Horse manure! Zoning hearing board action puts supervisor comments out to pasture

By on January 21, 2015

It was a matter of horse manure that spooked West Cocalico Township supervisors at their Jan. 20 meeting.

Just how much horse manure can a property handle?

Well, in West Cocalico, there’s an ordinance that spells it out. And, a property that recently changed hands got a variance from the township zoning hearing board for two horses on land that does not meet the township requirements. And that shortage of equine relief space had supervisors a bit miffed with the board’s action.

The established ordinance calls for no more than 1 1/2 large domestic animal units per acre. It also states “The area within which large domestic animals are maintained shall be kept in a suitable grass cover of at least two acres in area and shall not be allowed to degrade to an erodible condition.”

The property in question is a 1.6-acre lot at 1205 Girl Scout Road. It recently changed hands after being sold at public auction.

A view of the property  at 1205 Girl Scout Road in Stevens, West Cocalico Township.

A view of the property at 1205 Girl Scout Road in Stevens, West Cocalico Township.

The new owner, Samuel Lee King, an Amish man, originally asked that he be able to keep five horses on the land. He then reduced the number to two. However, according to Carolyn Hildebrand, township manager, that’s one too many based on the current West Cocalico approved ordinance.

The property contains a large house, an outbuilding, and some 90 fruit trees.

“That’s not a lot of space for pasture,” she said.

Supervisor Terry Scheetz expressed his concern that sellers, particularly at private sales and auctions either neglect or are hesitant to explain zoning issues to buyers or refer them to the municipality with concerns.

“This whole thing got out of whack,” he said. “You have to be amazed at the general lack of knowledge the public has about zoning.”

Hildebrand explained that the zoning hearing board members granted the variance at the advise of a substitute board solicitor whose interpretation of the standing zoning ordinance differed from the board solicitor interpretation.

On top of that, said Hildebrand, the new owner relies on his horses for transportation, She said he has tried to work with the township and has indicated where he will dispose of the manure offsite.

“The buyer needs his horses to get around,” said Hildebrand. “It was a very tough decision for the board.”

Supervisor Chairman Jacque Smith was empathetic but concerned with the decision.

“I think the board put itself in a bad position,” he said. “Let’s hope this doesn’t come back to bite us.”

The supervisors also discussed ongoing issues of residents doing outdoor burning without permits. Hildebrand said there have been some habitual offenders.

She has met with both fire officials and East Cocalico Police Chief George Beever, whose force covers West Cocalico, in an effort to coordinate enforcement of burning.

Hildebrand noted that a new, more specific ordinance is in the works which will carry a hefty fine for offenders.

Roadmaster Tom Showalter noted his crew has been salting roads several times in the first half of January, the most recently on Sunday, Jan. 18, for the flash freezing of rain on the roads. So far, the township has gone through once delivery of salt; another two deliveries of three tons each were expected this week.

He also noted that an inventory of road signs calls for the replacement of 20 which is on average for past years.

Supervisor James J. Stoner, township representative to the regional police board, noted the next meeting is set for Thursday, Jan. 29. He noted the regional leaders meeting was moved to Tuesday, Jan. 27, in order to precede the police board session.

The most critical issue, said Stoner, remains the unfunded liability matter for members of the force and the moneys participating municipalities are expected to contribute.

Stoner said he believes the four-municipality (Adamstown and Denver boroughs and East and West Cocalico townships) police coverage pact is in the final stages of review. If approved, the pact would become effective Jan. 1, 2016.

In other business, supervisors:

  • Approved Sauder Eggs modification for a land development. The firm wants to put a cover on an area where employees work on vehicles. The area is already an impervious surface and no other changes are needed, she said.
  • Approved a land development modification request for A.P. & Sons Inc., Ridge Road and Main Street, Reinholds. The action involves proposed gas pumps with canopies and driveway improvements.
  • Approved a 90-day extension for the final plan for the Stevens Court development.
  • Adopted an ordinance authorizing participation in the PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) Unemployment Compensation Group Trust. The township has participated in this for some time and the new ordinance, reviewed and approved by Larry B. Maier, solicitor, is updated with needed additional language.

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