Water plan lacks public awareness Without more education, ‘people will see this as a major intrusion,’ says council president

By on August 29, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Lititz Borough Council members were briefed Tuesday night on a new water resources program that may not be well-received by residents who are unaware of the proposal.

Mary Gattis-Schell of the Lancaster County Planning Commission led the discussion. The program, called Blueprints, can be found in its entirety on the planning commission’s website. In essence, this is an integrated water resource plan for the county that will impact storm water run-off, aspects of planning in regard to water, and take an overall systems approach to making sure the county has a reliable supply of clean water.

Borough council members Scott Hain and council president Karen Weibel were involved in the development of the plan. However, that does not mean that they, or their colleagues on council, have completely bought into the plan. That is because, once enacted, the new measures could come at a considerable cost which Lititz and 59 other municipalities might struggle to fund. In addition, Weibel expressed concern that the public has not been properly educated on the proposed changes and related requirements.

For example, there would be no waivers of storm water management plan requirements whatsoever. Currently, homeowners and developers may appeal to local planning commissions for relief if they can demonstrate why such a waiver makes good sense. Under Blueprints, such matters would become the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. DEP has made it clear, according to the discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting, that it will not grant such waivers.

Weibel said Lititz has worked with neighboring Warwick Township, local businesses and farms to stay ahead in regard to all aspects of water management.

Gattis-Schell agreed, noting that, once enacted, Lititz may find upon thorough review that its ordinances are ahead of the curve with the new provisions, at which point council would simply need to pass a resolution stating as such to satisfy DEP requirements.

Regardless, some council members are concerned that Blueprints may infringe too much on individual landowner rights. For example, planting a vegetable or floral garden would not need to be approved ahead of time. However, if such a garden were too close to a storm water basin or protected area, the government may step in and force it to be relocated.

Blueprints could also dictate the amount of impervious surface allowed in a municipality, how storm water is managed, require the use of rainwater containers, and even tighten regulations on the placement of utility sheds.

"The goal is to facilitate balanced growth and the best use of greenscapes," said Gattis-Schell. "We recognize the importance of smart planning and green planning in resource protection."

She said Blueprints would basically look to better manage the county’s water management with regard to three basic areas: storm water management, sewer management systems and water quantity and source.

Following several upcoming public meetings in which the plan will be explained and questions answered, it will be presented to the county commissioners for ratification prior to enactment. Once enacted by the commissioners, a six-month window would begin for municipalities to incorporate the new regulations into existing ordinances.

"Once this new ordinance is in place, there will be no more local relief to storm water (requirements)," Hain said during the discussion. "That complete removal of the waivers is what will cause the biggest problem with local residents."

Weibel remained insistent that the public be made as fully aware of the new plans as possible, pressing Gattis-Schell on the county’s plans for public education.

"What is your thought on rollout?" Weibel questioned. "People will see this as a major intrusion. What is the public education process?"

Weibel challenged Gattis-Schell’s assertion that the public was already well aware of the forthcoming changes.

"Once the public grasps this, the public will push back," she said. "They are not aware of this."

Hain agreed.

"This will not only affect urban, but rural areas as well," he noted. "When a farmer comes in for the first time to put in a utility building on his property and we require measurements and storm water plans, etc., it will create some issues."

Gattis-Schell agreed that some members of the public will be up in arms, but will be less upset once it is explained why this is important.

Council member Todd Fulginiti expressed his support for the overall concept.

"I think it’s great," he said. "I appreciate all you are doing on this and recognize there will be challenges, but this is critically important. We should have been doing this a long time ago, but I’m glad we are doing so now."

For more information on the proposed Blueprints plan, visit the Lancaster County Planning Commission website.

Council increases

parking fines

For the first time in a number of years, Lititz Borough Council has increased fines for parking violations.

Under the new ordinance, ticket costs go up from $15 or $20 to $20 or $50, depending on the violation.

The $20 fines include overtime parking where there is no meter, parking in no parking zones, vehicles with expired registration or inspection stickers, parking commercial vehicles after hours, blocking crosswalks, blocking driveways, parking with the left side of the car to the curb, parking unattached trailers, parking more than 12 inches from the curb, parking too close to an intersection or too close to a stop sign.

A $50 ticket will be levied for parking in a handicapped space or in front of a fire hydrant.

Other penalty costs include:

? Parking meter violations will increase from $10 to $15.

? Cost for warning letters related to all parking meter violations will increase to $25, while the penalty for magisterial district judge level of enforcement will increase to $40.

Council approved the fine increases during its Tuesday night meeting at Borough Hall. Prior to the vote, the ordinance was advertised in the local newspapers and was available for review at the Lititz Borough office. A public hearing was held at the July council meeting. More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A6 Also, council raises parking fines