Township denies rezoning request in narrow vote

September 06, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Washington Township Board of Supervisors denied by a 3-2 vote West End Development's request to rezone 15 acres of a cornfield from agricultural to low-density residential (R-1) during a public hearing Wednesday night.

The decision came after hearing testimony from six residents and Ronnie Martin, a representative of the developer.

The land, behind Frick and Tritle Avenues in Waynesboro, would expand the Walnut Knolls development.

Supervisors Christopher Firme, John Gorman and Chairman Carroll C. Sturm voted to deny the rezoning request, while Supervisors Paul Benchoff and Stewart McCleaf voted to allow it.

During a Washington Township Planning Commission meeting in July, in which the commission also denied the rezoning request, Martin said that rezoning the land would allow the developer to build on smaller lots than the two-acre minimum permitted in agricultural zones. By building houses on smaller lots, Martin said housing would be more affordable.


"We are overabundant in opportunities for (mansions), affordable housing - and we no longer can use that excuse," said Pat Heefner, a resident of Washington Township. "Given the slowdown in the housing market, the last thing we need is another pile of dirt. Given all the subdivision hoops to jump through, and then what happens, it sits."

"I'm up here pleading for common sense," she said, urging the planners to vote against the request. "If Mr. Martin would like to build houses on there, let him build it on agricultural zoned land."

The main reason cited by the board for denying the rezoning request was because the joint comprehensive plan is not yet finished. The Township and the Borough of Waynesboro are in the midst of developing the plan, which would clarify what areas should be targeted for development.

Elena Kehoe, who is on the Washington Township Planning Commission, was also present at the hearing to reiterate what she previously said about waiting for the joint comprehensive plan to be finished.

"Our planning commission has recommended that this is not the time to rezone," she said. "I think it's a real disrespect to all the work that is going on in the township."

Resident Pat O'Connor expressed her concern for how land is treated once development has begun.

"I ask you gentlemen, rather than this wholesale destruction of acres and acres of land, (that) you direct either through ordinance or through charm that the developers can only clear the land that they are going to build on ... and not devastate the land surrounding," she said.

"I'm not irresponsible," Martin said, responding to residents' concerns. "I'm trying to give back to the community to help people get housing."

Martin said that rezoning the land to R-1 would allow for 36 additional houses, instead of seven, and that seven houses on two-acre lots would create urban sprawl.

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