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Rostraver officials move to drop planning-zoning commission

| Sunday, May 13, 2012, 8:18 p.m.

Rostraver Township commissioners on Wednesday voted 4-0, with one absent, to advertise several proposed ordinances that would eliminate the planning and zoning commission.

The five ordinances would oust the planning commission, a board made up of volunteer residents, and create a planning agency in its place. The agency would be made up of Rostraver's engineer, planner and zoning officer, all paid township employees.

Three other ordinances will be adopted to enforce the planning agency's role.

Commissioner Brian Sokol was absent.

Several planning commission members have said the action is intended to eliminate personality conflicts between themselves and the commissioners and feel the move is politically motivated.

Commissioners could vote to adopt the bills as early as Aug. 7, the date of next month's meeting.

Also at the meeting yesterday, about 50 Collingate Manor residents presented a petition to the board, voicing concern about development near their housing plan.

Residents said they are worried that a developer would build townhouses near their single-family homes if a zoning exception were granted by the township's zoning hearing board.

They cited several reasons for their concern:

= Only one road leads into the development, and residents believe the road could not handle extra traffic.

= Drainage could become a problem. "There has been flooding on Manor Drive in the past 10 years," one resident said.

= Several said they were worried that the townhouses would become Section 8 rent-subsidized housing.

President George Martin told the residents that the proper place to voice their concern would be at Wednesday's zoning hearing board meeting, when the case goes before the board. The case was continued from last month.

"If you don't stop that zoning change, you're pretty much dead in the water," Martin said. "That's your best recourse."

Commissioner Don Yoder said the zoning hearing board could not turn down the request for an exception based solely on the residents' opposition.

"It would have to be a very legitimate reason to turn (the developer) down," Yoder said.

Residents also said they were worried that more single-family homes would be added, but Martin said the developer had "a long way to go" before a new plan would be approved.

"This guy's got a lot of hoops to jump through before it actually happens," Martin said.

If the exception is granted, the developer must submit a plan to either the planning commission or agency. If that body approves the plan, final approval must be granted by the board of commissioners, Martin said.

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