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St. Thomas zoning to get vote

August 12, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Even if the St. Thomas Township board of supervisors establishes a controversial zoning ordinance tonight - after nearly 10 years of work and $22,000 - it may all be for nothing.

Two prospects for the township's board, expected to be voted into office in November, plan to repeal the ordinance on the grounds that it's unnecessary and the people don't want it.

"Zoning is another way of government getting into private homes and controlling people's lives. A majority of the people said no, they don't want it," said David Ramer, one of two candidates who ran successful campaigns for supervisors seats in the primary election.

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Township residents have one last chance to speak for or against the proposed ordinance at a public hearing before the supervisors tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. in the banquet room of the township's volunteer fire company on School House Road.

After the meeting, the three-member board will review the ordinance again, make any last changes, and then hold a public meeting at which they will either adopt it or vote it down.

Robert Blake, the board's vice chairman and proponent of zoning, said the township needs to consider it to regulate growth and protect the character of the township and its economy.

"We want to put our management tools in place now to protect our township for future growth," Lake said.

Between 1990 and 1996, 200 new houses were built in the township and close to 300 more housing lots have been proposed, Lake said.

The proposed zoning ordinance divides the township into six districts.

One zoning district, called residential low and moderate density, encourages orderly development where water and sewer are accessible, and prevents overcrowding by stipulating yard and lot sizes, driveway placement, rules for adding accessory buildings, and other standards.

The area zoned village center is set up to provide housing and a mix of service-oriented and limited retail uses where public utilities already exist or could be extended.

The commercial industrial district encourages construction on land zoned for those purposes and to prohibit uses that would interfere with those businesses.

The area zoned for woodland conservation discourages commercial, industrial and residential uses in the forested areas where public services aren't available.

The agricultural preservation district protects and stabilizes areas of highly productive farmland in the township.

The zoning ordinance was set up to protect property values, encourage light industry and business to move in, and preserve agriculture and natural resources, Lake said.

"I think we have an ordinance tailored to our township and user-friendly," he said.

But opponents see it as another way of government intrusion and go so far as to call it "un-American."

"The more that I learn about zoning, and I wasn't totally against it in the beginning, but the more I learn about it the more I don't like it," said Galen May, spokesperson for the opposition, which he said represents more than 2,500 people who signed a petition against the ordinance.

The main problem with zoning, May said, is that it's "unending" and "open-ended."

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