Commissioners approve hunting preserve amendment
Lycoming County commissioners approved an amendment to an ordinance expanding the establishment of hunting preserves in the county.
By a vote of 2-1, preserves can now operate in areas of the county zoned countryside, agricultural and resource protection.
Commissioners Scott Metzger and Tony Mussare voted yes.
Commissioner Rick Mirabito voted no.
The vote came after many months of back and forth on the issue.
In November, the county planning commission voted to recommend preserves be permitted in each of those three county zoning areas.
When the issue came before commissioners earlier this year, they considered restricting preserves to resource protection districts.
Commissioners later agreed to the planning commission recommendation.
The issue initially arose after Stacy Fry, of Muncy Township, proposed a preserve on land he owns near Pennsdale.
A number of people subsequently signed a petition opposing the plan, citing among other concerns, the possibility of neighboring property owners being hit by stray bullets and feral pigs escaping the site.
Mirabito stated his problems with the proposal.
He noted that the quality of life is already at stake for many people with the existence of preserves in the county.
“The way to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the public is to make a less dramatic change in the zoning ordinance and one more consistent with the public’s expectations. Such an action would still allow hunting preserves but in resource protection districts only,” he argued.
He said he feared that allowing preserves “to proliferate all over the county” in agricultural and countryside districts will have a deleterious effect on the quality of life for Lycoming County constituents.
Mirabito also noted that the county zoning ordinance enacted by commissioners in 1991 made it very clear what each of the zoning districts permit. Now, a “dramatic change” in the law was being proposed.
“This change is a significant and fundamental departure from the current law and from what the public has relied on for almost 30 years,” he said.
Mussare said while he at one time had issues about Fry’s proposal for a preserve, a visit he later made to the site changed his mind.
He said he did not fear that a stray bullet from the preserve might hit someone.
The planning commission and township supervisors, he added, made it clear where they stand on the issue.
“This is a tough decision because so many people contacted me about it. I go back to the Constitution,” he said.
Metzger said the planning commission and township each did its “due diligence” on the matter.
He said he had had concerns about reports of feral pigs causing damage to properties but noted they did not escape from another preserve Fry operates.
“This has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with the good of the county,” he said.
Mirabito also read a letter from Bill Keller, a neighboring property owner, who has in the past raised concerns about the preserve.
The letter, specifically directed to Mussare, addressed the potential dangers to neighbors.
“This is not about personal rights, it’s about zoning ordinances which the people have elected you custodian of those duties,” Keller wrote. “We cannot see how anyone could vote for this against so many people and put their way of life in harm’s way after spending years of building homesteads in the area. If zoning cannot even protect people from serious danger, then what is the point of having it at all? Your assertion that people should be able to do what they want with their private property leads us to believe that anyone should be able to do as they please. Surely that can’t be the case.”