Pipeline protesters must address zoning, building code violations, official says

Reposted from an article by Wesley Robinson at Pennlive.com

The tobacco barn at the center of pipeline protests in Lancaster County remains condemned after a Conestoga Township Supervisors meeting Tuesday night.

The barn, which was condemned Monday, is privately owned by Justin and Susan Cappiello, who have given Lancaster Against Pipelines permission to use the land and the barn for an encampment protesting an upcoming pipeline. Organizers hoped Conestoga Township supervisors could help in the matter, but the officials said have no say in the matter.

Joellyn Warren, director, zoning and planning officer with West Lampeter Township, said the Cappiellos and the township were notified of the code issues on Monday. West Lampeter Township has overseen zoning for Conestoga Township since July. Warren said there are two separate violations for use of the barn and the use of property.

The tobacco barn is not certified for trainings, meetings, or gatherings of any kind, hence the building code violation, Warren said. The Cappiellos or protesters would have to obtain a commercial building permit to use the barn to meet, she added.

Protesters would need an exceptional use permit to continue using the land for the encampment, Warren said. Applying for the permit would require meeting with the zoning hearing board and paying a $500 fee.

Mark Clatterbuck, with Lancaster Against Pipelines, said in a statement Tuesday that pipeline organizers spoke with West Lampeter Township building code officials and were told they could be fined up to $1,000 per day if protesters continued to use the barn. Lancaster Against Pipelines has been protesting the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline for years and recently created the encampment to further efforts in obstructing Williams' 10,500-mile Transco pipeline that runs from New York to the Gulf of Mexico.

"Lancaster County landowners are being cited for hosting and attending meetings in their own barn while seeking to protect their farm against billionaire outsiders who want to run an export pipeline through their land," Clatterbuck said. "Our community is simply exercising its First Amendment right to peacefully oppose a threat to our health, safety, homes, and land. We call on our supervisors to defend that right."

Despite more than 100 protesters showing up to the supervisors' meeting Tuesday, the officials did not have the authority to assist the protestors. 

Clatterbuck has questioned the explanation the group received from zoning officials, arguing that the meetings protesters hold aren't violations of the "non-agricultural purposes" referenced by code officials. He posited that family reunions, if enough people aren't blood related to the land owners; church gatherings by non-Amish families; and civic-related gatherings like ours at The Stand are all illegal under the current standard and should be policed as such.

Warren said she was made aware of the violations through public knowledge and visual inspections of the property. She said she has not spoken with the Cappiellos and has been in contact with Lancaster Against Pipelines representatives during the process. Warren stressed that the violations are a matter of public safety, which is why she is bound to enforce the rules. 

"I'm doing my job as a code enforcement officer," Warren said.

According to multiple reports, the group plans to meet with the zoning board to address the matter. 

This post has been updated to reflect that Joellyn Warren has not met with any representatives from Williams.