Greencastle zoning changes proposed

Shawn Hardy
Changes are proposed to the current zoning map in Greencastle, left.

Proposed zoning changes in the western, eastern and southern parts of Greencastle were tabled Monday by the borough planning commission pending more staff analysis and public input. Further discussion is planned at the next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12.

Some of the reasons for the revisions to the borough zoning code and map are to promote redevelopment, increase mixed used zones, decrease industrial zones, enhance organization and preserve green space, according to a presentation by borough solicitor Zachary Rice of Salzmann Hughes.

Eden Ratliff, borough manager, said the update was initiated earlier this year the borough's community development committee.

About 10 residents attended the meeting, including some from South Washington Street rallied by neighbor Angela Garland. She has expertise in this area, having worked as the Antrim Township zoning officer a number of years ago.

Several people who spoke at the meeting noted concern about a lack of public notification about the changes.

The details 

The proposed overhaul involves three main areas of the borough, according to Rice's presentation:

  • Route 16 west of the U.S. 11 interchange: change general residential to mixed use

Better zoned for redevelopment

  • South central portion of the borough (area of South Carlisle and Washington streets): change industrial and residential to mixed use

Better zoned for redevelopment

Creates better shaped contiguous mixed use and industrial zones

Further limits industrial area

  • Easternmost portion of the borough off Route 16 (area of Eastern Avenue): change community commercial II to highway commercial

Better zone for redevelopment

Community commercial II zone removed, too similar to highway commercial

Rice also explained that the wording of the ordinance would be amended to eliminate confusion about what uses are permitted in what zones. He likened the current document to a confusing Russian nesting doll with definitions inside definitions.

For example, the definition for one zone might say "all other things permitted in" a specified other district and not list them for the district being defined.

Public comment 

David Wertime said he just learned about the proposed changes via a legal notice in the Echo Pilot on Thursday, July 5, and he did not know if the maps had been made available to the public. He said it also would be helpful if information were provided about the old vs. the new ordinance.

"I think it's entirely premature for the planning commission to take action," Wertime said.

"Greencastle is known as a tight-knit community," said Jeff Stouffer of South Washington Street. "There may be good changes, but 95 percent of the affected owners might not know what is going on."

Stouffer asked why signs were not posted or letters sent to affected property owners. Ratliff explained that is not required by the municipal planning code for large changes.

Garland said a lot of people do not read newspapers and suggested notice to residents on their water and sewer bills, as well as social media.

South Washington Street 

Garland said she and her neighbors bought their homes on South Washington Street in an area zoned general residential, the existing nearby industries are good neighbors and she is concerned about what kind of businesses could move in with a change to mixed use. She also is worried that those businesses would make a bad speeding problem worse.

Tim Myers, representing the Rescue Hose Co., has a different kind of concern. The fire company had planned to sell its Special Events Center on South Washington Street to Blue Heron Events earlier this year, but was asked to wait for the zoning change.

In the process, it was learned that the site was a nonconforming use in a general residential zone, but the documentation cannot be found. The zoning change could allow the already delayed sale to continue by making an events center a permitted use.

Another option would be to make an events center a permitted use in general residential areas, Ratliff said.

 Eastern Avenue 

Garland was accompanied by her father, Bill Hudson, and also spoke for her parents, whose property on Jopa Road would be impacted by the proposal on the east end of town on Eastern Avenue at Route 16.

"That intersection can't handle highway commercial," she said, pointing out the proximity of the John L. Grove Medical Center, a day care center, an apartment complex and Dunkin' Donuts. The southern end of the zone also would abut Tayamentasachta, the Greencastle-Antrim School District Environmental Center.

Ed Wine, chair of the planning commission, said he also has concerns since highway commercial is more liberal than community commercial, allowing uses such as auto sales, trucking terminals and warehousing.

Wine was asked to convey information from Greencastle-Antrim Foundation, which owns the medical center, pointing out that four of the five parcels along the road are already developed for medical use or apartments and Summit Health owns the final tract. The foundation is concerned about maintaining the "complexion of the neighborhood."

In a letter, Summit Health indicated it is not necessarily opposed to the change, but would like to see medical offices added to the definition.

What's next 

"We could rewrite community commercial and see if it fits on the east end," Ratliff said, adding it might work for the west end of town, too.

In addition to further reviewing the proposed changes, staff can amp up public notice via newspapers, radio station WRGG and the borough website.

The initial schedule had been for the planning commission to make a recommendation Monday so borough council could review the proposal at its Aug. 6 meeting.

With the plan tabled until the Aug. 12 planning commission meeting, borough council may not look at it until Sept. 4.

Planning commission members Ralph Burdick and James H. Thomas voted to table the plan. Wine abstained because as a lawyer he represents Blue Heron.