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February 27, 2013

Neshannock planning panel recommends, rejects changes

NEW CASTLE — The township planning commission rejected half the rezoning recommendations made by the Neshannock Township supervisors.

Chairman Randy Sumner told a handful of residents attending Monday night’s meeting that the township planning board and Lawrence County Planning Commission, which also reviewed the proposed changes, are advisory boards. The final say, he noted, belongs to the supervisors. He added the supervisors must conduct a public hearing on the 14 proposed changes before voting on them.

Sumner also pointed out some of the proposed changes correct mistakes on the township zoning map. Others, he said, made no sense.

Board members discussed and voted separately on each proposal, saying they had based their vote on the township’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance. The plan, last updated in 1994, identifies Route 18 as the municipality’s major commercial corridor, Sumner said. The zoning ordinance, “tells us what is allowed.”

Sumner identified several of the changes as “spot zoning,” which he called “a bad practice which we try to avoid.”

The commission recommended rejecting:

•Converting 30 acres of R-2 residential on Pulaski Road to C-1 commercial. The board called this spot zoning because there is no commercial development around it. Sumner noted the request was rejected in May. “And I feel that is still the right call.”

•Changing a six-acre R-1 residential site on Wilmington Road to C-2 highway commercial to a depth of 600 feet.

“It is not clear to me what problem they are trying to solve here,” Sumner said. Another commission member, Dr. Elbert Acosta, asked who had requested the change. If granted, the change would extend commercial zoning into a residential neighborhood, split several parcels with R-1 and C-2 zoning, and access could be gained only from Shenango Road.

“I see no purpose, no clear advantage to the township. This makes no sense,” Sumner said.

The area in question is behind the Noble House Clinic, owned by Acosta, and could result in additional parking for the business. Acosta said he had not requested the change.

Board member Jim Haas suggested tabling the request until more information is received, but Sumner moved to reject it. “Let them tell us why they want it.”

•Rezoning 17 acres north of Robinson and Glenn roads from R-2 residential to A-1 agricultural. Commission members said the area is more valuable to the township if developed as houses and more houses can be built if residential zoning is retained.

•Converting 11 acres of R-1 residential property on the west side of Wilmington Road to C-2 highway commercial. This includes a section of property south of West Oakwood Way to just south of Maitland Lane, which is already C-2 commercial. Sumner said the area includes a dozen houses and several commercial buildings. He said he saw no need to extend zoning to businesses that already are developed and invited individuals wanting such a change to go before the board and ask.

•Changing five acres along Kenneth and Worthington avenues from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial. The property, behind Preston Motors’ Wilmington Road location, includes a parking lot used by the dealership and 12 to 14 houses.

The board said the was no obvious need for the change. “If there is interest (in rezoning) landowners should request it,” Sumner said.

•Two Mercer Road requests, one housing J&M Mini Mart on one acre on the west side of Mercer Road, the other the new location of Gettings Financial Group, on a half-acre on the on the east side of Mercer Road at Maitland Lane, were not granted. The commission recommend both remain as nonconforming use sites and noted the requested changes “are clearly spot zoning” because both are surrounded by residential property. The supervisors requested C-1 commercial designation.

The commission recommended:

•Rezoning four acres south of Glenn Road and west of Wilmington Road from agricultural to R-2 residential, to correct an instance of spot zoning.

•Changing 11 acres north of Orchard Park Drive from C-2 highway commercial to R-1 residential, also fixing a zoning map mistake.

•A limited rezoning of 18 acres on the east side of Wilmington Road from R-2 residential to C-2 highway commercial.

The area, north of Mitchell Road, involves three property owners. Robert Richards, one of the landowners, sent a letter to the commission saying he had not requested and did not want the change.

Sumner noted the majority of the land, formerly a farm owned by David Duddy, was rezoned for commercial use in February 2010. This request “squares off” the lots by adding property owned by Richards and Paul Lynch. The board recommended the requested changes for the Duddy and Lynch properties, but not Richards’.

•Converting 14 acres of agricultural land on the east side of Wilmington Road near McGary Road to industrial park.

The change was requested by the land owner who plans to expand his industrial machine shop. Sumner abstained from participating because he lives in the immediate area.

•The commission reaffirmed their recommendation of July 25, 2001, to rezone a 15-acre site at Glenn Road, about 800 feet north of Mitchell Road from C-3 commercial to I-P industrial park district

•Reaffirmed a July 25, 2001, request to rezone 10 acres on the northwest side of Northgate Circle from C-3 special commercial to an industrial park district. Both changes already had been made, but had not been included in the township zoning map.

•The board took no further action on a 19-acre lot at 3020 Wilmington Road, rezoned last month from residential to commercial for a planned skilled nursing facility. This was included on the list.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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