Township of Girard, PA
Erie County
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[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Girard 8-10-1981 by Ord. No. 99-6 (Ch. 35 of the 1987 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Floodplain management — See Ch. 100.
Stormwater management — See Ch. 166.
Subdivision and land development — See Ch. 174.
Zoning — See Ch. 200.
It is the purpose of this chapter to:
A. 
Encourage planning and development in bluff areas which is consistent with sound land use practices.
B. 
Protect people and property in bluff areas from danger and damages associated with the inevitable recession of bluffs.
C. 
Prevent and eliminate urban and rural blight which results from the damages of bluff erosion and recession.
D. 
Minimize the expenditure of public and private funds for shoreline protection and bluff stabilization structures and activities.
In any designated bluff recession hazard area, no person shall construct, install or engage in substantial improvement to any structure or any utility facility, such as but not limited to water, sewerage, electric, gas, oil or telephone facilities, in violation of the bluff setback requirements established by this chapter.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
BLUFF
A high bank or bold headland with a broad precipitous cliff face overlooking a lake.
BLUFF LINE
The edge or crest of the bluff.
BLUFF RECESSION
The loss of material along the bluff face caused by the direct or indirect action by one or a combination of groundwater seepage, water currents, wind-generated water waves or high water levels.
BLUFF RECESSION HAZARD AREA
An area or zone where the rate of progressive bluff recession creates a substantial threat to the safety or stability of nearby existing or future structures or utility facilities.
DEPARTMENT
The Department of Environmental Protection of the commonwealth.
A. 
The improvement of one lot or two more contiguous lots, tracts or parcels of land for any purpose, including but not limited to a group of two or more buildings and the division or allocation of land or space between or among two or more existing or prospective occupants by means of or for the purpose of streets, common areas, leaseholds, condominiums, building groups or other features; or
B. 
A subdivision of land.
HIGH BANK
A bank over five feet high.
LAKE
A body of fresh water covering at least 9,000 square feet.
[1]
MARKET VALUE
The value of a structure determined by a certified appraisal as provided by the owner of said property.
MINIMUM BLUFF SETBACK DISTANCE
The shortest horizontal distance from a point on the bluff line to a point on a structure.
PARCEL
A piece of ground that existed as an independent tax lot on the records of the county prior to its inclusion in a municipality's designated bluff recession hazard areas.
PERSONS
An individual, partnership, public or private association or corporation, firm, trust estate, municipality, governmental unit, public utility or other legal entity which is recognized by law as the subject of rights and duties. When used in a section prescribing or imposing a penalty, the term shall include members of a partnership; officers, members, servants and agents of an association; and officers, agents or servants of a corporation, but shall exclude any department, board, bureau or agency of the commonwealth.
PLAT
A map, drawing or print accurately drawn to scale showing the proposed or existing location of all structures.
STRUCTURE
A man-made object having an ascertainable stationary location on or in land, whether or not affixed to the land. "Structures" are classified into three categories: residential, commercial and light and heavy industrial.
A. 
A place providing the habitation for an individual or group of individuals. Structures in this category include but are not limited to single-family homes, duplexes and summer cottages as well as any secondary structure associated with a residential structure.
B. 
A place where commodities are exchanged, bought or sold. Structures in this category include but are not limited to grocery stores, hardware stores, clothing shops and pharmacies as well as any secondary structure that is associated with the commercial structure.
C. 
A place where materials are refined, produced or fabricated and stored prior to shipment to commercial establishments. Structures in this category include but are not limited to factories, power plants and warehouses as well as any secondary structure that is associated with the industrial structure. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other public-service facilities, because of the dangers inherent in bluff recession, will for purposes of setback requirements be considered light- and heavy-industrial structures.
STRUCTURE LIFE SPAN
The useful life of the structure considering both economic and physical factors.
SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT
A repair, reconstruction or improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure either before the improvement or repair is started or, if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred; or repair, reconstruction or improvement of a structure occurring over a five-year period, the aggregate cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure either before the first improvement or repair is started or, if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred. "Substantial improvement" is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural part of the building commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure. The term does not, however, include any project for improvement of a structure to comply with existing state or local health, sanitary or safety specifications which is solely necessary to assure safe living conditions or any alteration of a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a State Inventory of Historic Places.
[1]
Editor's Note: Added at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).
No person shall construct, install or engage in substantial improvement to any structure or utility facility, such as but not limited to waste, sewerage, electric, gas, oil or telephone, in a designated bluff recession hazard area without first obtaining a written permit from the Zoning Administrator of Girard Township.
A. 
The location and boundaries of the designated bluff recession hazard area shall be as defined in § 81-3 hereof and shall extend inland a horizontal distance of 200 feet from the bluff line.
B. 
There is hereby established a minimum bluff setback distance from the top of the bluff. The minimum bluff setback distance is 200 feet for residential structures, 200 feet for commercial structures and 200 feet for industrial structures. It should be noted that the foregoing are minimum distances, and because of variations in local bluff recession rates, it cannot be guaranteed that a structure located in a bluff recession hazard area will not be endangered by bluff recession within its useful life span.
C. 
Except as provided in § 81-5 hereof, no permit shall be granted under this chapter for the construction, installation or substantial improvement of structures or utility facilities within the minimum bluff setback distance established by Subsection B hereof. Substantial improvement does not include any project for improvement of a structure to comply with existing state or local health, sanitary or safety specifications which is solely necessary to assure safe living conditions or any alteration of a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a State Inventory of Historic Places.
D. 
A permit may be transferred only upon application to and written approval by the Zoning Administrator. No permit shall be transferred if a violation of this chapter exists at the time of application for transfer unless the transfer will expedite correction of the violation.
A request for a variance to the permit requirements of § 81-4 hereof may be granted only by the Girard Township Zoning Hearing Board in the following cases:
A. 
When a parcel established prior to a bluff recession hazard area designation does not have adequate depth, considering the minimum bluff setback requirements, to provide for any reasonable use of the land. The variance may be granted only when each of the following criteria is met:
(1) 
The structure and all associated structures and utility facilities shall be located on the property as far landward of the bluff line as allowed by other municipal ordinances.
(2) 
The structure shall be designed and constructed to be movable. Construction activities shall meet the minimum erosion and sediment control practices established by Title 25, Chapter 102 (relating to erosion control), of the Pennsylvania Code and reflect guidance contained in municipal stormwater ordinances or county watershed stormwater management plans. All construction materials, including foundations, shall be removed and disposed of in accordance with Chapter 75 (relating to solid waste management) of the Pennsylvania Code as part of the moving operation. Access to and from the structure shall be of sufficient width and acceptable grade to allow for moving of the structure.
[Amended 7-14-1987 by Ord. No. 73]
B. 
When the proposed structure or utility facilities require access to the body of water and there is not feasible alternative for obtaining such access. A variance may be granted only for bluff recession control devices designed to reduce bluff recession; water withdrawal lines or discharge lines; power cables; natural gas or oil pipelines; and communication cables or other public service lines which require access through the bluff recession hazard area to the body of water.
[Amended 7-14-1987 by Ord. No. 73]
(1) 
To achieve adequate protection of the bluff, the construction activity shall occur in a manner that minimizes potential short-term and long-term disruption of the bluff recession hazard area, shall be in conformance with Title 25, Chapter 102, of the Pennsylvania Code and shall reflect guidance contained in municipal stormwater ordinances or county watershed stormwater management plans.
(2) 
To help ensure that increased turbidity levels on the lake are not caused, all construction activities shall comply with the erosion and sedimentation control practices established by Title 25, Chapter 102, of the Pennsylvania Code.
(3) 
The area of the construction site shall be reestablished to ensure that subsequent erosion will not damage the structure or harm the environment or adjacent properties.
A. 
The Zoning Administrator, prior to issuing a building permit for an improvement to a structure or utility facility within a bluff setback distance, shall:
(1) 
Determine the cost of the proposed improvement.
(2) 
Review the market value of the structure or utility facility.
(3) 
Review the municipal building permit records to determine if previous permits for improvements have been issued during the previous five-year period for this structure or utility facility.
(4) 
Determine whether this proposed improvement will be a substantial improvement of the structure or utility facility.
B. 
The Zoning Administrator will periodically inspect all permitted activities in the bluff recession hazard area to ensure that all building activities are being conducted in conformance with the provisions of this chapter.
C. 
The Zoning Administrator will periodically tour the bluff recession hazard area. The purpose of this tour will be to ensure that all building activities are being conducted in conformance with the provisions of this chapter.
The Zoning Administrator shall maintain in a permanent file all correspondence, requests for variances, applications for permits and issuance or denial of such permits.
A. 
An agent or employee of the municipality shall have the power to, upon presentation of proper credentials:
(1) 
Enter any land for the purpose of surveying bluff recession hazard areas.
(2) 
Enter any land in a bluff recession hazard area for the purpose of ascertaining the location of structure or structures.
(3) 
Enter land or any structure located in a bluff recession hazard area for the purpose of ascertaining the compliance or noncompliance with this bluff setback chapter.
B. 
When an agent or employee has been refused access to property for the purposes of conducting a survey or inspection as authorized by this section or reasonably requires access to such property without prior notice to the owner, such agent or employee may apply for an inspection warrant to any commonwealth official authorized by law to issue a search or inspection warrant to enable him or her to have access and inspect such properly. It shall be sufficient probable cause to issue an inspection warrant that the inspection is necessary to properly enforce the provisions of this chapter.
A. 
Criminal penalties.
(1) 
Any person other than the officers of a municipality, county or governmental unit who violates or permits a violation of this chapter shall, upon conviction in a summary proceeding brought before a Magisterial District Judge under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, be guilty of a summary offense and shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, plus costs of prosecution. In default of payment thereof, the defendant may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 90 days. All summary proceedings under this chapter may be brought before any Magisterial District Judge of the county where the violation occurred, and jurisdiction is hereby conferred upon said Magisterial District Judge, subject to appeal by either party in the manner provided by law for appeals from summary conviction. It shall be the duty of the District Attorney of the county to represent the interests of the commonwealth.
[Amended 7-14-1987 by Ord. No. 73[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).
(2) 
Any person who, within two years after a conviction in a summary proceeding as provided in Subsection A(1), violates the requirements of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 for each separate offense or to imprisonment for a period of not more than one year, or both.
(3) 
Each day of continued violation of any provision of this chapter shall constitute a separate offense under Subsection A(1) and (2).
B. 
Civil remedies.
(1) 
Any activity conducted in violation of this chapter is declared to be a public nuisance.
(2) 
Suits to restrain, prevent or abate violations of this chapter as adopted may be instituted in equity or at law by any affected county or municipality or by any aggrieved person. Such proceedings may be prosecuted in the Commonwealth Court or in the Court of Common Pleas of the county where the activity has taken place, the condition exists or the public is affected, and to that end jurisdiction is hereby conferred in law and equity upon such Courts. Except in cases of emergency where, in the opinion of the Court, the circumstances of the case require immediate abatement of the unlawful conduct, the Court may, in its decree, fix a reasonable time during which the person responsible for the unlawful conduct shall correct or abate the same. The expense of such proceedings shall be recoverable from the violator in such manner as may now or hereafter be provided by law.
A. 
The following procedures shall be followed:
(1) 
Appeals from the decision of the Zoning Administrator shall be made to the Zoning Hearing Board by any person aggrieved by any decision of the Zoning Administrator. Such appeal shall be taken within a reasonable time, as provided by the rules of the Board, by filing with the Zoning Administrator and with the Board a notice of appeal specifying the grounds thereof. The Zoning Administrator shall forthwith transmit to the Board all papers constituting the record upon which the action appealed from was taken.
(2) 
The Board shall hear and decide appeals and review any order, requirement, decision or determination made by the Zoning Administrator in the enforcement or application of this chapter, and upon such appeal, may, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, reverse or affirm, wholly or in part, or modify any such order, requirement, decision or determination.
(3) 
If, after a permit has been authorized by the Board, such permit is not lifted from the office of the Zoning Administrator within a period of six months from the date of authorization, then such authorization shall be null and void, and no permit shall be issued thereunder.
(4) 
The Board shall fix a reasonable time for the hearing of an appeal; shall give notice thereof, as well as due notice, at least six days prior to the hearing, in the press and by mail to the parties in interest at the address filed with the appeal; and shall decide the same within 45 days from the Zoning Administrator's decision. Upon the hearing of such appeal, any party may appear in person or be represented by agent or attorney.
B. 
Grant of supersedeas.
(1) 
An appeal of any action under this chapter shall not act as a supersedeas. A supersedeas may be granted upon a showing by the petitioner:
(a) 
That irreparable harm to the petitioner or other interested parties will result if supersedeas is denied;
(b) 
That there is a likelihood of the petitioner's success on the merits; and
(c) 
That the grant of a supersedeas will not result in irreparable harm to the commonwealth.
(2) 
The court of competent jurisdiction may grant such a supersedeas subject to such security as it may deem proper.