MORRIS - New amendments to Pine Township's zoning ordinance for the gas industry creates questions with no answers, yet.
Only two of the nine planning commission members received the third draft of the amendments, so a decision could not be made Tuesday night whether or not to accept them as written.
Roberta Heyler-Johnston, supervisor chairwoman, said that the planning commission members were told that the third draft of the amendments was available, but they "chose not to pick it up."
Levi Woodward, an attorney with McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall, requested a table vote for the ordinance so that a solution could be found that benefited all of the involved parties. He raised concerns about the sound restraints and the land requirements.
Woodward said, and he was echoed by residents who came to express concerns, that 55 decibels was too low to be a requirement for sound standards to be met by the gas industry.
Solicitor Denise Dieter said that the 55 decibels was only the default level for applicants who did not want to test the ambient noise level at the nearest property line for 72 hours. Those who tested the noise level could have it 5 decibels higher than the normal level. Dieter wanted to add an additional amendment excluding fracking from the noise level requirements.
"I'm clearly speaking above 55 decibels right now," Woodward said.
Dale Corson, a member of the planning commission, said that the commissioners had all voted against a sound amendment two years ago. He wanted to know how it made it in to the amendments.
"It's an opening up that anyone can sue us," he said. "I hope the township has lots of money."
The other big concern is the land requirements. According to the amendments, the minimum lot area per principal structure is 5 acres.
Woodward said that a well can be on more than one person's property, for people who did not have 5 acres.
Tom Snyder, a property owner, said that anyone with under 5 acres of property had a disadvantage.
"The balance is too heavily skewed for those with small properties," he said. "It can prevent small property owners from receiving wealth. You're taking away my rights."
Residents and experts packed the township building. Some people stood in the door frame of the building to hear about what would happen with their property.
Theresa Jones came to the meeting to hear from both sides about the gas industry to pick a stance on the amendments.
Heyler-Johnston explained that the supervisors originally drafted the zoning ordinance in 2001 to not allow any gas drilling in the area. They later decided to allow it under certain guidelines, but a final decision for the guidelines has not yet been reached.
"We're trying to keep our flood plain a safe place," Heyler-Johnston said.
The planning commission will review the new draft at its meeting Aug. 15 and provide recommendations. The supervisors will next meet Sept. 1, unless they call a special meeting before then. At the September meeting, they will vote whether to accept the third draft of the amendments.