New Castle News

February 18, 2014

Our Opinion: Planning land use can be a difficult process

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Whenever a Pennsylvania community considers the creation of a zoning ordinance, it’s an opportunity for self-assessment.

What, for instance, does that community want to be? What does it envision for its future? What does it hope to achieve from zoning?

Generally speaking, talk of zoning tends to produce two community camps: Those who favor it and those who oppose such mapping.

Supporters tout the ability to better plan in a community. A municipality with zoning may be able to devote resources to a specific area in order to build the infrastructure necessary to attract industry.

Conversely, the same community could assure homeowners that a given area will remain residential, thus protecting property values.

Opponents chafe at the notion of restrictions. Zoning means rules and regulations. They worry that zoning will impose limits on what they can do with property and harm their ability to profit from it.

Both arguments have some merit and must be considered within the larger framework of any discussion on zoning. Ideally, the purpose of a zoning ordinance is to enhance property values and quality of life in a community overall. If that doesn’t happen, there’s no reason to zone.

Last week, a Wayne Township resident appeared at the Lawrence County commissioners meeting to express concerns about zoning plans in his community.

Although he is involved in the development of zoning, the visitor said he was worried that efforts might be made to establish an industrial zone along Route 288, which runs through the township between Ellwood City and Wampum.

Considering the limited highways in Wayne, that stretch of road makes a certain amount of sense as an industrial area. But much of it is lined with homes and there is opposition to creating an industrial zone there.

When it’s all said and done, it will be up to the people of Wayne Township to decide the matter of zoning maps. The Lawrence County planning office provides assistance in that regard, but it cannot dictate zoning to the community.

And while the location of an industrial zone involves a variety of factors, zoning advocates cannot ignore it. State law requires communities that adopt zoning to make accommodations for every type of recognized land use. If the Route 288 corridor is rejected as an industrial zone, Wayne Township would have to designate another part of its community for this purpose.

The crafting of zoning maps involves give and take and consideration of various factors. This is why so many communities ultimately balk at any type of zoning. But done properly, it can serve the people well.