After reviewing a ruling from the state Attorney General’s office on Ordinance 2018-02 “A Community Bill of Rights,” Todd Township Supervisors resolved to enact efforts to repeal the ordinance at their monthly meeting Monday.
The ordinance was signed into law in July 2018 and prohibited concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from being placed within the township. The township received a letter from the state Attorney General’s office stating the ordinance is unlawful.
Township solicitor Larry Lashinsky agreed with the AG’s ruling and advised the supervisors to repeal the ordinance Monday.
“The ordinance has to go, and it has to go for three reasons. These three people (township supervisors) raised their right hands and gave an oath to God to say we’re going to follow the constitution. The state constitution has said that this law is illegal. It’s been determined by the court several times, and the Attorney General will go to court and they will win,” said Lashinsky. “The second thing is, it’s the right thing to do because there is no defense in my opinion. How am I going to go to court? You’re going to pay me $150 an hour to go to court to argue what? That it’s unfair? Life is unfair. The third thing is it’s a financial detriment to you, not only to pay me, but the Attorney General is going to turn around and say you’re paying our court costs and our legal fees. You’re going to get hammered two ways, end up in the very same position, and spend a lot more money.”
Lashinsky questioned the thinking of the ordinance and explained that it is not enforceable from his standpoint.
“The ordinance that was passed, it basically said we don’t like your law, we don’t have to enforce it. It’s kind of like nullification from a local level. How the heck can you run government with any degree of civility and get things done if you simply say, ‘I don’t like that?’ I don’t like to pay income tax, but if I don’t, I’m violating the law and I can pass all of the ordinances at the local level that I want, I’m still going to send my check to the Internal Revenue Service April 15,” said Lashinsky.
Township resident Betty Ruhlman asked the supervisors about upholding the law.
“According to your oath of office, aren’t you pledging to uphold the laws of the state? You’re not upholding the laws when three attorneys advised you against the ordinance and you went ahead and voted on it,” she said. “Why are you paying an attorney if you’re not going to pay any attention to what they say?”
Stephanie Perez of the Todd Township Community Action Group stated she saw no rush in responding to the AG’s office.
“I don’t see any hurry in replying. I think we should table it maybe until July or August and let the community come up with something, and maybe have a few more meetings and discussions about it. I just don’t see the hurry about doing anything about it right now. He didn’t hurry for us, why should we hurry? There’s no need, the barn’s there. I don’t think any decision should have to be made quickly,” said Perez.
Supervisor William Hall asked why the supervisors should table the action.
“I can’t see hanging on to table this and prolong the agony,” said Hall.
Supervisor Dennis Runk made the motion to advertise a new ordinance to repeal the previous ordinance. Hall seconded the motion and all were in favor. A vote will be taken at the June meeting.
Perez explained the supervisors have no protection against the original issue, and there is still no protection after the repeal.
“We were sort of blindsided by this, they walked in here for a permit with a building application and the only thing it said was hog barn, and that was the only description. This is a farming community, if somebody wants to put up a hog barn, nobody is going to question it, and the three supervisors didn’t question it. We have to worry about a second one and a third one, and that’s what going to happen,” said Perez.
Lashinsky explained that the township’s subdivision ordinance may be the key to limiting the situation of CAFOs within the township legally, but would require extensive research to determine if the solution could exist.
“If you’re looking at future issues, look at that subdivision ordinance and strengthen that ability for you to defend future pig farms and pig operations of this sort from coming in. You have the right to make those laws extremely stringent. You can go above and beyond what the state requires and make that law reflect your values as a community,” said Lashinsky. “The idea is to catch it in the beginning to find what it is you’re trying to set as a vision for your community and then you have those laws on the books when it comes time to make those decisions.”
Lashinsky stated that he will issue a report to the supervisors with his findings on potential solutions at a later meeting.
Under new business, the supervisors planned to open bids for shale, but no bids were received. The supervisors agreed to table the opening of bids until the April meeting.
The Todd Township Supervisors meet at 7 p.m. the second Monday of every month at the township building.