West Donegal Township supervisors asked the township manager to send a letter to a homeowners association reminding it of a 1995 zoning board decision limiting an access road to emergency use only.
A road connecting the Timber Villa retirement community to the 200 block of Poplar Lane has long existed, but until recently, was blocked off with a locked gate. That block of Poplar Lane was a dead-end street with no through traffic, but when Timber Villa opened the gate, Poplar Lane residents reported a big increase in traffic on their block with many vehicles disregarding speed limits.
Township supervisors said in September that they were powerless to force Timber Villa to close the gate, but Township Manager Gene Oldham told supervisors at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, that more recent research had uncovered the 1995 zoning board decision.
Supervisors asked Oldham to send a polite letter to the homeowners association explaining what its obligations are under the 1995 zoning decision. Solicitor Josele Cleary said if the association fails to comply, the township can send a formal enforcement notice. The association would then have the right to appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board or appeal to modify the 1995 decision. The township could oppose the association before the Zoning Hearing Board.
“You are not compelled to enforce a decision made in 1998, but you have the right to do so,” Cleary said.
Also at the meeting, supervisors agreed on a 2018 property tax rate of 1.6 mills, which means a home assessed at $500,000 would be billed $800 in township property taxes. The 2017 rate was 2 mills, which means the owners of a home assessed at $500,000 would pay $1,000 in township property taxes. Since property values have gone up in the recent reassessment, the township could get the same amount of money in 2018 with a rate of 1.54 mills, in which a $500,000 home is billed $770 in township property taxes. Supervisors could raise that by up to 10 percent without a court order, which would have resulted in a rate of 1.65 mills, or $825 in township property taxes on a $500,000 home.
In another matter, supervisors agreed to contribute $37,500 to the Elizabethtown Public Library in 2018, an increase of $7,500. The library is an independent nonprofit; local governments are not required to provide any money for its operations.
Also, supervisors agreed to ask Cleary to draft a resolution opting out of allowing a casino to operate in the township under a new state law. Supervisors questioned whether such a resolution was needed, asking what zoning would allow for a casino, but Cleary said it could be an accessory use to a hotel or it could fall under “uses not otherwise provided for.” She told supervisors that they should pass the opt-out resolution if they do not want a casino.
“If you don’t want it, the resolution is the way to make sure you don’t get it,” Cleary said.