Township considers amending ordinances

By on July 3, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Several new amendments to zoning ordinances could further clarify some of those ordinances already on the books in Ephrata Township.

At Tuesday evenings board of supervisors meeting, township staff was instructed to draft amendments on the ordinances so that those drafts could begin the process of garnering the approval of the Lancaster County Planning Commission before coming back to the township for public hearing and ultimately approval and enactment.

The township planning commission has already reviewed drafts language on the amendments and sent recommendations to the supervisors to allow the them to being through the process of implementation.

One of the proposed amendments would clarify the maximum size of signs in the mixed use district. In a memorandum to the supervisors, township manager Steve Sawyer explained the need for the amendment. Accordingly, the area on one side of any freestanding sign would not be allowed to exceed eighty square feet if located within the commercial or industrial districts. In the mixed used district, the area of one side of any freestanding sign would not be allowed to exceed one square foot for each five feet of frontage or lot width. In either case, the maximum size for any sign would be limited to 80 square feet. In the commercial, industrial or mixed used districts, any signs attached to a building could not exceed 15 percent of the wall area on which the sign is placed.

Amendment language was also proposed with regard to the setback requirement for restaurants. This new language would apply regardless of the type of restaurant. Currently township rules call for a 200-foot set-back for drive-thrus and restaurants. Under the new amendments, that would be capped at 100-foot set-backs and would clarify what the rules would be for the different districts.

Amendments will also be submitted for township ordinances permitting shopping centers within the township. Currently a shopping center is capped at 100,000 square feet and contains at least five separate retail operations. Under current rules, shopping centers are permitted by special exception, which adds the extra step of opening the process to a special hearing where affected adjoining property owners would be fully briefed of proposed plans and be given all opportunity to ask questions and raise objections to the plans. Township staff have been instructed to draft language which would clarify the matter for all various districts.

The amendments were brought to light as part of the on-going process with regard to the proposed Giant Foods store to be built along Route 322.

Supervisors looked to township engineer Benton Webber for his input on the matter. He said he concurred with the recommendations of the township planning commission and suggested the matter be allowed to move forward for consideration by the county planning commission.

"I concur that a shopping center should be a special exception," said Webber. "I concur that keeping a shopping center as a special consideration makes the most sense even though it would add an additional step to the process."

"We had tabled the discussion on electronic signs for the time being but perhaps we should consider revisiting this in conjunction with these amendments," Sawyer added.

Safety was the key issue of concern to township officials with regard to electronic signs. Supervisors are continuing to mull an ordinance which would spell out specifications on electronic signs. It would address issues such as brightness, the manner and the frequency of message changes and the impact such signs might have on motor traffic in the area. This could become a key discussion at some point in the future with regards to the proposed Ephrata Commons in which the new Giant Food Store would be located. Current studies indicate that a change frequency of no less than 15 minutes would be appropriate, and that would be acceptable to the supervisors.

But, with regard to electronic signs advertising the price per gallon of gas, Sawyer said he did not see a problem of exempting such advertisement so long as the township would specify the allowable size for such signs. Supervisors feel draft amendments to the ordinance should not include the area of such signs in the overall allowable sign size but should be limited to 36 square feet.

Developers for the Ephrata Commons project are concerned that drafting and adopting the necessary amendments could slow progress on their plans. Sawyer agreed to fast track the drafts for consideration by the county planning commission so that supervisors could again take up the matter at their monthly morning meeting to be held on June 19 at 7 a.m. Once the amendments have the blessing of the county planning commission and have been reviewed by supervisors, a public meeting will be advertised and held to gain the input and feedback from township residents.

In other township business, supervisors awarded a contract for $20,505 to Keystone Construction for repair work on the Trout Run Bridge Project. Under the contract, Keystone will repair the bridge barriers and replace the membrane.

Even though work on the bridge will not be in the waterway below, it cannot begin since it does span the Hammer Creek, a stocked trout waterway. Work could take the majority of the summer to complete with hopes that work will be done in time for the start of school so as to not make it necessary to re-route school bus traffic around the area.

While the approved contract includes the work to be done, it does not include the necessary engineering and planning work done on the township’s behalf by Rettew Associates. According to Sawyer, the overall project should still come in at or below the budgeted amount of $35,000. These funds have been set aside from the township’s liquid fuels funds.

Since the work on the bridge will include both work on the barriers as well as membrane replacement, contractors expect to be able to extend the life of the current bridge by an additional ten years.

Finally, township solicitor Charles Sheidy presented supervisors with his draft of proposed changes to the community park rules. Of note is the explicit rules against the discharge of any weapon to include guns, rifles, air soft guns and BB guns. The proposed changes would disallow the discharge of or use of any weapon expelling a projectile object, whether propelled by gun powder, air or any other means.

For additional information on Ephrata Township, visit their website at ephratatownship.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes comments, questions and suggestion via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More EPHRATA TWP., page A16

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