The Local Government Regulation study group meets again this Friday, February 15th, at 9 a.m. in the Chatham Community College Library. I wanted to share on here the email I sent to Mr. Charles Taylor, chair, and Dr. Marva Price, vice-chair, in hopes they will address these questions at the meeting this Friday.
During your meeting in January, study group member Richard Whisnant suggested to the group that their efforts would be more efficient by looking over the list of issues to address in their recommendations and identify current regulations as they pertain to local government and addressing the gaps of those regulations. Is this list of issues open to the public?
There is a basic question regarding local regulation that I hope this group will answer or discuss: can a local government (municipality or county) regulate when, where, and how mineral extraction may occur in their jurisdiction? Then, I hope the group will discuss whether state allowances for mineral extraction will override local regulations, or if there would be certain circumstances in which the state would override local regulations, and list what those circumstances are.
One recurring theme I have noticed in reading about the fracking activity in Pennsylvania that seems to have contributed to the impact on their rural roadways: fracking sites are industrial sites, but are widely distributed (separated) from each other, and in general from industrial zones. In discussing Extra-territorial Jurisdiction in your January meeting, the principle of zoning and land uses came up. I am curious if a county or municipality required a fracking site to be zoned industrial, even if only temporarily, would that then help the region with appraisals and tax revenues that would help address some of the cost of industrial operations there, as well as the related services the community would need to provide (housing, health care, social services, etc.)? Zoning is a vital tool to local governments to help direct development in a way that both meets the needs of economic development and community services. It seems like such zoning powers for local governments in regards to natural gas development would be beneficial.
I realize that last question officially rezoning agricultural land to industrial use may be a little far-fetched, yet the very fact that a fracking site is by any measure an industrial site seems to make that a valid question. And it is important to note that zoning actually protects property value. Nonetheless, this study group needs to clearly state where the parameters are for municipal and county governments so local leadership may act in the interest of their citizens.