Supervisors looking to rework comprehensive plan
Marshall Township officials are considering making some changes to the township's zoning map and regulations.
Marshall supervisors Wednesday asked township Manager Neil McFadden to look into what portions of the comprehensive plan, if any, should be rewritten. They also asked him to look into the cost of rewriting the entire plan verses redoing a portion of it.
Supervisors said they want to review the township's comprehensive plan to make sure they are prepared for future development and that there are no loopholes in the township's regulations.
"I think we need to have some review of our zoning ordinances … and look at the cost and time line of going through the comprehensive plan," said Tom Madigan, chairman of the supervisors. "If it's three-fourths of the cost to do a tweak (to the plan), we might as well do the whole thing."
The township's existing comprehensive plan was adopted in 1991. The general rule of thumb, McFadden said, is that a municipality should review its comprehensive plan at least every 10 years.
The comprehensive plan provides a framework for development in a municipality by using information such as population numbers, traffic studies, availability of public water and sewer lines and geographical details, such as topography, said Chris Murphy, Marshall's land use administrator.
From the comprehensive plan, a municipality then can craft its zoning ordinances, which are the rules and regulations that developers must follow to build in the township.
On Wednesday, Madigan said he was concerned about the township's conditional use process for developers.
While township officials have outlined areas for residential and commercial development in the community, within those areas, certain other types of development also are allowed as conditional uses if supervisors grant special permission.
For example, office buildings and sit-down-style restaurants are permitted in an area zoned as "highway commercial" along Route 19. In the same zoning district, fast-food restaurants, hotels and car dealerships, among other developments, can be granted permission as conditional uses, Murphy said.
The conditional use designation gives township supervisors the ability to place special conditions on a development, such as requiring that its lighting be turned off at night so it does not disturb neighbors.
Madigan said he wants "to tighten up the language" of the conditional use procedure and standards to make sure developers are meeting the township's regulations.
Supervisor Richard Scavo said he thought it was time for the township to review the zoning in place in the area around the Big Sewickley Watershed in the western third of the township.
The area is zoned as a "residential countryside" district, which permits single-family homes to be built on lots no smaller than 2 acres.
Scavo said the township needs to plan for future development there because it is likely sewer lines will be installed in the area. Once the sewer lines are in, Scavo said, development likely will follow.
Scavo said if the township proceeds with reviewing the comprehensive plan, officials should take a look at the plans of neighboring communities such as Pine Township and Franklin Park in order to make sure zoning at the borders is as compatible as possible.
Although supervisors are considering redoing the entire comprehensive plan, Murphy said he thinks only portions of the plan need to be altered.
He and McFadden will work on determining the exact areas that need to be addressed and discuss those with supervisors at a future meeting, he said.