A decision by the Armstrong Township Zoning Hearing Board to deny a permit to construct a water extraction facility, a rail spur and expansion of a parking area at 2344 Sylvan Dell Road by Choice Fuelcorp Inc. and Fracqua Resources LLC was upheld in Lycoming County Court recently.
In a 12-page opinion and order issued by Judge Richard A. Gray, he ruled that the township zoning hearing board did not abuse its discretion or commit an error of law when it denied Jason Weisz's appeal that he filed Nov. 28, 2011, to convert and use the former fuel depot and biodiesel facility as a water withdrawal plant to supply the natural gas industry.
Weisz is the owner of Choice Fuelcorp and Fracqua Resources.
The zoning hearing board voted Nov. 1, 2011, to deny Weisz's project after multiple days of public hearings held in the South Williamsport Area High School auditorium. Joseph Eck, township zoning officer, originally denied the request because the facility is in a floodway district.
Weisz's plans called for the extraction of up to 1 million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna River and more than 100 tractor-trailer trucks a day using Sylvan Dell Road to transport the water to drilling sites.
Weisz argued that his zoning applications should have been approved by the zoning hearing board as either a special exception or an expansion of an existing non-conforming use, according to court documents.
In his ruling, Gray wrote that Weisz "did not meet (his) burden of proof in regard to whether a water-extraction facility is a special exception under the ordinance. (Weisz) argues that the water-extraction facility could be approved as a water-related use. However, it is clear to the court that the ordinance envisions water-related uses to entail docks, wharves and the like, for recreation purposes, as opposed to the use of water for business-related purposes."
Gray also ruled that Weisz did not meet the burden of proof for the railroad spur application and that the parking area application was incomplete and did not meet standards because it would be in a floodway district.
The judge also wrote that "this court notes that the objectors presented substantial evidence that the water-extraction facility would have a detrimental effect on the public health, safety and welfare."
In making its decision, the township zoning hearing board concluded that the project would "reduce property values, create safety hazards for residents, create excessive noise, dust and fumes, impair the safe flow of traffic on public streets, impair the safe use of existing public recreational facilities in the zone, and unduly burden public infrastructure," court documents stated.
Carole Livorno, who resides on Sylvan Dell Road and led a citizens group against the project, said she was pleased with the ruling.
"I was very concerned about the safety issues," she said. "I have kids and pets and it would mean a lot of increased truck traffic on our road, which concerns me. There's a whole lot of other issues as well. Safety was a main concern because of my children."
John Bonner, an attorney who represented the citizens group, said the judge's decision was "abundantly correct."
Weisz vowed to appeal the case to Commonwealth Court, while Livorno said she would continue to fight the project.