Supervisors try to clarify buffer ordinance

January 28, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- Residents' confusion about new regulations proposed in Washington Township, Pa., led the township supervisors to field an hour's worth of questions at the start of their Wednesday meeting.

The riparian buffer ordinance would establish 75 feet worth of protected land on either side of a stream if the land is subdivided into smaller lots or submitted for development.

Some people thought the rules would affect current farming operations. Others accused the township of trying to take their land.

"I think there's a lot of confusion in this whole thing," said Dennis Swope, a property owner who attended an earlier meeting about the proposed ordinance.

Some members of the supervisors board, planning commission and Antietam Watershed Association have talked for years about developing a riparian buffer ordinance. Similar ordinances are in place in at least 13 municipalities in four Pennsylvania counties.


If passed, the ordinance would establish protection areas on the banks of the west and east branches of the Antietam Creek, Baileys Run stream, Red Run stream and Falls Creek, as parcels of land are submitted for redevelopment in the future. The idea is to minimize the amount of nutrients, sediment and pesticides going into the waterways, which ultimately feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

When scientists look at phosphates and nitrates, the West Branch of the Antietam Creek is listed as one of the most polluted waterways in the Chesapeake Bay, according to Pat Brezler, a member of the Antietam Watershed Association.

Diminished populations of fish and crustaceans put fishermen out of work, Brezler said.

"There are dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay," he said.

"You're so concerned about the creek, but you're going to inconvenience a lot of people now and in the future," said Jay Thompson, who lives on Midvale Road.

"If you never develop, it'll never affect you," Supervisor Elaine Gladhill said. If the person who buys your property doesn't further develop it, that person will not be affected either, she said.

"It only kicks in when you have a subdivision or land development," Supervisor Christopher Firme said.

Kerry Bonner, of Meadowview Avenue, criticized the supervisors for approving development in general, although the supervisors have no choice if planned development meets all legal requirements.

"If you want to get these streams in shape, you've got to stop development," Bonner said.

"We had clean streams until all this development took place. All this development has changed our way of life," echoed John Koons, of Five Forks Road.

The Washington Township Planning Commission is expected to discuss the ordinance at its next meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 in the township meeting room on South Welty Road. The supervisors will ask the planning commission whether it wants to include Happel's Meadow for protection.

For more information on the Riparian Buffer ordinance

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