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Carroll Valley trailer ordinance still undecided

After months of debate, the Carroll Valley Borough Council is still undecided about the issue of how many trailers can be parked on private properties in the borough. An amendment presented at Tuesday’s meeting was rejected and sent back for further tweaking. It would have permitted storage of three trailered vehicles per lot with a fourth permitted if the lot size is equal to or greater than two acres.

What’s stated here is a limit of three,” said Michael Wight, planning director. “But unfortunately, it doesn’t include what we removed, which are RVs and other self-powered vehicles.” Echoing his concern, Borough President Richard Mathews asked, “What about the number of RVs?”

Wight said that while the regulations for parking trailered and self-powered vehicles might differ, RVs should be included for the allowed numbers. I, for one, will be voting ‘no’ if it reads this way,” Mathews said, referring to the amended ordinance. “it’s our responsibility as council members to protect every homeowner in this borough to the best we can for their property values.” He said that allowing three trailered vehicles on a half-acre property would tend to decrease property values.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” countered council member Bruce Carr. “I think that’s a false pretense,” he added, referring to the statement that such vehicle storage would decrease property values. 

“You’re the decision-makers,” said Borough Manager David Hazlett, addressing the council. “All I would ask is that if you’d like more work done on this, I think you need to be very explicit. Let the planning commission know what it is that they’re supposed to be working on”.

Mathews suggested that instead of returning the matter to the planning commission, a group of three council members should bring a proposal to the council.

“No,” objected Carr. “That’s not the way we do things.”

Hazlett said that since this matter has garnered a great deal of public interest, whatever the council decides to do, it should be done publicly. “In my 18 years here, there have been very few things that drew the people out to talk to you as this did,” he said.

Wight suggested the planning commission take another look at the ordinance and reduce the number of permitted vehicles from three to two, eliminating garden tractors from the count.

After the board voted to send the issue back to the planning commission for further review, Mathews said, “We’re not saying you can’t have them. We’re just saying you can’t have all of those in your yard.” He suggested that people who want more than two can use a rental facility to store them.

At the end of the meeting, Carroll Valley resident Josh Haynes spoke about the matter. “We live in a rural community. Every lot here is a half-acre. To say that we can’t have three trailers on our property is absolutely nuts. People don’t like being told what they can or can’t have on their property.” He added that three trailers on a property under two acres and four on a lot larger than two acres are a very reasonable compromise.

Short term rentals

A report from planning commission director Wight suggested that more work needs to be done before reviewing permits for short-term rentals (STRs). There are still concerns regarding corporate ownership of STRs and the increased numbers of such businesses impacting earned income tax revenue. There is also an increased need for regulations concerning permitting, inspections, community standards, and the use of community services, such as sewer, water, parks, and snow removal. At next month’s meeting, the commission will re-submit a recommendation to allow STRs in all districts with appropriate regulations and enforcement. At April’s borough meeting, it was found that while short-term rentals are allowed in some zoning districts, they are not permitted in others. The planning commission report notes that zoning districts R1 and CC were unintentionally excluded following two of the 2020 planning commission meetings.

The commission will research fees, permitting, and ordinances from other PA boroughs for comparison and baseline. A public meeting on June 13, 2023 will allow residents to comment on the proposed Ordinance (#3-2023) on parking and home-based businesses. The ordinance will be considered for adoption at that time.

New police vehicles

In other borough business, Carroll Valley Police Chief Clifford Weikert asked the council for their approval to expend up to $124,546 to purchase and equip two new patrol vehicles. Weikert said that although higher, the bid from New Holland Motors and 10-8 Emergency Vehicle Service would be preferable because the cars are in stock and can be outfitted quickly. The Dodge Durango all-wheel drive pursuit vehicles are nearly $87,000. The selected equipment total for both cars is $47,325.

 Sump pump reminder

Private sump pumps connected to the public sewer line may be causing excessive effluence during heavy rain, according to a water and sewer department report. Because of this, Hazlett said that during heavy rains, the borough spends a lot of money, time, and energy cleaning water that probably didn’t need it.

He added that the council may need to insist on sump pump inspections to ensure residential sump pumps are not connected to the sewer line. “Based on the spikes we’ve seen at the (water/sewer) plant, we’re going to have to insist that somehow people are certifying to the borough that their sump pumps are disconnected from the public service. Council member David Lillard suggested a public information campaign could be launched to discuss the issue through social media and other avenues before moving to inspections.

Wight asked if Hazlett could contact the GMS to see if grants might be available to residents who can’t afford the cost of disconnecting their sump pumps. Hazlett said there could be help for people with low to moderate income. The important thing, he added, is to “get sump pumps to discharge the way they are intended, which is on the ground outside of the house. It’s actually something that’s pretty simple to fix,” he said.

Grant funding

The borough is in its last steps to secure a loan fund of nearly 5.5 million dollars from Pennsylvania PA Infrastructure Investment Authority (Pennvest) for wastewater treatment plant upgrades. The interest rate is 1.743 percent for years 1-5 and 2.178 percent for years 6-20. A grant of $700,000 was approved for the project, but work cannot be bid until the Pennvest loan has closed.

Art featuring young artists from Fairfield Area Schools adorns the walls and tables of the Carroll Valley Borough Municipal Building.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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