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Washington Township Delays Decision on Trash Hauler
Written by Mary Gibbs Kershner, Correspondent

            The Washington Township Zoning Board announced on Thursday night that it will render its written decision in the Diamond Disposal trash hauling appeal on September 30. 

            Normally, a zoning board is mandated by the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code (MPC) to render a decision within 45 days if it has not made an oral decision at the zoning hearing.  However, Zoning Board Solicitor Eugene Orlando requested an extension for the zoning board decision due to the amount of testimony involved at the zoning hearings. 

            The continued, remanded zoning hearing concerning Diamond Disposal's request for a variance took over 3-and-1/2 hours. 

            The property, located at 2132 A Old Route 100 is owned by John McGovern who leases it to his company, Diamond Disposal, to park his trash trucks.

            Approximately two years ago Washington Township's Zoning Code Enforcement Officer informed Diamond Disposal that the seven-acre property on which it operated its trash hauling operation was a new use, not a continuance of a former non-conforming use. 

            In an attempt to resolve the matter, Diamond Disposal requested a variance from the zoning board.  A variance is permitted by a zoning board when a property has a hardship that is not self-created by the property owner and it is not financial in nature. 

            Ultimately, the zoning board agreed that the previous uses of the property, which is located in a watershed conservation area, were consistent with the trash hauling business.  In its decision the zoning board placed some restrictions on Diamond Disposal such as the requirement that it must obtain a Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) from PennDOT.  Additionally, it could not store trash in its trucks overnight. 

            Thomas Palmer, an adjoining property owner, appealed the zoning board decision to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.  Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Nevius remanded the zoning board's decision back to Washington Township so that further testimony could be given in the zoning appeal.  Solicitor Orlando explained Judge Nevius did not vacate the decision of the zoning board.

            Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Dave Moyer, who has lived in Washington Township for 57 years and who testified as a private citizen, said the property was used as a quarry and an excavation business. 

            Roger Lehmann, All County and Associates, Inc., testified as an expert witness in land planning. Lehmann explained the property is unsuitable for residential use because of its previous use as a quarry.  He noted most of the topsoil on the property has been removed during the quarrying process.

            There was considerable testimony concerning the access Diamond Disposal must use to reach its property.  Previously, Diamond Disposal trash trucks used a driveway owned by the adjacent Cheers Bar located along Old Route 100.  The owner of the bar, Leonard Evans, testified that his attorney sent two cease-and-desist letters to Diamond Disposal that demanded Diamond Disposal not use the tavern's driveway for access onto its property. 

            As a result, Diamond Disposal must use a small alley it owns, Bales Lane, for access.  Bales Lane is approximately 10 feet wide with an entrance onto Old Route 100 that is estimated to be 20 feet wide.  However, as the lane climbs the hill to reach Diamond Disposal's property it narrows to 4-and-1/2 feet.  Consequently, the trash trucks must traverse over a neighboring property.

            Neighboring property owners who agreed to be parties to the zoning hearing, and had legal standing in the matter, testified concerning the noise and odor of diesel trash trucks, hours of operation of the trash hauling business, and the danger of trucks entering and exiting onto Old Route 100 from Bales Lane.

            Gregg Bogia testified as an expert witness in civil and traffic engineering.  Bogia said that the entrance that Diamond Disposal uses from Bales Lane onto Old Route 100 has a site distance of 160 feet.  The site distance requirement is 260 feet.  Bogia noted Bales Lane is not safe for egress or ingress onto Old Route 100.  In his expert opinion, PennDOT would not issue a Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) for the site as required by the zoning board decision. 

            Solicitor Orlando explained Pennsylvania state law authorizes PennDOT to issue or deny a HOP.

            Mary Galloway, an adjacent neighbor to Diamond Disposal, questioned John McGovern about how many trash truck he parks at the site.  McGovern explained he regularly parks eight trash trucks on the property plus some vehicles. He testified he would like to park more vehicles on the site, but he is limited by the topography of the property because it is very mountainous.  McGovern acknowledged his business sometimes runs every day of the week. 

            Orlando closed the zoning hearing after all the testimony had been concluded.  Orlando noted the zoning hearing board will deliberate in executive session.





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