In Phoenixville, Another Look At Zoning Ordinances Officials Want To Be Ready For An Expected New Wave Of Development. Changes So Far Have Been Piecemeal.

Posted: January 15, 1998

PHOENIXVILLE — When the borough evolved from a steel town to a private business district in the late 1970s, its zoning ordinance reflected the change.

Then, in 1989, developments began sprouting around Phoenixville and the old ordinance was scrapped in favor of a more up-to-date 465-page document.

Development largely came to a standstill by 1991, but Phoenixville expects a new tide in the coming decade and planners want to be prepared, said code-enforcement officer Ronald Myers.

At Tuesday's council meeting, the Planning Commission asked the council for about $5,000 to hire a professional consultant for advice on updating the nearly decade-old ordinance.

``We use [the ordinance] every day, so we find inconsistencies from typos to proposed revisions,'' said Thomas Carnevale, commission chairman.

Council members agreed that the ordinance needs to be reviewed, but refused to vote on hiring a consultant until the commission submits details of the work it seeks.

The commission is made up of seven volunteers, but none of them is a land planner, Carnevale said. ``Professional input is very valuable - it's not something that lay people have expertise in.''

The planning commission has been revising the ordinance since it was adopted, making room for more senior-citizen housing, parking and commercial use.

Tuesday's meeting included another round of the step-by-step revision process. Council voted to loosen a requirement that restaurants offer parking spaces based on the size of the building. The rule was a nuisance for takeout establishments, which do not need as much parking as a dine-in restaurant.

``It was a parking problem throughout the borough,'' Myers said. ``That's the type of thing we're looking at and that's the type of change that needs to be made.''

A developer purchased the old Phoenix Steel property with plans of putting the 130 acres of wasteland to commercial use. A grassroots group is working to restore the late-19th-century foundry building, and SEPTA is conducting a feasibility study on a light rail system that would have a stop in Phoenixville, if the project is approved.

``There are things that are going to be happening, so let's get ready for them, so that in another 10 years we don't have to trash 465 pages and start from scratch,'' Myers said. ``When you try to make a document that big new, you can't do it right. This allows us to look at one area at a time.''

Council President Louis Amici assigned a committee to begin discussions with the Planning Commission so the funding issue could be voted on at the February meeting.

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