The idea to make the change percolated from a discussion that we had on Borough Council last year.
Here are four reasons why I, as one member of Borough Council, think it's a good idea:
- When the idea came up, I believe it was Councillor Tom Shaud who observed that a number of business already operate on that section of College Avenue. If you're keeping score, by my count, it's three: the Optibarn at 20 College Ave., Elizabethtown Sporting Goods at 59 College Ave. and Hollinger Services at 50 College Ave. Since the mixed use designation already exists on Market Street, I recall Tom saying, it would be a natural extension of that designation onto a street that already exemplifies it.
- About seven years ago, and before I was elected, Borough Council rezoned Market Street west to the train station as a mixed use area. Since then, borough staff said at the hearing last month, no one has reported any problems or complaints with the rezoning. Given that it has worked smoothly along West High Street, and that we have a top-notch staff that would address any issues before they become problems, I would expect College Avenue to go smoothly.
- One of the big selling points for my support is that businesses would not have carte blanche approval to open just because they're allowed in that area. Any new businesses that would want to open in one of the residential houses would need to meet design standards, such as installing buffers like shrubbery or a fence. It also would have to abide by parking requirements. And all other requirements, such as stormwater runoff remain in place. While some residents who live in the neighborhood now have legitimate concerns about the proposed change, I believe the design standards and other requirements mitigate the issues.
- As I mentioned at the beginning, College Avenue is home to existing businesses. Because the sporting goods store and Hollinger's are in the residential zoning, they are called "existing nonconforming uses." If they were to go under, and no new business would open in 12 months, the buildings would revert to the residential zoning. And that could effectively turn them into empty shells. As Councillor Meade Bierly said at the hearing, that increases the chances that they would sit empty and become eyesores -- and decrease neighboring property values. Rezoning the area to the mixed use designation gives property owners another option to market their properties. And it will keep a main artery for town, especially with visitors to Elizabethtown College, looking nice and inviting.