Are Atlantic Sunrise Opponents Just Bullies?

dimock verdict - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


The reaction of Atlantic Sunrise opponents to a simple move by Conestoga Township to enforce its ordinances illustrates they’re really just bullies at heart.

There was an interesting little dust-up in Consetoga Township, Lancaster County, last month over the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. What makes it interesting is how well it demonstrates fractivists are just bullies at heart. Here’s the March 8 headline from Lancaster Online:

“150 upset residents attend meeting after Conestoga Township condemns barn used by Atlantic Sunrise pipeline protesters”

The idea these fractivists apparently have that laws should be just be waived for them is insulting. It demonstrates the disregard Atlantic Sunrise opponents have for the law and their intent to get their way by bullying local officials.

The Lancaster Online story includes the following information:

Conestoga Township has condemned a barn being used by protesters of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, incensing the landowner and opponents of the controversial pipeline project.

A zoning officer cited zoning law violations for use of the barn for non-agricultural purposes.

For several weeks, several dozen people have been camping out on a farm owned by Justin and Susan Cappiello at 325 Conestoga Boulevard near Safe Harbor, part of a movement to try to disrupt the pipeline when construction begins.

A barn on the property has been used for meetings, with the Cappiellos’ permission…

In an e-mail to the township at 1 p.m. Tuesday, zoning officer Joellyn Warren said, “The zoning action was taken in relation to the land use at 325 Conestoga Boulevard as a result of zoning code violations. Owner was notified of zoning violations on February 16, 2017. No action was taken by owner within prescribed timeline to address or resolve zoning violations.

“Formal zoning notice of violations were issued on March 6, 2017. A condemnation notice was issued on March 6, 2017, to restrict access to barn for assembly use. Barn is classified as agricultural building and may continue to be used for agricultural purposes.”

It’s not hard to understand what happened from this report and two days later another report in Lancaster Online indicated “The group agreed to not use the barn for meetings. The encampment will be allowed to continue with some paperwork allowing its use as a special exception.”
So, what was the whole thing about, then? Well, that’s not hard too understand either. It was about fractivists attempting to intimidate Conestoga Township officials and stop them from doing anything that would prevent their DAPL-like protest event. They appeared to have partly succeeded (for a time) by getting the township to agree to bend its rules to allow the continuing encampment.
Atlantic Sunrise
This is because the Conestoga Township Zoning Ordinance is quite clear; what was going on was not permitted. Here is the relevant section (emphasis added):

Section 1221 – Mass Outdoor Gathering

The following Section is intended to control the periodic gatherings of people on an intermittent, accessory basis, and shall apply to cumulative gatherings of more than 300 people.

  1. Not More than Three Events Per Year. Mass outdoor gatherings shall be periodic and shall not exceed three events per year per site, which shall not exceed two days each, and shall be accessory to a primary permitted use.
  2. Control of Nuisances. The applicant shall prepare a plan for the orderly control of parking, litter, noise, lighting, traffic, emergency access, sanitation, automobile and pedestrian movement.
  3. Hours of Operation. The Zoning Hearing Board may impose reasonable limitations on hours of operation.
  4. Removal of Structures. All structures shall be completely removed within seven days of the conclusion of each event.
  5. Access. Access shall be from a major or minor collector road.

Perhaps this why Lancaster Against Pipelines announced later in March that it would also close its permanent encampment and was “moving to a weekend-only schedule” for the future:

Our weekend gatherings will focus on action planning, trainings, and workshops in preparation for when construction does occur.

Orientation, mass action trainings, and legal trainings will continue to be held at camp on the weekend. Community dinners and special events will also be held – so please keep an eye out for future announcements!

While this a significant backing off by the protesters and, seemingly, a victory for the rule of law, it was, nonetheless, a bullying attempt; what fractivists suppose they have the right to do anytime they don’t get their way. Moreover, they’ve not completely complied with the law yet either. Mass gatherings on weekends are not allowed more than three times per year or for more than a cumulative 300 persons. It certainly appears those thresholds were crossed a while back, if StateImpactPA can be believed. And, “Camp Rules” are still posted on their website.

Conestoga Township officials are nonetheless, to be commended for doing their job and resisting this bullying. Their quiet professionalism in response seems to have borne fruit in putting manners on Lancaster Against Pipelines.


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