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Commissioners outline defects in zoning ordinance, prepare changes

POTTSVILLE – Schuylkill County’s zoning ordinance fails to provide for natural gas compressor stations and growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana and does not adequately provide for wind turbines, the commissioners decided Wednesday in outlining why that law must be changed.

The commissioners declared the zoning ordinance substantively invalid in connection with those topics only and started the process to amend it to ensure its legality.

“We have 180 days to enact a curative amendment,” assistant county solicitor Glenn Roth said.

Wednesday was the final day on which the commissioners legally could make the findings, which they noted are required by the state Municipalities Planning Code. They did not indicate how they might amend the ordinance.

Any proposed changes would apply only to municipalities covered by the county ordinance.

The declaration came in the wake of the boom in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry, the state’s legalization of medical marijuana and members of the public expressing support of, and opposition to, wind turbines in the region. The ordinance would have no effect on existing wind turbines.

Wednesday’s resolution noted that the ordinance contains no regulations or provisions for either natural gas compressors or any type of facility for medical marijuana, omissions that it notes would likely lead to detrimental results for the county.

“It is reasonable to assume that new development of (those) types of facilities … may be proposed to occur in Schuylkill County,” the resolution reads in part.

Also according to the resolution, regulations of wind turbines, sometimes called windmills, exist but might be inadequate. In particular, according to the resolution, the heights of proposed wind turbines have increased and research has indicated potential problems with the noise they emit.

Also, the regulations might be inadequate to protect the Appalachian Trail, which passes along the southern border of the county and is protected by the state Appalachian Trail Protection Act, according to the resolution.

Any changes would not affect any wind turbine allowed on a property as an accessory use.