MIDDLESEX TWP — The township supervisors on Wednesday night listened to two hours of passionate public comment before they voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the zoning ordinance that regulates gas and oil drilling.
About 80 residents attended the standing-room-only meeting.
The amendment allows gas drilling, either as a permitted or conditional use, in most of the township.
Well sites are permitted in the restricted industrial zone and all three agricultural districts. They are allowed as a conditional use in the town center, highway commercial and regional commercial districts.
Gas processing stations are allowed as a conditional use in the agricultural residential, agricultural, and regional commercial districts. Processing plants are allowed in the regional commercial district as a conditional use.
All gas operations are permitted uses in the restricted industrial zone.
While supervisors chairman Mike Spreng and James “Hap” Evans abstained from the vote because they have leases with shale gas drilling companies, solicitor Mike Hnath said they could vote after abstaining to create a majority vote.
The Middlesex board has three supervisors. Hnath said the state Ethics Act allows elected officials to vote after abstaining when no other means exists to have a majority vote.
Those against shale gas drilling alternated with those in favor as the public comment portion of the meeting continued. None of the three supervisors commented during the comment period or after the vote.