CHESTER — Zoning Commission members last week discussed the issue of confusing language in the township zoning code and definitions of what is and is not allowed during meetings.
Trustee Walter “Skip” Claypool asked the commission to make language in the code more applicable to residents’ needs.
“There is a paragraph that says if it’s not zoned to approve it’s not allowed,” he said, “and in my way of looking at it, that’s like saying if we don’t pass a law it’s illegal.
“That’s not the way the law works, the way the law works is if you want to make something unlawful you make it unlawful, so I object to that particular paragraph in our zoning,” Mr. Claypool concluded.
The township should get an attorney’s opinion on the matter, he added.
“I’ve asked for an opinion and the case law to go with that from the prosecutor when I [was] on the planning commission and they’ve been reluctant to get the case worked out,” he explained. “They said, leave it alone.”
He added, “Now it’s great that we have the case law to back that up, but we don’t want to talk about it. So, from my perspective, I think that’s harmful for people in our community. If we want zoning to apply to them we have got to consider zoning that is applicable.”
Mr. Claypool said while receiving applications for zoning permits, he discovered there are some clarifications in the zoning code that may be appropriate.
“There are some sections that are very confusing and it’s confusing to me, so when people ask me questions, I go into the zoning to try and discover what’s going on in there,” Mr. Claypool said.
“I brought the zoning resolutions with me tonight and I can start highlighting some sections that I think just need to be looked at because they are very confusing for people that are reading it, and if it’s not clear then it’s easy to violate.”
Commission members agreed with Mr. Claypool and agreed to further discuss the issue.
Mr. Claypool suggested that instead of the current practice of having a list of approved businesses by name, the township should define the types of businesses that are permitted. This would avoid unneeded requests for zoning variances and possible discrimination, he said.
Mr. Claypool stated that the township should consider the nature of businesses they would like to attract and define those in a narrative, or legal terms, and anything that falls within that narrative would be allowed.
Commissioner Andrew Chess said he appreciated Mr. Claypool’s offer to provide the commission with a list of items to review. “Maybe at your convenience you can get us the list and maybe that could be put on an agenda that we can work on,” Mr. Chess said.
The meeting was held on Feb. 3 at Chester Township Town Hall. The next Zoning Commission meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.