WEST PENN TOWNSHIP, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Zoning ordinances in small townships don’t typically draw high-spirited debates. But, the gloves were off in Schuylkill County, Tuesday night.

The issue is over a proposal on agriculture that some say just doesn’t serve the future of their community.

The West Penn Township Board of Supervisors began the process in 2019. But many residents say they were not aware of it. Tuesday night’s hearing was a chance for them to speak out and learn more.

Emotions ran high inside the West Penn Township Municipal Building Tuesday. In the spotlight is a proposed zoning ordinance that some residents believe will negatively affect the quality of their lives.

“My family, the Hoppus family, and I’m sure other families have some serious concerns with the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance and map,” said Brian McQuillen, West Penn Township resident.

McQuillen was designated to speak on behalf of the concerned neighbors. He says the proposal will turn their township into something they’ve avoided for decades.

“The new ordinances allow agricultural, industrial use in the highway commercial district. Highway commercial district, village center district and residential districts have not allowed this use for 35 years,” explained McQuillen.

“Why allow something like this in an area like this,” asked Kevin Hoppus a West Penn Township resident.

Kevin Hoppus and his wife Ilisa say they don’t agree with the possible changes to West Penn Township and they’re upset that they’ve been kept in the dark.

“Nobody in the neighborhood knew about this, it all just happened. Nobody asked us, nobody sent letters out, nobody knocked on our doors, nobody said hey, this company wants to do this in your neighborhood,” Ilisa Hoppus added.

But not everyone agrees the proposal is a bad thing for the community. One farmer says some community members have the wrong idea about agriculture.

“As soon as they start talking I can find out what’s wrong. I’m not an expert but I know it when somebody is inaccurate with agriculture,” said Randy Miller a West Penn Township resident.

The board says the proposal still has a long way to go and they encourage everyone to keep an open mind.

“There’s regulations here that we don’t like but we have to live with it. I don’t blame you for being mad. But there’s certain things we can do and we can’t do,” stated Timothy Houser the West Penn Township Supervisor.

This meeting was more of an informational session and an attempt to get everyone on the same page. Supervisors say another meeting will be held in the coming weeks.