- Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 23, 2013

Critics weigh in on plan

Fencing, zoning rules questioned

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — Citizens voiced their concerns about fences and signs in Grove City at a public hearing about proposed upgrades to the borough zoning ordinance.

Rick Grossman, borough planning consultant, discussed changes being made to the zoning ordinance at the hearing, which was held before Grove City council's regular meeting on Monday. The borough's planning commission has been working on the document for two years, and it's now going before council for review.

Ray Abplanalp spoke about his aversion to 6-feet-high fences surrounding his property.

The borough ordinance allows high fences with zero setback requirements. The 300-feet worth of fence - which doesn't belong to him - hugging his property is an eyesore to Abplanalp because he claims is not maintained on the side facing his land.

"It's disheartening and upsetting to me," he said. "I know you won't outlaw it, but there should be a setback."

Grossman stated that he has a draft plan that would require a setback for fences higher than 4 feet, which has been met with mixed reviews when discussed in planning meetings.

"It's hard to have setbacks in a community with small lot sizes," he said.

Rich Talbert, councilman and head of the planning commission, stated that the zero setback was also allowed for other reasons, to keep garbage from collecting and weeds growing in a setback area outside the fence.

The setback would also create a "bowling alley" effect for the homeowner within the fence, Talbert added; however, Abplanalp noted that he already feels that way inside of his property due to his neighbors' fences.

Lee McCracken was "fired up" about two potential changes in the ordinance that may affect his business properties on Breckenridge Street. The Pine Township resident owns property in the borough and Pine.

Currently, he owns the building being used by Premiere Power Solutions on Breckenridge, which is zoned industrial. The borough is proposing to change the zoning to highway industrial/light industry.

He believes that would hamper future business because his building would no longer be entitled to more freedom provided by the pure industrial zone, he said.

"I have zero interest in that," McCracken said. He purchased the property because of the industrial zone. "I have a building and I want to use it for what I built it for," he said. If he ever wanted to sell it, "a zoning change could cost me 100-grand," he said, or a tenant may pass it up without the industrial label.

The proposed zoning changes include the Premiere building and neighboring Little Treasures Learning Center, a daycare.

When zoning ordinances are tweaked, they are normally for odd situations like Premiere and Little Treasures. "Moving the (zoning) line a couple hundred feet" is usually simple in these cases, Grossman said.

However, "I have a little bit of concern with a daycare in an industrial district," he noted. The borough must still provide for sexually-oriented businesses and alternative correctional facilities, which are often put in industrial zones, Grossman said.

McCracken was even more upset about the planners' proposal for electronic signs, which light up, change messages and have animation.

He owns the car wash and storage facility on Breckenridge, as well as an empty lot nearby on West Main Street, next to Leisure Time Laundry.

McCracken wishes to put up a tall electronic sign on a post already located on the empty lot, so motorist on the busy West Main can know there is a car wash around the corner on Breckenridge. The car wash is hidden from view on West Main, because it sits behind Advance Auto Parts.

However, planners have proposed signs on posts - electronic or not - to only be 16 square feet; monument signs sitting at ground level are allowed to be 40 square feet to encourage businesses to use the lower signs, Talbert said after the meeting.

That was not appealing to McCracken, who wants his tall electronic sign to be much larger, since it's directing traffic to his hidden car wash, he said.

If he uses a monument sign, it will blend in with all the signs already there, he said. "I have to do something people can see," McCracken added, or it's like throwing money down the drain.

Grossman stated that signage was the most hotly discussed item during the zoning ordinance rewrite, with professionals brought in to give clarity to the matter.

Talbert said the planners didn't want electronic signs at all. Right now, the only electronic sign in that zone is at Farmer's National Bank. "That's a beautiful sign," McCracken said.

However, residents are concerned with it being a distraction; safety is the main issue planners were concerned about when discussing electronic signs in the ordinance, Grossman said.

Too many electronic signs cluttered in a business district are known to cause more motor vehicle accidents, he added.

"We want to encourage more monument signs."

Published July 17, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.