Business Zone Nixed

A proposed change to zoning designations in Sugar Grove has been shot down.

In a two-to-one vote at their meeting Wednesday morning, the Warren County Commissioners opted not to pass an ordinance changing the zoning on a property along Big Tree Road in Sugar Grove Borough to business.

The change would have affected a four-acre portion of a 14.7-acre lot belonging to Eric and Lisa Hagberg. The property is currently split into residential and ACR (agriculture, commercial, residential) zones and sits across from Grant Lumber.

When the Hagbergs’ request initially went before the Warren County Planning and Zoning Commission in November, the possibility of installing storage units and retail opportunities including a possible Dollar General store were discussed.

On Dec. 5, the planning commission forwarded to the commissioners a proposal to re-zone 2.75 acres of the property as business transitional.

Following a Dec. 27 public meeting on the proposal, the commissioners tabled the request when a number of residents, including Sugar Grove Borough Mayor Dutch Strand, expressed concern over possible projects on the property. At the time, Commissioner John Bortz said the commissioners should wait to act until, “we have the properly drafted language outlining the four-acre change to the parcel,” as opposed to the 2.75 acres before them.

On Wednesday, the issue was back on the table and 12 Sugar Grove residents were in attendance.

“We wanted a specific ordinance change written before we acted,” Commissioners Chairman Stephen Vanco said. “We have that here in front of us today.”

The new ordinance would have re-zoned four acres as business, the original acreage requested.

“Having had a chance to look at this property multiple times,” Bortz said, “there is nothing in my mind, that I can observe, that could adversely effect the adjacent property owners.”

Vanco added, “All three commissioners have had a chance to view the property.”

Bortz made a motion to bring the matter to a vote and Commissioner John Eggleston seconded the motion.

Despite not being designated a public hearing, the commissioners opted to allow public comments prior to actually voting.

Joe Levis, who owns property adjacent to the site, requested the commissioners again table the issue until environmental tests can be done in the spring. Levis said he had concerns about possible flooding issues.

“That’s all part of the development process,” Bortz responded. “Those are valid questions that would have to be addressed… but that is not what we are here to consider today. Once development started, then things would start in earnest. It would probably need an environmental analysis. This is just the first step. We’re looking at multiple parts and this (today) is just one part.”

Sugar Grove resident Rick Mader also expressed concerns and said he had conducted a soil analysis.

“I would think if you’re concerned about the property you’d want all the information possible,” Mader said. “There’s quite a few residents around the property that, with the fill (which would be required to raise the lot to road level), and then the runoff, would be affected by this.”

“You’re asking us to get involved with things that are way out of our pay grade,” Eggleston told Mader. “We’re here to look around at the surrounding areas and see if the zoning is appropriate. That’s it. We’re not qualified to analyze this stuff.

“Do you want anything in Sugar Grove? This is the third time we’ve dealt with this,” Eggleston added.

“We’re looking at services,” Bortz added. “That’s our consideration.”

“I’ve been doing this for ten years,” Eggleston said. “Every one of these hearings we’ve had, people have brought up the flooding issue. I can tell you, every time they’ve gone in and developed, the flooding issue has been better after. They don’t just go in, and bulldoze, and let the chips fall where they may. They aren’t allowed to do that.”

Sugar Grove resident Julie Mader brought the underlying issue to light.

“We’re tired of being told we’re stopping progress. We don’t want a Dollar General because of what it does to businesses,” Mader said. “This will gut the existing business in Sugar Grove. It’s all about what you consider to be progress.”

“We’re not trying to change everything,” Lisa Hagberg told the residents. “We were given an opportunity and we pursued it.”

Bortz was the lone affirmative vote.