travel 25 miles to Pottsville to get a zoning permit.