A request for 2.5 acres on Big Tree Road in Sugar Grove Borough to be zoned business instead of residential was approved by the Warren County Planning Commission on Tuesday night.
The measure, which will now proceed to the Warren County Commissioners for action, was approved in a 4-2 vote.
The request came from Eric and Lisa Hagberg who had a 14-acre business transitional designation request rejected by the commissioners earlier this year.
So what changed?
"Instead of requesting the entire parcel, now they are asking for a 2.5-acre portion in the same location more or less," Zoning Officer Aaron Kalkbrenner said. He explained that if the original request had been for 2.5 acres, the commissioners would have likely approved the change.
While the planning commission originally made a 2.75-acre business transitional recommendation, the commissioners acted on the Hagberg's original application for the entire 14 acres.
"The question came up, can they reapply?," County Planner Dan Glotz said. After contacting the state Department of Community and Economic Development, he explained that "there is nothing in state law that would prohibit them from reapplying."
"The key is that there is B (business) across the road with Grant Lumber so this is not spot zoning," commission member Gary Olson said.
"The county plan says this particular area happens to be a growth area," commission member Paul Pascuzzi said. "It happens to be in very close proximity to the state of New York. What do the municipality leaders say (regarding) growth in their community?"
"We asked that question before," Glotz said. "They came back to us with a neutral position."
"People are going to want to grow business. They (Sugar Grove Borough Council) need to take action. They need to step up." He then asked why the applicants were seeking a business designation as opposed to the business transitional designation the commission approved before.
What's the difference?
"The only difference is a step in the process," Kalkbrenner said, explaining that development must be approved by the zoning hearing board under a BT designation. Such a provision does not exist in a business district. "All the same things are allowed," he added. "One has to go before the zoning hearing board and the other does not."
Lisa Hagberg said that business was sought because "there is not a restriction of 3,000-square-foot buildings. Glotz said that, in a business transitional district, buildings over 3,000 square feet would have to go before the zoning hearing board for approval.
Joe Levis, who lives on an adjacent property, said that he originally moved to the area and "liked the area because it was woodsy. (It) didn't have to have all the stores, traffic. Liked the area for what it was and not what it was being made into." He cited concerns about light and safety if the property in question was developed.
Kris Levis claimed that development would drop home values in the surrounding area. "It doesn't affect us. It affects a lot of people in town. We're not against business. It's not about not wanting business (but) wanting business in appropriate areas, promoting businesses that are not a threat to existing businesses. There must be a suitable place for the business in Sugar Grove. (The) adjacent property is what it is. We should leave it alone."
Olson responded that "you can't protect or make decisions" based on protecting existing business, specifically when it is currently unclear what development would occur.
Eric Hagberg said "what got lost in our first application" was discussion of a specific business opportunity. Regarding the proposed business designation, he said "we feel it is in line with that the county is going to do as far as its growth plan."
"You do have the public services available," Glotz said regarding highway and sewage issues. "The small size of the lot would restrict the growth on that property to very small development. I feel as though business B would be appropriate for this lot."