Wantage rescinds introduction of well-water protection ordinance

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:56

    WANTAGE-The Township Mayor and Committee have canceled a Feb. 27 public hearing and withdrawn the well-testing ordinance that it was to address. The decision was based on input presented by both the general public and the Wantage Land Use Board, according to Township Administrator Jim Doherty. Some of the concerns involved the impact of the ordinance, which was designed to protect the aquifer and set guidelines for testing of new wells, on individual homeowners. Doherty said that details being given further consideration include the number of lots in a subdivision that will trigger the need for aquifer testing; the number of gallons-per-minute that will trigger the need for individual well testing requirements, and whether or not an entire section of the ordinance involving individual well testing should be part of the ordinance, Doherty said. "The intent of the ordinance may be revised to address only major subdivisions," the administrator said. The ordinance had been introduced on Jan. 6. It was rescinded on Jan. 27 at the mayor and committee meeting and will not be brought back as it was introduced. "Before an ordinance that will affect land use is adopted, the proposed ordinance must be reviewed by the Wantage Land Use Board," explained Doherty. Advertising the ordinance in the newspaper also provides an opportunity for the general public to review the proposed law and offer input, Doherty said. Doherty further explained, "If we receive input about a proposed ordinance that involves minor changes, or if the input involves a legitimate discussion about the basic merits of the ordinance, then the public hearing can move forward and be given consideration at a public forum. In some cases, however, the input we receive convinces the governing body that important changes to the ordinance need to be reviewed before moving to the final adoption step." Doherty said that the Land Use Board originally endorsed the ordinance for consideration, but after it was introduced, further input was received from the engineer of the Land Use Board that would involve a significant change to the ordinance as it was introduced. "Whenever a significant change is proposed to an ordinance after introduction, the ordinance must be re-advertised with a new public hearing date," he continued. Doherty said that the members of the governing body also received input from various members of the public regarding this ordinance, and some of the input raised legitimate concerns for further consideration before final adoption. This, combined with the input from the Land Use Engineer, convinced the governing body to consider comprehensive revision to the proposed law, so that when the public hearing takes place, every one will be clear regarding the ordinance details. Doherty cited the decision of the governing body to rescind the introduction of this ordinance as an example of "democracy in action." "Once the ordinance was introduced, some members of the public came to me asking, ‘Is this a done deal?'" he said. "My answer was, ‘No'. "Introducing any ordinance gives the Mayor and Committee an opportunity to receive input through proper legal channels. The governing body remains committed to the consideration of an ordinance that will protect the water resources of our community, but will give further review and consideration to the details of that ordinance before bringing the matter up for consideration of final adoption.