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Rewrite of Dormont's 'outdated' zoning code in works

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Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Dormont has little open property to develop and just 0.7 square miles of land, and officials and planners there hope a revamp of the borough's 20-year-old zoning code and map can steer redevelopment and new businesses to the right spots.

“We have an outdated code that hasn't been addressed in 20 years,” said borough Manager Jeff Naftal. “We have a need to make sure that higher-density development goes near higher-density roads and lower-density development goes near lower-density roads.”

The borough began last week with a public workshop on the proposed zoning code rewrite, which would expand the number of zoning districts to eight from five by adding new definitions for civic and transit-oriented districts, and splitting the commercial class into small-scale local commercial districts and larger, busier urban commercial districts.

Local Commercial District would apply to most of the existing West Liberty and Potomac Avenue business corridors, except for the north end of the Potomac business district. That would be zoned for transit-oriented development, and both ends of West Liberty at the borough's borders would be zoned as Urban Commercial District for taller, denser buildings.

Naftal said the proposed new regulations would help steer small, locally oriented businesses to the commercial core of the borough, while larger, high-traffic businesses such as car dealerships would be kept at its edges.

The new, transit-oriented development zoning, where new buildings would be a minimum three stories and a maximum 90 feet tall, would apply to just two areas: the lots south of the Dormont Junction T station; and the blocks surrounding the Potomac Avenue T station.

Dormont and the Port Authority are negotiating a lease with Fore Property Group for a proposed 240-unit apartment complex and parking garage on the Dormont Junction parking lot. The borough's newly updated comprehensive plan calls for denser development and redevelopment surrounding the Potomac Avenue station, as well.

The areas zoned for apartments would remain mostly the same as the current R-3 zoning, following the north side of Broadway Avenue, Potomac Avenue north of the light-rail line, the blocks between McNeilly and Arkansas avenues and the McFarland Road corridor. Naftal said the proposed regulations would give property owners more flexibility in what they can do with their homes.

Naftal said the borough was still seeking feedback through its website, Another public workshop will be scheduled before the end of September.

“Things such as the proliferation of pawn shops and businesses that citizens find unseemly can only be controlled through properly written zoning ordinances,” said Council President Bill McCartney. Once Dormont has settled on proposed changes, officials can delve into specifics such as which types of buildings and businesses are allowed in each district or how properties must be developed and maintained, McCartney said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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