Township working on ordinances for pollution, building height limits

By on August 30, 2017

Grass clippings and fallen tree branches can be more than just green waste; they can also contribute to pollution by finding their way into municipal storm sewers, according to the Ephrata Township Supervisors at a recent meeting.

The supervisors plan to consider adding an amendment to their existing stormwater management ordinance that addresses illicit discharge into the municipal sewer system. All sorts of illicit substances can find their way into streams and waterways, increasing levels of chemicals that help algae thrive, thereby harming the fish population, by decreasing the level of oxygen in the water.

Illicit discharges are anything that cause or contribute to pollution, including green waste, paints, solvents, oil, and other automotive fluids, garbage, sewage and animal wastes, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

While the township’s current stormwater ordinance addresses illicit discharge into the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4), the amended ordinance would be more comprehensive, said Township Manager Steve Sawyer.

“The current ordinance covers a fraction of what is covered (in the proposed ordinance),” Sawyer said. “This one is more concise and covers it more thoroughly.”

Not all residents know what may or may not be allowed into the sewer system.

Some township residents are using leaf blowers to send grass clippings into the street, which ends up in the sewers, Sawyer said.

The township is considering mailing out notices to property owners, explaining the damage that grass clippings and yard waste can do if not disposed of properly.

The ordinance would also establish the legal authority needed for inspections and monitoring to ensure compliance. Penalties for non-compliance are also included.

The amended ordinance would allow farmers to utilize a minor stormwater plan to simplify the process of formalizing their stormwater plans.

In another matter, an attorney speaking on behalf of local businessman Rick Stauffer, asked the supervisors to consider an amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance to allow structures to be built to a height of 50 feet in commercial zones.

Stauffer owns property at the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and East Main Street and is in the process of constructing a commercial development.

Businesses coming into the development have not yet been identified.

Currently, buildings in both the commercial and industrial zones are allowed to be up to 40 feet high, and the proposed amendment requests a height allowable to exceed 50 feet by special exemption.

If approved, the ordinance would be given to Lancaster County Planning Commission for its consideration.

While Sawyer said the height amendment had some merit, the supervisors felt they needed to take some time to analyze the petition.

If the amendment is approved, it could cause a change in the size of setbacks, too, Sawyer said.

“I think it makes sense for us to take a look at it,” Sawyer said. “As useable land becomes more scarce and stormwater rules become more stringent, a higher building leaves a smaller footprint.”

Supervisor J. Tyler Zerbe said the township needs to consider the height of its buildings to be sure they can be reached by the ladder trucks of township fire companies.

“Before we fully commit, we’ll look at it because I just want to protect the township and the people,” Zerbe said.

Residents Gayle and Dale Dunlap of Hess Circle asked the supervisors to take action regarding a house-sized hole near their property.

The hole is the foundation of a house that was condemned and torn down about two years ago. The crumbling basement walls are all that remain, and an oil tank and a number of containers are in the basement foundation.

The Dunlaps expressed concern that children in the neighborhood could be hurt if they fell into the foundation hole.

The property is owned by builder Jerry Zimmerman, who bought the property at a sheriff’s sale.

The supervisors have had complaints about the excavated area before and had placed an orange plastic barrier around the property. But the orange netting is falling over at places and is not a safe barrier, the Dunlaps said.

Zimmerman had been advised by the supervisors to fill in the foundation. But if he does, he can no longer build a house on the site.

Zimmerman, in turn, has told the supervisors he has people interested in the property. However, the supervisors haven’t found any information to corroborate that.

“It’s pretty obvious that it’s time to move forward,” Sawyer said.

The township has been working with Zimmerman to get the demolition completed for more than a year, Sawyer said.

The supervisors said they would give Zimmerman 30 days to clean up the property, including filling in the foundation. If that isn’t accomplished, the supervisors will file a compliant with a district justice, they said.

In other business, the Middle Creek Road Bridge (Route 1039) which spans Middle Creek, re-opened to traffic near the end of July. It had been closed for repairs since early May.

The Middle Creek bridge was replaced as part of PennDOT’s Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. With the work finished, the bridge has been removed from the list of the state’s structurally deficient bridges.

Replacement work was done by Walsh Construction II.

The new crossing is longer and wider than the one it replaced and is designed with a 100-year lifespan, according to a press release from Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *