Case Bulletin – Beaver County Court Upholds Township’s Approval of Compressor Station
Earlier this year, Judge John D. McBride from the Court of Common Pleas in Beaver County issued his opinion in the case Kretschmann Farm, LLC, et al. v. Township of New Sewickley, et al., No. 11393 of 2014, Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County. That decision affirmed the township’s Board of Supervisor’s conditional use approval for a compressor station to be constructed on a forty-six (46) acre parcel zoned as an A-1 Agricultural District.
The parcel where Cardinal PA Midstream, LLC (“Cardinal”) plans to build the compressor station is adjacent to Kretschmann Farm, a supplier of organic produce. The New Sewickley Township Board of Supervisors (“Board”) held public hearings, which resulted in over four hundred and forty (440) pages of testimony and evidence. The Board also heard from witnesses who testified as to the compressor station’s anticipated noise and emissions impact. The Board unanimously approved the issuance of a conditional use permit for the compressor station facility, but made that approval subject the thirty-three (33) conditions, including maximum noise level and that the facility was to “provide evidence of compliance immediately after the facility is in operation and every two years thereafter”. Kretschmann Farms then appealed the Board’s approval to the Court of Common Pleas in Beaver County.
The Court first noted that, with regard to a land use appeal, the Court’s scope of review is limited to determining whether the Board committed a manifest abuse of discretion or an error of law. The Court found that the Board’s failure to report the testimony of those who objected during the proceedings before the Board was not an appealable error. The Court additionally found that, though the Appellants raised numerous concerns about the proposed compressor station, those concerns were not evidence that the proposed compressor station would result in an adverse impact to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of New Sewickley Township.
The Court also upheld the Township’s application of its ordinance that borrowed from now defunct provisions in Act 13, namely, the Township relied on its own adoption of Act 13’s setback requirements when granting Cardinal’s conditional use. The Court determined that the Township retained the 750-foot setback independent of the requirements of Act 13 and that there was no evidence of record that would lead the Court to believe that the Township retaining that setback was an abuse of discretion.
The Court lastly examined the thirty-three (33) conditions for the compressor station and found that these conditions evidenced that the Board fulfilled its constitutional obligation to its residents. Kretschmann Farm and the other Appellants have appealed Judge McBride’s decision to the Commonwealth Court, at Appeal No. 350 CD 2015.