Zoning battle looming in Cranberry

VE-Around-County
By JUDITH O. ETZEL
Contributing writer

There is a battle brewing in Cranberry Township about a proposed new zoning designation.

In an unexpected move, the township Planning Commission has recommended that a portion of Route 322 be re-zoned to accommodate business development.

The land in question is on the north side of Route 322 in an area bounded by the Sheetz convenience store and Horsecreek Road.

While the Sheetz and adjacent businesses are in a commercially zoned area, the remainder of the stretch is zoned residential.

The revelation of a proposed zoning change was made by township resident Andy Sentgeorge at a township supervisors meeting on Thursday.

A notice of a public hearing shows the Planning Commission has proposed an amendment to the township’s existing zoning ordinance. That amendment will go to the township supervisors for either approval or rejection.

The hearing notice was directed to Richard and Marilyn Brandon who own a home in the residential area of Route 322. The commission said it is recommending the area be rezoned to commercial.

The supervisors will hear the proposal and take public comment on the issue at a 9:30 a.m. Oct. 12 hearing at the township meeting.

In releasing information about the hearing, Sentgeorge said, “The ink is not even dry on the (township) comprehensive plan and, despite the promises made to us, it has begun.”

Gesturing to the audience at the supervisors meeting, Sentgeorge said, “You and you and you may be next.”

Sentgeorge was referring to the township’s newly enacted comprehensive plan that lays out a strategy for growth for the township. In the plan are some tentative suggestions about possible zoning changes but they are not binding. One element focused on the Route 322 corridor.

In the two-year deliberation before the plan was adopted in August, one of the more contentious issues in the lengthy document dealt with where commercial development should occur within the township.

The plan suggests commercial expansions should be primarily kept in the Routes 257 and 322 corridors. That has drawn consistent and vigorous opposition from individuals who insisted those areas now zoned as residential, particularly along Route 322, should be kept intact.

On Thursday, the move to change the Route 322 zoning via a public hearing came as a surprise.

“What makes it in the best interests (of the township) to rezone that?” asked township resident Beth Reed, noting that previous township-produced notices on similar subjects have “given some indication as to why a zoning request is being made.”

None of the township supervisors volunteered that they had any knowledge as to the impetus for the zoning change request.

Supervisor Harold Best said, “It was not generated here (by the supervisors).”

Asked again by a township resident if “anyone is behind this request,” the supervisors again suggested they were unaware of any specific reason for the proposed zoning change.

Township manager Chad Findlay said there are “multiple properties” that are involved and the tracts go beyond the Brandon home. He said those owners would have been notified but he added he was unaware who the individuals were, due in part to the unexpected departure of Koah Pentz, the former township zoning officer, who was working with the Planning Commission.

In another matter Thursday, the supervisors approved a request from the county transportation office to have bus stop signs installed near the salt box site on the bike trail. The signs near the Eighth Street Bridge will designate a new bus stop.