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[November 09, 2012]
Cumberland Twp. rejects agricultural security area at CAO site [The Evening Sun, Hanover, Pa.]
(Evening Sun, The (Hanover, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 09--The Cumberland Township board of supervisors unanimously rejected an application for an agricultural security area (ASA) designation at 1714 Mummasburg Rd. -- the site of a concentrated animal operation.
At its workshop Thursday evening, the board cited a failure by the applicant, Shirley Wagner, to demonstrate all of the requirements for the ASA application as the reason for rejection.
An ASA is a specified region with particular protections for quality farmland. These include protections against local nuisance ordinances related to farm activity, oversight in cases of eminent domain, and a possible 1 percent reduction in interest rates on loans issued through the Small Business First Program and the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund.
The process for seeking acceptance into an ASA is state-run through the Bureau of Farmland Preservation.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture the program is put in place as a, "tool for strengthening and protecting our quality farmland from the urbanization of rural areas ." At a public hearing held in September, several residents expressed concerns over the ASA designation, fearing that it would remove the township's conditional uses that were placed on a CAO at the same site. Testimony submitted at that meeting by Susan Smith, an attorney representing several concerned residents, said that while state law as it stands would not threaten any conditional uses, legal changes could occur in the future.
The CAO will house 60,000 chickens and is located in an agricultural/residential zoning district, which has caused many neighbors to fear that their own properties will be negatively effected by the farm. The conditional uses placed on the CAO by the township were designed to avoid these negative effects by establishing odor and noise controls.
For now, residents do not have to worry about an ASA designation removing these conditional uses , although a recent investigation by the state Attorney General's office could also threaten them.
The state Attorney General's Office is investigating to see if the conditional uses violate the state's Agriculture, Communities, and Rural Environments (ACRE) law, which prohibits many restrictions on "normal agricultural operations." That decision is not required to be made until early next year.
Wagner also has the option of resubmitting her ASA application to the township at any time.
"This does not prevent the applicant from re-applying," said township solicitor Sam Wiser, "but the municipality can impose a fee within a 36-month window." ___ (c)2012 The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pa.) Visit The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pa.) at www.eveningsun.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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