Township residents irked over proposed fllod plain restrictions

February 07, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The owners of three properties in Washington Township, Pa., addressed the township supervisors Monday with concerns about building on their land.

Those concerns developed in light of proposed regulations that would prohibit the construction of new structures on properties situated on flood plains.

If the revisions to the existing ordinance were passed, no new building construction would be permitted on any property in flood plains mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Thousands of acres in the township are considered to be in flood plains, according to John Lisko, township solicitor.

That includes three-quarters of an acre on Cold Spring Road owned by Wallace and Devona Snowberger. The property is slightly west of the Borough of Waynesboro.

The Snowbergers purchased the land 30 years ago with plans to build a house there when they retired. In the meantime, a family member farmed the property.

"We had a barn and a pony out there all those years," said Devona Snowberger.

She told the supervisors that plans changed over the years, and she and her husband began to build a house in Waynesboro instead.

They sought to sell the Cold Spring Road land to finance the project, said Wallace Snowberger.

However, when the couple approached the township zoning officer for information about selling the property, they learned it was in a flood plain.

They also learned about revisions to the ordinance that will go before the supervisors in the next few months.

The couple feels those revisions, if passed, make the property almost worthless, since construction would be prohibited.

"That's scaring people off when we go to sell it," said Wallace Snowberger.

They have made potential buyers aware of the dilemma and have not received a bid for the asking price.

Charles Smetzer, who lives on five acres on Cold Spring Road, is scrambling to get all the permits he needs for a new two-story house before the supervisors review the proposals.

He acquired the property from his father and put a mobile home on it in 1982. He said the flood plain wasn't an issue when the mobile home was placed on the land.

"My father had owned the ground when he was young. He fell in love with the property because it's beautiful. It's nice because of the streams," Smetzer said.

Now the mobile home is in disrepair.

Smetzer said he spent two years trying to get plans approved for the house on another part of the land. Those plans were denied, so now he wants to put the house in the mobile home's spot.

"I have an engineer drawing my foundation according to federal flood plain regulations," Smetzer said.

He said he also is in contact with the state Department of Environmental Protection for approval of the project.

"I've been very stressed out. I've been rushing ... It's like I'm trying to keep everybody moving because there's a deadline. I've got to do this now," said Smetzer.

He would prefer the township not prohibit new building construction but rather allow property owners to deal with FEMA and DEP on a case-by-case basis.

The supervisors told the property owners to return for the public hearing that is required before the changes can go into effect. That hearing has not been scheduled.

Smetzer hopes the affected property owners will attend that hearing and register their concerns.

"A lot of people should be alerted to this because it's shameful. They just start passing stuff and people don't know. I hope people hear about it and stop it," he said.

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