Indiana Borough council Tuesday rejected a request by a small group of property owners to rezone their block from residential to C-1 Commercial.
The residents contended the change in zoning designation would help them sell their homes that they say have been devalued by a high-density student housing complex built nearby.
Council’s vote to deny the zoning change followed a recommendation by the Indiana Borough Planning Commission.
Dr. Mary Micco, of 225 S. Carpenter Ave., told council at its July meeting that the borough’s traditional neighborhood development overlay ordinance had “destroyed” the property values of her home and her neighbors’ homes and made it impossible for them to sell their properties. Her home is in the block behind the former Roger Reschini home along School Street that was razed and replaced by a large, high-density student housing complex built under TND guidelines.
Micco had urged council to rezone her block as something that would allow her and her neighbors to sell their homes to developers who could create “up-scale university services” such as ice cream shops, a beauty salon and doctors’ offices there.
In August, several of the property owners signed a petition requesting the zoning change and delivered it to the Indiana Borough Planning Commission. The area they requested to be rezoned is bordered by School Street on the north, Carpenter Avenue on the west, Washington Street on the south and Wayne Avenue on the east. Additionally, the rezoning was also requested for the Max Shawer and Chere Winnek-Shawer residence at 229 S. Seventh St.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Richard Thorell, chairman of the Community Development Committee, said the planning commission members unanimously recommended that the rezoning request be denied, explaining that doing so would amount to spot zoning and would not be realistic for that area.
“This does not mean our committee is not sympathetic to the Winnick-Shawers and Dr. Micco,” Thorell said. “I don’t see a right solution to this at the moment,” but a “substantial” reorganization of the borough’s zoning ordinance is possible after the first of the year, he said.
The motion to deny the rezoning request was approved on a unanimous voice vote.
The TND overlay ordinance was enacted to encourage developers to build high-density housing projects near the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus that would attract students now living in rental units scattered throughout the borough’s residential neighborhoods. Some council members said a flaw of the TND overlay ordinance was that it allowed the high-density housing projects to be built in some R-2 residential zones.
Council in April placed a moratorium on all future TND overlay construction projects to give a committee time to review the ordinance and determine if it was achieving its goals, and then repealed the TND ordinance in July.
Council Tuesday also approved for advertising a 2014 general fund budget for Indiana that will require no change in the real estate tax.
The 2014 budget projects total general fund expenditures of $6,063,802 and total general fund revenues of $5,643,249. The projected expenditures and revenues are both approximate 0.5 percent increases compared to the current budget.
An anticipated $500,000 surplus at the end of 2013 will be used to balance next year’s spending plan.
Final action on next year’s budget is expected at council’s Dec. 3 meeting.
In other business, councilman John Hartman said contributions are already coming in to help raise the $10,000 local match for a $20,000 “Playful City USA” grant to buy new playground equipment at McGregor Park in the First Ward.
Donations for the match can be made by visiting http://ourdreamplayground.kaboom.org. There is a small fee to donate through the website. Donations to the campaign may also be made by mailing a check, payable to “Borough of Indiana Playground Fund,” to Indiana Borough Administration Building, 80 N. Eighth St., Indiana, PA 15701.