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Shaler OKs green overlay district to promote riverfront

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Shaler and O'Hara townships are the latest municipalities to approve a green overlay district to help promote development along the Allegheny River.

Creating the green overlay district ordinances is a project initiated by the Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone, or ARTEZ, a community economic-development agency serving seven riverfront communities to promote development and projects along the riverfront to make the communities more desirable places to live, work and play, according to its mission.

ARTEZ serves Aspinwall, Blawnox, Etna, Millvale, O'Hara, Shaler and Sharpsburg.

Last month, Shaler and O'Hara townships' overlay-district approvals brought the total to three of the seven riverfront communities to fully adopt the green overlay district ordinances.

Officials of Aspinwall, Etna and Millvale are preparing for their ordinances' final adoption, and Blawnox officials just completed the county review process, a step that needed to be completed before the ordinance could go before the borough council.

“I think it's a great step,” Iris Whitworth, executive director of ARTEZ, said about Shaler's and O'Hara's approvals. “It's been a process of working together in a multi-community way. It's definitely exciting to get one step closer.”

The green overlay district ordinance, which allows local government to impose additional rules for certain sections of property, outlines requirements for developers to include trail rights of way on their property to extend the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and incentives to incorporate green development.

Tim Rogers, Shaler Township manager, said the green overlay district will not greatly affect the township because the area regulated by the district runs from Route 28 to the river, which mostly is property owned and used by the railroad.

“This is us being good neighbors,” Rogers said about the ordinance approval.

Julie Jakubec, O'Hara Township manager, said the green overlay district ordinance required only “a minor tweak” to the current township requirements.

“For us, it wasn't a tremendous change because we already have a riverfront-development ordinance,” Jakubec said.

“We're a member of ARTEZ, and we all work together for the same cause,” Jakubec said. “Anything we can do for the greater good of all riverfront communities is a win for all.”

Whitworth said once the green overlay districts are approved for the communities, the next step is to pursue additional property acquisition or rights of way for the trail system and to try to encourage development in the corridor.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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