By Kristen Wagner
VALENCIA, Pa. – The passing of a new Zoning Ordinance on November 10 in Clinton Township restricts property owners of multiple acres as to the plot sizes they will be permitted to sell or transfer.
Many questioning residents of the township have been participating in the Board of Supervisor’s meetings that are held at the Clinton Township Municipal Building to discuss their concerns with the Board.
According to the Zoning Ordinance, the new regulations are being mandated to encourage beneficial growth and protection of private property in the Township while keeping the density of development consistent with existing Township facilities. The Clinton Township Zoning Ordinance and the Clinton Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance were both passed by the Board of Supervisors unanimously.
The new Zoning Ordinance also defines the intentions of the new regulations. They are intended to regulate the density of the population as well as the location and use of buildings, structures and land for residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial and other purposes. They also regulate the height, bulk, number of stories, size and placement of buildings and structures and divide the district into townships of such size, shape and area. The Zoning Map is deemed best suited to carry out these and more regulations. It also establishes procedures for the administration, enforcement, amendment, and relief from hardships under certain circumstances.
“I don’t like to lose my rights,” said John Shaw, a Clinton Township resident. “I’ve assumed that by living here I would be able to subdivide my lot into different one acre divisions. I wonder if I would be better off under the old zoning law,” he said.
Shaw explained his hardships with the new Zoning Ordinance as intimidation. “I’m tired of people speaking on my behalf without people asking me what I want or don’t want,” he said. “None of us fully understand the ramifications of this. They are devaluing our property.”
Shaw also explained that he looked over the new Ordinance very carefully and found many subtle mistakes within it. “I’ve tried to digest the ordinance, but between the Zoning and the Subdivision Ordinances I have found 16 differences in the meanings of simple definitions. The definitions are unclear, misleading and improperly written, and this is crazy that we’ve adopted and enforced something when the definitions don’t even match,” he said.
Shaw said he also found 76 definitions that weren’t referred to in the Subdivision Ordinance that were in the Zoning Ordinance.
“I’ve looked over the Ordinances several times myself,” said Mary Zacherl, Chairman, “and I haven’t noticed what he was saying about the difference in definitions. It may be that the two different Ordinances require different wording, but nonetheless we can make changes after 30 days.”
The new Ordinances take effect five days from enactment. According to the board, changes to the new ordinance can be made after 30 days of the adoption. Changes to the old Ordinance were made as they became necessary, and that is what will happen with this one as well.
“There’s no way I would have been involved in this project for so long if I thought that it was going to send us to the dogs,” said Zacherl. “I feel very strongly that what goes on in this township is what’s for the best of the township; this is us for all of us.”
“I believe that this is an acceptable compromise for conservation and development; the whole Township makes each one of us rich. It’s not my goal to cause any detriment to the Township,” said Zacherl.
The residents that attended the township meetings were also focused on correcting the confusion of the new ordinance.
“This is and has been very confusing to everybody,” said Gary McCall, township resident. “They should be here for the interests of the people and listen to what they have to say. They’re here to vote for our best interests, not just theirs,” he said.
“What’s the big rush to get all of this done now?” asked Shaw. “I don’t like all of the intimidation. This is a low-blow.”
Different Planning Commission meetings were held earlier in the year where the supervisors spoke with the public and discussed the proposed ordinances. They weren’t as willing to discuss all of the details and different circumstances after the ordinance was passed, even though residents still had many questions.
“I feel like I answer all of the same questions over and over again,” said James Halstead, Vice Chair of the township. “If we would have left the floor open to discussion again everyone would have gotten very emotional. We check comments on the website very often, and the residents also write letters to us. It’s not that we’re not listening, because we are and we have been for four years. It’s just that now we had to take some sort of an action.”
Halstead said the final drafts of the ordinance were the result of four years of planning, more than 40 meetings and more than 100 hours of work. He also explained that the new ordinance addressed many deficiencies of the previous versions.
“I have great trust in the motives of the new ordinance,” said Halstead. “Everyone has been focused on the well being of the Township. Any ordinance proposed will never please everyone. I think this is a good compromise.”
People who were opposed to the new ordinance were not the only ones that were present at the meetings. There were also some people in attendance that supported the updates. “Even at the Planning Commission meetings there were conflicts, but compromises were agreed upon so that everyone could move forward,” said Judy Wagner, a Clinton Township resident.
“These people are focused on determining the best for the community,” said Wagner. “They’re trying to accommodate everyone, but as we all know, that isn’t possible. They’re doing what they can do.”
Zacherl said that the board has added another option into the ordinance because of all the negative comments. The new option is a cluster design that leaves 50 percent of the property open space while allowing a few 2-acre lots.
“Today it was time to put-up or shut-up and just move on,” said Zacherl.
As shown on the new zoning map of Clinton Township, the zoning laws divide the Township residents into different land area districts. The dark green areas on the map depict conservation areas. These areas allow for only one dwelling on each ten acre parcel of land. Light green district areas allow only one dwelling on each five acre parcel of land.
“We’re threatened because we’re growing, but there are no statistics for these ordinances,” said Ed Boyd, Clinton Township resident. “There’s no need for the new ordinance based on the density of the township. This is only going to lead to lawsuits.”
Boyd said that he didn’t understand why no changes were made concerning the complaints.
The three members of the board explained that what they do is governed by the state legislature. They insist that they’re not working against the good of the public and that they want the best for everyone as well. Each of them stated that they love Clinton Township and they’re not focusing on destroying it. What they are doing is looking out for the good of it.