Coal land permit tax on hold in CT
COAL TOWNSHIP - A Coal Township commissioner says a proposed ordinance taxing recreational permits sold for coal land access will be put on hold.
This comes in the wake of a Tuesday meeting between officials of both Coal and Zerbe townships and a Reading Anthracite executive.
"As of this time, we have no plans of moving forward on (the ordinance)," Jerry Waugh, Coal Township commissioner, said Thursday.
Reading Anthracite sells access permits to its coal land, believed by and large to be purchased by off-road vehicle enthusiasts. Coal Township commissioners viewed this as a misuse of land zoned and taxed for coal production. They also expressed concern for the cost and risk of providing emergency services on the privately owned land.
In December, they announced ordinance that, if adopted, would demand 25 percent of revenue from the sale of access permits on all coal land.
That money would be used to offset the cost of emergency services on privately owned coal lands, officials said.
Permits were sold by Reading Anthracite at $125 apiece in 2012. If the tax were in place, Coal Township would have sought $31.25 on each one.
"It is believed that it is in the best interest of the taxpayers of Coal Township that these entities, who use coal production zoned land for other than coal production, pay for the additional costs of police, fire and emergency services that must be made available to those within the boundaries of Coal Township," the proposed ordinance states.
It's not clear if any other coal land owner sells access permits in Coal and Zerbe townships or if Zerbe Township supervisors discussed similar ordinance.
Coal Township's solicitor Vince Rovito said he was told Reading Anthracite began selling the permits after an estimated $22,000 damage was caused to heavy equipment on its property. The thought behind the permits was not to generate revenue but to essentially have paying customers police themselves and others, he said.
They were "out to recruit eyes," as Rovito put it.
Tuesday's meeting proved productive and positive enough that Waugh said all sides now have a better understanding of one another's concerns - concerns that appear similar.
Coal and Zerbe township officials have spoken in the past of the burden borne by emergency responders and taxpayers for all-terrain vehicle accidents and the like on privately owned coal strippings.
According to Rovito, the president of Reading Anthracite, Brian Rich, said he also is concerned with accidents and crimes like vandalism and illegal dumping that occur on his company's property.
An attempt to reach Rich for comment Thursday was unsuccessful.
While nothing is concrete, Waugh said there were discussions about a potential partnership between the municipalities and the coal company to bolster police presence and emergency services on Reading Anthracite property.
Reading Anthracite owns land adjacent to the developing Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area. Both Waugh and Rovito said Rich expressed interest in the motorized and non-motorized recreation area being created by Northumberland County.
"This man wants to get actively involved in our area," Rovito said. "It's as much a benefit for himself as it is for us."
Waugh credited Rich for coming to the Coal Township Municipal Building for the meeting, and for pledging to keep an ongoing dialogue.
Michael Schwartz is Zerbe Township's supervisor chairman. Attempts to reach him for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful, as were attempts for comment from both Schwartz and fellow supervisors in December.
Along with Waugh, Rovito and Rich, also at the meeting were Schwartz, Coal Township Commissioner Gene Welsh, Coal Township Manager Rob Slaby, Zerbe Township Solicitor Roger Wiest, and attorney Gretchen Stern for Reading Anthracite.