Zoning hearing board rules on shale mining and road

Land surveyor Dennis McCans explained the shale mining land development plan off North Rabbit Road. The green line marks the consent to mine agreement with adjacent property owners, the orange borders the area of extraction, and the yellow is the sediment pond which needed a variance for setback.

Approximately 25 people turned out for the Lajuga appeal before the Antrim Township Zoning Hearing Board March 11.

Lajuga, owned by David H. Martin Excavating, Chambersburg, wanted to mine shale on land east of North Rabbit Road. Zoning officer Sylvia House had denied the plan based on ordinance definitions of lot, lot line, and property line.

Charles Zaleski, an attorney with Salzmann Hughes, asked the hearing board to interpret that the consent to mine line presented by Lajuga was the setback line. If it did not, he wanted a variance for a sediment pond located within 200 feet of its property line on the south side.

Lajuga obtained consent contracts from all adjoining property owners.

"If they don't have a problem, neither do we," said House. She stated that Antrim did not oppose the permitted use of the property, but the land development plan was turned down because Antrim and the Municipal Planning Code did not define property line, while the consent to mine agreements did. Antrim would also be changing its 200 foot requirement in the future, because it was more stringent than DEP.

Dennis McCans, a Chambersburg land surveyor, testified that the removed topsoil would be stockpiled and put back in place after operations were done, to a depth of 12 inches, with grass, so the land could be used for agricultural purposes again. The mining permit would be renewed every five years and he expected the project to take at least 10 years, done in stages. Any pit would go down 30 to 40 feet, with a gradual slope of 1:4. The site would have eight sediment ponds to hold pretreated runoff water. Screening would shield neighborhood homeowners from the view of operations. The pond under consideration, 200 by 250 feet, would also have the same gradual slope. The area to be mined was shy of 100 acres.

The citizens speak

After Bonnie Wetzel's question, it became clear some of the people came based on inaccurate information. Wetzel quoted the letter the neighbors received about the hearing, which was based on the legal advertisement with the same wording. It read that the applicant, Lajuga, sought "alternative relief by requesting a variance to allow mining production, processing, excavation, sedimentation ponds and stockpiling to be conducted closer than 200 feet to any property line at 8722 North Rabbit Road."

Zaleski clarified he was only asking for the variance for the pond, adding, "I didn't write that letter."

Citizens asked about fencing, height of berms, effect of mining on the environment, traffic, and other matters. House said most of those items were outside the scope of the hearing, which was only on whether to grant a variance.

The board members, Ronald Cordell, Rodney Zeger, Gary Eberly, Warren Eichelberger, and Rhetta Martin, sitting in for Philip Oberholzer, unanimously voted to accept the consent line as the true property line. Eichelberger moved to allow a 100-foot setback for the pond, with a fence installed on the exterior side. After a long pause with no response from anyone, Eichelberger asked, "Can I second it too?" to the amusement of the audience.

The board discussed details and a Martin/Eichelberger motion to grant the variance with the condition that a six-foot fence be put up around the entire pond passed 5-0.

The other hearing

The first appeal of the night was filed by Michael and Lisa Gross, 934 Milnor Road, who asked that their home property, already non-conforming and undersized, be allowed to be further subdivided.

Speaking in their absence were Roger Watson, a land surveyor from New Bloomfield, and Steve Feinour, Harrisburg, outside counsel for Norfolk Southern.

Watson explained that as NS made plans to construct an intermodal facility, it needed to create a cul-de-sac on Milnor on both the east and west sides of the tracks. Three possible sizes of circles could be built near the Gross property, and he was using the largest for planning purposes.

That meant a setback issue with the Gross house, although the setback line already ran through the older home, built before zoning standards were in place. It would become 50-square feet more non-conforming.

Feinour added that the cul-de-sac would reduce the small lot by another 2,300 square feet.

Assistant zoning officer Lynda Beckwith said the township was not opposed to the variance, and the Gross' were not asking for the change for themselves. The use of the land would be for the public benefit.

The variance request was granted 5-0.