Chester County moves toward zoning revisions

CHESTER -- After months of confusion, Chester County might have a better plan to notify residents about industries possibly coming to the area.

The county's planning commission recently recommended sending letters to landowners about any industry-related rezoning requests for adjacent properties.

The move was spurred by the December protests of residents opposed to the railroad company CSX building a rail and truck terminal in the county. The company was eyeing Chester, but later passed. Residents feared the site would create traffic and pollution hazards.

After the CSX outcry, County Councilman Brad Jordan suggested in January that the council look into changing the zoning code. He initially asked that adjacent landowners be notified in writing about rezoning requests.

Jordan also asked that the county send letters to property owners with land bordering railroads or utility rights of way next to industrial sites. The vote was unanimous, and the request was supposed to be sent to the planning commission.

The letters would add a step to a process that already includes posting signs on the properties in question and informing media outlets.

The planning commission didn't hear the matter until last month, and its recommendation wasn't what Jordan had discussed.

County attorney Joanie Winters said confusion about the council's request and who was handling it delayed the process.

Concerns also arose about the planning department not having enough staff to send out letters about every rezoning request. And residents maintained they didn't want to be left out of the conversation.

After the issue settled down, Winters and leaders discussed what specific changes were needed. She also spoke last week to the planning commission during a second meeting about the issue.

The commission recommended that the county send letters to landowners about industrial rezoning requests for adjacent properties.

Landowners who attended the meeting were pleased.

"This accomplishes the purpose of notifying people who are farmers or landowners that something could be coming down the pike," said Dr. William Clark, a retired radiologist who lives on a 490-acre farm in the county. "This is a very reasonable compromise."

County Planning Director Mack Paul also said his office could handle the change.

"That seems to be the most important part," he said of telling residents about industry possibly coming to their neighborhoods. "When it goes from something to industrial, everyone wants to know."

Jordan, the person who brought the issue to the forefront, said he didn't want to comment on the planning commission's recommendation until he had a chance to review it.