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Warriors Mark takes no action on appeal of Raspberry Ridge rejection

(Editors note: This is the second of two articles on the recent appeals hearing regarding a proposed development in Warriors Mark Township.)
Warriors Mark Supervisors held an appeal hearing regarding the rejected Raspberry Ridge mobile home park on Tuesday but after hearing from representatives of the developer, the township solicitor and the public it took no action on the appeal.
Supervisors had rejected a fifth time extension and approval of the preliminary plan on March 1.
Attorney Tom Scott, representing developer John Gilliland, presented documentation and testimony from witnesses. They answered comments which were sent by the township in a letter that outlined its concerns and reasons for rejecting the time extension and preliminary plan.
After the testimony portion of the hearing, the public was allowed to comment on what they had heard and voice other concerns about the project. One focus centered on a sewage planning module. The issue was voiced by a representative of non-profit Save Our Streams, Inc., Dorothy Gurney.
Gurney expressed concerns over a process involving public input on sewage planning modules for developments Gilbrook I and Raspberry Ridge.
She said as far back as November of 2003, there had been a lack of public access to the sewage module and “improper, inadequate notice.”
She said the sewage module had not been submitted to DEP as required. Gurney also noted that according to an ordinance, “The responsibility of accomplishing what has to be done under the ordinance rests with the applicants…”
Gurney told the supervisors her group supported the original decision to reject a fifth time extension and the denial of the preliminary plans.
Solicitor Clapper later told Gurney those wanting to look at the sewage module could do so by contacting the township’s engineer. He also said the public could submit comment regarding the module until the next township meeting. Attorney Scott was agreeable to having any additional comment submitted.
Thursday morning, Gurney said, “Even now the public has no notice that the sewage module is available for comment nor do they know where they can access it.”
Gurney had obtained a copy from the township engineer. However she said, “One person getting a copy on their own is not the same as public access. It is spelled out in the environmental code as to what public notice and access is, I don’t know how much more explicit state law can be.”
Gurney said the law required 30 days of public comment beginning with a published notice that permits public access to the documents and states where the comments should be sent.
Clapper told Gurney he thought allowing submissions of public comment until the next meeting was “a fair compromise” since the sewage module had been advertised twice through public notice. Gurney contended there were problems regarding its availability and the public’s ability to comment. In one instance, she said the lack of availability prevented the public its full 30 days to comment. She said in another instance the notice did not make it clear as to where comments should be sent.
Clapper noted the township could not take action on the sewage module before its next meeting since the hearing was specifically for appeal of the rejection of the time extension and denial of the preliminary plans. He also noted there had never been any ruling that the advertising of the second notice was defective.
Prior to the conclusion of the hearing, Clapper asked Attorney Scott to prepare some legal briefs on certain issues that had arisen as a result of the appeals hearing. He asked the briefs be submitted for his review at least three weeks prior to the July supervisors meeting. He indicated a decision regarding Raspberry Ridge would be held off until at least that time.
“There was a rejection of extension of time given…,” said Clapper. “The time period to approve or reject those plans was met by a rejection, thereafter the plans are considered rejected until this hearing or (until the) board decides to reconsider its decision…”
Some of the information presented to the board was dated April 14 and some materials were dated April 20, according to Clapper. After the meeting, he said the township (through its engineer) had been in receipt of some of the information prior to the May 10 appeals hearing. He responded “yes” when asked if the township had some of the materials as early as April 20. He added supervisors had not reviewed it prior to the appeals hearing.
During the hearing, Clapper asked if there was case law available on a rejection of the plan and introduction of new material. Clapper wanted to know if that would be an extension of time which the board rejected. Clapper wondered if the board was permitted to look at the additional information or “is it really a revision of the plan or are they the same thing.” He also wondered if the board was permitted to accept the additional information when it was not available at the time of the original decision on March 1.
Attorney Scott was agreeable to preparing the information Clapper requested and submitting it in a timely manner prior to the July meeting.
After the hearing, Clapper said he really couldn’t comment on Scott’s presentation. He said the information would have to be reviewed.
“I don’t know if it meets what they are saying or it doesn’t,” said Clapper. “I don’t know if it complies with what they are saying it complies with or not.”
Just prior to end of the hearing, Clapper noted the professionalism exhibited “on both sides” during the appeals process.
After the hearing, developer Gilliland declined comment and referred any questions to his representatives.
Scott said, “I think the township recognized this is a major development in the township and the township has and should continue (to), and I’m sure will give it full consideration. This township’s (Warrior Mark’s) ordinance is different than a lot, in that it specifically provides that…there’s a second bite at the apple. The ordinance specifically says if the developer is dissatisfied with a decision of the township, he may request an additional hearing to present additional information to the township and that’s what we did tonight.”
In response to Gurney’s concerns, Scott said, “To suggest that a new development that proposes a million dollar state-of-the-art sewage facility that is not even going to release its effluent into the stream is going to have impact on the stream is not supported by the facts or science. So you say why else would someone make that argument, well they must have some other reason for making that argument, because there is no factual or scientific basis.”
During the meeting, he indicated some of those opposed to the development due to environmental concerns may actually be against development and growth in the township regardless of the environmental issues.
Scott said under the township’s ordinance, a developer aggrieved by a decision “may request and shall receive another opportunity to appear before the township to present additional relevant information.”
He said the developer did that during the hearing and in writing as required by the ordinance. He said the developer was not only aggrieved by the decision to deny the preliminary plan but was also aggrieved by the decision to grant the fifth time extension to correct any plan deficiencies as outlined by the township.