A standing-room-only crowd attended the Aleppo Township Commissioners meeting Monday night looking for answers on proposed changes to the township's zoning ordinance and a section of land known as Weber's Corner.
Plans to adopt the zoning ordinance and the Weber’s Corner Village District, a section of acreage that borders Glen Mitchell and Weber roads, were on the evening's agenda. But after a 30-minute executive session, commissioners announced that a vote would not be taken.
Instead, action on the proposals was tabled to provide more time for public comment.
"I was not available at the last public hearing and Commissioner [Clayton] Steup hasn't been around, so in order for us to understand where our citizens are coming from, we feel that it's in our best interest ... to have another public hearing," said Commissioners President Linda Vescio.
A second public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 21.
Proposed changes would allow a mix use of residential and light commercial retail development, township officials said.
A.J. Schwartz, a township consultant with the Pittsburgh-based planning firm Environmental Planning & Design, said Weber’s Corner in the existing ordinance is zoned for such uses as medical offices, fast-food restaurants, a fuel station, or a shopping center up to 50,000 square feet. A strip of land in the district is also split-zoned between residential and commercial, he said, opening that property up tor commercial rezoning as well.
"They're trying to clean it up, not make it worse," Schwartz said.
According to Schwartz, the proposed changes would allow commercial development on a smaller scale, limiting buildings to 10,000 square feet, significantly smaller than the current ordinance allows, he said.
Permitted mixed use would include a convenience store without fuel, a day-care center, a small grocery, a take-out restaurant, and recreational facilities, along with single-family, garden apartments and carriage homes.
Residents, meanwhile, were offered a chance to briefly comment or ask questions about potential zoning changes at Weber’s Corner. Most who spoke on the zoning proposal weren’t in favor of commercial retail in the neighborhood.
Anthony Floro, who owns property on Glen Mitchell Road, said he would prefer the area to be residential, single-family, duplexes or carriage homes. Floro said he didn’t believe the area was fit for a grocery store.
“I don’t think the traffic would support it,” he said.
Patricia Shetler of McCoy Place said part of the rezoning also goes over an environmental protective overlay and the land is slide-prone. She reminded officials of a landslide incident in 2003, when shifting earth caused a section of road to drop off, reducing Glen Mitchell to one lane for some time.
Shetler worried that commercial development might lead to a similar replay of events. If so, she said, residents who live in the neighborhood would be stranded, along with the fire department’s vehicles on Weber Road.
“If that slides at all,” Shetler said, “you can’t come up Veshio [Drive], you can’t come down Sycamore [Road].”
Shetler also questioned whether Aleppo’s zoning hearing and information were properly advertised and made available to the general public.
Aleppo solicitor Harlan Stone said the township has followed all laws pertaining to advertising the zoning changes.
“We’ve tried to make these meetings as exclusive as we could,” Stone said.
Schwartz said the Aleppo-Sewickley-Osborne (ASO) Comprehensive Plan steering committee felt light commercial retail was appropriate for Weber's Corner.
Stone said the comprehensive zoning plan would be inconsistent if the light commercial area were eliminated.
Glen Osborne and Sewickley worked together with Aleppo on a comprehensive zoning plan to provide the three communities better municipal services and recreation.
Under the intergovernmental cooperation agreement, officials said, the communities abide by their own zoning ordinances, but share land uses and the burden of undesirable uses, such as adult businesses or methadone clinics. The three also reap benefits such as grant funding by working together.
Sewickley passed its zoning ordinance last year and Glen Osborne Council could vote tonight.
"It's close. We'reworking on just a couple of things," said Glen Osborne Secretary Diane Vierling.