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Nonconforming uses ordinance passes unanimously

May 01, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An amendment to an ordinance dealing with the more than 100 "nonconforming uses" in the borough was approved by the Chambersburg Borough Council following a public hearing last week.

The council voted unanimously April 23 for the amendment, which also deals with structures and lots that do not conform to the borough's 1957 zoning ordinance, or subsequent amendments. The move was largely in reaction to a 2006 expansion of the American Legion post on Philadelphia Avenue that was opposed by some neighbors.

Nonconforming uses are often businesses and industries - many in residential areas - that were in existence before the zoning ordinance or amendments went into effect, said Phil Wolgemuth, the borough's planning director and zoning officer.

Clint Bolte, a neighbor of the Legion post, told the council before the vote that more work needed to be done on the amendment.

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"Get a hold of some experts. Spend some money," Bolte said. "The staff has come up a day late and a dollar short for 50 years."

Borough solicitor Thomas Finucane said if circumstances warrant in the future, the ordinance can be amended by the council. In the meantime, anyone living or doing business near a nonconforming use will be notified of any proposed changes.

"This provides notice four times over ... when someone proposes expanding a nonconforming use," Finucane said. That includes published legal notices; a notice posted on the property; personal delivery of notices to properties within 300 feet; and mailed notices, according to the amendment.

A nonconforming use or structure can only be expanded with the approval of the Zoning Hearing Board following a special exception hearing, according to the amendment. The board can set conditions on the expansion, Wolgemuth said.

Any expansion would be limited to a 50 percent increase over the original footprint of the building when it became nonconforming, the amendment states. A nonconforming lot, such as one too small for a house under existing zoning rules, can still be developed, providing it meets as many zoning requirements as possible and is approved by the zoning board following a special exception hearing.

"I was never our intent for any of this to happen," said Robert John, the post commander. "We felt we did it in accordance with every regulation out there," he said of the legion expansion.

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