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Baldwin takes up ambitious comprehensive plan

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:05 p.m.
Art rendering
A map of the proposed zoning changes in Baldwin Borough.

Pittsburgh had the Duck.

Baldwin seeks an equivalent to the 40-foot floating rubber exhibit to draw the crowds to the borough of 20,000 that boasts residential neighborhoods, businesses fronting a major thoroughfare and a riverfront trail with prime viewing locations for the famous Hays eagles.

“Why can't Baldwin be the Duck, metaphorically speaking,” said Brian Meador, a member of the borough's zoning hearing board, as municipal officials, residents and local leaders gathered Monday to plan for the borough's future with a review of the community's comprehensive plan.

This is Baldwin's first comprehensive plan in more than 40 years. The borough has only had one other comprehensive plan in its history, borough Manager John Barrett said.

A committee has been working on Baldwin's comprehensive plan for about 18 months, Barrett said. The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning code recommends comprehensive plans be updated every 10 years, said Carolyn Yagle, of Environmental Planning & Design LLC.

The plan sets goals for outreach and cooperation, land-use and housing, resource management, economic development and transportation and infrastructure for the borough.

The median age is 45 years old, which is on the higher end of the spectrum for Allegheny County, Yagle said.

Baldwin also has an array of housing options, with about 8 percent of the borough's units serving as multi-family, she said.

The comprehensive plan includes a new zoning and subdivision land ordinance that would reduce zoning districts from as many as 10 classifications to five, said John Trant Jr., president of Strategic Solutions.

The new zoning map would eliminate the planned residential development district, that often is misused, Trant said, except in areas already developed as such. The new zoning would have two residential and commercials districts each and one industrial district.

“It's important for the borough because of the need for clarity,” Trant said, noting that the changes would create consistency for code enforcement officials when granting permits for new development.

The ordinance also would require a process to be adopted by borough leaders when reviewing applications for land development or zoning requests, Trant said.

As leaders gathered on Monday, they focused on what Baldwin has to offer: its people, schools, public safety, diversity, proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, a sense of community and that waterfront location.

For example, leaders are concerned that although a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage goes through the borough, many people might not be aware that they're in Baldwin. So what about putting a “welcome mat” out to let them know?

That portion of the trail, along East Carson Street, or River Road, is where people have been gathering to watch the Hays eagles on the hill above.

“That trail does present us with an opportunity,” Barrett said.

Borough leaders discussed adding mile markers with reminders that people are in Baldwin. They also may work to increase parking access so people could stop at the Baldwin portion of the trail.

“Our welcome mat needs to be a little more enticing, inviting,” Meador said. “Our welcome mat, for lack of a better word, isn't bedazzling enough.”

Letting people know that just up the street, over the hill, is the rest of Baldwin, is a good idea, Yagle said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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