A crowd of close to 50 residents broke into applause Wednesday after the Cecil Township Zoning Board voted to deny MarkWest's request for a special exception to construct a natural gas compressor station on Coleman Road near state Route 980.
Board member Frank Zuzek said his no vote was based on several factors, including the negative impact a compressor station could potentially have on neighboring properties, and insufficient evidence that MarkWest provides an essential service — an argument made by representatives at previous public hearings regarding the matter.
Board chairman George Augustine echoed some of these sentiments.
“They made two proposals before the board that they consider themselves an essential service and I find that as the definition in the ordinance, to qualify as an essential service, you have to be a public utility. I agree with Mr. Zuzek on that point,” said Augustine.
The vote was 2-0, with only two of the three board members being permitted to vote. The third permanent board member, Rich Berteotti, was not present for all three public hearings regarding the matter, and therefore was not eligible to vote.
Kathy Helbling, who started the group Cecil Cares in order to bring community awareness to issues surrounding the township, said she was cautiously optimistic with the decision rendered.
“Everyone within Cecil Cares is ecstatic with the zoning board's announcement this evening. We realize this is just one small victory. We understand that a legal battle could ensue from the zoning board's decision tonight,” said Helbling.
The legal battle Helbling is referring to is MarkWest's option to appeal the decision to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, where the board's decision would be reviewed and a rendering could be made.
According to Township Manager Don Gennuso, last night's ruling against the proposal does not preclude MarkWest from reapplying for a station at a different location.
Cecil Township Supervisors meet tonight to discuss an ordinance regulating compressor stations. The board is discussing which zones would be most appropriate for the facilites, and whether they should be allowed as a permitted or conditional use.
According to Gennuso, the Coleman Road property where MarkWest wanted to house the compressor station is currently under a sales agreement with the company, but that the deal has not yet been finalized. Gennuso said he did not know if that agreement was contingent on the zoning board approving its request for the special exception.
Reached Thursday, Christopher Rimkus, associate counsel for MarkWest, confirmed that the company has an option to purchase the property in question.
He also said that the company is mulling its options regarding the denial and waiting for the board's written decision before taking any further action.
"We were disappointed and think it's the wrong choice," he said, adding that appealing the decision was not out of the question.
Editor Amanda Gillooly contributed to this report.