Revisions to ordinance mulled

WELLSBORO – Tioga County Commissioners are proposing amendments to the subdivision and land development ordinance, which hasn’t been updated since 1995. The amendments are meant in part to provide additional landowner protections in response to the upsurge in energy development, according to Jim Weaver, county planner.

Amendments to the ordinance in no way regulate the technical aspects of the natural gas industry, Weaver said.

“Local government doesn’t have regulatory authority over oil and gas, but can regulate aspects of secondary development such as man camps, RV parks and campgrounds. The amendment also pays increased attention to stormwater runoff,” Weaver said.

In some aspects, the ordinance is a repeat of the zoning standards set in Act 13, the natural gas impact fee legislation.

“Prior to Act 13, we were asking for noise limits and safety setbacks. Now it’s just a repeat of the standards in Act 13,” Weaver said.

The subdivision and land development ordinance is not a zoning ordinance and therefore does not restrict where development may take place. Instead, the ordinance defines how lands are developed.

“The industry doesn’t want limitations on where development can happen but most companies are more than willing to provide protection to adjacent landowners once a lease agreement has been reached,” Weaver said.

Amendments to the ordinance include “changes in standards for subdivision of small lots and distinctions between major and minor land developments,” Weaver said.

There also is a new section establishing pipeline safety setbacks, compressor stations and noise and industrial impact to adjoining landowners, according to Weaver.

The commissioners have received helpful feedback on the revised ordinance from surveyors, real estate agents and the general public, according to Weaver. For example, a waiver was added to the amendment to account for cases where the standard 100-foot pipeline safety setback might be excessive.

“Pipelines can have impacts to small lots adjacent to the right-of-way. A waiver for the setback can be granted if the industry agrees it’s a hardship for the landowner,” Weaver said.

Public comment will be accepted from now until July 9 for proposed changes to the ordinance. The proposed amendment is available online and is on display in the commissioner’s hallway at the courthouse. Changes are highlighted in yellow?

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance at 9 a.m. July 9 in the commissioner’s conference room. They plan to adjust the ordinance based on public opinion and adopt the new ordinance at a future board meeting.