Overlay district zoning eased by commission

The Kilbuck Township Supervisors have accepted recommendations by the township's planning commission that will slightly ease restrictions on how property can be used within a proposed "municipal and fire overlay district."

The district was created after Kilbuck's zoning board denied a variance that would have allowed the fire station on Eicher Road to be sold and used as a commercial property. Currently, all property along Eicher is zoned for residential use only.

The few remaining members of the Kilbuck Volunteer Fire Company hope to sell the building and property so they can pay off debts, which will clear the way for them to merge into the Ben Avon Volunteer Fire Company. Firefighters say that the commercial nature of the property is making it difficult to sell when it is restricted to residential use in the future.

The overlay district would apply only to property formerly used for municipal purposes -- such as the fire station or municipal building -- and would allow restricted commercial use of those properties.

The proposed amendment is based on property located in the R-2 zoning district not being easily converted to residential use. Once that has been established, a number of commercial uses would be permitted: offices, medical and dental offices, adult day care centers, photographic studios, beauty or barber shops, senior citizen centers, pet grooming shops, landscape and nursery or greenhouse, and contractor headquarters, yard or storage facility.

The commercial use originally was to be permitted only if all equipment and materials were stored indoors and all work performed inside a building. Following a March 5 hearing, however, the Kilbuck planning commission recommended that outdoor storage be permitted as long as it is completely enclosed by "a sight-obscuring screen, a masonry wall, wooden
fence, compact evergreen hedge or chain-link fence with evergreen vines at least eight feet in height."

The planning commission also recommended that the hours of permitted commercial operation be expanded on weekdays. Work originally was allowed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The planning commission suggested that the start time be moved back to 6 a.m. No change was made to the weekend operation hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Other restrictions designed to help provide a buffer between residential properties and a commercial operation at the fire station remain in place:

There would be limitations on the type of signage that can be erected, and loudspeakers that provide sound to the outdoors would be prohibited.

The property owner would have to submit a parking and vehicular circulation plan that would ensure that there is sufficient off-street parking and vehicles will not be backing out onto a public street. All parking for the business would have to be off-street.

The business owner also would have to provide plantings to screen the area from the residential area, and shield lighting. Dumpsters would have to be placed so that they are not visible from any residential property.

The township supervisors agreed with the changes proposed by the planning commission and voted at their March 24 meeting to send the zoning code amendment to Allegheny County for review. Once that has been completed, the supervisors will hold a public hearing before voting on whether to adopt the overlay district.

Meanwhile, fire company representative David Derbish told the supervisors that, despite rumors, Kilbuck firefighters were still on the job and answering calls.

"We're still here," Derbish stated.

He said that some equipment, such as hose and pumps, had been moved to the Ben Avon fire station because Ben Avon plans to purchase the equipment. None of the firetrucks had been moved from Kilbuck, he said.

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