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Shrewsbury Twp. residents fight ordinance that forces them to turn wells over to borough

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Randy Engle is shown next to the well that rests on his property at his home in Shrewsbury Township, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Some Shrewsbury Township residents are unhappy over an ordinance that requires them to hand over their privately owned wells to Shrewsbury borough if they sell their property, officials said. 

The township and borough, part of a regional comprehensive plan with two other municipalities, made it a priority to enforce wellhead protection regulations.

The 2018 ordinance, which mapped three zones within the borough's wellhead protection overlay district, says any property owners who own a well that doesn't fall within the zones must eventually cap it.

A well that rests on the property belonging to Randy Engle is shown in Shrewsbury Township, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

An exception to this ordinance says the owners of the four properties that are outside the zones will not lose their wells until they decide to sell their property — a clause those residents remain unsatisfied with.  

"I have a hard time understanding how the township is allowing the borough to take our wells from us," said property owner and resident Randy Engle at a Shrewsbury Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 5. "We paid for the wells. We own the wells. They're private property." 

Engle, a Shrewsbury Township resident who has been wrangling with supervisors for nearly three years, said without the asset of a well, the value of his house would go down.  

Engle said he and three other residents connected to public water free with township services and were told they would be able to retain their wells. Five months later the four residents were told they had to seal their wells. 

Randy Engle is shown next to the well that rests on his property at his home in Shrewsbury Township, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He and three other residents went in front of the board Wednesday, Feb. 5, asking for an amendment to the ordinance that would excuse the four property owners from giving up their wells. 

Shrewsbury Township officials cited protecting public water as the main reason for the ordinance.

"Private wells are typically not monitored and therefore potentially dangerous to the water supply," said board of supervisors Chairman Art Rutledge. "It's also been found that there's no indication of private wells constituting economic value to the land." 

Randy Engle is shown next to the well that rests on his property at his home in Shrewsbury Township, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

If property owners decide to cap their wells, the township will provide those services free of cost. After the 20-year grace period, however, residents will be responsible for paying those capping services, township officials said. 

"I can hardly believe I'm here begging you guys not take my well from me," said Donald Miller, who has owned a private well since 1951. "In the United States of America we don't do that kind of stuff. I'm begging you to rethink this." 

At the current time, supervisors don't intend to amend the wellhead ordinance. 

"Right now, I'm doing nothing," said Vice Chairman Jeff Rennoll when asked about what supervisors will do following the meeting. "I've made my decision once, and I stand by my decision."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.