Rezoning postponed until early in 2019

Shawn Hardy

Discussion of proposed comprehensive rezoning in the Borough of Greencastle has been tabled until next year, but the planning commission will continue to consider "how to address zoning challenges related to the Special Events Center property."

The decision to delay comprehensive rezoning until February 2019 was announced at the beginning of Monday night's planning commission meeting. At the end of the meeting, the planning commission agreed to pursue a proposal from Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. that would allow the Rescue Hose Co. Special Events Center, now used by Blue Heron Events, and similar activities in a general residential (R-2) zone as a conditional use.

What was proposed

In July, planners got their first look at the proposed comprehensive rezoning with three components:

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

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

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

The thinking behind the proposed change to mixed use in the area of South Carlisle and Washington streets was to make it better zoned for redevelopment; create better shaped contiguous mixed use and industrial zones; and further limit industrial area.

Property owners spoke out against the idea, worrying about what mixed use could bring to their neighborhood and saying it could hurt the future of the existing industries, which are good neighbors.

Special Events Center

Zoning issues have delayed the sale of the former Rescue Hose Co. Special Events Center at 407 S. Washington St. to Denise and Paul Hutchison of Blue Heron Events and From Scratch Catering.

The planned sale was announced earlier this year, but the fire company was asked to wait for the zoning change, according to Tim Myers, trustee.

In the process, it was learned that the site is a nonconforming use in the R-2 zone, but no documentation can be found supporting why it was allowed in the first place. The Rescue Hose Co. purchased the property in 1976 and the building was constructed in 1982.

To remedy the problem, Thomas suggested adding a conditional use subsection to the R-2 section of the zoning code for a "multi-purpose venue — events center." He offered a definition as "an area or structure involving indoor or outdoor seating or space for meetings, conferences, conventions, trade shows, entertainment and performances, sporting events, assembly hall, including food service facilities."

Similar uses already exist in R-2, including churches with assembly areas (indoor and outdoor), a funeral home and VFW post with dining, and assembly facilities, Thomas noted.

He added a separate conditional use hearing would be required if the facility wanted to get a license to sell alcohol.

In addition to South Washington Street, the area of North Carlisle, North Grant and North Washington streets and the area of Spring Grove Avenue are zoned R-2.

Thomas said those locations are already developed and it is unlikely anyone would tear down half a block or a block of houses to built an events center.

Angela Garland, who lives on South Washington Street, said even if that does happen, it can work — citing Cortland Mansion, a Hagerstown events center in a residential zone.

"I like what I see ... I would recommend it," said Jim Thomas, a member of the planning commission, referring to the conditional use idea.

Borough staff will prepare a proposal to add a "multi-purpose venue — events center" as a conditional use in an R-2 zone for consideration at the next planning commission meeting which will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, in borough hall.

Moving forward

Eden Ratliff, borough manager, said the decision to delay the comprehensive rezoning and focus on the Special Events Center property was made "through the lens of prioritization."

"The goal is to evaluate the map and areas of the code to ensure the borough is ripe for development and redevelopment while maintaining the character of our community," Ratliff wrote in a press release. At meetings in July and August "the comprehensive rezoning initiative has reaped the benefit of public attention and input ... The borough council maintains that zoning is an important community development tool and looks forward to further discussions in 2019."

Thomas has experience with zoning issues through previous employment with the Borough of Greencastle and Antrim Township, as well as his current position manager of Cumberland Township in Adams County. He advocated an approach that has a work group of elected officials and planning commission members; informal public open houses where residents can review zoning map areas and offer their oral and written comments; and a focus group consisting of elected officials, planning commission members, staff and citizens to review the input.