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Hempfield attempts zoning revisions

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By Richard Gazarik
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Hempfield has revised a zoning ordinance and map that was shelved in 2012 after attempts to kill the measure backfired, forcing the supervisors to continue their efforts to update the outdated code used since 1978.

The planning commission Wednesday displayed a new map of the township that again creates 11 zoning districts. They are:

• Rural, suburban, corridor, residential and village residential.

• Neighborhood, local and regional commercial.

• Industrial, light and heavy industrial.

The board of supervisors will vote Feb. 4 on whether to adopt the proposed code if the planning commission accepts the plan, said Joan Shaver, a six-year member of the task force.

“All in all, I'm not 100 percent happy, but none of us are,” Shaver said. “But it's a compromise. We've done as much as we possibly can. No one's going to be 100 percent happy, but it's fair and equitable. It's been a balancing act the whole way through.”

Shaver said most criticism of the code last year concerned the zoning map, which has been improved.

“Most of the criticism was about the map. There were few arguments about the code,” she added.

Board President Doug Weimer said the supervisors addressed the complaints that were raised last year.

“I feel this is the best document we can present,” he said. “The new zoning standards are in a clear and easy format. This document is as complete as it possibly can be.”

The law has been amended a number of times since 1978, but some of its regulations are outdated.

A year ago, the supervisors inadvertently voted to continue revamping the zoning code after one supervisor mistakenly voted to keep the process alive because of confusion over the wording of a motion.

Some residents opposed the original plan, arguing that it infringed on property rights and could harm small businesses. At the time, several property owners complained that they had purchased land in the township for business ventures only to learn the proposed changes put their land in a different zoning category.

The agricultural district is designed to preserve remaining farmland as well as adjoining property that is undeveloped or sparsely populated, according to the revision.

One district likely to grow is the rural residential district, which allows single-family homes and family farms. The code warns that with the installation of sewerage in these developing areas, “significant growth pressures are likely to follow.”

• Suburban districts are designed for single-family homes on smaller lots, while a corridor district permits multi-family homes such as apartments and townhouses.

• Village residential is designed to deal with former coal towns such as Bovard and Crabtree, which are among the oldest communities in Hempfield.

• A neighborhood commercial zone would allow shopping centers near residential areas and small businesses instead of superstores and large shopping and strip malls. Local commercial districts would include auto dealerships, restaurants and strip malls.

• Regional commercial district would allow large-scale businesses ranging from 10,000 to 75,000 square feet.

• Light industrial would include technology-oriented businesses.

• Heavy industrial zone would include heavy manufacturing companies, truck terminals and warehouse and distribution hubs that are located near major highways.

• Institutional districts are designed for colleges and universities. The township has three colleges within its boundaries: branches of Pitt and Carlow and Westmoreland County Community College.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at

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