WESTERN PA. Pulaski Township will redo zoning laws

The Amish will be permitted to build 'doty' houses for their elderly under the proposed zoning laws.
PULASKI, Pa. -- An overhauling of Pulaski Township's zoning laws four years ago didn't turn out as officials planned.
"We got a zoning ordinance that didn't address a lot of problems we had," said Terry Sander, chairman of the township board of supervisors.
Pulaski Township, a largely rural community with a significant Amish and agricultural population, ended up with laws that kept fences only 3 feet high -- far too low to keep the horses and cows contained -- and didn't address many zoning issues unique to the Amish.
They tried to fix most of the problems with amendments, but officials say it's again time to look at a new zoning ordinance.
The township planning commission will get its first look at a proposed zoning law at 8 p.m. Thursday in the municipal building. Township supervisors will likely have the final say on the new laws sometime this spring.
"It's going to be a totally new zoning ordinance but will contain a lot of the things that were in the old one," Sander said.
Amendments: Any amendments made since 1997 will automatically become part of the normal text of the new ordinance, said Maurice Waltz of Maurice Waltz Planners and Associates in Sharpsville, who is the township's zoning administrator.
Other changes include giving residents more leeway when it comes to zoning. Waltz said there will be fewer issues that require a property owner to appear before township supervisors for permission.
"Just about every time someone was making an application to do something, they had to go to township supervisors for a hearing. Some of those things we felt the zoning officer could issue permits without hearings," Waltz said.
And then there were things that came up in the past four years that weren't even addressed in the 1997 zoning laws.
Cellular towers weren't widely used at the time and weren't regulated in township zoning, Waltz said. They will be now.
People living on large plots in residential areas wanted horses, but the old zoning didn't permit it. The new laws will under certain circumstances, Waltz said.
Houses for elderly: And a long-standing Amish cultural tradition of building "doty" houses -- a small house just a few feet away from the main house to be used by elderly relatives -- wasn't even addressed last time.
The Amish will again be able to build doty houses after meeting conditions set by township supervisors in the new zoning laws, Waltz said.
Other things unique to the Amish, including roadside vegetable stands, weren't permitted under the old zoning in agricultural areas and will be under the new zoning laws.
Pulaski's proposed zoning law also looks to the future.
Officials are relaxing some zoning laws for when public sewage service reaches the township. Homes will be permitted on half-acre lots, instead of the current one-acre lot needed now because of private sewage systems, according to the ordinance.
That's good news for would-be developers and current homeowners, said Bruce Sikora, township planning commission chairman.
"There are individuals who do have property they would like to sell off to family members or others, but can't," he said.
Most can't pass tests required for private septic systems, but others are too small to fit in the township's one-acre zoning law, he said.
Commercial zones: Township officials also want to extend commercial zones in the Villages of Pulaski and New Bedford, both along Pa. Route 208.
A small piece of land on U.S. Route 422, from Pa. Route 208 to the Ohio line, now zoned for residential use, will be part of the township's mixed use/highway zoning, a zone that allows things such as retail shops, gasoline stations and churches, Waltz said.
The new zoning could eventually allow for more business along the Route 422 corridor, Sikora said.
Businesses now must sit on a five-acre lot, but the new zoning will permit to them to be on just one acre, he said.
Township officials say they have tried to address all of Pulaski's zoning problems, but they realize the law probably won't be perfect.
"Zoning is a funny type thing. Sooner or later someone comes in with something you don't have addressed," Sander said.

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