School (re)zone

To save money, district asking to rezone former Sugar Grove Elementary to house maintenance department

The Warren County Planning Commission has recommended a rezoning request for the former Sugar Grove Elementary School.

The change – if approved by the Warren County Commissioners – would change the zoning for the parcel from Residential to Business, which would allow the Warren County School District to move the Buildings & Grounds Department from a facility on the Warren State Hospital grounds to the former elementary school.

Zoning Officer Michael Lyon told the commission that there is a parcel zoned Business directly across the street from the school.

Citing “budget crises and crunches,” WCSD Director of Buildings & Grounds Services Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht told the commission that the district is currently spending $53,000 annually to rent space for the department.

He said that the district previously subdivided the property and gave Sugar Grove Borough all but the building for parks and recreation and added that they put the Sugar Grove facility up for bid and received only one bid for $50,000.

“My other thought, at $53,000 a year, if we moved our maintenance department there (we would) save $1,000,000 in 20 years.”

County Planner Dan Glotz said zoning usually goes to the center of the street, so if this parcel were rezoned it would be contiguous to the other business district and “not separated by the street itself.”

He also said that the zoning designation, if changed, would remain with the property, even if the district sold it in the future.

WCSD Solicitor Chris Byham said there would likely be less traffic in the area than when the property was used as a school.

He said there would be “limited deliveries” and identified where the use would fall under the zoning ordinance.

Kennerknecht said that rezoning would be “much more economical than if we went out” and built a new facility to house the department. “That would be a burden on the taxpayers.”

“The situation here, you’ve got a business district directly across the street from it,” Glotz said, “rather than being completely surrounded by residential on all four sides.”

He added that the building could not house the maintenance department with its current residential zoning.

Chairman Paul Pascuzzi said that the commission would be making a recommendation to the commissioners, who would be required to hold a public hearing on the change.

Lyon said that part of the process will include notification to all of the property owners within 300 feet of parcel in question.

Multiple commission members expressed concern with the district’s application in that it referenced warehouse activities, which would only technically be permissible in an industrial zone.

The district agreed to amend the application to provide additional clarity.

The commission unanimously made the recommendation to rezone the parcel.