A special meeting of the Todd Township Supervisors was held Thursday night to come to a decision on whether to rescind or defend a recently- adopted ordinance.
A 2-1 vote was passed to retain legal representation to fight for the community bill of rights ordinance adopted at the July 9 meeting in opposition to a proposed swine concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) as well as any that might follow in the future.
Supervisors Dennis Runk, William Hall and Matt Barnett were later advised that a request for review under the Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment (ACRE) Act 38 was filed through the state Attorney General’s office July 9.
ACRE was enacted to ensure that local ordinances which regulate normal agricultural operations are not in violation of state law.
The meeting opened with a 45-minute executive session at which time the supervisors consulted with an attorney affiliated with CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) regarding pro bono representation in defending the township’s new ordinance.
“We’d like to get some public input,” said Runk, following the executive session.
Stephanie Perez, representative for the Todd Township Community Action Group, shared information she received about CELDF from another municipality utilizing their services.
“They have had no problems with them whatsoever. They are on board and ahead of the game,” Perez said. “You can call them any time you have a question.”
Hall asked Penn Township Supervisor Kevin Fluke, who attended the meeting, for his insight into the issue.
“The things that you do from here on out — and I know because I’ve been there — everybody’s watching,” Fluke said. “People are paying attention now, so you need to have your ‘A’ game. You’re going to have to decide what direction you are going to take.”
Runk voiced concerns that the supervisors could be held personally liable within potential litigation.
“One of the questions I asked (the attorney) was personal. Can they come after me personally and he couldn’t guarantee me that,” he said. “I personally am not going to take the money out of my family’s pocket for this Todd Township. I don’t have the time and I don’t have the money.”
Hall explained the supervisors were told that outcome would be highly unlikely.
“They are not going to do it, Denny,” Perez said. “They are worried about the township. Why would they go after you? Nothing like that has ever happened. It’s never happened.”
Runk reiterated that the attorney had said there was no guarantee.
“He did mention that the community action group could get involved,” Hall said. “The way I understood it, is once we took them on as legal advisors then you people could get involved.”
Perez said 85 percent of the residents do not want CAFOs in the township.
“We’re looking farther than the tip of our nose. We’re looking farther than one long building,” she said. “In 10 years down the road, I guarantee you there are going to be five, six or seven of them. Any place, any filed or any landowner, Hatfield will get to them.”
The issue of whether to rescind the ordinance or to defend it against any potential litigation was brought to a vote, with Runk and Hall voting to retain CELDF and Barnett issuing the lone “no” vote.
April can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.