Springettsbury Twp. votes to rezone Market St. intersection
- The Springettsbury Township Board of Supervisors voted to rezone an area near East Market Street and Mount Zion Road.
- The zoning will go from neighborhood commercial to mixed use.
- Springettbury's board unanimously voted to approve the rezoning.
After nearly two years of discussing the area, the Springettsbury Township board of supervisors voted to rezone a section of East Market Street and Mount Zion Road.
The 13 parcels will change from neighborhood commercial to mixed use, and officials say proposed changes might make the area more pedestrian friendly, with little to no impact on traffic in that area.
That's a contention that some residents disagree with.
Jessica Fieldhouse, community outreach director for the township, presented the proposal to the nearly 30 residents who showed up at the meeting Thursday.
Among those in attendance was Alexandra Thomas, a Springettsbury Township resident whose home is adjacent to the rezoned area. She said she didn't think the rezoning was in the best interest of the community.
She told the board that she thinks the new zoning is close enough to highway commercial and will allow similar uses, bringing in more traffic.
"I hope you really make an informed decision," she told the board.
The new proposal is compatible with the township's comprehensive plan and the town center overlay, officials say. Township staff looked at the rezoning proposal and found that the change in zoning would have a similar traffic impact to what is already there, Fieldhouse said.
The new zoning will allow commercial development but not to the extent that highway commercial would allow, according to Mark Swomley, chairman of the board. Additionally, the overlay will make the area more "pedestrian friendly," with things such as wider sidewalks, Swomley said.
At the Jan. 5 meeting, the board voted to advertise the proposal and send it to the York County Planning Commission. The planning commission agreed with the proposal, Swomley said.
Public comment: The board held a special public comment for the rezoning before the normally scheduled meeting.
While about 30 people showed up for the meeting, only three people spoke during the public comment.
Some expressed distaste regarding how it might affect the historical aspects of the township, such as the Modernaire Motel and Bloomingdale house. Residents Rob Bosserman and Jane Heller both said they believe the zoning would affect those locations.
Additionally, two other people submitted comments to the board because they couldn't make the meeting. They expressed the same concerns.
"I think people have given up," Heller said of opposition to the rezoning process.
Bosserman and Heller thought more development would not be good for the township.
"That's the last thing we need," Heller told the board.
"I think that we do not need additional development of that area," Bosserman said, adding that it would add more traffic.
Vote: The rezoning vote was the 11th item on the agenda for the night, which kept concerned residents waiting for more than an hour to hear anything on the subject.
The vote was unanimous, and many members of the board thanked the public for its continued efforts and involvement with the plan.
Supervisor Blanda Nace also dispelled the notion that the rezoning was done because a developer is interested in the area. He said no developer is currently looking into the now rezoned areas.
After the meeting, Swomley said he believed the board did what was best for the Springettsbury Township community. He said that there are about 20 vocal opponents of the plan, but the board needs to think of the nearly 27,000 other residents of the township.
Swomley said the board worked hard to make the decision after having turned down the other proposals.
"We have fairly high confidence that we are doing the right thing for the community," he said.
After the meeting, Thomas said she did not agree with the decision. She said she wishes there was more chance for "open dialogue."
During her public comment, she was not allowed to ask questions to the board but was instead asked to only speak her opinion.
"Sometimes the board is just rude and dismissive," she said.
Thomas said she also wished the board was more informed. She mentioned how many people expressed interest in preserving historical buildings within the rezoned areas, but during the meeting, board member Kathleen Phan asked a member of the Historical Preservation Committee what makes a building "historical."
The question was asked after the rezoning vote.
"I'm happy to educate myself, I just wish the board would do the same," Thomas said. She said the majority of what she learned about rezoning was done on her own.
The plans can be viewed on the township website here.
The background: In December 2015, the township supervisors denied Spring Lane LLC's proposal to rezone 12.5 acres on the northeast corner of East Market Street and Mount Zion Road.
The board's actions were in line with what the York County Planning Commission had recommended.
The developer's plan involved the demolition of 12 parcels, including the Modernaire Motel and Bloomingdale house, and the construction of a shopping center in their place.
The rezoning would have applied the commercial highway zoning designation to the area with a town center overlay, he said. That combination is "much more regulated" than other types of zoning, requiring the developer to leave a certain amount of green space and make the area friendly to pedestrians, Swomley said at the time.
In January 2016, the board asked the planning commission to go back and look at the area as a way to better plan what could be done there.
A second proposal was generated by the commission.
That proposal called for rezoning 40 acres of land — separated into 23 parcels already encompassed by the town center overlay or by developing the same area into a town center for shopping — into what is referred to as commercial highway. The town center overlay would be expanded by adding up to 41 adjacent parcels, according to the proposal.
The York County Planning Commission recommended against that rezoning plan, saying it would conflict with the pre-existing future land use section of the township's comprehensive plan for developing a town center in that same area and would impact the zoning designations of surrounding residential and commercial areas by making them nonconforming with their present zoning designations.
Furthermore, it would be unsafe, the planning commission report said.
On Aug. 25, the township board held a public meeting to discuss it, after which the members voted against the proposed rezoning.
On Jan. 5, the board and the planning commission held a joint meeting on the proposal that was passed Thursday night. That proposal was brought to the board by the township planning commission.
Fieldhouse, who introduced the planning commission's proposal to the crowd, said the proposed rezoning will allow a greater number of retail services in the location.
"Mixed use will give market forces the opportunity to see what will work there," she said during the meeting.
Going forward, Swomley said the board will be looking to change the township's comprehensive plan.
"We go through and really map out where our community is going," he said.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.