ULSTER - Following a two-year process and several public hearings, township supervisors Monday voted to approve an ordinance putting zoning into place.

The ordinance and its accompanying zoning map divide the township into residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural business and floodplain zones. Solicitor John Thompson and a committee of residents have worked on the ordinance for about two years, with input from citizens and the Bradford County planning commission.

The ordinance "has been a long time coming," Thompson said. "I'm confident that it will serve the purpose of protecting different areas of the township."

Township officials pursued zoning to protect neighborhoods from heavy industrial activities brought on by the growth of the natural gas industry. Supervisors said they felt fortunate to benefit from gas drilling, but wanted to ensure certain operations were kept away from residential neighborhoods.

"The bottom line is, we have to adapt to change," said supervisor Boyd Rowe.

Supervisors and committee members chose not to make the ordinance overly restrictive, Thompson said. However, the ordinance protects residential and commercial areas by requiring conditional use and special exception permits for some uses and keeping industrial development confined to a certain part of the township, he said.

The vast majority of the township now falls under the agricultural business zone, which, according to the ordinance, "serves to promote the continuation and preservation of agricultural activities." The broad district also allows for non-agricultural uses, with the exception of some industrial uses.

The ordinance also provides for an industrial district along Route 220 and residential and commercial areas in the villages of Ulster and Milan.

Supervisors will soon appoint three members of a zoning hearing board and one alternate member. The township will also a part-time zoning officer to work as needed. Compensation for the position has yet to be determined, but "it won't be a high cost to the township," Rowe said.

Supervisors Monday also adopted an ordinance regulating the removal, repair or demolition of any structure deemed dangerous.

The ordinance declares any dangerous structure to be a public nuisance and outlines procedures and criteria for determining whether a structure is dangerous and what action to take to eliminate any possible safety hazards, including but not limited to repair and demolition. The ordinance permits for expedited procedures when imminent danger to life or safety exists.

Zoning will help township officials enforce any issues that arise in the future from dangerous buildings, Thompson said. However, the dangerous building ordinance will provide additional protections to take care of current nuisances, he added.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.