HERMITAGE, PA. Developer tries to win residents' support for zoning

Two previous developers were unable to get the land rezoned for commercial use.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Another prospective developer is taking a shot at building a commercial project along the south side of the Shenango Valley Freeway just west of Pa. Route 18.
Heritage Development Co. of Morland Hills, a Cleveland suburb, has filed a request with the city to rezone 14.5 acres of office building district and residential land to a commercial designation to make way for a retail development.
A half acre parcel along Route 18 just west of Burger King that is now zoned as commercial would be rezoned as single-family residential under the Heritage plan, said Marcia Hirschmann, city director of planning and zoning.
Other attempts: Getting the land rezoned as commercial has been the downfall of two previous development plans for that parcel.
One was a 1995 project to put a DIY Home Improvement store on the site and the other was a proposed 1999 commercial/retail development featuring 200,000 square feet in one large building and three parcels with smaller structures. Specific tenants for the latter project were never mentioned.
In both cases, the developers met stiff opposition from residents in the area who were concerned about increased traffic flow, noise and safety issues. Neither was able to get the land rezoned.
Heritage, which presented its rezoning request to the city last week, is trying to win residents' support up front.
The company held a private meeting with some of those residents in August, outlining its plans and trying to address their concerns.
The 12-15 people in attendance generally seemed OK with the plan, said Gina Ehrhart of Koonce Road, one of those who attended.
Buffer area: Heritage has promised to leave a 150-foot wide buffer along the north side of Morefield Road to separate its development from the residential area, Ehrhart said.
Further, Heritage said it has no plans for an access road to its project off Morefield Road, Ehrhart said.
That's something earlier developers couldn't guarantee, and it was a sticking point for residents who didn't want more traffic running through residential streets.
Ehrhart said Heritage has indicated it plans to have access to its site off both the freeway and Route 18.
The company hasn't revealed who its tenants might be, she said.
City commissioners will introduce the rezoning request at their regular meeting next week and refer it to the city and Mercer County Regional planning commissions. Commissioners will then conduct a public hearing.

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