Newtown Artesian revives plan for pumping station
NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP - In an effort to avoid a protracted zoning battle with the township supervisors, the Newtown Artesian Water Co. has instead asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for permission to build a 228,000 gallon-a-day groundwater pumping station on conservation-zoned land in the northeast corner of township.
By filing an application with the PUC, the utility is seeking to avoid having to obtain the needed township zoning variances in order to construct the facility on an undersized lot on private property along NewtownWashington Crossing Road (Route 532) near Eldridge Road.
Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton informed the supervisors of Newtown Artesian’s PUC filing at the Oct. 10 board meeting. According to Garton, the company chose to withdraw is application before the Newtown Zoning Hearing Board and instead file with the PUC.
“There’s a provision in the Municipalities Procedural Code which exempts a public utility, a regulated company, from local regulations if the process, or project, is inherent to their service provided to the public,” Garton explained.
“The PUC approval would have the affect of placing the well at that location through the PUC process and not through the normal township channels,” he added.
iast month, Newtown Artesian formally had with- drawn its application before township zoning regulators to construct the pumping station, which the company contends is desperately needed to meet the area’s growing water demand.
According to the utility, a new well would hold the cost of water down and make it less expensive than what it would be if it bought water from third parties.
The project had sparked the ire of Newtown supervisors, who had vowed in July to formally oppose the company’s request for variances to construct a pumping station within the Conservation Management (CM) Zoning District in the township’s northeast section.
The site’s location also worried many area residents who publicly had spoken out against the project, despite the utility’s claim that no area groundwater wells would be adversely affected.
At the Oct. 10 supervisors meeting, Chairman Mike Gallagher said that residents in the area of the planned pumping station are concerned what would happen to the underground water supply if the project were approved.
“Over two-thirds of our township has public sewer and water,” Gallagher stated, “The proposed well site is in a section of the township that doesn’t have public sewer and water, and instead uses aquifers.”
In a 5-0 vote, the supervisors approved a resolution for the township solicitor to look into how much it would cost to hire an attorney in Harrisburg who handles PUC matters, and if the township could eventually prevail.
Garton said that he would report back to the board at the Oct. 24 meeting. At that time the supervisors will decide whether to formally oppose the PUC application.
“This is going to be a never-ending battle to protect of conservation district,” Gallagher declared.
At the July 25 board meeting, the supervisors had said that they were reluctant to support the four zoning variances that the utility was requesting in order to have the new well on line by next spring.
The company needed the waivers for a 30 ft. by 22 ft. building on CM-zoned land across from the Greystone Manor House catering hall. The well would be on private property owned by the Tanner iawn and Snow Store.
While the township cannot legally prohibit Newtown Artesian from drilling a new well, the company had been seeking the supervisors’ unofficial backing to proceed with its zoning variances and land development waivers.
But the supervisors had questioned the company’s request to use only 2.5 acres in the CM District, instead of the required 10-acre minimum.
”I’m concerned with variances in the CM district,” Supervisor Rob Ciervo had told Newtown Artesian representatives who attended the July meeting.
The proposed pumping station already has received approval from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the state, but needed the township variances to actually start construction.