A proposed change to Findlay's Marcellus Shale regulations would allow natural gas drilling on some larger residential properties.
Rules prohibit drilling in all neighborhoods, but township supervisors agreed last Wednesday to advertise a change that would allow gas wells on low-density residential lots of at least 30 acres.
Final approval is scheduled on Dec. 12.
The board had considered a 15-acre minimum, but it voted to double the size to help "alleviate any [environmental] fears some people may have" while still encouraging development, Chairman Tom Gallant said.
"This board never wants to stifle, in any way in this township, economic growth," he said.
Bill Ehrlich of Combs Road wrote a letter urging supervisors to increase the minimum property size to 100 acres.
"This would be a more logical number and allow for some buffer room," Mr. Ehrlich wrote, noting he favors gas drilling "if it is done in an environmentally responsible way."
The zoning change would allow drilling as a conditional use on nine of 109 parcels in the northwestern area of the township near the Beaver County border, planning director Chris Caruso said.
Land pooling is not allowed, he said.
Most lots in the low-density residential district including roads such as Cork-Bocktown, Ferguson, Potato Garden Run and Clinton-Frankfort are bordered or surrounded by agricultural properties where drilling is allowed.
Marcellus development also is permitted in business parks and industrial zones and on Pittsburgh International Airport property.
Two property owners in the low-density residential zone -- with 35 acres and 251 acres, respectively -- applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection for gas well permits after the passage of Act 13, Mr. Caruso said.
Supervisor Janet Craig said Findlay's 30-acre minimum would allow companies to drill on the two properties with pending state permits, therefore avoiding any potential lawsuits against the township.
Act 13 limited municipal regulations in favor of statewide standards, but municipalities, including South Fayette, have challenged the state law, and the case has made its way to the state Supreme Court.
Supervisor Ray Chappell said the township supports local zoning powers, but by allowing drilling on certain low-density residential properties, "we're helping ourselves address Act 13, stating we're willing to cooperate and make this thing happen."
In other business, supervisors approved Imperial Land Corp.'s request to subdivide 368 acres into parcels of 6, 28, 31 and 303 acres in Findlay Industrial Park at the Westport interchange of the Findlay Connector toll highway.
Brian Temple of Imperial Land said he'd submit plans in the next few months for development of the 31-acre lot.
The property is part of a tax-increment financing deal being considered by Findlay and the West Allegheny School District.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com.