South Fayette's newly adopted guide to future growth excludes heavy industry from the Millers Run Road corridor.
Commissioners voted 4-1 April 17 to approve the township's comprehensive plan despite protests that an attached map omitted the "industrial" designation from a strip stretching roughly from Interstate 79 to Gladden, including Cuddy and Morgan areas.
More than 15 people with interests in industry opposed the reclassification during the public hearing last week. Most of them walked out immediately after the vote, with some yelling and expressing dismay.
Jim Clister of Bell Containers was concerned the change would hurt the potential future sale of his packaging company.
"If you take away the industrial, you have unilaterally, indiscriminately, devalued my business," he said at the hearing.
Deron Gabriel, commissioners president, said existing businesses won't be affected because the map does not change zoning, and the companies generally meet the criteria of light industrial, office or commercial zoning, rather than industrial zoning, anyway.
"We didn't feel heavy industry would be the proper designation given the current use [of existing companies] and the future plans of the township," Mr. Gabriel said after the meeting.
Mr. Gabriel considered heavy industry to include Marcellus Shale drilling, major coal mining and other uses.
Landowner Mike Cardillo said removing the industrial label infringes upon his property rights.
"I'm totally opposed to this thing, and I think it's a back-door attempt to further restrict Marcellus Shale [drilling]," he said.
Commissioner Joe Horowitz said the board has not conspired to deny property rights, as some residents have accused in letters.
"We've tried to be as fair as possible with listening to everybody's suggestions for the comprehensive plan and taking everybody's comments to heart," he said.
Tom Sray, commissioners vice president, voted against the plan.
"I know it won't change the zoning, but we should have left the 'industrial' in there," Mr. Sray said after the meeting. "It's what the people who have businesses want."
He noted the only remaining industrial area on the plan's map is the Mayview area, near the Upper St. Clair border.
State law requires communities to review their comprehensive plan every 10 years to identify broad goals and strategies to guide long-term growth.
An attached future land use map states that "general land uses are shown [and] specific uses are restricted by zoning of each property."
The township's zoning ordinance and map indicate where land uses are legally allowed.
Township attorney John Arminas said the comprehensive plan's map does not change any zoning districts.
Potential zoning changes would have to be determined by current or future commissioners, he said.
The land use map in the comprehensive plan was based on engineering, topography and numerous other factors, Mr. Arminas said.
"You can have whatever that map says, but really what counts is the zoning that's underneath," he said.
On the township's current zoning map, the Millers Run Road corridor includes "industrial park," "commercial" and "neighborhood residential" zoning districts.
A handful of small regions in other parts of the township are zoned simply "industrial."
Mr. Horowitz said no zoning changes are planned, and he assured the business owners he would not vote to alter their zoning districts unless perhaps the owners themselves requested it.
Stacy Kosky of Millers Run Road said if the board has no intent to rezone, there was no reason to attach the revised land use map.
"It is an economic hardship to all those businesses, but also, you're not planning anything for the future," she said. "Where are you going to have industrial property in the township?"
Albert Olshinsky Jr. of Westbridge Drive said the township must encourage developments such as Westbridge Industrial Park.
"This [township] cannot be like one big park and school district," he said. "If we don't have industry in this township ... who's going to pay these outrageous taxes? You got to have some industry."
Jeff Davidson, owner of an automotive garage on Millers Run Road, opposed his business site being removed from the industrial category.
"[Consider] the money, the out-of-pocket expenditures, the lifetime commitments -- everything that has gone into making this property useful that has brought revenue into this township," he said.
Other revisions in the comprehensive plan include adding language to encourage development around the state Turnpike Commission's planned Southern Beltway; removing specific routes from a proposal to develop a communitywide walking trail system; and changing the proposed "rural conservation" areas to "residential growth" areas.
Those issues had been points of criticism during a January hearing on the draft plan. South Fayette's comprehensive planning process had been ongoing since late 2009.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com.