Monday, March 14, 2016

Water Extraction Amendment to be Considered Wednesday 3/16 - Why it is Justified and Necessary

On Wednesday March 16, the Eldred Township Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing to consider community input on an amendment that would have the effect of overturning the 2014 amendment that added water extraction as a use in Eldred Township's Commercial zoning district.  Since water extraction was always considered a use of industrial impact, and today it is considered so in the other four townships in the regional planning area CJERP, it is intuitive that the supervisors should approve this amendment.  

But what justifies approval?  Answer: The stupifying collection of errors that were made when the 2014 amendment was passed.

In examination of the panoply of procedural errors that led to passage of the 2014 amendment, it will become obvious why it should never have been passed, and thus result in the conclusion that it must be overturned.  This diagram depicts how an amendment should be passed in Eldred Twp, and the red numbers indicate errors that were made that are described below.  Note that errors were made in every single step except the vote to approve a pile of garbage - an error itself.  A perfect gutter ball:

Mistakes Made in Adoption of Water Extraction Amendment in 2014

Eldred Twp Supervisors
Ø      1. Were not submitted the amendment by the landowner
Ø      2. Did not authorize the amendment
Ø      3. Did not authorize advertising the amendment

Ø      4. Did not review the recommendations of the county planning commission
Ø      5. Did not obtain a review by member townships as required by the CJER Intergovernmental Agreement
Ø      6. Did not advertise the water extraction amendment in sufficient detail, as required by the Municipalities Planning Code – it was a substantive change to an ordinance that had been previously advertised

7. CJER Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich
Ø      a. drafted the amendment without authorization
Ø      b. did not warn anyone of the land use change that would result
Ø      c. did not warn anyone of the inconsistencies that would result, when consistency was the highest priority in aligning the ordinances of the CJER townships in March to May of 2014

8. CJER Solicitor James Fareri
Ø      Was responsible for reviewing all amendments, according to Eldred Twp Solicitor Mike Kaspszyk, but he did not detect the land use change to a more intense and inappropriate use for the Commercial zoning district.

9. Monroe County Planning Commission
Ø      a. Did not detect the land use change to a more intense and inappropriate use
Ø      b. Did not detect the inconsistency the amendment caused with other townships, when consistency was the highest priority in aligning ordinances of the CJER townships in March to May of 2014
Ø      c. Evidence suggests the planning commission did not review the amendment (see April 25 review letter)
Ø      d. Lead Senior Planner Christine Meinhart-Fritz incorrectly said the amendment was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.  It violates numerous goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan, as well as violates the purpose of the commercial zoning district.
Ø      e. Lead Senior Planner Christine Meinhart-Fritz incorrectly stated the amendment was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s goal of commercial growth.  Water extraction is an industrial use, not a commercial use, so it is impossible that commercial use growth would result.
Ø      f. Lead Senior Planner Christine Meinhart-Fritz ignored the fact that four distinct commercial areas in Eldred Twp would be affected by the amendment, including one that borders residential uses in Ross Township, and focused only on the one lot owned by the amendment’s sponsor
Five-dollar words strung together don't add up to $5
Source: March 27, 2014 CJER meeting transcript

There are four separate areas zoned Commercial - The 2014 amendment affected all of them
Only one was targeted for growth - but commercial use growth, not industrial

This astonishing list of errors reflects either gross incompetence, corruption, disrespect for statutory procedure, or a combination of two or more of these.  In addition to the fact that the 2014 amendment added an inappropriate use to Eldred Township's Commercial zoning district, the facts above demonstrate that it should never have been passed, and the amendment to overturn it must be passed on Wednesday evening.  Q.E.D.

It should be noted that CJERP Solicitor James Fareri, who bears some responsibility as shown above, works for the same law firm that represents landowner Gower.  Mr. Fareri stated at CJERP's February meeting that "CJERP and the landowner both believe the water extraction amendment was passed properly," and therefore his law firm does not have a conflict of interest.  It is nonsensical to maintain that the amendment was passed properly.  Mr. Fareri has also advised CJERP not to discuss what happened in 2014.  Why not get it over with and admit that y'all screwed the pooch?  Or, would this compromise the position of another client of the firm?

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