Thursday, December 3, 2015

PA Court of Common Pleas Upholds Municipal Ordinance Allowing Unconventional Development

On November 19, 2015, the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County dismissed an appeal challenging a land use decision from the Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board. 

In August 2014, the Middlesex Township Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance allowing natural gas drilling in residential-agricultural areas. The Middlesex Township granted Rex Energy a permit to drill unconventional wells subsequent to the ordinance’s enactment. In October 2014, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Clean Air Council and some township residents filed an appeal to the Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board challenging the validity of the township ordinance as well as the township’s decision to issue a drilling permit. The main controversy surrounding the permit relates to the proximity of unconventional wells to a nearby school building.

On May 27, 2015, the Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board upheld the validity of the ordinance, and appellants filed an appeal to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas alleging that the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Appellants also argued that the ordinance violated the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The Court of Common Pleas concluded that the Zoning Hearing Board did not abuse its discretion and affirmed the ordinance in its entirety.

The case is docketed at no. 15-10429; click here for a copy of the memorandum opinion.

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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