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Planners deny Martin's rezoning request

July 10, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A divided Washington Township Planning Commission denied a rezoning request for 15 acres of a cornfield after the developer argued Monday that his plans would provide for needed, affordable housing in the expansion of an existing residential development.

Although the planning commission denied the rezoning, the ultimate decision rests with the Washington Township Supervisors, who must host a public hearing on the matter.

Expanding Walnut Knolls would provide for 37 more houses priced from $200,000 to $250,000, Ronnie Martin said when speaking on behalf of West End Development.

"It's just single-family housing for the working person, nice basic housing," Martin said.

Planning commission members Robert Peiffer and Melvin O'Dell voted against the rezoning's denial, but they were in the minority. Elena Kehoe, Lisa Donohoe and Randy Kuhn were in favor of the denial, saying they want to keep the land zoned agricultural, rather than convert it to low-density residential (known as R1).

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Martin said he requested the conversion because R1 zoning would allow him to build on smaller lots than the two-acre minimum permitted in agricultural zones. Two-acre lots drive the cost of a property too high for many people, he said.

"Affordable housing is not two-acre lots," Martin said. "There is a need for R1 of this magnitude."

"I feel strongly that we should not be rezoning at this point in the township, especially agricultural," Kehoe said.

The township and Borough of Waynesboro are in the midst of developing a joint comprehensive plan that would clarify what areas should be targeted for development, Kehoe said. The township leaders should wait until the plan is finished, she said.

"It would make more sense to wait and see what is recommended in the comprehensive plan," Donohoe said.

She and Kuhn talked about a "domino effect" applied to farms being submitted for rezoning.

"I'm afraid it'll add to the justification for the next piece of agricultural land to be rezoned," Donohoe said.

On the other side, Peiffer and O'Dell supported development of the land and extension of Walnut Knolls off Frick and Tritle avenues.

"My initial evaluation of this property was one I was hesitant to go along with, but after going out to the property, there is a distinct separation of this parcel. There are houses on three sides of this," O'Dell said.

"Four, five, six hundred thousand dollar homes are going to run the people they're trying to accommodate out of the market," Peiffer said. "I'd prefer to see this type of housing for people to afford."

Twenty-two homes in Walnut Knolls have been sold since construction started in May 2006, Martin said.

"Twenty-two built at this time is good," he said, mentioning "this very down (housing) market."

All but one of the existing houses were sold to area residents, according to Martin.

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