Cranberry’s zoning hearing board will hear additional testimony next month on an appeal by Freedom Road resident James Wood that challenges the residential zoning of his property.
Wood, who has claimed his land had been singled out from the properties around it for different treatment, filed an appeal with the Butler County Court of Common Pleas earlier in 2012 after the zoning hearing board denied his appeal on the zoning on his property.
Wood is the owner of a home and a small electronics retail store on Freedom Road. His property is zoned residential while the property located directly across the street from it is zoned for commercial use, according to his appeal. In his filing, Wood said this showed a lack of coherence in the districting along Freedom Road and that the commercial designations were meted out in a haphazard manner.
The property across the street near Wood’s home includes the Freedom Square shopping plaza and the Shop ‘n Save grocery store.
Butler County Judge Michael Yeager has since remanded the case back to Cranberry’s zoning hearing board after saying the board erred in not allowing evidence from Wood to be heard.
The court-ordered testimony originally was set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29. However, the hearing has been continued to Nov. 27 after two of Wood’s witnesses were unable to attend Monday’s meeting, according to Cranberry officials.
Wood’s property is located in a residential-zoned area of Freedom Road where “Traditional Neighborhood Development” also is permitted.
Adopted by the township in 2008, the TND ordinance, now called Community Character Districts, permits the construction of homes, apartments and low-impact businesses in the area. Big-box type stores and chain restaurants such as McDonald's are not permitted in the district.
According to township officials, the special business district was meant to balance the desire of neighbors — particularly residents in the Sun Valley neighborhood behind Freedom Road — who want the area to remain residential with those who live in the Freedom Road-area and want to commercialize their property.
Cranberry supervisors approved the special business district after an 18-month planning process that included meetings with residents in the Freedom Road corridor.
After testimony from Wood’s witnesses takes place before Cranberry’s zoning hearing board next month, the case will be sent back to Yeager at the Butler County Court of Common Pleas.
Wood isn’t the only one appealing a zoning hearing board decision.
More than a dozen Freedom Road homeowners also are appealing the ZHB’s decision in September to dismiss their challenge to the validity of the Community Character District in their neighborhood. The neighbors, whose homes have residential zoning, say the district is too restrictive to development of their property.
They also dispute the original residential zoning of their properties, saying that the zoning is no longer valid under present day conditions on the busy corridor. Adding a Community Character District to a location does not change its original zoning.
A court date for that appeal before the Butler County Court of Common Pleas has yet to be set.