Barkeyville Borough, 5404 Pittsburgh Road, Harrisville, Pennsylvania 16038 - Ph: 814-786-7280

Barkeyville Borough, Pennsylvania

Barkeyville's Disputed Zoning Amendment

9/4/07: Barkeyville Borough Council amends Zoning Ordinance to benefit Hawbaker asphalt company under accusations of impropriety.

An amendment to Barkeyville's zoning ordinance had been drawn up by lawyers for the Hawbaker asphalt company and presented to the Borough Council for consideration some months ago. It was adopted by the Borough Council [Leann Stearns, Wally Stearns, Warren Whetzel, Charles Nolf, Regis Brick, Jeff McConnell and Alvin Patton] verbatim on September 4th, 2007, with virtually no debate or discussion among the Borough Council regarding its merits.

The amendment removes protections for Borough citizens, specifically restrictions on air pollution. For example the original Section 303 DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS FOR ANY INDUSTRIAL USE stated: "(5) It shall not emit any noxious, toxic or corrosive fumes or gases nor shall it emit any offensive odors." This protection was included in the original ordinance to allow Barkeyville residents to live in the community without having to be burdened with noxious odors from local businesses. However, the Borough Council amended section 303 (5) to remove all restrictions on air pollution, only requiring industrial uses to maintain governmental permits.

The Borough amended Article X of the Ordinance (Definitions), which stated, "Light Industry: The processing or fabrication of certain materials and products which does not produce unacceptable noise, vibration, air pollution, fire hazards or other disturbances or danger to neighboring properties." The Borough's new definition of Light Industry completely eliminates any mention of unacceptable noise, vibration, air pollution, fire hazards or other disturbances or danger to neighboring properties, and instead specifically includes asphalt plants as light industry. Clearly, the Borough Council is not acting in the best interests of Borough residents and is instead apparently acting on behalf of the Hawbaker corporation. We have found no other instances where a large asphalt plant was defined as light industry in Pennsylvania.

In addition, the Borough Council stripped whatever remaining protections the original ordinance provided for Borough residents from air pollution, noxious gasses and odors. The original ordinance stated: "606.5 ODORS: In any district except the Industrial District, no malodorous gas or matter shall be permitted which is discernible on any adjoining lot or property." This section has been changed to allow malodorous gasses in the Industrial Park District which are discernable on adjoining residential properties. The Industrial Park District is where the Hawbaker Corporation is attempting to locate, which is immediately next to a residential district. Section 606.6 AIR POLLUTION had stated: "No pollution of air by fly-ash, dust, vapors or other substances shall be permitted which is harmful to health, or to animals, vegetation or other property." This wording was completely removed and replaced with wording for the benefit of the asphalt plant. The Borough Council stripped the local residents of their rights to clean air and a protected quality of life as guaranteed by their own Zoning Ordinance and they did so solely for the benefit of the Hawbaker Corporation.

The Borough Council had appointed a five-person Planning Commission to review the proposed amendment. The Planning Commission was required to review the amendment and its applicability to the Borough Comprehensive Plan, to take public statements for and against the amendment, to conduct research and request opinions from experts in the field of planning, etc., and then to report back to the Borough Council with its findings and recommendations. Instead, all seven members of the Borough Council signed a public petition, prior to the Planning Commission submitting its recommedndations, which stated they believed the asphalt plant should be defined as light industry and permitted in the Borough. The poorly-worded and misspelled petition, which included misinformation but did not include a single printed name or any address information, was submitted to the Planning Commission at a regularly scheduled meeting on 8/1/07. The Borough Council subsequently voted for the amendment without allowing the Planning Commission to submit its recommendations, while Council President, Leann Stearns, publicly stated that the petition was a primary influence on her deciding to vote for the amendment.

The Council, as required by law, had also scheduled a public hearing on the issue, which took place on 8/15/07, where 20 people spoke out against the Hawbaker amendment, many eloquently, while only 7 spoke for it (two of whom were Hawbaker representatives). Yet, the Borough Council unanimously approved the amendment on 9/4/07despite solid public opinion against the asphalt plant and the likelihood that the Planning Commission would recommend the amendment not be adopted.

Despite the fact that the asphalt plant's building permit is in litigation, the Borough Council refused to wait for the judicial decision concerning the legality of the asphalt plant before hastily gutting Barkeyville's Zoning Ordinance, which had been developed over a period of years by a number of civic-minded Barkeyville citizens, lawyers and consultants, for the protection of the Barkeyville community from polluting industry.


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Barkeyville, Pennsylvania; Barkeyville Borough; Barkeyville Boro; Venango County; Irwin Township; Harrisville, Pennsylvania