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December 10, 2016
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Damascus Township

Recently the township board took away the power of the zoning board to rule on gas drilling permits and gave it to the planning commission, thereby taking power away from a body independent of the board and giving it to one dependent on the board. Do you think this was a good move?

JOE CANFIELD - Running for Town Supervisor (R)

No response received from candidate.

DOLORES KEESLER - Running for Town Supervisor (D)

This question is not accurate. Gas extraction was previously lumped under mineral extraction and as such was a "special exception." To get a permit, an application had to be reviewed by the zoning board followed by a public hearing, then voted on by the supervisors.

This ordinance was changed so that gas extraction is a separate section within the Zoning Ordinance, receiving its own rules for the permitting process and creating the process as a "conditional use" in all zones of Damascus except the River District and the Neighborhood Development District. That hypothetically leaves about 95% of Damascus Township open for gas drilling.

Proposals for drilling now go directly to the supervisors for a permit. The supervisors are allowed to ask for changes to the submitted plan, if it does not meet the health, safety and welfare of the community; e.g. if the permit denotes inadequate setbacks from property line or a water body, etc. It is up to a vote from the supervisors alone to grant a permit. Given that all the current supervisors as well as the township lawyer have signed leases, how confident can we be that the permitting process will receive adequate oversight, if any at all?