Safety concerns have now made sighting in rifles at Gravel Pit Park a thing of the past. The decision was made 2-1 with Supervisor Dennis Culver opposed.

“People have been there firing automatic weapons and firing cases of ammo,” Supervisor August Neff said at the Board of Supervisors’ Sept. 6 meeting, adding that nearby residents have complained about rounds flying by their houses. “There was one guy that had a whole pickup truck bed full of ammo. We can’t have someone there to police this.”

Safety became a concern as the gravel pit’s walls are now lower than they were when sighting in of hunting rifles was first permitted, supervisors said. The area was never intended to be a shooting range. To make matters worse, the tallest walls left are located closest to the homes, supervisors added.

After extensive discussion with a small group of residents attending the meeting, supervisors moved the proposed oil/gas drilling ordinance forward. The document is now being reviewed by the Erie County and township planning commissions.

About a dozen residents asked a variety of questions about individual provisions.

“I don’t think (the ordinance) is going to protect people,” resident Anna McCartney said. “Until it can be done safely, why are we going ahead?” Another resident asked supervisors to poll the people who signed a petition against drilling some time ago before proceeding with adoption.

“We’ve been going at this since January,” Supervisor Vernon Frye said. No matter what we, do we’re not going to make everybody happy. We need to get something going here.”

Supervisors assured residents that they are not adopting an ordinance just to do something and that provisions can be amended if needed.

The district judge will determine penalties assessed under the ordinance. The maximum fine is $1,000/day and permits may be revoked for violations of the ordinance.

Provisions include that there should be no time limit for drilling.

Also, drillers may use an ambient noise level of 60 decibels, measured at the nearest property line of a residence or public building. Gas wells may be 200 feet from a stream on a farmer’s land rather than 500 feet. The distance from a structure is set at 500 feet.

A water usage plan will be required; drilling site access roads must protect township roads; road access must conform to PennDOT sight distance requirements; and drillers must use electric motors where possible or limit noise.

Other additions restrict hours of operation; prohibit drillers from storing equipment on site and require that material safety data sheets be provided to the township and its emergency management coordinator.

Supervisors also adopted a revised storm water management ordinance, mandated by the state.

Property additions which create more than 500 feet of impermeable surface will now require a storm water management plan created by an engineer. Previously engineer-developed plans were only required for additions of 10,000 square feet or more. Gravel driveways are now also considered impermeable ground.

Projects of between 2,500 and 5,000 square feet also require storm water plans, but these may be created by the owner or contractor, supervisors said.

“The township previously had considerable storm water management regulations in place,” Culver said. “This is just tightening the hoops we’ve got to jump through.”

The local Farm Bureau is questioning the state-mandated regulations, residents said.

Township engineer Douglas Sceiford explained that the new plan takes into account not just the excess water runoff that is generated, but also the amount of water not available to recharge groundwater.

Improved water pressure for firefighting is coming to Route 89 between Law Road and I-90. North East Township Supervisors approved an agreement with Roberts Trucking of Route 89 to construct an addition to the existing township pump station.

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“Roberts Trucking needs a larger supply of water for its sprinkler system,” Supervisor Dennis Culver said.

“They will install the pump, controller, the building and connect the piping and do additional electrical work. If it is done to our satisfaction the township will purchase it back at a discounted price.”

Plans for a small gravel pit on the Semelka property on North Hammond Road were approved. Several conditions recommended by the planning commission were imposed, including limiting hours of operation to between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., requiring traffic and dust control, water well testing and no operations on Sundays.

Gravel will be removed from eight acres of land over a 20- to 25-year period. Digging will be no closer than 300 feet from houses and will remain three feet above the water table.

Work is to start at the wall of the former gravel pit and will be limited to excavation of between one-third and one-half acre per year, owner William Semelka told supervisors.

Supervisors also agreed to hire a code enforcement officer for five hours per week as needed. “There is money in the budget for this,” Neff said. The township’s candidate is the North East Borough police chief.

The next meeting of the board will be held Sept. 19 at 9 a.m.

Residents were also reminded that the 30th annual Wine Country Harvest Festival will be held in Gravel Pit and Gibson parks Sept. 23-25.

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