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Members sought for Jefferson Hills environmental council

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The Jefferson Hills Environmental Advisory Council is working with borough officials to address environmental issues, including questions that residents should ask gas-company representatives before signing a lease for natural gas rights.

Specific questions include: Would any additional equipment be stored on site? How would runoff be contained?

“People are concerned about their home values,” said Tom Donohue, environmental advisory council chairman.

“Residents wanted local government to do something, but they don't have much control beyond noise and hours of operation,” Donohue said.

The group has been around for about 15 years, but was reorganized in 2011 as part of the Jefferson Hills comprehensive-plan update passed in 2010. New members are being sought. The council has three members and is authorized to have five. Anyone interested in joining can contact Donohue.

The council assists the borough in providing an inventory of natural resources, including oil, gas and coal, forestry and wetlands, endangered species and any other environmental issues.

One of its newer initiatives is to promote “smart growth,” or the management of undeveloped areas in new housing developments. Smart growth takes natural resources into consideration and uses those features to market the development.

“We are proposing that developers build houses on smaller acreage,” Donohue said. “This would provide advantages to the developer like a lower cost and possibly fewer power lines. The remainder of the property could be a green space with a walking trail.”

The advisory council is permitted to visit developmental sites and take inventory of natural resources that should be protected, said Allen Cohen, planning and zoning director. There are five active developments in Jefferson Hills. The developers for these sites already have approval so there is not much the environmental advisory council can do, Donohue said. There are no current developments up for approval.

“We work with the developer to preserve natural landscapes, such as forestry and open spaces,” Donohue said.

The council also helps with the preservation of the Peters Creek Greenway through stream restoration projects and the monitoring of water and air quality in conjunction with the Peters Creek Watershed Association.

“They put stones and plants along the bank to stabilize it,” said Tim Shumann, president of the Peters Creek Watershed. “Those are the things we are interested in helping them with to keep an eye on.”

Borough council makes the final decision on any suggestions that the environmental advisory council may bring forth.

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