March 20, 2014 | Vol. 40, No. 12

Assembly to hear from public before rezoning residential properties

The Petersburg Borough Assembly approved 4-3 the first reading of an ordinance that would rezone residential property to commercial in the Olsen Subdivision.

Richard Burrell and Aaron Miller and Katrina Miller applied for the rezoning through the Petersburg Planning and Zoning Commission last year. The body approved the property owner’s request 7-0 and passed its recommendation to the borough assembly for final approval.

The Millers want to eventually build a warehouse on their property, which isn’t allowed under residential zoning codes. They were granted a conditional use permit to build a fence to store fishing gear on the lot but say the space allotted for that gear is too small and haven’t built the fence because they planned to request the rezoning.

The Planning and Zoning commission cited Burrell for a zoning violation last year for storing equipment on his lot for his business Rock-N-Road construction, which initiated his request to rezone the lot.

Assembly Member Cindi Lagoudakis voted against the ordinance and, speaking to the Millers, cited several letters from neighbors who don’t want residential lots being rezoned to commercial in their subdivision.

“I really have a problem with buying a residential property, using it as a commercial property and then applying for a conditional use permit, the terms of which you did not meet, and then continuing along the road of changing the zoning on the property over the objection of neighbors,” Lagoudakis said. “And there are neighbors who have objected and that for me weighs more than the planning commission voting to change the zoning.”

During the assembly meeting, Katrina Miller outlined their request for the proposal.

“This is Petersburg and we respect residential boundaries, however there is an important need in Petersburg to support fishing and other commercial activities in close proximity to single family homes,” Katrina Miller said.

Burrell said he doesn’t have any plans to build and just needs additional space to perform maintenance on vehicles.

Both property owners have agreed to build a fence and a greenway buffer along Arness Heights Drive should they be granted the reclassification that would extend along the northern edge of the Miller’s lot.

Assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter said a transition from residential to commercial to industrial is good planning practice and should be considered.

“When they penciled this in with a yellow crayon in 1980 nobody had any vision of the future,” Wohlhueter said. “A lot of times progress has to take a deviation from the direction it’s going in.”

Mayor Mark Jensen voted to change the zoning so that neighbors and members of the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the issue when the assembly votes on the ordinance a second time at its first meeting in April.

“Since there’s three readings in this ordinance I’m going to vote for in it the first reading and if it passes, good, then we’ll get on to the second reading where there’s public comment and hopefully if people don’t like what we’re doing then they can come voice their opinion so we have more information to base our decision on,” Jensen said.

Assembly member Nancy Strand, although opposed to changing the zoning to commercial, agreed with Jensen and voted yes in order to encourage public comment.

Some residents wrote letters in support of Burrell and the Millers. John Murgas supports the change.

“…one does not have to drive very far anywhere in Petersburg, no matter what zoning classification is, to find many violations of “storage” requirements and limitations as defined in our local Ordinance,” Murgas’ letter states.

Commercial 2, the designation that would be given to the Burrell and the Millers, allows offices, warehouse and storage, transportation facilities, and manufacturing of a light and industrial nature to be built on the property. The designation limits any practice that causes noxious or offensive odors, gas, fumes, smoke, dust or vibration or noise that interferes with nearby property owners.

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