Sunbury eyes golf course rezoning

By Lenny C. Lepola - For The Gazette

Sunbury Village Council held a public hearing July 20 on changing the zoning of the former Sunbury Golf Course property from a “planned recreational district” to a “planned residential district.”

A proposed 167-home development on 67.58 acres would be located on the west side of the village, at 1349 Golf Course Road, between South Galena Road and Cheshire Road. The density would be 1.93 dwelling units per acre, with 83 lots that would be 80 feet wide, and 67 lots that would be 70 feet wide. All lots would be at least 140 feet deep.

Members of the Sunbury Planning and Zoning Commission originally denied the zoning change request on May 16. Developer Vince Romanelli subsequently asked if there was a way the project could move forward with modifications to the denied application.

Village Solicitor David Brehm said the applicant had a window during which the application could be reconsidered, and commission members agreed to a reconsideration. David Fisher, of Kephart and Fisher, representing Romanelli, attended another special zoning meeting on June 8 with several application changes.

One key item for the zoning change denial was the project’s divergence request from the village’s tree replacement policy.

The site contains 1,320 trees that fall under the umbrella of the tree replacement policy, with 1,005 of those trees being removed if the project were to move forward. The denied application would have replaced 450 trees and give the village $1,000 per home when each home’s building permit is granted as part of the tree replacement divergence request.

During the June 8 meeting, Fisher said additional trees would be added to the site, and the $1,000 per home would be retained in the application. The amended application includes 834 new tree and 315 existing trees that would not be impacted.

The original application asked for a consistent side-yard setback of seven feet (14 feet between buildings), regardless of lot width. The divergence request would have applied to 80-foot wide lots and corner lots. The application also asked for a rear-yard setback divergence from code’s 40 feet to 30 feet to allow for later homeowner additions of decks, patios and four-season rooms.

That side-yard setback divergence request was off the table when the application returned to zoning for reconsideration.

“We’ll do away with the divergence we asked for on the side-yard setback, but the developer would like to retain the rear-yard divergence for non-conditioned rooms — porches, patios and three-season rooms,” Fisher said. “Historically, people want to add things to their homes. The rear divergence would be limited to non-conditioned rooms.”

Sunbury’s zoning code stipulates that a home not cover more than 25 percent of the lot. The modified application Fisher brought to zoning asked for 30 percent for one model only.

Zoning commission members approved the zoning change, and the July 20 reading was the first of three readings before council members give the zoning change request an up or down vote.

While he had the floor last week , Fisher described what he called an unusual twist in the rezoning application – a potential land swap to allow for a school building site on Golf Course Road.

A school site has been identified on the Price family property where a potential 500-home development would be built, but the site is near AEP transmission lines and not located on a major roadway. A land swap would allow the school to be accessed directly off of Golf Course Road, and Romanelli, et al., would not lose home sites or see other major changes to their development plan.

“Zoning asked to move the school site onto Golf Course Road, and Mr. Romanelli has offered to swap the land,” Fisher said. “My client agreed to hold out on final engineering for 90 days to allow the price property developer time to consider a swap so a school could go on Golf Course Road.”

Fisher explained that members of the zoning commission approved both plans – with and without the land swap – allowing either plan to move forward if an agreement could be reached with the Price property developer.

“The next step is engineering, but that’s expensive and time-consuming,” Fisher said. “Mr. Romanelli is going to wait another 60 to 75 days, but he wants a consensus on the land swap. He doesn’t want to be held hostage for an indefinite amount of time while this works out.”

By Lenny C. Lepola

For The Gazette

Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093. Email: [email protected]

Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093. Email: [email protected]