November 1, 2016 - Regular Meeting

Linda Woodward called the November 1, 2016 Planning Commission meeting to order at 6:30pm in the municipal building, Rupert, PA.

The pledge of allegiance was recited.

Present: Chairman Linda Woodward, Vice Chairman Forrest Bennett, Secretary Robert Webber, Josh Turner and Paul Kreisher.  Also present:  Zoning Officer Tim Mauk and Professional Planner Jerry Walls.

The agenda was accepted as drafted.

MOTION Robert Webber, second Paul Kreisher, to approve the minutes of October 4, 2016 as drafted.  Motion carried. 

Comprehensive Plan – Session with Professional Planner Jerry Walls
A memo from Solicitor Richard J. Roberts, referencing the “proposed rezoning of part of an Agricultural Security area from conservation to Highway Commercial” was discussed.  The Agricultural Area Security Law (the "AASL") precludes a municipality from enacting an ordinance which would unreasonably restrict farm structures or farm practices within the area.   Due to the fact that animal husbandry, a farm practice, is prohibited in a Highway Commercial District, rezoning an area presently zoned Conservation, where animal husbandry is permitted, as Highway Commercial would violate the AASL. The memo pointed out that the Agricultural Security Area Handbook makes it clear that an Agricultural Security Area designation stays with a property even after it has been sold.  The only way a property can be removed from an Agricultural Security Area is through the action of the property owner or a formal hearing process conducted by the municipality pursuant to the AASL.

Linda Woodward asked if the Township in anticipating Highway Commercial and future removal of the property from Ag Security, would it be proper to add a note to designate a future Highway Commercial zone for the area South of Route 11, to where the slope in topography becomes too steep for significant development, and West to Grovania Drive, from the east line of the area already zoned Suburban Residential.  Jerry Walls believes this is a question for the Township Solicitor. Clear steps would have to be outlined and taken before the Zoning Officer could issue a permit for the area.  The US 11 / Valley Drive corridor is suitable for more development, but the legal rights of the farmers enrolled in the Ag Security Area preempt a change of use to commercial or residential until those farms are voluntarily removed from the Ag Security Area by the farm owner.

Jerry Walls spoke on Intensive Agriculture:  He stated it is important to utilize wording that is clearly defined.  “Intensive Agriculture” wording can raise questions as to what types of agricultural businesses and agricultural operations / practices are allowable.  It would be preferable to rely upon terms defined in PA statutes such as Concentrated Animal Operation or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.  The definitions in the Comprehensive Plan should make specific reference to the appropriate PA statute.  Mr. Walls advised revisiting the Comprehensive Plan for how it may be applicable to CAO or CAFO agricultural uses.  He said the Comprehensive Plan is not a regulatory ordinance.  The Penn State University Extension Staff should be contacted to help define best management practices that would minimize the frequency and duration of odor releases.  During manure application on farm fields and cleaning of barn and related facilities some odor may be unavoidable.  Since the Southwest area of Montour Township lies in a rather confined air basin valley and most of the residential development in Montour Township lies east and downwind of prevailing air flows odor release is a major quality of life issue.  Regarding the question whether a generic area can be encircled on the Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map for CAO and CAFO type agriculture use, state in the text that the Southwest part of the Township is the most appropriate for CAO and CAFO uses and utilize major obvious features such as roads or streams as generalized limits rather than a generic circle.  A buyer of a property in the Intensive Ag Zone must be made aware of this designation.

A municipality has legitimate responsibility to create the context in which private development can be accomplished and be economically sustainable.  That entails zoning classification which enables the desired development.  In order to create the context for economically sustainable development it may be necessary for a Township to invest in the extension of public sewers to the desired development area.  Cluster developments, Commercial and/or Mixed Use Commercial/Apartment or Townhouse Residential developments will need public sewers but are also essential to enable amortization of financial obligations to extend public sewer lines

It was asked if the Township should outline a new sewer line designation when rezoning for housing development.  More density than single family housing is needed before water and sewer development.  A Condominium or Cluster Housing developer can have ownership of a joint sewer and water system for a development.  Existing sewer and water lines will encourage development.

Conditions of approval can be added to any development. A municipality has responsibility to protect public health, safeguard property values, protect streams and groundwater quality and provide for safe adequate roads and travel conditions.  Conditions, such as road conditions, acreage for manure management, well testing etc., added to a plan should have signed approval by both the Planning Commission and the applicant before being sent to the Supervisors for their approval. 

Discussion of the change from Agriculture Zone to Suburban Residential of the section from:  Valley Road  North to Ridge Road,  from the 500 kV power line West to Quarry Road, to include  Golden Valley Estates with that area East of the 500 kV Power Line to Welliver Road to remain under Agriculture zoning.  Jerry Walls advised the potential for a larger development in this area may be considered by a developer if water and sewer are planned.  Jerry Walls noted that the Board of Supervisors has final approval power on all zoning changes.


Subdivision and Land Development Process
The Planning Commission asked Jerry Walls if he would create a hand out for applicants that would clearly outline and define the steps to be taken to guide them in the Subdivision and Land Development approval process.

Planning Seminar
It was recommended that the Planning Commission attend the 2017 Planning Seminar in State College.

Planning Publications
Jerry Walls distributed a list of recommended publications from the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services. 

Professional Planner Contract
The Planning Commission stated it will support Jerry Walls continuance as Professional Planner for 2017.  Jerry Walls will send his 2017 contract to the Supervisors.

Public Comment
Zoning Officer Tim Mauk asked if the Comprehensive Plan addresses flooding.  Where will people in the flood area be able to relocate?  Flood insurance rates have been raised that people can’t afford to have insurance and may just abandon their homes. 


The meeting adjourned at 8:15pm.

Respectfully submitted,


Robert Webber, Secretary, Montour Township Planning Commission