Prison zoning to be regulated in Loyalsock Township

Loyalsock Township’s board of supervisors is close to making a zoning change that will regulate where a prison may be built, if one were to be proposed for the municipality.

Right now, no type of prison or jail is allowed under the township’s zoning regulations. If a public or private entity wanted to build a prison in Loyalsock Township, they could, theoretically, sue and then place their facility wherever they wanted in the township.

After Garth Womer, zoning officer, was informed of this a proposed ordinance was written to allow such facilities in township commercial zones located along East Third Street and Lycoming Creek Road and industrial zones along the floodway near I-180 and on Commerce Park Drive.

At a public hearing on the ordinance Tuesday night, supervisors, solicitor Charles Greevy and Township Manager Bill Burdett wanted to make it perfectly clear that no prison has been proposed, and none is in the works.

“We’re doing this to make sure you don’t have a prison in your backyard,” Burdett said.

“It’s a conditional use, so any (potential prison) would be reviewed by the zoning board, probably looked at by the planning commission and then (it) would be ultimately up to the board of supervisors to make the decision,” Greevy said.

The board voted to table the ordinance until their next meeting for Greevy to make a few changes, including changing the language to specifically exclude juvenile facilities. During the hearing, former county Judge Thomas Raup raised the concern that the ordinance might conflict with keeping the juvenile facility at the county farm on Warrensville Road open, of which he said, “I’m not aware of any problems there.”

Greevy noted the Pre-Release Center is grandfathered into the current ordinance.

Another public hearing held by the supervisors concerned an ordinance to regulate the keeping of chickens in residential zones on properties under 10 acres in size. It was concluded a revised ordinance should be written and advertised for possible passage, rather than pass the one in front of the board.

“We’ve had several complaints about chickens running free,” Womer said. “Since we put this together, our complaints have expanded to other species of birds causing a nuisance. It’s no longer just chickens, it’s guinea hens. That made me think we should make it a more fowl and poultry ordinance, to include pigeons and ducks and geese, a whole laundry list.”

“We’re not interested in regulating farming,” Burdett said. “We just want to deal with roosters crowing at 4:30 in the morning and chickens running over property.”

Several citizens attending the meeting suggested the board look into enacting a nuisance ordinance relating to fowl, rather than attempt to write an all-inclu6sive ordinance using property sizes and incorporating a whole list of birds.

Resident George Stavoy, who lives on Liberty Drive, told the board he thought National Fuel Gas, which has a well pad on his road, was going beyond the limits of its permitted expansion.

“There was a second area fenced in, and now there’s a third,” Stavoy said. “I wasn’t informed of this. They were supposed to put trees around the fence, and 90 percent of them are dead now. They put them in the woods, not to cover up the fence.”

“They wouldn’t have done anything without a permit or we would have shut them down,” Supervisor John Bower said.

“They’re really not hiding anything,” Burdett said. “We’ll get to the bottom of this.”