Message from the Borough Manager on Factual Information Regarding Possible Rezoning of Glade Run Property
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Message from the Borough Manager on Factual information regarding Possible Rezoning of Glade Run Property
It was important and heartening to see that the citizens in Zelienople being engaged in public interest and debate. The recent public hearings on proposed ordinance # 878-21 was an indication of the public having an opportunity to express themselves and give their opinions. There was some very positive information and suggestions made for the proposed ordinance.
The reason for the public hearing was to solicit input on the proposed zoning ordinance that would rezone a large 250.259-acre tract of land owned by the Glade Run Lutheran services. They, as property owners, have the right to develop that land according to borough land use and zoning regulations.
The former zoning designation for that land was a Planned Residential Development (PRD) that the borough felt was deficient in protecting the overall borough interests and the citizens of the borough, so it was repealed to have a better ordinance take its place. Proposed Ordinance # 878-21 was drafted for that purpose. The borough has always operated in an open and transparent manner, so we not only complied with the PA Municipal Planning Code in how we advertised the ordinance and meetings and provided for public hearing to solicit input on the ordinance, but we also did more than what was required by law.
The first public hearing took place on August 9, 2021, in which 77 people attended both in person and remotely. It was an open exchange of information where borough staff provided background for the need of the ordinance and the highlights of its content. There was significant feedback from the public who attended, which showed public displeasure with additional growth or development of those impacted by the location this ordinance was covering. Unfortunately, there was also a good bit of misinformation and misunderstanding regarding the intent of the ordinance and its content.
It became evident for the need to continue this public hearing to another time to provide additional opportunity to capture all the input available to move on any ordinance consideration. The public asked for the second hearing to be:
- Moved to a larger venue to allow for more people to attend.
- Increase the advertisement of the meeting in social media, SwiftReach as well as the normal means of newspaper, and website.
- Allow for a postponement of the hearing to allow for citizens the opportunity to better prepare for the hearing.
- Allow for Right to Know request to be made to the borough and responded back for public consumption.
- Allowed for individual dialog with the public
All these requests were willingly complied with by the borough, and it should be noted again that it went well beyond what was required by law because the Zelienople Borough council has always tried to be open and transparent in all its actions.
On August 17, 2021, the Borough received two Right to Know requests for the which the borough staff complied with after significant work to compile this information and responded as follows:
- We have received your request for documents relating to properties located in Zelienople PA, currently owned by the Glade Run Foundation or similar name, property numbers 550-S4-5-0000, 550-S4-5G-0000, 550-S4-5H-0000, 550-S4-5J-0000; including all drawings, sketches, requests for review, approval of requests for review, letters, emails, memos, inquiries regarding utilities and plans for grading and/or building and/or developing the subject property between January 1, 2018 and August 17, 2021. Your request is hereby granted, and the information is hereby attached. As the information is being provided to you electronically there are no copying costs involved.
- We have received your request for documents relating to but not limited to the August 9, 2021, public meeting regarding Ordinance 878-21 as follows: Minutes of the meeting, Transcript of the meeting, the Lists of attendees, the Lists of speakers; include letters, emails, memos, minutes of meetings, regarding all of the following: Millcraft Investments, Glade Run Foundation, and William Sittig, Jr. regarding Ordinance 878-21 between January 1, 2018 to August 17, 2021. Your request is hereby granted, and the information is hereby attached. As the information is being provided to you electronically there are no copying costs involved.
Included in this information were 10 links that provided 572 pages
- Emails, 215 Pages (153 Pages-1st request, 62 Pages-2nd request)
- Zoning Ordinance PRDs Removed, 141 Pages
- RTK Request 081721A & 081721B Emails, 62 Pages
- 13.20 Public Hearing, 53 Pages
- Recording of Video with Glade Run 10.30.20
- 26.21 Public Hearing for Removal of PRD, 54 Pages
- 26.21 Council Meeting for Removal of PRD, 10 Pages
- 9.21 Public Hearing & Council Meeting Minutes (Draft)*, 31 Pages
- *The transcript for the 8.9.21 public hearing is not yet available. Minutes of the 8.9.21 public hearing and council meeting are drafts and were not yet approved by council.
- Planning Commission Meeting Minutes, 6 Pages
The borough has provided all the information available regarding this issue and answered any question that arose from either the public or the property owner. Nothing was held back, and transparency was paramount despite some people being skeptical or distrusting.
Need to correct/clarify information:
Which leads me to my comments relating to the misinformation and incorrect “facts” out there that has been shared through gossip and irresponsible social media. This could be either accidental or deliberate in nature, but it is important to clarify these salient points.
- Social media and written material presented to the public from a citizens group and or individuals indicated that Proposed Ordinance # 878-21 included both Rosewood area and the owned by Glade Run. This is false. This proposed ordinance only covers the 250.259-acre tract of land.
- The Borough PRD ordinance that was repealed was not in the best interests of the borough and would allow for more density than what the proposed zoning ordinance allows. In fact, the current zoning classifications already allow for more density than the proposed ordinance # 878-21.
- Despite what many people want to believe, the municipality cannot legally just stop any plans for development. We are bound by state law and by our state and federal constitutions to provide zoning regulations that allow for the reasonable use of all property in the borough. It is understood that current residents may not like to see development in their backyard, but a property owner has the right to develop their property in a reasonable manner that is compatible with adjacent land uses. Zoning regulations may not be so burdensome that they result in an uncompensated taking of property.
- Given the note above, it is the boroughs responsibility to include all reasonable precautions to ensure growth is not harmful to the borough. This includes sufficient study relating to traffic concerns, public safety access, utility planning, street maintenance, and general municipal obligations that all residential sites require.
- It must be clear that the Borough Council has not made any decision on the ordinance in question and provided it for public comment prior to any decision-making being made. The people at the public hearing and on social media and other means seem to have the impression that the ordinance was a “done deal” and that there was collaboration with the property owner and developer to make this happen. This is absolutely not true.
- It was mentioned at the 2nd public hearing on October 4, 2021, in which almost 200 people attended, that the group that calls themselves the “Zelienople Citizens in the Know Board”, only found out about the October 30, 2020 Zoom meeting that the borough had with the Glade Run property owner and their potential developer AFTER a Right to know request made on August 17, 2021 was filled and this October meeting came to light.
This statement is irresponsible and unequivocally untrue. I specifically brought this meeting to light and why at the first public hearing on August 9, 2021. I wanted to be clear that indeed such a meeting had occurred and that it was appropriate to do so.
It is common and good municipal practice to meet with any potential developers to see what is being planned to determine how to respond to a formal submission when it occurs. There was no formal submission and only a concept was presented for our information. This was especially important since the borough was in process of writing the ordinance amendment to deal with the property in question. It would be impossible to prepare the best legislation unless we knew what was possibly being presented by the developer.
- The comment was made several times by people at the public hearing that the borough was supporting this development because there would be a windfall of either tax revenue or utility revenue beneficial for the borough coffers. These comments are also irresponsible and do not reflect the truth. The borough has never considered revenue from development to be an overriding factor for any approval. The costs of development to the borough utility and services system are always considered for obvious reasons but to be honest there is no desire for growth for increasing either tax revenue or utility fees.
- The comments, inuendo or gossip that either elected public officials or staff are making money, lining our pockets as it was presented to us, are disgusting allegations and not true whatsoever. I suppose this may be based on public distrust of government but here in Zelienople that does not and will not happen. It is distressing that people would even think that is possible. On the contrary, all of Council and staff actions through the years have been for the public good with no personal self-interest involved.
- Impact fees were raised as a requirement for the developer. In Pennsylvania, impact fees cannot be levied except for transportation improvements and then not until there is exhaustive work done for that to happen. Until now that was not needed, but if it is needed, the borough will undertake that process. Impact fees cannot be levied for other purposes such as recreation or schools but in the past the borough has always negotiated for such community benefits outside the impact fee arena.
- There was a comment that the Borough Manager was not honest in saying that the Sewage treatment capacity was currently adequate for this proposed development was misleading. The borough had indeed had conversation with Western Butler County Authority (WBCA) in general regarding possible development in this area of town, but we cannot give any specifics for WBCA to evaluate until there was a planned submission with detail that could be given for the sewage authority to give their approval for adequate facilities.
There was other factual misinformation that arose from the public hearing but to deal with all of them here would make this already long document even longer. Point is, it was clear that many of the comments made were based on inaccurate “gossip” rather than facts which created a harmful and angry public. The borough had tried and will continue to try to provide accurate information for the public to digest and for the elected officials to make the best-informed decisions.
With this in mind, the borough council is committed to working with all impacted parties, and to use the constructive comments made during the public hearings to develop an ordinance that will best serve this borough as a whole. To this end, we have developed a steering committee which consists of borough officials, impacted citizens, and the property owner to work together going forward to develop an ordinance best suited for our community.
I don’t need to lecture anyone, but I must state that the Borough Council and Staff love this town no less than anyone else who were in those public hearings and in some ways perhaps more since we devote all of our time and talents to making this borough the best it can be. We are proud of our accomplishments and will continue to devote our work time and our volunteer time to making Zelienople a modern place with old fashioned grace. A place where we can be proud to live, do business, work, and raise our families.