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Delmont gathering public input to update borough's zoning ordinance

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, 12:18 p.m.

Delmont planning commission member Tim Schmida's goal for updating the borough's zoning ordinance is simple.

“It's time to get caught up,” he said.

The borough's ordinance, which Schmida said was updated in the early 1990s, needs to be brought into line with the state's Municipalities Planning Code, which was updated in 2005.

“Initially the planning commission was going to do the update. When I came on board in 2015, we found that we just didn't have the skill-set to do that,” Schmida said.

To that end, council opted to hire Michael Baker International of Pittsburgh as a consultant to update, as well as create a digital version of the ordinance and a zoning map that can be uploaded to the borough's website for developers and residents to peruse.

Jennifer Cristobal, a planner with Michael Baker International, will be at the Delmont Daze festival on Saturday to get some feedback from residents that will help inform her work with the planning commission.

“That's a really key part of (updating) the ordinance, because it really describes the intent of the work we'll be doing,” Cristobal said. “I think it's really important to get some input from the public.”

Typically, community development objectives are gone over in workshops and mapped out in a town's comprehensive plan. Cristobal said Delmont's comprehensive plan dates to the 1970s.

“So this is a way to see what people's vision is for the community,” she said.

At Delmont council's August meeting, resident and former Councilwoman Julie Walczer said she did not understand the need for the update or the consulting firm, given the small amount of developable land in the borough.

Cristobal said land use in any town is constantly shifting.

“You have to think about the fact that just because it's fully built out, that doesn't mean things won't change,” Cristobal said. “If one of the businesses on the Route 66 corridor was to close, do you want an apartment building there? You also have to think about nonconforming uses: Are there things in places where you don't want them to be?”

A number of residents, Walczer included, objected to the proposal for a Speedway gas station on the southbound side of Route 66. That project was ultimately approved after meeting the requirements of the zoning code.

Another topic for debate, Schmida said, was the number of “historical treasures” in the borough.

“There's the old hotel at the corner of Pittsburgh and Greensburg streets, the old Mook's Hardware store where (Salem Antiquities) is now,” he said. “There's an old log cabin as you head up Pittsburgh Street toward the cemetery … do we want to look at establishing some sort of historical district? Maybe, maybe not, but it's something we need to discuss.”

After taking input from residents at Delmont Daze, Cristobal said, the next step is releasing a document in October or November outlining proposed changes to the ordinance and soliciting more input from the community.

In the fall, the planning commission's meetings — the first Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m. at the borough building on Greensburg Street — will take the form of workshop sessions with Cristobal and the public.

Schmida said he would like to see residents have a large hand in the zoning updates.

“We have to look at our options in terms of preserving what we have, and planning for the future,” he said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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