Sewickley Council will decide later this month whether places of assembly, religious institutions and parks should no longer be permitted conditional uses in R-1 and R1-A zoned districts.
The Sewickley Planning Commission made a recommendation Wednesday night to change the zoning from conditional uses back to non-conforming uses. The vote passed 4-1 with Stan Ference voting against the measure. Marlin Bartos and Paul Pigman were absent.
"I’d like to have a better understanding of it if in fact there is an issue," Ference said Thursday. "It is something that was worked on for years."
David Saint Jacques, acting planning chairman, said when the board approved the new zoning changes last year, it didn’t completely understand what the repercussions would be for this particularly zoning district.
“The intent was not to allow every lot to be developed for residential use,” he said. “As soon as we found out -- that’s why we took action on that last night.”
The board's motion also calls for the borough solicitor to advertise immediately if council votes to approve the change at the regular meeting March 19. The advertisement would establish a pending ordinance that would essentially require anyone who puts in an application to abide by the pending amendment.
Recent controversy over plans by the Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, did not factor into the recommendation, Saint Jacques said.
The church is purchasing the historical Coyle mansion at 202 Beaver St. with plans to raze the property to build a youth and educational center.
The planning board received two letters from John Straka and Richard Webb regarding the zoning ordinance, and a handful of residents attended the meeting Wednesday night to address the matter.
Institutions, such as churches that are located in residential R-1 and R1-A zones, used to be considered non-conforming use, which requires anyone who wants to build or extend a building’s footprint to go before the zoning hearing board and apply for a variance.
Under new zoning laws the borough passed last summer, a conditional use for religious institutions, for example, permits churches to do what they wish on their properties without going through the zoning hearing board as long as they meet specific conditions in the ordinance, such as setbacks and storm water drainage.
“We’re trying to keep the character of the residential zones intact. If we allow every lot to be developed by non residential uses, we’re not keeping that residential character intact,” Saint Jacques said.
If council gives approval, the amendment will go to Allegheny County for 30 days, followed by a public hearing.
The planning commission will continue the discussion with plans to review set conditions in the institutional district.