Borough leery of endorsement

| 29 Sep 2011 | 07:57

Milford - Borough officials Monday approved a resolution supporting a county-developed conservation plan for the Sawkill-Vandermark Creek watershed; but they withheld an endorsement that might have bound them to future land-use restrictions. The original resolution’s language read “...Council endorses the Sawkill/Vandermark Creek” plan, but Solicitor John Klemeyer recommended, and the council adopted an amendment, removing the word “endorses”, replacing it with “has reviewed.” Saying he felt an endorsement was too strong, Klemeyer said he was concerned that future regulation could prevent people from developing property that was purchased for development. If that happens, he said there will be damages assessed and while the county and state may recommend these ideas in planning, “I have yet to see any study telling someone, ‘no development but don’t worry, we’ll pay for it’ I’ve never seen that.” The borough has had recent experience with conflicts in creating ordinances for stormwater runoff and clear cutting. “We’ve had calls for waivers and strict enforcement on the same night,” Klemeyer recalled. Detailing the history of the watershed plan, the attorney said the county originally brought the study idea to the townships. “The townships said no, but county went ahead with anyway.” He argued that the planning would bring no additional state protection, since “every watershed in Pike County is already listed as either ‘high quality’ or ‘exceptional value’” He also noted, as he did in December, that most of the council members have not read the language of the plan. “We have to consider what we’re getting into in the planning stages, because it will likely wind up in the regulatory stage,” explained Klemeyer. The decision came despite assurances from Councilman Bill Kiger that the endorsement was boiler-plate in a larger planning effort. “Nothing’s going to happen to advance this without a specific grant and a lot of money,” Kiger said. “Our most responsible environmental people did this,” Kiger argued in favor of an endorsement. Council President Matthew Osterberg said he had read the plan and predicted that much of it would eventually become part of the county’s comprehensive plan. Still, he sounded torn, saying some of the recommendations were similar to those made by the borough’s water authority. “These are things we’ve discussed in re-doing our own comprehensive plan. We sit at the bottom of the funnel. We should do something to protect ourselves,” he said speaking to one side of the issue. But regulations could emerge from this and “ordinances effect people’s lives,” he added. The decision came after the council heard from water quality advocate Vito DiBiasi, who detailed upstream development and mapped what he said were development encroachments into generation areas of the Sawkill and the springs which feed the borough’s water supply. DiBiasi called for the council to support the plan and called it “embarrassing” when they didn’t. Responding to DiBiasi, Osterberg said the council trusts the water authority, which has made lease and purchase agreements to protect the supply. “I’d rather it comes from the water authority to us. You may be right, but they’ve spent thousands of dollars studying this...It’s their area of expertise.” Councilman Robert “Bo” Fean put it simply. “We all agree. We don’t want to get jammed up with this.”