By J.R. Brower
Continuing the trend of allowing developers to build larger homes on smaller lots, Peters Township Council approved shortening setbacks for Ryan Homes, who is building the new Orchard Hill plan on former Trax Farm property along Sugar Camp Road.
At the March 8 meeting, council heard from the developers, who requested that side yard setbacks on all lots be reduced from the regular requirement of 10 feet to 7 and one-half feet. On 16 of the lots, the developers requested to use the minimum front setback of 25 feet, reduced from the regular requirement of 30 feet.
The plan is utilizing the Farm Preservation option of the zoning ordinance that permits cluster lots and reduced setbacks. By using that option, Ryan must save a portion of the land for farm use, so their plan is to set aside 39 of the total 71 acres for an orchard, which will be tended by Trax. Ryan Homes Land Manager John Solo told council that they plan to build 80 homes and that the shorter setbacks would enable them to include 3-car garages in the homes, thus increasing buyer appeal.
Council Chairman David Ball said, “There’s another option, not to have as many lots.” He and council members Monica Merrill and Robert Lewis agreed that it is frustrating that many of the new plans in Peters Township have the appearance of homes being, as Ball said, “jammed together”.
“What you’re doing is trying to put more houses in less space,” said Lewis.
Developer Woody Welsch of the Wadwell Group touted the fact that building the houses closer together would help provide more acreage for the open space. Solo said that worsening market conditions since 2007, when their preliminary plan with larger lots was submitted to the township, factored into Ryan’s decision to reduce lot sizes.
Council agreed to review zoning provisions to reconsider increasing setbacks, however the vote passed to approve the request, with Lewis objecting and Ball abstaining.
In another matter, council heard from Shawn McCall of the Junior Football Association, who requested that his group be granted permission to install two signs at the Municipal Center and at Peterswood Park. The signs would be to raise awareness of the group fundraising efforts. Two of the goals of the group are to install lights and artificial turf on one of the football fields at the park. McCall estimated that the cost of lights for the field would be between $100,000 and $200,000. Council granted permission for the signs for a 6-month time period.
In other business, council accepted the resignation of Planning Commission Chairman David Wylie. Marie Legowick, one of eight candidates interviewed, was selected as a new member of the commission.
In remaining business on the agenda, Peters Township Council:
· Announced an agreement to accept a recycling grant in the amount of $71,376 from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The 90% matching grant will be used to purchase a tree limb chipper and leaf vacuum truck.
· Announced that the proposed intersection improvement project at Route 19 and Valley Brook Road is back on track. The project has been delayed by a right-of-way dispute between PennDot and Lamar Advertising, who has several billboards near the site of construction. Lamar will be permitted to remove the present billboards and replace them with a new electronic sign, which will not interfere with road construction.
· Acknowledged correspondence from PennDot approving the painting of left turn lanes on Waterdam Road near Route 19 to ease traffic congestion. The work is to be done this summer.
· Let it be known that after a meeting with state officials, the DEP and board members of the Peters Creek Sanitary Authority, a dispute with the city of Clairton has been resolved, and tap-ins to the Peters Creek Sanitary Authority will be resumed. The stalemate had been holding up building permits.