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Committee looks to avoid spot zoning amid ordinance edits

As City Council’s economic revitalization committee reviewed proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance, it’s trying to be careful not to create the impression of “spot zoning” or giving favors to certain developers.

The committee, which met Friday morning, is taking steps to be cautious with any potential zoning amendment changes, which first must go before the City Planning Commission, and then back to the committee, before council reviews it as a whole.

The committee also is looking at doing the amendments, but with input from Gary Knarr, city zoning officer, who has researched other zoning laws in Lancaster, Erie and Reading.

Committee members also said they don’t want to make zoning amendments too onerous to preclude any developers from wanting to build in the city.

“I think we need to be cautious and not hinder in terms of development,” Councilman Adam Yoder said.

“Aside from the East Third Street Gateway, the city doesn’t have a lot going on,” Yoder said.

Councilwoman Liz Miele, vice president of council, said she also doesn’t want to hurt the free-flow of development but sees a need for short-term fixes based on an outcry due to a Dollar General planned for Washington Boulevard.

Miele said she views the city needing more pedestrian-friendly aspects tied into zoning law and a harmonious “bleed” from the central business district into other close-by commercial districts.

Such “bleed” is like an “overlay” in terms of zoning, Knarr said.

Knarr also said the city should concentrate on changes to zoning affecting Washington Boulevard.

He said he could envision better walkability and uniformed setbacks among new developments on the boulevard.

Likewise, Knarr said, he could see some standards of zoning applied better to areas in Newberry, specifically West Fourth and Arch streets, which is commercially-zoned.

Councilman David Banks said he agreed on short-term fixes and looking at more longer-term zoning changes such as overlay maps, where zoning can cross over or “bleed” as Miele discussed.

The overlay, however, is “time consuming,” based on how it worked out in Erie and Lancaster, Knarr said.

Knarr said whatever the committee recommends to be done must not be zoning that satisfies certain developments or be construed as “spot zoning.”

“You can add pedestrian access and look at how pedestrian access is on parking lots of commercial businesses,” Knarr said.

“You have to run it past the planning commission,” he said.

The schedule for any possible changes looks as though it will take place early next year, he said.

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