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 Post subject: Palo Alto makes extra effort to fight coal company appeal
PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:55 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:12 pm
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Location: Harrisburg, PA (or in the coal fields)
Palo Alto makes extra effort to fight coal company appeal
BY STEPHEN J. PYTAK (STAFF WRITER spytak@republicanherald.com)
Published: March 21, 2010

Andy Matsko/Staff Photo Palo Alto Mayor Thomas W. Beveridge discusses the proposed mining project Wednesday. Beveridge is against an appeal by EOJ Inc. to get a variance to strip mine coal within the Borough of Palo Alto.

PALO ALTO - In an effort to defend the county zoning board's decision to prevent a strip-mining operation from moving into the borough, Palo Alto borough council has asked its solicitor to fight the coal company's appeal.

Traditionally, the county zoning board hires its own attorney. But at the council's regular meeting March 8, borough solicitor Sudhir Patel, Pottsville, said he'd learned the Schuylkill County Zoning Hearing Board isn't sure it will defend its Jan. 7 decision to deny a request for a variance made by EOJ Inc., New Ringgold.

"The borough's preference would be to have the zoning hearing board defend its decision on the appeal with its solicitor. But we are not clear whether the county zoning hearing board intends to. So the borough has asked me to try to intervene," Patel said Wednesday.

When contacted for comment, the zoning hearing board member Michael Chickersky said the matter might be further discussed at the zoning hearing board's next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. April 1 at the Schuylkill County Courthouse.

When asked for a reason why the zoning board might not defend its decision, Chickersky would only say, "Take it up with Chris Hobbs."

County zoning board solicitor Christopher Hobbs could not be reached for comment Friday.

EOJ Inc. is currently strip-mining in East Norwegian Township. In an effort to continue stripping the Buck Vein on Sharp Mountain, Joseph W. Zaprazny, president of EOJ Inc., and his wife, Elizabeth Y., purchased 89.04 acres of property on the south end of the borough for $125,000 in March 2009.

EOJ Inc. is hoping to mine a section from the East Norwegian Township-Palo Alto line - a section 300 feet wide stretching 2,500 feet toward the west, according to records in Schuylkill County Planning and Zoning Office.

That land is zoned conservation/residential. As a result, Zaprazny had to apply for a variance. He did so on Oct. 29., 2009 On Jan. 7, the board denied the request. And on Jan. 28, Zaprazny appealed the board's decision to Schuylkill County Court, according to records in the Schuylkill County Planning and Zoning Office.

At its regular monthly meeting, the borough council unanimously agreed to have Patel make an effort to intervene in the appeal filed in Schuylkill County Court.

"The borough is willing to pay our solicitor up to $3,000 to intervene, if necessary," Mayor Thomas W. Beveridge said Wednesdsay.

"We can ask the court's permission to intervene on behalf of the Borough of Palo Alto and its citizens who oppose EOJ's application and its plan. It's my intention to file an application with the Court of Common Pleas to intervene, which I intend to do hopefully within the next few days," Patel said.

A judge has not yet been assigned the case, according to computer records at the county prothonotary's office.

"It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not the borough will be allowed to intervene in the appeal. It's not a guarantee that intervention will be allowed. But if our petition to intervene is granted, it would give us the ability to make arguments in support of the borough," Patel said.


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