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Peters officials to hold workshop to discuss how development options can help township grow

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:20 p.m.
Construction continues on new houses in The Hamlet of Springdale development in Peters Township on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Construction continues on a new house in The Hamlet of Springdale development in Peters Township on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Forty homes have been built in The Hamlet of Springdale development in Peters Township, which is about halfway finished, Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

A yard sign along East McMurray Road in Peters announces a “land-use development opportunity.”

Inadvertently, it offers entree into a discussion that township officials hope to spark about development in the Washington County community, where farmland, wooded areas and open tracts of land continue to diminish. The township's population increased nearly 21 percent, to 21,213, since 2000.

About 25 percent of Peters remains undeveloped, said Grant Shiring, a township planner leading Plan Peters 2022, to chart growth for the next decade.

“Pretty much all of the land is zoned to be developed to some degree,” he said. “We're trying to get people to understand there are different development options.”

On a billboard above Route 19, township officials are advertising a Jan. 29-31 workshop at which consultants will explain how zoning regulations could affect Peters' growth. Residents and business owners can express their thoughts.

Most undeveloped property is zoned to allow low-density housing, similar to what exists throughout much of the township — single-family homes on lots of a half-acre or more, Shiring said.

Other communities allow higher-density housing and walkable, mixed-use developments. Those options will become topics during the workshop, Shiring said.

Mark Hoskins, president of McMurray-based Benjamin Marcus Homes, said older people who have lived in the township for decades should be able to downsize to smaller homes.

“There are no smaller lots for retirees and no ability for rentals,” said Hoskins, who is developing the upscale Tuscany subdivision off Justabout Road, his third residential project in Peters. “These would be attractive for developers and the community.”

Something similar to the multimillion-dollar Newbury commercial and residential complex slated for South Fayette, or a town center development with housing, retail, restaurant and office space, would be a nice addition, said Brian Schill, executive director of the Peters Township Chamber of Commerce.

“We're a great place to live, work and play. But how can we make it better in the next 10 years-plus?” he asked. “We want something with a heartbeat, with vibrancy, that is attractive.”

The growth in Peters is driven by its proximity to Pittsburgh — about 15 miles — and property taxes lower than Allegheny County's, Hoskins said.

Yet residents often lament traffic congestion around commercial areas along East McMurray Road and Route 19 and loss of open space, Shiring said. “It's largely a result of the way we've developed over the past 50 years.”

Plan Peters will help revise the township's comprehensive plan, which state law requires every decade. A 10-member committee hopes to recommend ideas to council by August.

“To have public input is huge. We want this to be a community effort,” Schill said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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