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Penn Twp. aims for 'user-friendly' zoning map

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn Township officials are hoping that a new zoning map will be more “user-friendly” for developers.

A draft of the new map features a decrease in the number of zoning districts from the nine current designations to five.

Members of the Penn Township Planning and Zoning Commission received a copy of the map last week so they could make comments. Township commissioners are expected to schedule a public hearing on the proposed changes in early 2014.

Manager Bruce Light said township officials have been told that the existing map “has been difficult to deal with from a developer's perspective.” Township staff collaborated with a consulting firm, Olsen and Associates of Butler, to draw up the draft map and a new zoning ordinance.

The new map would create districts that are more versatile for development, officials said.

“The old zoning was very restrictive,” Light said. “We want to open it up as much as we can for development but still be able to control it.”

The five zoning district classifications under consideration are rural residential, mixed-density residential, neighborhood commercial, commercial corridor and industrial.

The rural residential district would — like the existing A-1 agricultural district — include the most rural areas of the township and have few residential subdivisions.

The mixed-density district would enable the building of single-family homes on a minimum lot of at least a quarter of an acre, duplexes, structures with as many as six town houses or various small-scale mixed-use sites.

In neighborhood commercial, general-retail stores could be as large as 12,000 square feet. Multifamily residential units, restaurants and other mixed commercial and residential uses also are permitted there.

According to the draft of the new zoning map, the neighborhood commercial classification would include the area along Route 130 from the main entrance of Penn-Trafford High School almost to Manor-Harrison City Road.

It also would include a section of Route 130 from Pleasant Valley Road east to just beyond Donna Drive. Light said some homeowners in that area, which is near a Dairy Queen restaurant, told township officials that they have had trouble selling their homes because the current zoning is more oriented for residences.

Oil- and gas-extraction would be a permitted use in all five of the zoning districts that are being proposed. Township officials still intend to implement a separate ordinance regulating some aspects of drilling but are postponing further work on a draft until the state Supreme Court rule in a pending case, Light said.

Township officials last revised the zoning map and ordinance in 1995, community-development director Dallas Leonard said.

“We did everything we could to try to alleviate variance requests,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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