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St. Thomas residents speak out on zoning

August 13, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - St. Thomas Township residents came out in force Tuesday night, speaking overwhelmingly against a proposed zoning ordinance.

Nearly 200 people filled the banquet room at the local fire department for a two-hour meeting held by the township's board of supervisors to take public comments one last time before voting.

Even though speakers were limited to five minutes, regulated by a moderator, the message from nearly a dozen speakers and the response from the crowd was clear: The people of St. Thomas don't want zoning.

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"I think we're looking for less government, not more," said Galen May, to shouts of "amen" from several in the crowd.

A well-known opponent of zoning in the township, May circulated literature against zoning and initiated a petition drive in which more than 2,500 signatures were collected in opposition to the ordinance.

"What part of no don't you understand?" May asked the supervisors as the crowd burst into loud applause, whistles and yells of approval.

Most of the residents said zoning is another way for government to control their lives.

"Zoning takes all of your rights away and that's all I have to say," said James Ramer.

Several told the supervisors that they need to enforce the ordinances that are already in place.

"I think before we progress with zoning we need to put the existing ordinances to the test," said Harold Brake.

Wade Burkholder, a Chambersburg resident and an alternate member of the Chambersburg zoning board who owns property in St. Thomas Township, said the township needs to manage what it already has.

Harry Meyers, a member of the township's planning commission for 25 years who has worked on the zoning ordinance from the beginning, was one of few who spoke in favor of zoning, telling the crowd they have been misled and been given false information.

"Every citizen has everything to gain and nothing to lose through zoning," Meyers said.

Tim Cormany, a planning consultant hired by the township, tried to clarify some of the information on literature that had been given to residents earlier in the year. He said the planning commission did make some changes to the ordinance based on comments from the public at a meeting a year ago.

Though the comments were overwhelmingly negative, Supervisor Edmund Herald called it a "good, orderly meeting" and said it's now up to the board to review the comments and make a decision.

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