Residential developments within distributed commercial highway or medium manufacturing zones would require a buffer area at least 15 feet wide and 5 feet tall, topped with plants or trees. Residential developers also would have the option of a 100-foot separation from a commercial property or other screening as approved by the zoning hearing board.
"What we want to do is better segregate residential from commercial," said Councilman Carl Helman.
"The onus of the buffer strip would be placed upon the residential developer" because the land is zoned for commercial uses, borough attorney Thomas Finucane said. People who in the past bought homes in commercial zones took a risk because of the lack of screening requirements, he said.
"Why involve a hearing board?" asked Charles Sioberg, a Chambersburg engineer. "It makes everyone's life easier" for residential development in commercial zones to remain a permitted use, as long as the buffering requirements are written into the ordinance.
If that were done, Sioberg said the council, rather than the zoning hearing board, would have the ability to determine whether a developer has met the buffering criteria.
The Planning and Zoning Commission list of amendment proposals, which has been in development for more than a year, contains other measures aimed at protecting residential areas. Within areas zoned as neighborhood business districts, retail businesses could not exceed 5,000 square feet, according to one amendment.
Another amendment calls for two light manufacturing zones - one in the area of Lincoln Way West and Loudon Street in the borough's west end; the other in the area of Norland and Fifth avenues in the northeastern part of town - to be changed to distributed commercial highway zones, Borough Planner Gary Norris said.
Neither has any light manufacturing businesses at present, Norris told the council. Each adjoins areas already zoned distributed commercial highway, he said.