An updated zoning ordinance was the topic of the day as the Rice Township Board of Supervisors swiftly conducted municipality affairs during Tuesday’s public meeting. On the agenda: a hearing for the new zoning ordinance with an opportunity for the public’s questions to be addressed to planning consultant Jack Varaly, who had been instrumental in advising the township on the proposed changes during the course of the nearly 18 month evolution of the ordinance.
Among questions put to Varaly, Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Pipech asked if the restrictions placed on various “undesirable” facilities would be sufficient to protect township residents.
Varaly explained that the zoning ordinance goes as far as state law permits in restricting undesirable businesses and cited as a specific example particular language in the ordinance greatly restricting the operation of a methadone clinic in the township. “We can’t ban these certain installations,” explained Varaly, “But I think this ordinance is as far-sighted as we can make it. We’re anticipating future needs and, perhaps, future challenges in this growing community of Greater Mountaintop, and we’ve instituted provisions that will protect township residents well into the future.”
Varaly also addressed what he and Township Supervisors consider to be comprehensive planning for future development in the municipality, including provisos for installation of wind farms and timbering activities in consideration of soil erosion caused by residential development. Chairman Pipech explained that the township has no interest and has had no discussions about the installations discussed during the meeting, but that, according to Varaly’s advise, placing common-sense restrictions on facilities like wind farms and methadone clinics now would greatly enhance the township’s position when faced with future demands for zoning permits. “We do it now and we don’t have to deal with it down the road,” said Pipech. Varaly concurred: “If we have it in writing now, we have a much stronger hand when it comes to future development. In other words, if a developer comes into the township and wants to put up a wind farm, we don’t have to convene a special meeting to address that particular issue. We’ve got it right here, already instituted. We’re in a much stronger position to address these new technologies and demands for township land and resources.”
The board voted unanimously to accept the new zoning ordinance, with the caveat that Varaly’s concerns about methadone clinic setbacks were codified in accordance with state law and the best interests of township residents.
By Jim Addoms
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