Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gotta Love Living in a Commonwealth!

This is why I love to live in PA! The townships have so much power and the township officials are free to enforce the rules anyway they see fit. They really should just leave these folks alone.

A tough spot for animal lovers NEW GARDEN ORDERS TREE TOP ANIMAL RESCUE TO SHUT DOWN By Dan Kristie, Staff Writer
NEW GARDEN - Laurellen and George Treisner thought they were doing a good deed when in 2006 they began operating an animal rescue out of their home.

But township officials are demanding they shut down Tree Top Animal Rescue because it doesn't conform to zoning law.
The Treisners own 7.3 acres in an R-1, light residential district. The zoning law says nothing specifically about animal shelters but specifies R-1 properties may be used only for one purpose. Therefore township officials decided the Triesners' property would violate the zoning if it was used for both an animal shelter and a residence.

Township Zoning Officer Don Suckstorf sent the Treisners a cease-and-desist order on Dec. 21 after the couple applied to the township for permission to build a barn they indicated would be used for agriculture. Although agriculture is allowed in R-1 districts, zoning doesn't permit a single property to be used for both agriculture and housing, officials say.

In an interview last week, the Treisners said the barn wouldn't be used for agriculture. Instead, they said, it would house 10 pygmy goats they keep as pets and occasionally be used as a temporary shelter for animals waiting to be adopted.

In two letters sent to the Treisners, Suckstorf said the couple must either dismantle the barn and shut down the animal shelter or apply to the township's zoning hearing board for a variance that would allow them to keep the barn standing and the shelter in operation.

The Treisners said they'd rather not go before the zoning hearing board, especially because of the cost to apply for a hearing.

"We shouldn't need a variance," Laurellen Treisner said. "To apply for a hearing we need to pay $1,400. Do you know how many dogs and cats $1,400 could save?"

Instead, the Treisners plan to take their case to the Jan. 14 township supervisors meeting.
Treetop is a nonprofit effort, and the Treisners said no neighbors have complained about it. They said it operates by using the Internet to connect people who want to get rid of animals with people who want to adopt or foster them. So far, they said, Treetop has rescued 95 animals.

Rarely do animals stay on their property, the Treisners said, and if they do, they're only there for hours, awaiting the arrival of the people who will adopt or foster them.

The 10 pygmy goats that were supposed to take up residence in the barn are family pets that George Treisner said "have a lot of personality and are fun to watch."

The Treisners described their interactions with the township officials as unpleasant.
Township officials "won't tell us why" they want to stop the rescue, Laurellen Treisner said. "They also told us we can't use the computer or the phone on our property for our animal rescue. I don't know on what grounds they can tell us to do that."

But Township Manager Carmen Raddi said officials did not tell the Treisners to stop using the phone and Internet for their rescue.

"No, no, no, no," Raddi said. "We never said that. Tell them to provide a letter that says that."
"Well, they did say that," Laurellen Treisner responded. "They said that in conversation."
The Treisners said their animal rescue should be considered a "no-impact business," which is defined in the zoning ordinance as a business that, among other criteria, does not generate more traffic than a normal residence.

But the zoning ordinance doesn't say that no-impact businesses are allowed in R-1 districts. In fact, it doesn't say no-impact businesses are allowed in any district. The definition appears in the beginning of the zoning ordinance, along with many other definitions that are never mentioned again. "Adult bookstore" is one such definition.

But no matter what the township says, the Treisners said they will figure out a way to continue operating Treetop Animal Rescue.

"If I have to take my laptop computer and sit in a Starbucks to conduct my business, that's fine," Laurellen Treisner said.

"We only have one filing cabinet with two drawers we use for Treetop," George Treisner said. "We have a good relationship with a pet shop in Kennett. If we take it there, would that be enough?"

To contact staff writer Dan Kristie, send an e-mail to dkristie@dailylocal.com

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