Hempfield OKs revision of zoning code

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 10:24 p.m.

Hempfield supervisors on Tuesday unanimously adopted a new zoning code, the first major overhaul of township land-use regulations in 40 years.

The vote following a public hearing capped an effort to revise the law that began in 2006.

Supervisor Jerry Fagert moved to adopt the code and was backed by supervisors John Silvis, Tom Logan, Doug Weimer and Sherry Magretti Hamilton despite continuing concerns mainly from business owners who fear the new law would restrict opportunities to expand their enterprises.

Hempfield is the largest municipality in Westmoreland County and the largest suburb in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, according to 2010 Census data. It is the county's largest commercial hub and has more than 43,000 residents spread over nearly 77 square miles.

The board had three options. Approve the measure; reject it; or table it and schedule a meeting. The supervisors could make changes to the law, but only if they were willing to go back to square one and start the process all over.

Township attorney Les Mlakar tried to put residents fear to rest about restrictions.

“No ordinance is perfect ... you're probably going to have to revisit this six months down the road,” he told supervisors.

He said the new code allows existing businesses to expand, and residents still can request zoning changes.

Kevin Leeman, a member of the task force that helped revise the zoning laws, opposed the measure because he said it took away the rights of property owners and “will increase the cost of doing business here.”

“I do not feel this proposal should be done. You can't tell business owners you don't want them to grow. We need to make sure this is right before it goes into effect.”

Jerry Petrill, who owns a construction company, has concerns about plans to expand his business.

“I don't even know if it would fit into the new designation,” he said.

Lucian Bove said that, although he favors the new law, expanding existing businesses will be difficult because “it severely limits business opportunities for the property.”

Janet Bobnar said she wants to use 40 of the 50 acres she owns to open a motorcycle sales and repair shop but may not be able to under the new ordinance.

“This leaves us with 40 acres we can't develop in any way, shape or form,” Bobnar said.

Robert Raimondo owns a waterproofing business, and the law rezones his property from industrial to suburban residential. The business has operated in Hempfield for 110 years.

“We feel we're being deprived, stripped of our property rights,” he said. “I think we should reconsider some changes.”

The old ordinance was a patchwork of amendments, variances and exceptions that were adopted over the years. The board considered adoption of the ordinance in 2012 but voted to send it back to the task force after citizens complained about the new zoning categories the law created.

The new code creates 11 districts.

There are agricultural, rural, suburban, corridor, residential and the new village residential zones. There also will be neighborhood, local and regional commercial districts along with industrial and light and heavy industrial areas, according to the ordinance.

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

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