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Zoning request for Sewickley property raises concerns

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Some Sewickley planning commission members say they are concerned a request to rezone property along Water Works Road could be considered spot zoning.

Sewickley Heights resident James Rock purchased 13.6 acres of Waterworks Park in Sewickley Borough for $350,000 in February. Rock, whose property borders the park, said he plans to sell 9 acres to Sewickley-based nonprofit Allegheny Land Trust for preservation and park land and keep the remaining 4 acres as residential-zoned land in Sewickley.

“The bigger picture is to help the land trust help acquire more of the land,” Rock told planning commission members last week. Rock said he is considering building a home on the 4 acres.

Planning commission members Tom Rostek and Sharon Pillar say they worry rezoning 4 acres to residential could be considered spot zoning.

“This creates a problem for us zoning this one little corner to residential and not considering the rest of the space,” Rostek said. “We can't just spot zone.”

Allegheny Land Trust Land Protection Director Roy Kraynyk said his organization wants to create a greenway through the area to offer more park land.

Allegheny Land Trust protects “land of natural value” in and around Allegheny County, its website says.

Sewickley Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said the plan is a “great way” to protect a source of water known as Davey's Run, which runs from the Water Works Road area into Sewickley and toward the Ohio River.

Pillar questioned why the borough would sell the land. “If that's the intent, we could have sold it to the Allegheny Land Trust,” she said.

Rostek agreed. “If that's our goal to preserve open space, why sell it?” he said.

Flannery said “borough council indicated that it would be wise to sell that land” after conclusion of a study.

“There's not much you can do up there if you walked it,” Flannery said. “You're not going to build much.”

Flannery said the land would receive more care under the land trust's control than the borough could offer.

Planning commission members said the issue is not with the already-zoned 9 acres of open space, but with the 4 acres.

“It's a one-lot zone,” Rostek said. “That's the issue.”

Pillar agreed.

“This is spot zoning,” she said. “It's pretty cut and dry that this is what this is seen as. The borough will be dragged into another lawsuit and pay thousands of dollars to defend this.”

Planning commission members voted 6-1, with Rostek opposing, to schedule a public hearing for July 2.

That meeting could be moved to July 9, borough leaders said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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