Zoning plan gets OKWest Cocalico planners approve ordinance, map

By on July 20, 2011

By: KAREN SHUEY Review Staff kshuey.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

About 25 West Cocalico Township residents left a special planning commission meeting Thursday with a clearer understanding of a revamped zoning code.

The meeting went much smoother than the board’s first gathering in January to vote on the proposed new ordinance and map, in which 80 angry residents demanded more time to review the code. At that time, the board agreed to table a vote on whether to advance the revised plan.

After allowing township residents a few months to look over the plan and make suggestions, the motion to recommend the new zoning code was passed unanimously.

Residents were first notified of the changes and modified zoning map in a letter mailed Dec. 30 by the township.

The map shows 13 areas of the township proposed for rezoning.

In January, the planning board appeared ready to recommend that township supervisors approve the 297-page document until several residents voiced their opposition.

Twelve residents addressed the board — saying they were confused because the information in the letter was incomplete — before audience members threatened to sue the township if it did not allow the public more time to inspect the document.

During the meeting, officials promised the audience that the entire document would be available for inspection at the municipal offices and that a copy would be posted on the township’s website.

James Caldwell of Rettew Associates, which advised the planning commission on the zoning changes, directed Thursday’s meeting. The proposed zoning changes, Caldwell said, were developed in part from West Cocalico Township’s adoption in 2003 of the Cocalico Regional Plan, in which it partnered with East Cocalico Township and Adamstown and Denver boroughs.

Caldwell explained that West Cocalico is divided into two areas: resource and residential-commercial.

The resource area includes four zones: environmentally sensitive, open space-woodland and two agricultural districts.

The residential-commercial area is made up of five zones that include residential rural, village center, village residential, special residential and industrial-commercial districts. There also are two overlay zones: floodplain and steep-slope districts.

Leon Eby, planning commission chairman, said things went better this time around because the board reconsidered the rezoning plan after it addressed questions and concerns from residents.

"We received a lot of comments at the last meeting and we took that under consideration," he said, adding that two areas that were slated to be changed will remain the same. "The last time we met, the majority of the people that came out were upset because they were directly affected –we hope that our decision to keep things the way they were helped to ease those concerns."

At the heart of the new zoning, Caldwell said, is a plan that attempts to direct growth to the "village districts" around Schoeneck and Reinholds, and to other residential "historical growth" areas.

Caldwell said the proposed zoning changes would restrict maximum lot sizes within the agricultural and resource zones; define and regulate manufactured homes; and specify that smaller residential lot sizes require both centralized sewer and water.

Caldwell said that additional sewer system capacity would have to be added sometime in the future to support growth in the village areas, but there are no plans to do that yet.

However, there were still some who weren’t happy.

Anita Scheneck, co-owner of the Schoeneck Hotel Bed & Breakfast, condemned the proposal, which would change the minimum lot area for townhomes from 5,000 square feet to 2,400 square feet. It also would reduce the minimum area required for apartments from an overall total of 10,000 square feet to 2,400-square-feet per unit of occupation.

"I want to see Schoeneck stay the way it is. I don’t want any of these big developments popping up," she said.

Caldwell said that while it’s true the new zoning may open up an opportunity down the road for more development, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

"The township has tremendous growth capabilities, but it would require significant investment in sewer and water systems," he said. "And, in this economy I don’t see that happening for a very long time."

Scheneck shot back with a reminder to commission members that they are supposed to be making decisions that include long-range planning — that require them to think far into the future.

"We pay taxes but we have no say in what we want our communities to look like," she concluded.

Unfortunately, the township can’t shut its doors to developers, Caldwell said.

"We’ve done our best with this plan to limit growth in most areas, there is actually less area for suburban growth than our plan before," Eby added. "The zoning plan is not encouraging anything differently; it’s actually maintaining that stance."

Other proposed changes include rezoning some rural residential areas to agricultural zones and restricting subdivision potential in some resource areas from one lot per 25-acre parcel to one lot per 50-acre parcel –which resident Bruce Kauffman took issue with.

Kauffman suggested to the board that maintaining the township’s rural identity may come at a cost to taxpayers, who may already be finding it difficult to keep up with rising taxes.

"I know we want to retain our landscape, but by limiting the amount of industry we’re also losing out on those taxes," he told commission members.

"Growth, because of the infrastructure that’s there, is more ideal for an area like East Cocalico," Eby pointed out.

The new zoning package now goes to the township supervisors, who will have to advertise the changes for 60 days before taking action.

To view all of the proposed zoning changes, visit the township’s website at co.lancaster.pa.us/west_cocalico.

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