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Township signs gun discharge ordinance back into law

08/09/2016 11:02AM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

After more than a year on the back burner of Kennett Township rules and regulations, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 on Aug. 3 to place its “Regulation of the Discharge of Firearms” back on the township's books.
By a vote of 3-0 at its July 20 meeting, the board voted to advertise its currently repealed gun discharge ordinance, in response to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s June decision that declared the amendment to the Commonwealth’s Uniform Firearms Act (Act 192) unconstitutional.
With the vote, the board added yet another chapter marker to a law that has been steeped in controversy. On Dec. 17, 2014, the board voted to repeal its current gun laws as well as pull their name from a lawsuit it had locked its name to a month before, against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other state leaders, including former Gov. Jim Corbett.
The township opposed the vote by the State's House and Senate that approved House Bill 80, signed into law on Jan. 6, 2015, which significantly amended the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6101) and cleared the way for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups to sue townships and municipalities that enacted firearms ordinances that were stricter than state firearm laws.
By reinitiating its gun ordinance, the township signs two key amendments of that ordinance into law. Ordinance No. 212, entitled, “Regulation of the Discharge of Firearms” and originally approved on Sept. 8, 2013, was intended “to secure the safety of persons and property within the Township and to maintain peace and order in the Township,” as stated in its purpose. Under its restrictions, township residents who wished to use firearms for target practice on their property had to limit the range of their shooting to beyond 150 yards of any occupied home or building, or more than 100 yards of a property line.
Ordinance No. 225, originally approved on Oct. 1, 2014, limits the use of firearms in the township to areas that offer appropriate safeguards, which the ordinance defined as backstops, baffles and horizontal bullet catchers.
In other township business, Chris Fazio of the consulting firm of Remington Vernick and Beach, along with traffic engineer Derrick Kennedy, presented a long-range roadway sufficiency analysis and traffic impact fee for the township.
The three steps of the study will assess the township's land use and provide a ten-year snapshot of what land use will look in the township; measure the current impact of traffic distribution and flow in the township; and create a capital improvement plan, which takes the recommendations that come out of the study and puts costs to them, in order to determine development fees.
The study is focusing on 15 intersections, divided among three transportation service areas in the township. Kennedy pointed out four key intersections that will be of crucial concern in the future: Kennett Pike and Hillendale Road; the Five Points intersection; Baltimore Pike and McFarland Road; and Rosedale Road and McFarland Road.
“Once this becomes a document and adopted, it becomes a living, breathing document that you should re-visit every year or two years, because as development changes, the document may need to be changed,” Fazio told the supervisors. “The last thing you want to is overlook the potential for realizing other impact fees that you could be getting to do improvements withiin the township that are a function of the development that is ocurring.”
“This is not a document to cure all roadways woes in Kennett Township,” said township solicitor David Sander. “It has to be specifically geared to be able to support the imposition of a traffic impact fee, from development that comes in, and that amount of money collected is not the full amount that is required to do the work, but a portion. This is a specific planning document. It is designed to provide a vehicle to help the township finance future road improvements.”
Coinciding with two documents he sent to the supervisors, township resident John Wilkens requested that the township hold all developers of new residential properties to obtaining a Certificate of Soil Compliance from the township, which involves an approved environmental firm sampling of the soil to determine if they are above or below an acceptable level of arsenic. Further, Wilkens requested that developers should provide documentation of the completion of any proposed soil remediation, including resampling and analysis of key points of contamination.
Th township, Wilkens recommended, would have the right to perform an independent review of any site analysis and proposed remediation, "and to make judgements regarding the adequacy of protection of the health and welfare of its citizens," he wrote.
Wilkens' request is in response to toxic arsenic being found at the Sweetbriar and Sinclair Springs developments, currently under construction in the township. Arsenic had once been used as a pesticide for apple orchards that had once grown and been cultivated at these properties.
"The intent of this ordinance is to prevent human contact with soil containing toxic contaminents such as heavy metals (e.g. arsenic), pesticides and organic solvents when property is developed," Wilkens wrote. "This is a significant issue when property is proposed to be repurposed for residential use after a history of agricultural or industrial/mechanical applications."
Township manager Lisa Moore said that she asked 22 municipalities and townships in the region if they have enacted a soil ordinance in their territories. None of them have, Moore said, and instead, rely on the Chester County Conservation District and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for soil checks and balances.
“My concern is if we adopt something and we don't know how it compares with or balances off with the country or the State's DEP, don't we set up multiple layers of oversight, which could be inconsistent or conflicting?” Board chairman Scudder Stevens asked. “Don't we need to know what they are before we make a judgment on this? We will we be creating a problem by doing that?”
After a lengthy discussion, the board agreed that they would not enact any soil ordinance for the township, telling Wilkens that developers for residential sites should be held to conditions in compliance with the DEP, as well as with the county. The supervisors concluded by saying that they will contact the township's engineers to investigate the issue.
The township, in conjunction with Kennett Borough, has finished work on an economic development study for Kennett Square. A presentation on the plan will be shared with the public on Sept. 8 at the American Legion Building in Kennett Square, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The township will hold its holiday village event this year at the Creamery in Kennett Square, at a weekend to be determined in December.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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