HERMITAGE Rezoning proposal brings mixed reaction

One group of neighbors opposes the change, while another says it's OK.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Opposition is beginning to surface to the latest plan to rezone 14.6 acres along the south side of the Shenango Valley Freeway, just west of state Route 18, for a commercial development.
Unlike in previous battles, however, residents of the neighborhood are divided on the issue.
Heritage Development Co. of Moreland Hills, Ohio, presented its rezoning request to the city commissioners Wednesday, asking that the land, now zoned for office building and residential use, be changed to central commercial.
But before company project manager Brian Grassa could finish his presentation, some residents rose to speak against it.
Atty. Michael Joanow of Woodhill Drive said he and a number of other residents object to the rezoning.
The secondary roads in the area can't handle the increased traffic flow that a commercial development would generate, he said, noting motorists already speed and ignore stop signs.
"I see it as a serious hazard," Joanow said, predicting that other neighbors will show up to protest at future meetings.
For and against: Gina Ehrhart, who lives on Koonce Road, which would adjoin the commercial development, said she and other neighbors who attended a meeting with Grassa in August are satisfied. "The developer met what the neighbors asked for," she said.
Harry Sheppard of Dogwood Lane opposes the plan because be fears increased traffic, noise, lights and odor from a commercial project. The plan proposes a development right outside bedroom windows, he said.
Developer's response: Grassa said his company has taken steps to deal with residents' concerns, agreeing not to have any access off Morefield Road, which separates the project area from the residential area.
Heritage would create a 180-foot-wide buffer zone of trees and plantings along the west side of Morefield Road, and Koonce Road would get a 50-foot buffer.
Grassa said the company plans to have site access off the Shenango Valley Freeway and state Route 18, pending state approval, and would like to have traffic lights at both locations.
Joanow said adding another traffic light on Route 18, between Morefield Road and the freeway, would only slow the flow of traffic there.
City commissioners introduced an ordinance calling for the rezoning but will send the request to the city and Mercer County Regional planning commissions for review and will conduct a public hearing.
Two attempts by other developers in 1995 and 1999 to get the land rezoned for commercial use failed.

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