August 30, 2016 - Special Meeting

The Special Meeting of the Montour Township Board of Supervisors was called to order on August 30, 2016 at 6:35 p.m., by Chairman Joseph Mullen. All members were present.

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
A Moment of Silence was observed.

Joe Mullen, Township Chairperson, announced that no actions would be taken at this time due to the fact that the advertisement stated that the meeting was being held for discussion on the Comprehensive Plan.

Mr. Mullen stated that there was confusion to a Motion that was made at the July 14, 2016 Supervisors meeting that stated as follow;

A Motion was made by Mr. Mullen, and seconded by Ms. Ebright, to send the Comprehensive Plan back to the Planning Commission to;

  1. The note designated as X on the map be deleted. (Intensive Farming)
  2. The area marked VI to remain Conservation.
  3. Relook at the corridor of Rt. 11, between Tower Drive and Valley Road, for Village Cluster Housing.
  4. The area marked II to remain Agricultural, anticipating cluster development.

Motion carried, 2 votes in favor, Mr. Bennett opposing.

Mr. Mullen explained that it was decided to hold a Special Meeting regarding the Comprehensive Plan because after several months of the review, and suggestions, the Supervisors and Planning Commission have not come to an agreement. Both parties agreed that they should discuss each topic in detail to avoid any further confusion.

Linda Woodward, Planning Commission Chairperson, stated that there a lot of areas that are not clear, largely due to the fact that discussions on the Comprehensive Plan took place 1 ½-2 years ago. Over that period of time the Planning Commission has addressed a number of questions, objections, etc... She believes Mr. Mullen’s are legitimate requests that she needs to have clarification on so that the Planning Commission can address each question. Ms. Woodward stated that she would like Mr. Mullen to reiterate the reasoning behind the major change recommendations to the final plan. She then asked Mr. Mullen to focus at this time on the last paragraph on page 2 of the motion, and on page 3 of the motion where it is summarized. Ms. Woodward would like the Supervisors to make any comments they have, then the Planning Commission make their comments, and finally the public.

Mr. Mullen stated that he has done a lot of reading and research, which is why some of his answers or opinions may have changed.

The note designated as X on the map be deleted. (Intensive Farming)
Mr. Mullen stated that there is a range, the first being “we would like you to do something” and the second “we want you to do something”. The “want you to do something” side runs into the laws of the land of Pennsylvania that says you cannot tell farmers were they may farm. In other words the Township can run up against a farmer notifying the Attorney General’s Office which could ultimately result in a lawsuit.

On the other hand, Mr. Mullen stated, as you read documents the Comprehensive Plan sets a model plan for what the municipalities would want to do with their land. You actualize that a variety of ways with Ordinances and specific actions. His concern is how do you actualize a recommendation? He went on the say that you can state “we would like you to go here” but a farmer does not have to follow that recommendation. Mr. Mullen stated that after reading the Planning Commissions meeting minutes for the past 2 years you can see there is an effort to move Intensive Agriculture to an area that will have less of an impact on the Township. In themselves they are not significant, but lead groundwork that if someone were to challenge the decision they could refer back to the minutes and say these are some of the rationales of why you have decided on what you are going to do. Mr. Mullen finished by saying the Township is in-between a rock and hard place. You can make a recommendation but it doesn’t mean anything if it is not concrete, however if you make it concrete you run the risk of going up against the Attorney General. This is why he asking this topic to be dropped.

Lori Ebright, Township Treasurer, stated that so many times the people don’t realize how tied the Supervisors hands are, but when it comes down to it this is the law. They cannot tell a farmer where they may farm.

Forrest Bennett, Township Supervisor, stated that this is confusing to him because it has gone through a number of professional outlets (Professional Planning Consultants, Engineers, and Attorney’s) and not one of them has mentioned that they could not do this.

Ms. Woodward mentioned that Joshua Turner, and Paul Krisher, are newer members of the Planning Commission and were not involved in putting the Comprehensive Plan together, but asked if they had any questions or comments on this topic.

Mr. Krisher stated that he understand what both Mr. Mullen and Mr. Bennett said. He agreed that the Township was in-between a rock and a hard place.

Mr. Turner did not have a comment at that time.

Mr. Mullen stated that he would like to respond to Mr. Bennett’s comment. Several years ago a meeting was held in the fire hall where the Supervisors voted on this issue; 2 for, 0 against, 1 abstained. The attorney, who represented Montour Township at the time, had also represented Locust Township on the same type of matter. Locust Township was trying to regulate where they could do this. There were a whole series of sub arguments, some of which the courts sided with the Attorney General, some they opposed and some they would not hear. In the end the court said that the Township could not regulate the location. Mr. Mullen read a synopsis from the Planning Commission’s Open Meeting held on April 15, 2014;

Rick Vanderpool-Can the Township regulate a location better suited for Intensive Agriculture. We have Agricultural butting Residential. Can the Township disprove Agriculture by looking at Residential use?

Jerry Walls-The Township has an Ag Secure area that is an absolute right to farm. The Township does not take into consideration you by zoning districts. Property owners with land butting Agriculture Secure land must realize that the farm is protected.

Karen Vanderpool-What latitude would the Township hold with this Ag Secure petition?

Jerry Walls-Only extraordinary conditions would dissolve the Ag Secure area.

Linda Woodward- The State may eventually regulate all Agriculture. The Township can review this Ag Security area in 4 years.

Forrest Bennet- Can new people join the Ag Security area?

Solicitor Roberts-Must the petition be added?

Mr. Mullen concluded by saying; in other words the Supreme Court had decided that Intensive Ag is considered normal farming operations.

Bob Webber stated that the Planning Commission did attempt to find the area that Ag Secure would do the least harm to the Township. They did not feel that it was possible financially, to get an exact lineage of the location. Mr. Webber reiterated Mr. Bennett’s comment by saying that no professional has told them that it can’t be done.

Ms. Woodward reminded the Planning Commission that they will be listening to both sides, taking notes, and at their regular meeting they will be discussing the pros and cons and coming up with a decision. She stated that there will be no motions made on the Planning Commissions part tonight, and that this meeting was for educational purposes only. There was further discussion on this topic.

Ms. Woodward stated the that the reason the Planning Commission chose that specific area designated X was because they;

  1. Anticipate there being growth in the rest of the Township in the future.
  2. In 20 years or so the Planning Commission and Supervisors would have an option to define that area.

Ms. Woodward turned the floor over for public comment.

Mr. Cleve Hummel stated that as members of the Planning Commission they took their charge to address the issues of all the citizens of the Township not just the farmers, and what their reserved, preserved, and protected rights were. They tried to take the common sense approach. The areas off Valley Rd. are the natural corridors for increased residential and commercial development in our Township. That was confirmed by their conversations, surveys, and professional planners that took place for over a year and a half. They looked at what they could do to encourage residential growth within the Township and still provide for intensive farming operations. Mr. Hummel mentioned that we are not dealing with the Scott Sponenberg farm, we are dealing with Hatfield Farms, and if Hatfield Farms knows that our community has designated area for intensive farming they are going to make an economic business decision to go there. If you look at some of the exhibits and some of the laws that were brought with regard to farming operation you will note that that land did not need to be contiguous with the intensive farming farm. As long as they had the acreage to spread manure wherever. It is not an uncommon practice to take high quality, nutrient rich waste and transport it to other areas to spread. Mr. Hummel also stated that he had done some research on the law for Agriculture Security and Chapter 14A. Agricultural Area Security it states;

Under §907 (2) Use of land proposed for inclusion in an agricultural security area should be compatible with local government unit comprehensive plans. Any zoning permit agricultural use but need not exclude other uses. (3) The landowner may propose to include all of his land, regardless of zoning, in an agricultural security area.
Under §911 (a) General rule.—Every municipality or political subdivision within which an agricultural security area is created shall encourage the continuity, development and viability of agriculture within such an area by not enacting local laws or ordinances which would unreasonably restrict farm structures or farm practices within the area in contravention of the purposed of this act unless such restrictions or regulations bear a direct relationship to the public health or safety.

Mr. Hummel asked; doesn’t it make much more sense as a planner looking towards the future of this community to say, we are going to do those studies, and we’re going to find out, outside of the pressure of impending litigation what the permeability is of our rock? How much pollution can get down through that will impact our water sources for our residential areas?
Mr. Hummel then read for the Municipality Planning Code;
Under §301.1 Commercial Agriculture production may impact water supply sources.

Mr. Hummel went on to say in other words the State does recognize that intensive commercial agricultural facilities have an impact on our natural resources, water that we need for all of our citizens. Part of the Planning Commissions charge is to plan for a reliable supply of water. Only the studies will show the area above Legion Road would have a lesser impact on less residents. This way the Township is not arbitrarily going and placing this intensive agricultural zone somewhere, they would be saying, “we have done the studies, this is where it is good to do this, and we are not harming the majority of our citizens.”

Mr. Hummel stated that every seven years the decisions will come up for review. He then read from Chapter 14A. Agricultural Area Security

Under §900 (b) Interim review.—If, when the seven-year period, 10% of the land within the agricultural security is diverted to residential or nonagricultural commercial development, the governing body may review the diversion and may request, in writing, that the local and county planning commissions and the agricultural security area advisory committee study its review and make recommendations within 30 days of the written request.

After more discussion on testing Mr. Hummel asked; do we invest now in sound planning, or do we let the individual businesses that are better well-funded than the citizens of this Township and then let them technically push around the citizens of our Township because our government did not invest of in them.

Mr. Mullen stated the studies have in fact been done. The U.S. Geological Survey has, with different levels of sophistication, mapped out all the soils in the every county, and every state of the United States. This is assuming the soils have not been disturbed. If you were to go into the cities, the soils that have been mapped out 30-50 years ago don’t exist as such anymore. These findings tell us that some of the locations are not good to build on regardless of how close they are to the highway, how close to bedrock it is, the nature of the soils, the types of soils that are favorable or unfavorable to farming.

Mr. Hummel mentioned that on page 87 of the Comprehensive Plan that was done in 1990 states that;
Soil conservation—Physio graphically Montour Township is not generally suited for large scale commercial farming operations, except for tree farming. This is excellent for the draining of soils in our Township.
Mr. Hummel said the Comprehensive Plan states that according to the classification system established by the PA. Department of Agriculture, the Townships best soil characteristics ranked only at the 3rd or 4th on a scale of 8. The basic problem identified was that the quality of soils was good but the shallowness and location of soils made it highly subject to erosion.

Mr. Hummel stated that the Planning Commission knew this would be a hot topic so they have identified this area to be where the least amount of people would be impacted. They felt that if they had the studies done that could then identify the characteristics of the soil, the shallowness, the depth, and the absorption rate they could best place it in an area that was less populated. He viewed his time on the Planning Commission as trying to be flexible so that if they had the proper tools to make a rational location that is what they would do but they obviously had no ability to get the money to do so without go to the Township. He stated that all politics start at a local level and if our own Supervisors are unwilling to look at what we can do to help our population in the future as well as now, we will always be in Groundhog day, and years from now the Planning Commission will be in the same position asking the Township for funds to have this testing done.

Mr. Mullen asked Mr. Hummel why we have to test soils. The Planning Commissions first map show that is where the agricultural area is. Again why do we have to test soils to know whether we can recommend somebody to go there when they can go?

Ms. Woodward stated that that location was chosen for future anticipation and Supervisors and growth in the Township, this will have the least impact. Testing is for future Supervisors and engineers to refer to when growth in the Township happens.

Mr. Mullen asked Max Stoner, Township Engineer, what more testing would he recommend be done beyond what has already been done by the USGS.

Mr. Stoner stated that they use that as a preliminary basis for their design. Sometimes the local Agriculture services will come out and do testing, topography being one of the biggest. Within the last 5-6 years they have made it so you can get the topography in almost all of Pennsylvania at 2’ contours, which is called LIDAR.

Ms. Woodward asked if she is correct in saying that a preliminary investigation of suitability of a location would not be an expense that is overwhelming.

Mr. Stoner stated that it all depends on what information you want to have available. The USGS has already mapped the topography and soil compositions. Geologic maps are also available. Between the three of those things he did not think you need that much additional testing at this point. If an individual farmer or co-op is going to purchase a property they are going to do their own testing site specific.

Mr. Hummel mentioned that §907(b) states;
Resource material.—in considering the viability factors as set forth in this section, various resource materials shall be used, including, but not limited to, the follow:

  1. Soil surveys of the Pennsylvania State University.
  2. Soil surveys and other information provided by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.
  3. Soil survey maps prepared by the United States Soil Conservative Service.
  4. The United States census of agricultural categories of land use classes.
  5. Any other relevant published data, maps, charts, or results of soil or land use surveys made by any county, State, or Federal agency.

Mr. Hummel stated that when Mr. Sponenberg Sr. took up the vocation of being a farmer, he probably never envisioned having a Hatfield intensive feed operation, but things change. As processes evolve then the demands on our uses change as well. For anyone to say today that they are going to be a farmer forever when the economics are such that they can’t sustain their families with that, they are going to look at selling off some if not all of their land.

Ms. Woodward stated the Planning Commission is looking to prepare the Township for the changes that will or may occur.

Mr. Mullen asked, where do we draw the line for testing?

Ms. Woodward stated that at the next Planning Commission meeting they will discuss the specific reasoning for locations chosen.

Dr. Gerry Powers stated that when you are talking about the law, no matter what you do or how many maps you make, someone is going to be dissatisfied and sue the Township. You are not going to avoid lawsuits by having definite lines. You can’t fund the Township if you are spending all of your money on lawsuits.

Mrs. Tracy May, former Planning Commission member, stated that she felt that during her time on the Planning Commission they tried to get ahead of the game to avoid lawsuits in the future. What will it hurt to draw the lines if they can go wherever they wish?

Mr. Bennett mentioned that he had attended at Cleveland Township CAFO meeting where a Hatfield Farms spokesperson made the comment that they look for Townships that lacked zoning. He feels if they look at our map and it says you can go here, no questions asked, they are going to be all over it. He also mentioned that he does agree with why test if they don’t have to spread on that land anyway.

Mrs. Nancy Powers asked if Agriculture Security is something that a farmer applies for himself, and if we don’t have any farmers currently in these areas why should we invite Ag Security?

Ms. Woodward answered by saying it is not a matter of inviting, and yes the farmer himself applies for Ag Security designation. Since we already have an Ag Security area, they can join. Likewise any farmer who wants out of Ag Security may ask to get out of it.

Mr. Vanderpool stated that he feels that there is a general agreement between all parties that the area involved can be delineated, and by after a lot of work doing this all the other chips will fall into place. In conclusion the Planning Commission should go back and draw the lines. The Planning Commission years from now can eliminate those lines, but for now they are in place.

The area marked VI to remain Conservation.
Ms. Woodward stated that the area marked at VI is an extension of the Highway Commercial, and the premise for that was that they anticipated adding an overlay to Highway Commercial that would allow townhouses, condo’s, are intense residential development.

Mr. Mullen stated that when he started going to MS4 meetings it was noted that the first area that Montour Township will have to address is Montour Run which runs up against the area designated as VI. This area allows development that will increase hardscape, which minimizes water percolating into the soil. What the Township is doing is creating a larger footprint while being asked to reduce the footprint. Mr. Mullen mentioned that this is his primary objection.

Ms. Woodward asked Mr. Stoner to give a synopsis as to what MS4 means for the Township.

Mr. Stoner stated that MS4 is a rather gray area. Normally Montour Township is not a large enough to be required to have an MS4 program but because Route 11 and 42 runs through the Township Penn Dot is forming a damn that eventually will flow into Montour Run. MS4 is unique to each municipality. There have been some municipalities who have charged their people a fee, commercial properties obviously are charged more. The purpose of MS4 is to use the best storm water practices. Mr. Stoner stated that what they are doing at Susquehanna RV is best management practice which would address the MS4.

Ms. Woodward explained for those who haven’t seen it that Susquehanna RV is developing a large impervious area for parking their RV’s. To take the water that was going to run off that section of the building they have implemented 3 successive pools where the water will slowly dispense into Montour Run.

Mrs. May asked if the Township has a storm water Ordinance and if so why is this even an issue.

Mr. Stoner stated that not only does that Township have to approve it but because of the size of Susquehanna RV, the County Conservation District has to approve it. Because of the size of Susquehanna RV an NPDES permit was required. Once the county finds out you an MS4, they are not going to recommend approval for any development until the Township requires it or the developer adheres to those requirements. From what he has seen in other municipalities he feels you can keep the zoning there but they will have to meet the MS4 requirements. Any fees for these requirements would be charged to the developer.

Ms. Woodward stated that even if the Township leaves this area Highway Commercial and doesn’t overlay, we still need Route 11 to be Highway Commercial for economic reasons. She also stated that at this time she does not personally have a problem discussing at their next meeting, moving that concentration of residential type housing to another section of the Township where it can be accommodated more easily. Ms. Woodward asked how we get sewer and water to the other end of the Township to encourage development. The first part is to say we want development and we anticipate it. If for example a developer comes to us and wants to put in a bunch of shops, the Township can say this is where we want you to go, and we are going to go to the State for money. You cannot go to the State and ask for money because it is Conservation and that shows the State that the Township did not plan for it. Ms. Woodward stated that that was the reason behind the Commercial Expansion.

Mr. Hummel stated that zoning can be changed in an Ag Security area as long as it does not impinge upon the framing methodologies and the ability to do whatever the farmer wants to do there.

Mr. Mullen stated that MS4 is getting stricter, so we need to get stricter.

Mr. Stoner stated that each municipality has to develop their own program.

Mr. Bennett feels this is a moot point, and as the State says you have to change, we tell the developers they have to change. He thinks the Planning Commission should stick with their recommendation.

Mr. Webber agreed with Mr. Bennett in saying, by requesting the developers to abide by the stricter rules and they decide they do not want to follow them the Township can tell them they will have to develop somewhere else.

Ms. Woodward stated that development will not happen if it is not economically feasible.

Topic 3
Relook at the corridor of Rt. 11, between Tower Drive and Valley Road, for Village Cluster Housing.
Ms. Woodward stated that between Tower Drive and Valley Road which is currently Agricultural, the suggestion was to add cluster housing. She mentioned that the Planning Commission did not have a problem discussing this at their next meeting.

Topic 4
The area marked II to remain Agricultural, anticipating cluster development.
Ms. Woodward stated that the Planning Commission has recommended that the area between Welliver Road and Quarry Drive be changed from Agricultural to Suburban Residential.

Mr. Mullen stated that some of the best soils available in the Township are in that area. The current zoning does not stop multiple or large developments. He feels keeping it Agricultural allows the Township to keep some of its uniqueness.

Mr. Bennett disagreed with Mr. Mullen’s statement of the Township losing its uniqueness because of the fact that you can still develop there even if the zoning is not changed.

Mr. Webber stated that he believes that the area designated as II, is one of the better areas for housing. The Township needs more tax revenue. He felt that the people coming from Geisinger or Bloomsburg University would find this area a nice place to live because of its location.

Ms. Woodward stated that development has not made it to that area because they cannot get sewer there.

Mr. Mullen stated that he had a conversation with John Bauer, Sewer Plant Operator, who said if you use a standard of a 3 bedroom 2 ½ bath home; the current sewer plant could increase 50% and still do its job. His general recommendation for the Township would be to run a separate line as close as you can to the pumping station, if or when the time came for an increase.

Mr. Hummel stated that he felt that was the area that made the most sense for development because it is contiguous to Golden Valley, which is the more recently developed land in the Township.

Mr. Vanderpool mentioned that to make that designation now to Suburban Residential it lets the people who are doing their exploratory work know that this area is a possibility. He mentioned that this is a plan for the future of the Township.

Ms. Woodward mentioned that she had an email conversation with Mr. Klingerman regarding the topics of the Special Meeting and changing area II from Ag to SR. She stated that after a few emails back and forth, Mr. Klingerman felt as long as he can keep farming that is fine.

Ms. Woodward stated that Cooper Township has already done a change of zoning to SR. Sometime in the future Cooper Township will bring sewer down and there will be a pump on Grovania Drive, if we connect to it we can go right into Danville. She mentions that there is water and sewer possibilities and we need to plan for them. If you do not plan for it the tax basis is going to grow and the people who are still here will have to bear the burden.

Mr. Vanderpool feels that the zoning needs to be rewritten. The wording is very specific which leaves no room for flexibility.

The Meeting was adjourned by Chairman Joseph Mullen at 8:30 p.m.,
Respectfully Submitted,

Danielle Berkes
Township Clerk