But 50-year-old state-mandated zoning requirements may significantly limit their ability to affect the outcome.
At issue is the proposed use of a barn at 31 Creamery Road for a wedding and event venue, a proposal which in its present form requests 14 variances from the township zoning ordinance. Neighborhood residents Michael McIntyre and Ted Fahey listed a variety of concerns at the township’s Sept. 1 public board of supervisors meeting, related to what they saw as a challenge to the “essential character” of their neighborhood, and presented a petition with 30 signatures.
Supervisors had conducted discussions with the applicant at two previous public meetings, and a key zoning hearing board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24, with participation presently offered by emailing the zoning hearing board solicitor via firstname.lastname@example.org, by noon on the day of the hearing, to request an invitation to a remote meeting.
At the Sept. 1 meeting, officials said they would work toward providing a live, appropriately socially distanced alternative venue, in the township’s public works building off Hollow Horn Road, where the township vehicles could be removed, and bay doors opened.
McIntyre and Fahey noted concerns about “noise and movement” related to attendance by as many as 180 persons at an event, which they said would “be akin to a nightclub in our midst.”
They further noted attendees would have “no vested interest in our community” while using vulnerable tertiary roads, often under the influence of alcohol served at the events, and where residents are often walking, jogging and cycling. Overall, they questioned if the need for 14 variances might suggest it was “probably not the right property” for the purpose.
But Supervisor Chair Jim Helms noted that “the area is zoned commercial, and the township may have to approve it at some level,” due to the 1971 state law mandating that municipalities offer a variety of zoning categories besides just residential. Solicitor Stephen Harris noted that the presence of residences in the commercial zone had themselves required variances.
Supervisor Rich Rosamilia pointed out that the proposal would also still need to go through the conditional use and land development process, offering further opportunities for modification, and that the supervisors had already proposed some conditions to the applicant in the preliminary discussions, some with pushback from the applicant. Helms added that the applicant had “started on the right foot,” by coming in to discuss the proposal first with supervisors.
Harris was asked to comment on the recent dismissal in federal court of a suit brought by Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), that challenged part of PennDOT’s procedure in pursuing their demolition and construction proposal for restoring the Headquarters Road crossing at Sheep Hole Road.
He responded that the decision would likely be appealed in federal circuit court, but was not likely to be accepted for appeal to the Supreme Court. He estimated the circuit appeal would take 6-9 months, and added he was unsure how PennDOT might proceed in the meantime.
DRN has said PennDOT has still not secured all of the state and federal permits needed to move forward.
Residents of Tinicum Township, who are concerned about a proposal for a new events venue in their neighborhood, may be getting a live zoning hearing instead of a virtual one to express those concerns.