Towanda's zoning ordinance amended to comply with Act 13
TOWANDA - To make sure Towanda Borough continues to receive revenue from the gas impact fee, the Towanda Borough Council recently passed an amendment to the borough's zoning ordinance that makes the ordinance comply with Act 13.
The council passed the amendment without comment at a special meeting on Thursday.
"Act 13 says that if a municipality wishes to collect its share of the impact fee, its zoning ordinance must be in compliance with Act 13," Towanda Borough Solicitor Leonard Frawley had said at a June 19 meeting of the Towanda Borough Council. "The purpose of the amendment is to make sure the borough is in compliance with Act 13. If not, the borough becomes ineligible for funds (From Act 13)."
Act 13 requires that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed, The Associated Press has reported.
However, under the amendment that was passed, gas-related facilities such as wells, water impoundments, and compressor stations could not be located in the borough's residential districts, because of the large setbacks that would be required from buildings. For example, wells would be required to be located at least 500 feet from a building in a residential district, Towanda Borough Council member Shannon Clark has said.
"We couldn't think of anyplace" in the borough's four residential districts that is not within 500 feet of a building, said Clark, who also serves on the borough's planning commission and who had previously reviewed the proposed amendment at a meeting of the planning commission.
The proposed amendment "won't affect residential properties, mainly because we are so small. It is to cover Towanda Borough-owned properties," Clark has said.
Clark has also said there is not enough land available in Towanda Borough to accommodate a compressor station or water impoundment.
The Commonwealth Court had struck down Act 13's restrictions on zoning ordinances as unconstitutional, but the matter was then appealed by the Corbett administration to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has yet to hand down its ruling.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Commonwealth Court's ruling, the borough council would have the right to rescind the amendment, Frawley has said.
If the Supreme Court reverses the Commonwealth Court's ruling, "we would want to be in compliance with Act 13," Frawley has said.
For 2013, the borough's allotment from the gas impact fee is $150,077.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.