New plan for Peters ready for unveiling

Public input helped create document

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Peters residents and public officials on Monday will get their first peek at a new, 10-year comprehensive plan that has been in the works for 14 months.

During that time, multiple public meetings and gatherings with stakeholders, such as the school district and developers, have been held to determine the best way to steer development in the coming decade.

Unlike previous comprehensive plans, this one was special, planning director Ed Zuk said.

"This was a very important comprehensive plan because it will take us close to build-out," said Mr. Zuk, who estimated that only about 35 percent of the township remains undeveloped.

The rest of Peters was developed in a frenetic pace over the past six decades, which saw population numbers leap from 3,000 residents in 1954 to about 22,000 today. In the decade between 2000 and 2010, the population swelled by nearly 21 percent and it is expected to continuing growing, increasing by 60 percent in the next 25 years, according to predictions from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission. The 20-square-mile township is now the most populous municipality in Washington County.

The proposed comprehensive plan "basically was created by public input," Mr. Zuk said. It is being reviewed by the planning commission before a public hearing with council at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of residents who voiced opinions -- and there were hundreds -- wanted to begin shedding what has been the township's bread and butter for the past 20 years: the single-family home.

Mr. Zuk estimates that about 95 percent of the housing in the township is single-family detached homes, which puts a strain on resources, especially the school district.

"We heard throughout the process that we needed to diversify our housing stock," he said.

The proposed plan reflects that, with areas set aside in the Venetia and Bower Hill road corridor for mixed residential uses that could include patio homes, townhouses and duplexes.

"We have a lot of aging residents who don't want to leave Peters" but no longer need four-bedroom homes, Mr. Zuk said.

The zoning updates also would be aimed at young professionals and empty nesters, with the creation of a town center -- something the township has never had.

Public input suggested residents want more walkable, densely occupied areas, such as a public square, Mr. Zuk said.

The plan identifies the intersection of Valleybrook and McMurray roads as an ideal area for such a formation, with buildings close to reconfigured streets and a dense mix of office, retail and residential use.

"People want to come to commercial businesses and be able to walk to a restaurant," he said. "I think we can create areas that allow for people to walk."

Other input from both the public and a 10-member steering committee assigned to oversee the process included a desire for conservation, or "green" construction methods that are environmentally sensitive.

That spawned a new zoning classification called "conservation residential," in which developers would be given consideration for minimal earth moving and for designing residential plans that accommodate the natural contours of the land.

To create less of a footprint, Mr. Zuk said, the township would be more flexible in lot size, setbacks, street design and other current requirements that make it necessary for developers to move a lot of earth.

Parks and open space have remained a priority for residents and would change little, while certain residential areas would be given more specific zoning guidelines.

For example, in the Justabout and Church Hill road corridor, residential zoning would be replaced with "rural density" residential, which uses larger lot sizes to keep a rural flavor to the area and to allow for estate-sized lots.

The eastern section of the township is being targeted for a mixed use center along Venetia Road that could include businesses of different types.

"We'd like to try to get commercial in the eastern end of the township," Mr. Zuk said. "New zoning districts are being created."

Light industrial zoning would continue to be confined to Valleybrook Road.

The plan was developed by LSL Planning Inc. of Grand Rapids, Minn., for a $150,000 fee.

All of the ideas have been included in a future land use map that developers would be encouraged to follow. Details of the plan are available online at www.planpeters.com. Residents can voice input on the plan at Monday's public hearing. Council is expected to act on the plan next month.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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