For some residents of Washington Township, all they want is peace and quiet. Instead, they allege they are being forced to endure cannons being fired in their neighborhood.
Residents of Heydt School House and Groff roads came before the Washington Township Board of Supervisors on Thursday night to ask the township for some noise relief. The residents claimed a vineyard in the area has been using cannons to scare birds away from its grapes.
Clayton Setzler told the board of supervisors the noise is unbearable. Scott Youells said he worried his horses could be spooked by the noise and cause a rider on his property to be unseated.
Supervisors, however, explained the vineyard is within the township agricultural security area. It is protected by state law from nuisance complaints concerning agricultural uses. A vineyard is an agricultural use.
The residents suggested the vineyard could attach nets to its vines to protect them from birds. However, that solution is not always successful because birds can get trapped in the nets. Creating a loud noise to repel birds can be considered “best farming” practices. Therefore, it can be an acceptable agricultural solution.
Township Solicitor Dan Becker explained the township has no ordinance that it can enforce against the vineyard. Becker suggested the residents discuss the problem with the vineyard owner or pursue a private remedy against the noise.
Township resident William Herbert requested an adjustment on his sewer bill because he resides in the township only six months a year. The other six months he does not use the sewer service. Herbert noted in Washington Township each property served by sewer is charged a flat rate of approximately $115 a month. He said, “In other places sewer service is based on usage.”
Both supervisors James Roma and Ernest Gehman explained there is no process in place to reduce a sewer service fee. Solicitor Becker explained because the township refinanced the former sewer authority debt of $12 million, “finances are still tight.” Becker suggested Herbert discuss his request at a township budget meeting in October.
Ruth Baker and Joseph Nicols came before the board, along with a large group of citizens, to explain their opposing views on the Boyertown School Board decision to restructure the way school board members are elected.
The school board voted to request the Berks County Court of Common Pleas permit two elected representatives from the three voting districts and three “at large” school board members from any of the three voting districts. There would still be nine elected school board members.
Boyertown school district educates children in both Montgomery and Berks counties. Currently, three members are elected from each of the three voting districts in the area serviced by the Boyertown school district.
Nicols argued the decision by the school board was intended to “equalize” the three voting districts. Region 1 voting district has a very large population located in Montgomery County. Nicols noted the Region 1 voting district in Montgomery County is a “bedroom community of Philadelphia.”
Ruth Baker has a petition of 628 signatures of people opposed to the change in school board elections. Baker contends it is possible to have all nine school board members elected from the more populated, wealthier district to the disadvantage of the two smaller districts.
Baker said, “The wealthier more populated region can field more candidates for office and they can fund their own campaigns.”
The board took no action either in support or opposition to the proposed school board restructuring.
Jeff Bevan, property manager of Meadowbrook Homeowner’s Association, asked supervisors for a timeline when the site line at the intersection of Sugar Maple Drive and Old Route 100 can be repaired.
Becker said the township will do the repairs. However, the township must first obtain a PennDOT permit that is held by Meadowbrook’s developer until November. Becker anticipated work on the site line at the intersection would not commence until spring or summer of 2014.
In other business, the board voted to purchase and execute an agreement of sale for Lot 29 in the Victoria Commons subdivision. The property adjoins the township park and consists of 2.3 acres. The purchase price was $50,000. Originally, 10 townhouses were planned for the site. The funds for the purchase will come out of the park and recreation committee budget.
Upcoming budget meetings are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21, and Tuesday, Oct. 22.