April 10, 2014 | Vol. 40, No. 15

Assembly denies property owners rezone request

The Petersburg Borough Assembly last Monday voted against rezoning two residential lots to commercial in the Olsen Subdivision.

Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot
A view overlooking the controversial area where critics describe the industrial landscape as unsightly for future residential development.

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 owners' request 7-0 and passed its recommendation to the Borough Assembly for final approval.

Commercial two zoning allows offices, warehouse and storage, transportation facilities, 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, vibration or noise that interfere with nearby property owners.

The Millers intended to build a warehouse on their property, which isn't allowed under residential zoning codes. They were cited with a zoning violation in 2011 for storing fishing gear on their lot and were later granted a conditional use permit to build a net shed but say the space allotted for that gear is too small.

The Planning and Zoning Commission in 2011 cited Burrell for a zoning violation for storing equipment on his lot for his business Rock-N-Road construction. The commission sent another notice last summer, which initiated his request to rezone the lots.

The Borough Assembly last March voted by a narrow margin to pass the ordinance during its first reading so that members of the public could voice their opinions.

A handful of residents spoke on behalf of Burrell and the Millers, including Susan Thomason and Chris Fry-two members of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Industrial lots border residential lots in the area and Aaron Miller said the rezoning of his residential lot to commercial would act as a buffer and both the Millers and Burrell agreed to build a fence and a greenway on their property lines that butt against residential lots.

Aaron Miller added that Petersburg needs to be more practical in the way it deals with commercial fishing gear.

"This is Petersburg and we respect residential boundaries, however there is an important need in Petersburg for fishing and other commercial activities in close proximity to single family homes," Aaron Miller said. "We are willing to take practical steps to preserve it."

Other nearby property owners didn't agree, some of whom sent letters protesting the proposed changes.

Joe Aliberti is building a home on a piece of property overlooking the Burrell and Miller lots. He worried that the rezone would decrease his property value.

"The only reason that I can see for this (rezone) is that it is very advantageous to the people that want to do it because it's right next to them and I understand that," Aliberti said. "They have a business. But they filled this lot knowing it was a residential lot...if it's a residential area and you want to store your stuff or have your gear then fine put it on your lot and live there but nobody's living in these lots."

Assembly member Nancy Strand hasn't supported the rezone since it first appeared before the assembly.

"It was residential when they bought them," Strand said. "It creeps it over so that all the arguments about them becoming a buffer don't seem reasonable to me because there'll be residential across the street that will be new next to the spread of this."

Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor said he heard from community members who were worried that rezoning the lots to commercial would set a bad precedent. He said these issues should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis and that's the function of Planning and Zoning and the assembly.

"In the big picture, I don't believe it sets a dangerous precedent for the future," Stanton Gregor said.

Assembly members Kurt Wohlhueter and Stanton Gregor voted to rezone the lots while members Strand, Cindi Lagoudakis and Bob Lynn voted against it.

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