Energy park expansion on the way

PENNSDALE – Muncy Township supervisors held a face-to-face meeting with Lycoming County commissioners and a county planner Wednesday to work out bugs that have arisen in the lines of communication.

The township is fast becoming a place where multiple zoning, land-development and economic growth issues related to a booming retail, commercial and Marcellus Shale business atmosphere occur on a weekly basis.

Commissioners Jeff Wheeland, Tony Mussare and Ernie Larson along with Kurt Hausammann Jr.,

director of the county Department of Planning and Community Development, have promised they will do their best to respond to the needs of the municipality as it deals with zoning, land development, land-use and transportation issues.

Supervisors Paul Wentzler, Tom Schaech and Gregory Gilbert held the session to air their complaints about issues related to communication and to be informed about developers’ plans ahead of time.

It’s a development that has evolved over time and includes scenarios such as when people drop by the office with zoning or planning questions and contact is made with the county departments, often answers have not been returned in a timely fashion, according to supervisors.

Wheeland said that shouldn’t be the case and the township may be growing to a point where it needs outside help, but at the same time the county must be able to save money and that is a balancing act.

In one example, Wentzler said he felt it was fair that, during business hours, someone at the county can either answer a telephone or be able to be contacted and the township expect to hear a return call or response within a reasonable amount of days, preferably the same day.

Hausammann said the county can’t guarantee a zoning or planning officer will be at the other end of the line but, barring emergency situations, has arranged the office schedule that should a message be left by a municipality, a call is to be returned within 24 hours, ideally, the same day. He’s also informed the staff about the need to return questions within a 24-hour period.

Wentzler said when the township gets a land development or a zoning plan, he encouraged the county to be able to give the supervisors a head’s up.

“Let us know a month ahead,” he said. “And then follow through on it.”

Hausammann said the planning office is telling developers the township requests a month’s notice and telling developers it will probably take a month to get their documents approved. If developers or builders come in a day or two ahead, the county didn’t send them there, according to Hausammann.

“This is not our full-time job,” Schaech said, upset about finding out about a supposed subdivision plan in a newspaper and unable to respond to residents’ questions with any truthful answer.

“We look like fools,” he said, believing the county sometimes valued the supervisors as an “advisory role” and overlooked them.

Mussare said nothing could be further from the truth.

“We thank you for your service,” he said. “We don’t want the county to be like the state is to us.”

Wentzler said almost everyone carries a cellphone and could respond to voice mail messages.

Hausammann noted that is true unless employees are in areas where cellular service is, in most cases, unreachable such as northern Lycoming County’s mountainous region.

“We take your concerns very seriously,” Hausammann said. “We do take municipalities’ comments and we don’t address the developers’ request until we address the municipalities’ questions.”

Under state law, should an applicant have plans that comply with the subdivision and land-development ordinance, they are entitled to approval, he said.

Hausammann said the ordinance requires a township receive 10 days’ notice before a zoning hearing commences, but he’s willing to go above and beyond that requirement for county municipalities.

Two vacancies exist on the zoning hearing board and Wentzler said, because of the value of the township and growth, he wanted to see someone from the township represented on the board.

“Some bugs were fixed tonight,” Larson said.

In township business, after the township planning commission recommended approval, supervisors approved a land development request for FMC Technologies to build a 12,200-square-foot building at property in the Marcellus Energy Park off John Brady Drive. The request is by Fishlips Inc. for a warehouse and 1.8-acre stone yard area for storage.

Schaech said despite code not requiring it, he recommended the land development approval include a request that the facility be equipped with sprinker fire suppression.