Robinson to allow townhouse construction

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Robinson officials want to allow townhouses and other multiple-family homes to be built in some areas established mostly for single-family homes.

Commissioners on Monday initiated the process of changing zoning regulations to allow townhouses, carriage homes, apartments and other multi-family dwellings in the R-2 district for single-family neighborhoods, and to increase yard size requirements in the R-3 district, which already includes multi-family dwellings.

Both votes were 4-1, with Earl Mapel voting no.

He said multiple-family residences already are provided for in other areas, and allowing them alongside single-family homes could hurt property values.

"This is a gross injustice to people who have spent half a million dollars on a home,” Mr. Mapel said.

When later asked if any planned housing developments would benefit from the zoning change, Mr. Mapel said, "I can think of three different projects that will be accommodated."

Chairman Samuel Abatta said the township needs more townhouses for people who want to downsize.

"Robinson Township is lacking for this particular type of dwelling," he said.

Township manager Jeff Silka said the revisions would open up more areas to development of multi-family residences.

Robinson’s current zoning regulations include five residential districts.

R-1 and R-2 are intended mainly for single-family homes on large- and medium-sized lots.

The R-3 district, which includes older, denser residential areas with a mixture of housing types, already allows townhouses and multi-family dwellings. The rule revision would increase the minimum requirements in R-3 for front and rear yards, which are defined as the open and unoccupied spaces between property lines and setback lines.

The R-4 zone provides areas for moderately dense, multi-family dwellings, and R-5 is for mobile home parks.

Some commercial districts also provide for both existing and new multi-family homes.

Also Monday, commissioners voted 4-1 to move forward with an ordinance defining and regulating electronic and LED billboards.

Mr. Mapel voted no, saying, “This is a terrible traffic hazard for people who aren't paying close enough attention."

All of the proposed ordinances must go through an approval process that includes review by the township planning commission and public hearings.

Mr. Silka said the township plans to update its 19-year-old comprehensive plan and then overhaul zoning ordinances in a couple of years, but first wanted to address "hot button" issues such as the residential zoning and billboard regulations.

In other business, commissioners voted 5-0 to hire seven employees.

Jane Tallon was hired for the new position of part-time community activities coordinator at $15 an hour. She also serves as president of the parks and recreation board.

Township residents Louis Marino and Darren Eisel were added as full-time public works laborers at $16.50 an hour, under the department’s collective bargaining agreement.

Joseph Schonbek of Robinson was hired as part-time code enforcement officer at $15 an hour.

Three part-time police officers were hired—Joseph Tomko, Gregory Woodhall and John Cronin. The department also has 26 full-time officers, including the police chief.

"These are all needed positions,” Mr. Abatta said. “We are a township that's growing."

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:

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