Ralpho Township’s code officer is looking to get some regulations on the books before halfway houses or windmill towers make their way to the township.
The issue of halfway houses seems to be discussed all over the place, Howard Howal, code officer, said at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting. “Look at all the trouble Coal Township’s having right now,” Howal noted. “Danville, Columbia County,” he added.
Rumors have been flourishing in Coal Township that a halfway house may be coming to the former Kmart building on Route 61. Coal Township officials said they haven’t been approached about such a proposition. State Department of Corrections officials have said that there are no plans to expand the program into Coal Township.
Howal was looking for direction from the supervisors, asking them if he should start working on regulations before one ends up in Ralpho Township.
“(Residents of halfway houses are) undesirables to begin with,” the code officer said. “I’d hate to see a halfway house in the middle of an (agricultural/farmland) zone,” he added, noting that more and more of that land is getting bought up for development, not farming.
The supervisors all agreed, saying no one was interested in having a halfway house nearby.
There’s also been an increasing proliferation of windmills in the area, Howal said. Currently, 51 of the energy-producing turbines are being installed near Aristes in a joint project by international power company Iberdrola Renewable Energies and Wisconsin-based Alliant Energy EPC.
The township has no ordinance regulating windmill usage, and Howal said he wants to be ready in case they start showing up in Ralpho. They can range anywhere from 35- to 110-feet tall.
“You’d hate to see dozens of them cropping up,” he said.
The townships shouldn’t get too involved with regulating the usage, Supervisor Ed Payeskie said.
“If I can put one up to power my garage and I can feel a little better about doing something for the environment,” all the better, Payeskie said.
The code officer said he’s worried about someone starting out with a 35-footer, only to decide to upgrade to a 110-foot tower “for a couple bucks more.”
Howal was given the OK to begin cobbling together regulations.
Also, township Solicitor Todd Kerstetter will be drafting a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), throwing the board’s support behind removing a coal refuse pile between Shamokin Creek and Bottle Road.
The plan had been to designate the refuse a public nuisance, but the use of the word “nuisance” gave the solicitor pause for concern.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Kerstetter said of the removal proposal, “but I have a problem with the word ‘nuisance.’ We have no ordinance for anything like that.”
The board should make sure that it doesn’t put itself “on the hook” for anything, Kerstetter said.
“I don’t have a problem, so long as at no point is taxpayer money being used,” Payeskie said.
“My concern is the property owner,” Howal said. The bank’s been there for about 80 years, the code officer said. It was put there by Split Vein Coal Co. under an agreement with the land owner, he said.
The board was reassured by representatives of Split Vein that the project won’t cost taxpayers anything. Also, the company has the landowner’s consent to remove the refuse, as well as a lease and reclamation responsibilities. A DEP representative will be on hand to supervise the removal.
By Domenick Moore
The News Item
10 April 2008
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