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Dallas Twp. strikes down gas law, adopts new tactic

Municipality has 180 days to pass amendment to “cure” current zoning deficiencies.

Carol Culver holds a handmade sign asking supervisors to say "No" to a proposed ordinance.

AIMEE DILGER /The Times Leader

DALLAS TWP. – Supervisors struck down a proposed amendment to change its current zoning ordinance to include regulations on natural gas activities Tuesday night.

Instead, the board approved a resolution giving the township 30 days to address the “inadequacies” of the current zoning ordinance and 180 days to pass a curative amendment.

“These things aren’t used very often,” said Solicitor Thomas Brennan. “We can only use the curative amendment procedure once every three years, so please, no more emergencies, no more new things in the township.”

Brennan urged the board to enact a portion of the municipal planning code that allows municipalities to deem zoning ordinances “invalid” in terms of specific activities prior to making a decision on the ordinance amendment, which was proposed in early April.

He said this is because he wanted to ensure a pending ordinance doctrine, which was enacted when the proposed amendment was publicly advertised, would be in effect until the supervisors made a decision on the ordinance.

The resolution passed would give the supervisors an additional 180 days to make changes to its zoning ordinance. Brennan did not want any lag of time, “even … a fraction of a second,” between the two proposed items because then the pending ordinance doctrine would be null and void.

Supervisor Phil Walter said the township received “a lot of e-mails” about the proposed ordinance before he and Supervisor Frank Wagner denied approval of the proposed ordinance amendment, resulting in applause from residents.

The resolution states due to “natural gas processing, production, transmission, odorizing, metering, filtering, maintenance, communication and related activities” proposed in the township, “… Dallas Township has an associated desire for more customized regulation of such activities to the extent permitted by law.”

At a public hearing last Thursday, about 50 residents packed the township building in opposition of the proposed amendment, which many felt was lacking in terms of specific aspects of the natural gas industry.

Many were pleased with the board’s decision, despite some carrying signs indicating that the supervisors were not listening to residents.

“It’s a very sound, wise choice made by attorney Brennan,” said resident Liz Martin. “It’s protecting all sides of this.”

The township currently has two zoning applications pending decisions – one for Chief Gathering LLC’s application for special exceptions to build a metering station off Hildebrandt Road, and another from Williams Field Services LLC for special exceptions to build a metering station about 500 feet away from the Chief site.

Brennan said he will go over applications to see if any apply to the current resolution, but he said the resolution will work “prospectively, not retroactively.”

What’s next

The next supervisors meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. May 18 in the municipal building. A zoning hearing for Williams’ application to build a metering station will be May 16.

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