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Discussion of zoning issue contentious in Tamaqua

Published July 23. 2014 04:00PM

Representatives from Tamaqua's council, planning and zoning boards met Tuesday night to discuss the Eastern Schuylkill Regional Planning zoning ordinance and land development ordinance, a meeting which was both contentious and productive.

Tamaqua councilman Justin Startzel asked for the meeting during the borough's meeting last week. ESRP unites Tamaqua and three townships, Walker, Schuylkill and Rush, in a regional ordinance, and representatives from those entities have been working on it for about 12 years.

All four entities have approved it, and the next step is to have the plan approved by Schuylkill County. After that, there will be a public hearing, followed by another meeting where the four governing boards put it to a vote.

Two members of the Tamaqua Planning Commission, Chairman Tony Rodrigue and Timothy Stahl, found fault with the language of certain sections, especially the section dealing with accessory buildings, structures and uses. In response to a request from Tamaqua, ESRP had added language to make it easier for someone to put up a shed in a residential area.

The section states "In instances where there are adjoining residential properties where accessory buildings or structures were legally erected prior to the effective date of this ordinance, that do not conform to this (set back) requirement, then the zoning officer shall allow the applicants proposed accessory building to match the setback distances that said adjoining properties accessory buildings have."

Stahl read the section aloud, and said that because of the wording, it could be interpreted different ways. He then addressed Bob Ritsick, who is Rush Township's representative for ESRP.

"There could be some chinks in your wonderful plan," Stahl said.

Ritsick responded that ESRP had asked for input for 12 years, and had not received anything from the Tamaqua Planning Commission. He accused Stahl of "looking to nitpick," and the two men argued the semantics of the section before Tamaqua Council President Micah Gursky intervened.

"You're never going to make it airtight," Gursky said. "But this accomplishes what we wanted to accomplish."

As the sometimes heated exchanges moved on to other topics, attorney Robert Frycklund, solicitor for Tamaqua's Zoning Hearing Board, said, "I had two custody cases today that weren't this hostile."

Rodrigue and Stahl questioned sections of the ordinance that addressed self-storage businesses, home-based businesses and parking requirements for downtown businesses. Gursky said that when an entity drafts language to address zoning and land development that pleases everybody, it isn't an easy process.

"You're looking for trouble that's not there," Gursky said. "Every time we asked them (ESRP) to change the ordinances, they did it; and we put out requests specifically in a letter."

Tamaqua councilman Dave Mace suggested that Rodrigue and Stahl commit their ideas to writing and submit them to borough council, which would have to approve the ideas before making submission to ESRP.

In addition to Gursky, Startzel and Mace, Tamaqua council members who attended were Tom Cara, Kerry Lasky and Brian Connely. Frank Kane represented Tamaqua's Zoning Hearing Board. Tamaqua's Zoning Officer Josh Esposito also attended.

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