One of the latest requests for a zoning change in South Fayette has property owners disagreeing on whether commercial zoning would increase the value of their land or decrease it.
Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services Inc. has asked for a zoning change for two properties along Washington Pike at the entrance of the Bursca Business Park, which the company owns, to build a retail strip center. The parcels are currently zoned business and residential and would need to be zoned commercial for the proposed center.
Across Washington Pike is property that Lawrence and Catherine Rosi have owned since 1954. It is next to Melrose Cemetery, with the rear of the parcel along Interstate 79. Zoned commercial in 1986, the property was changed to residential zoning when the township approved a comprehensive plan in 2000.
Denise Graham, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rosi, said her family did not know of the zoning change and her parents are asking that it be returned to commercial zoning. Historically, they have run businesses on that property, including Jennie’s Farm Market and an excavating/contracting company, she said at a public hearing on the request held during the June 8 township commissioners meeting.
“It seems very unfair that the value of your property can be decreased at the drop of a pen and the property owner is unaware,” Ms. Graham said in reference to the property’s current residential zoning.
But across the street, residents of Freedom Drive fear their property value will decrease if the Burns and Scalo commercial development is built. They also voiced concerns over traffic and noise.
“We have improved our home’s value substantially in the past 20 years and if the retail strip center rezoning is approved, we’ll certainly see a significant decrease in our property value,” Gary and Doreen Fromholzer said.
Patrick Cooper of Gateway Engineers confirmed that Jim Scalo, CEO of Burns & Scala, met with residents in early June and said the company would not lease to tenants whose business would emit foul odors or toxins, such as a dry cleaner.
Commissioners voted to delay the vote on the zoning change request until their July 13 meeting.
In the past year, South Fayette commissioners have voted on numerous zoning change requests, including property owned by Newbury, John and Stacy Kosky, Cuddy Partners and Southwest Aluminum. They also approved the newly created Neighborhood Design District for Charter Homes, based in Lancaster.
“We have had more zoning requests in the past four years that I have been here than anywhere else I have worked,” township manager Ryan Eggleston said.
“Zoning is a difficult issue that affects everyone in South Fayette,” Commissioner Joe Horowitz said after the board’s meeting in June, where the township’s comprehensive plan was discussed. “It’s hard for the planning commission and the board of commissioners to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis. I’m not sure what the right approach to zoning is, but I believe an approach that allows as many residents as possible to have input is preferable.”
South Fayette’s most recent comprehensive plan was adopted in 2013. Joel Robinson, a member of the planning commission, said in an email: “While I am not speaking for the commission, to me, three years is too soon to consider scrapping the plan and starting a major zoning reevaluation from scratch. However, South Fayette is undergoing significant expansion. The township is facing issues with traffic, and balancing commercial and residential growth … all while maintaining the quality of life that our residents enjoy. That said, there is merit in regularly reviewing the planned development activities township-wide to ensure that they align with the adopted Comprehensive Plan.”
Amy Philips-Haller, freelance writer: email@example.com.