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Freedom Road zoning has Cranberry property owners upset

| Saturday, June 28, 2014, 3:16 p.m.
Several properties along Freedom Road in Cranberry are for sale to commercial developers, while the owners are suing the township over zoning which they say makes it tougher to sell the properties.
Several properties along Freedom Road in Cranberry are for sale to commercial developers, while the owners are suing the township over zoning which they say makes it tougher to sell the properties.

Thirteen property owners on Freedom Road say Cranberry's zoning of their property is hurting their chances to sell to developers with deep pockets.

“This road has been the poster child of poor planning in Cranberry,” said James Wood, one of the property owners.

“Any citizen can take a look and see that this road is exploding (with development).”

The latest round of arguments between attorneys representing Cranberry and the property owners before Butler County Judge S. Michael Yeager have not been scheduled.

The property owners, on a the stretch near Haine School Road, are blaming a neighborhood zoning overlay that allows small commercial projects, such as doctors' offices, in their residential stretch, but bans big-box developments.

“If we lived on the other side of the road, we'd be all right,” said resident J.P. Parenteau, pointing to the bustling Freedom Square development that includes a Shop ‘n Save grocery store. “The township is not helping us at all.”

Several residents have put their properties up for sale, marking them as potential sites for commercial development.

Last month's announcement of a major road realignment between Route 65 in Beaver County and Cranberry could help several residents wanting to sell to commercial developers.

“No one wants to live in such a congested area,” said Hal Martin a Realtor with Howard Hanna Commercial Real Estate Services. “They're in suspended animation until something happens to further break the logjam.”

Martin is marketing five properties, including Parenteau's, with a combined price tag of nearly $1.9 million.

Another property, with two acres of land, is listed through Re/Max Select Realty for $550,000.

There's not much interest in the properties, Martin said, because it's “a long, narrow strip of property,” also burdened with setbacks and other restrictions for the nearby residential properties.

“It just makes it so tough to fit the right kind of project in that space,” Martin said.

Township manager Jerry Andree said that the township approved the overlay several years ago after lengthy discussions with hundreds of residents.

Residents of the nearby Sun Valley housing plan, with several hundred homes, didn't want heavy commercial development nearby.

“It's a challenge to develop smaller parcels,” Andree said, adding that it's easier when properties are consolidated.

“Development nowadays is a whole new ballgame.”

Wood, who does not have his property for sale, pointed to the widening of Freedom Road at the intersection of Route 19, as proof that traffic would keep increasing on the road, making it even less desirable for residential living.

PennDOT estimates more than 25,000 vehicles travel Freedom Road each day, and traffic regularly backs up at signaled intersections between the Beaver County line and Route 19.

“There's just something wrong when you can't sell your property. Nobody wants to live here,” Wood said.

Martin said he'll be meeting with Beaver County commissioners soon about the $82 million project that will create a new Freedom Road from Route 65 in Conway to Route 989 in New Sewickley, a short distance from the Cranberry border, and how that could affect Freedom Road in Cranberry.

“What's the actual corridor going to be? Is it going to be commercial, office to industrial, or stay residential? Or become a hybrid?” Martin said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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