GBG Planning Commission ponders building height; New library plans hit snag

How high is too high? That question was pondered at Monday’s meeting of the Gettysburg Planning Commission, as members reviewed the revised draft of the zoning map to make recommendations to the rezoning staff committee.

At issue is the proposed Revitalization District, which would extend between Washington and Stratton Streets with some parts north of West Racehorse Alley and south of Water Street. Currently, that area comprises mixed parcels of Old Town District and Residential Office Redevelopment District.

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According to Carly Marshall, director of planning, zoning, and code enforcement, at a public meeting in October, there was a “big reaction” to the Old Town district shrinking.

Planning Chair Charles Strauss asked if the rezoning committee staff had recently changed the proposed height restrictions, which he believed had been 48 feet with an additional 12 feet if placed at least 30 feet behind the primary building face. The new document indicates a maximum height of 60 feet with an additional 12 feet.

As the discussion moved between numbers of building stories and heights in potential buildings, Borough Engineer Chad Clabaugh advised the Committee to speak in terms of feet rather than stories. He said that developers can make stories ten feet or 12 feet or any height they wish.

Committee member Martin Jolin used the Gettysburg Hotel on 1 Lincoln Square as an example, where the first floor is much higher than others. He also pointed out that the hotel is 60 feet tall, with 72 feet in the back, where the property dips down. He later said he would support a 48-foot height restriction but warned it may discourage developers.

The committee members also discussed height incentives in exchange for properties that provided underground parking and extensive green space above ground. Committee Member Sarah Kipp suggested incentives could also specify where taller buildings could be built to offer consistency in the view.

The Committee agreed that the Revitalization District’s height guidelines should be no more than 48 feet, with an additional 12 feet added for incentives. Only one council member, John Rice, indicated he believed building height should be capped at 60, with an additional 12 feet incentivized.

The revision project aims to create a new, more user-friendly zoning map, update the map to reflect changes that have occurred, and accommodate and regulate modern uses. The plan proposes updating definitions and other provisions to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

The zoning update/rewrite project is in Phase 1, where zoning sections are drafted one at a time and evaluated by the Planning Commission at its monthly meetings. Phase 2 will review specific issues brought to light through public comment. Once complete, the borough council will review a draft, and Phase 3 will include revisions made by the council before the plan is forwarded to the County for their review. Public hearings will then take place to discuss revisions. Once complete, the new zoning plan will be adopted by the Borough Council at a public meeting.

New Library

The proposed Adams County Library between Route 116 and the YWCA hit a snag when Marshall indicated that current codes do not include a library as a permitted use at that particular borough location. The location is within the United Lutheran Seminary (ULS), and Marshall said that if they changed the name of their project to ULS, it “would not convey the message that we’re constructing something that is not allowed.” She added that since the Borough zoning maps are being revised, it would be a solution that might expedite things for the group.

ACLS associate trustee Susan Whaley said that wouldn’t work because they are planning to subdivide the property so it can be purchased, and the current contract requires a closing early in the new year. “We don’t want a property that won’t allow us to build a library,” she added, suggesting the ACLS solicitor Richard Thrasher could meet with the Planning Commission solicitor to try and resolve the issue.

The ALCS announced in June that it would be seeking a new site for its current branch located at the corner of Baltimore and High Streets in Gettysburg to provide a location that can expand library services, provide adequate space for programs and meetings, and provide ample parking while remaining walkable. The new library plans include a single level for easier access and efficient staff use with expanded areas to accommodate traditional library use, use of technology, and educational programs and activities.

Public Hearing

A public hearing will take place Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. to obtain public comment regarding an updated sign ordinance. A draft of the new ordinance can be examined without charge or obtained for a charge from the Borough Secretary during regular business hours or downloaded from the Gettysburg Borough website at www.gettysburgpa.gov.

“The current sign ordinance is fairly old and needs to be updated based on a recent Supreme Court decision which states sign language can’t be regulated. The Brough can regulate size, placement, and material but cannot make content-based revisions,” said Marshall.

The August Supreme Court ruling found that information conveyed by signs are content-based regulations of speech and not allowed under the First Amendment.

Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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Chris Daino
Chris Daino
2 months ago

I still wonder what the intention is in new building. It’s not like there is needed omes, etc.. It is going to be tourist, or what/

Susan Cipperly
Susan Cipperly
2 months ago

If people want to know more about the rezoning effort, and provide comments or questions, they can check out the Borough website https://www.gettysburgpa.gov/rezoning . It has interactive maps and a way to provide input.

Chris Daino
Chris Daino
2 months ago
Reply to  Susan Cipperly

Too bad it isn’t really un derstandable.

Susan Cipperly
Susan Cipperly
2 months ago

Good article. I attended the Planning Commission meeting. The PC members did question what the rationale is for expanding the Redevelopment Zone to include properties on N. Washington and Railroad Avenue, plus one on Carlisle.This would mean increased height in exchange for incentives. There was no information provided that justified raising the height past the existing 48 feet limit, yet the PC were being asked to weigh in on this item. In initial efforts to identify current uses, this area was identified as underutilized, and potentially a place where redevelopment could be encouraged. Height has not been specifically identified as… Read more »

Sharron Michels
Sharron Michels
2 months ago
Reply to  Susan Cipperly

I also wonder about the seeming lack of knowledge regarding the current status of certain areas. I am alarmed that the strip of land that occupies the area between the rail road tracks and race horse alley (starting at the firehall and going east to 4th) appears to be slated for industrial use. Currently the firehall, a small warehouse and an office building occupy that strip. The entire strip is adjacent to a heavily traveled alley and the back area of many residential buildings and offices. When I inquired at the public meeting the consultant seemed unfamiliar with, unaware of… Read more »

Donald Marritz
Donald Marritz
2 months ago

This is important information that is not being reported elsewhere.

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