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Third Ward Contradictions

On Monday, March 27, the Gettysburg Borough Council will hold public hearings for two proposed zoning ordinance changes that will affect two neighborhoods in the Third Ward. One is the Johns Ave/Highland Avenue area, where there are single-family homes with good-sized yards, just south of the hospital. The other is just north of the hospital, where there are also family homes, but more variety of building types, more tightly spaced — townhouses, duplexes, apartments, as well as single-family homes. This area, dubbed Olde Getty Place (also Elm Street Overlay), is home to some of the oldest buildings in Gettysburg, and some families cite generations that have lived within just a few blocks. Both neighborhoods have a mix of rentals and owner-occupied buildings, and both are primarily residential.

  1. A zoning map change would affect 49 lots on Johns Avenue and Highland Avenue in the Colt Park area. In 2008, zoning for this area was changed to Tourist Commercial (reason unclear), even though there was already a residential neighborhood there. The proposed change will return it to Single-Family Residential (SR-1) with the intention of protecting the residential neighborhood from commercial development. This came to light when investors started purchasing existing properties and making them Vacation Rentals, which are not allowed in R-1 or R-2 zones, but are allowed in the Tourist Commercial.
  2. The Event Venue ordinance would add a commercial use to several zoning districts in the Borough. In Tourist Commercial (Steinwehr Ave.), Old Town (Downtown), General Commercial (West Street, Chambersburg, & York St.), and the Elm Street Overlay, it would be a by-right use. It allows large indoor and outdoor gatherings until 11:00 p.m. any day of the week, and up to 100 guests per event. There would be no limit on number of events. In other districts, event venue uses would require a special exception from the Zoning Hearing Board. A 2,000-square-foot limit on non-residential buildings in the R-2 section of the Overlay is proposed to be eliminated. It is supposed to protect the character of the historic neighborhood and to not impose large non-residential structures in a place where people live.
Third Ward Contradictions 6

Two neighborhoods in Ward 3 – different treatment. The Johns and Highland Avenues area would be protected from the impacts of commercial uses by changing the zoning map.

community voices

The Event Venue ordinance would do the opposite and insert a large commercial use within a historic, residential part of the borough. No one has made a convincing argument regarding how an event venue use would benefit those living in the West High/South Washington area. It has all been about tourists, entertainment for B&Bs outside the area, wedding events, etc. Dis-benefits include noise, traffic, parking issues, busses loading/unloading, and strangers in the neighborhood. This change would treat it the same as Steinwehr – a primary tourist area. And there could be more than one event venue within a few blocks of each other. The Elm Street Overlay allows some non-residential uses but sought to maintain a scale and magnitude that could fit in with the neighborhood.

Hopefully, Council members will consider fairness and equity when deliberating on these two ordinance changes, rather than trying to find an additional use for a unique property in the Elm Street Overlay, which is already a B&B and Vacation Rental. The people of the Elm Street Overlay neighborhood need to be protected, too. They are families, borough residents, and constituents. They deserve the same consideration and respect as the other Ward 3 neighborhood on the other side of the hospital.

If you wish to comment on this matter, please go to the hearing on Monday, March 27 at 6:00 p.m., in the Council Meeting Room, 59 E. High St., Gettysburg, or send an email to Wes Heyser, Council President with Event Venue hearing as the subject.

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Susan Cipperly is a retired professional planner who has lived in the Gettysburg for 25 years. She considers her involvement in local planning and zoning issues a way to contribute to the borough in general, and to maintain neighborhoods in particular.

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