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Final draft of W. Penn water extraction ordinance nearing completion

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    Jay Land, president and owner of Ringgold Acquisition Group II, speaks at Monday morning’s West Penn Township board of supervisors meeting. Visit www.tnonline.com for a video. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS

Published January 21. 2020 01:09PM

 

The final draft of West Penn Township’s highly controversial water extraction ordinance is nearing completion.

Board Chairman Tony Prudenti said at Monday morning’s board of supervisors meeting that the township received several letters from residents who expressed their frustration with water extraction activities near their homes.

However, Supervisor Tim Houser said that much to their dismay, the township cannot regulate water extraction.

“We’ve hashed this out a number of times,” Houser said. “We’re working on a water extraction ordinance.”

To date, Houser said the township has spent close to $30,000 to $40,000 on that alone.

Prudenti said that the township can’t regulate where water is drawn from and how much water is drawn out.

Houser said government agencies override the township, and the board takes the flak.

“The Delaware River Basin Commission has our hands tied as to what we can restrict them (from extracting water),” he said. “Until we see the final draft, I really don’t have an answer for the people what we can and can’t do.”

What’s coming

Resident Karen Moyer asked the board what can be done.

“We cannot tell them how much water they can extract,” he said. “The state governing body made these rules; they placed water extraction under agriculture instead of mineral extraction.”

Houser said the township isn’t the only municipality dealing with water extraction.

Township solicitor Paul J. Datte said that the township has revised water extraction provisions that are now in the ordinance.

“There will be modified extraction provisions,” Datte said.

“There will likely be modifications to our well ordinance.”

In addition, Datte said the regulations are going to be applicable to everyone, such as commercial water extractors, single family residential owners, farms, and so forth.

“Everybody has to be treated equally,” he said.

Prudenti said the proposed ordinance requires a study.

Datte said the last component is enforcement.

Houser assured residents the board has its pulse on the issue.

“It’s not like we haven’t looked at this,” he said. “We’ll do what’s right for the township; the wheels of justice turn really slow.”

Recommendations to attorney

After a brief executive session, Datte said the township gave its recommendations to the water extraction attorney.

Along with his recommendations, the board has taken the township’s engineer’s recommendations, along with the water extraction committee’s recommendations, and then have a draft to put into the township’s zoning ordinance.

From that point, he said the board will have another meeting on the recommendation of the water extraction attorney, and then will consider the ordinance for final adoption.

Ted Rosen, chairman of the West Penn Township Water Resource & Planning Steering Committee, asked the board to detail the language of Task No. 2.

Prudenti then weighed in on the situation.

“Is there a Task 2, my answer is no there’s not,” he said.

Prudenti said two major issues include water extraction and a well ordinance, with the third matter being that of sewage.

“It’s our job up here to protect West Penn Township and the liability of it,” he said.

“We’re all in this together; until everyone is comfortable with it, it will not be adopted.”

Datte concurred with Prudenti’s sentiment.

“You have to temper your expectations by what we legally can and cannot do,” he said. “There’s a number of different sets of eyes that will look at this thing and make sure it’s right.”

Resident Todd Zimmerman told the board he’s requested a Right to Know for Task No. 2.

Regulations

The township’s planning commission held a public meeting on the proposed zoning ordinance last week.

The ordinance would regulate the uses of land and structures; signs, parking, the location and height of structures, and changes to existing structures, lots and uses that do not “conform” to the ordinance.

The ordinance would also include enforcement and penalty provisions.

It also includes zoning districts; allowed uses in each district; dimensional requirements for each district; additional requirements for specific uses; environmental protection; off-street parking and loading; signs; general regulations; administration and enforcement; definitions and a new zoning map.

A copy of the proposed ordinance is available for review at the township building during regular business hours.

Curtin & Heefner LLP Attorneys at Law are reviewing the draft water extraction ordinance and assisting the township in determining the best options.

The West Penn Township Water Resource & Planning Steering Committee and planning commission recommended authorizing attorney Jordan Yeager’s firm and hydrogeologist Phil Getty to make revisions to the draft water extraction ordinance.

The committee recommended incorporating any use that results in more than 1,000 gallons per day, with considerations for multiple wells or developments on a particular property and sensitivity to the farm community.

The township should also consider truck traffic and use, and costs and fees to the township.

 

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