Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Planning Commission OKs zoning change for Midtown, dispensary for Allison Hill

This empty lot at N. 6th and Reily streets is part of the area that would be rezoned.

A Harrisburg builder is a step closer to developing in a Midtown neighborhood, as the city Planning Commission has approved a zoning change that would allow a denser, more mixed-use neighborhood.

Seven Bridges Development received approval on Wednesday night to rezone about 14 city blocks just north of the Broad Street Market. The zoning change from “residential medium neighborhood” to “commercial neighborhood” would permit greater height, density and mix of uses in the Marketplace townhouse neighborhood.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” said Seven Bridges attorney Christopher Rice of the Carlisle-based Martson Law Offices. “The idea is take vacant parcels and give Midtown more opportunities for residential and commercial.”

In late 2005, the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority sold 71 individual lots to State College-based S&A Homes for $1 apiece. S&A built a handful of houses then stopped, causing the authority recently to buy back the undeveloped parcels.

In late April, the authority designated Seven Bridges as the potential developer of the remaining 60  lots in the Marketplace neighborhood, and, last week, the company held a community meeting on the proposed zoning change, which attracted about 20 city residents.

At that meeting, Ian Wewer, director of development and operations for Seven Bridges, said his company would only build in the area if it received the zoning change.

“Currently, we have a proposal to change zoning more conducive to development,” he told planning commission members on Wednesday night.

An outline of the area that would be re-zoned.

A handful of Midtown residents attended the meeting, and they seemed split over the proposal.

Diana Grannison, who lives on N. 5th Street, said that she supports the zoning change if it will help her neighborhood develop, with fewer empty lots.

“I’ve been waiting 30 years for this happen,” she said. “All around me, the city has redeveloped.”

However, several residents said they were concerned about such potential impacts as tougher parking, higher taxes and rising housing costs.

Cate Rowe, representing the community group Midtown Action Council, and said that she would feel more comfortable with the proposed zoning change if Seven Bridges would release information about what it intended to do. It’s hard to know the potential effect on such areas as schools and parks without a better understanding of what the company is planning, she said.

“We really need to know more about what the impact of the zoning change will be,” she said.

Wewer said previously that his company has not finalized plans for the area.

City Planning Director Geoffrey Knight said that Seven Bridges would need to return to the planning commission to get its land use plans approved for individual projects, regardless of whether the zoning change is made.

“What’s being proposed is a zoning map amendment. It’s not an application for a development,” he said. “It will allow more development to occur by right. But it won’t exempt any new project from going through the land development process.”

In the end, the planning commission voted 4-2 in favor of the change, with commissioners Anne Marek and Ausha Green dissenting.

The proposed zoning amendment now must be approved by Harrisburg City Council, which is slated to hold a hearing on the issue during its Nov. 5 work session.

On Wednesday night, the commission also approved the land use plan for a proposed medical marijuana dispensary on Allison Hill.

By a 5-1 vote, with Green again dissenting, the commission approved an application for a new, 3,000-square-foot dispensary at 137 S. 17th St. Last year, the state granted a dispensary license to Lehigh Valley-based Local Dispensaries LLC, which wants to build its facility on an empty lot across from Hamilton Health Center. That land use plan also must be approved by City Council.

Continue Reading