A zoning change along Haugen Drive in Petersburg is one step closer to passing. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday approved the second reading of an ordinance to change one piece of borough land to commercial property. The assembly, however, decided to keep one of the parcels undeveloped, at least for the time being.
The two parcels, totaling just over two acres, are along Haugen Drive, between that road and the Hammer and Wikan shopping center.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht said staff thought both parcels would be valuable zoned commercial one land. “So the question is rather than leaving it open space, turn that into a commercial corridor right there,” he explained. “That’s pretty valuable commercial property right there in that area. That would be the concept behind letting it also go to C-1. So that that whole corner as long as the uplands from there would be available for commercial sale.”
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Commercial one zoning allows retail businesses, hotels, office and government buildings and RV parks among other uses. That’s a big change from open space, which is required to stay undeveloped.

Local resident Aaron Miller thought the assembly should make the change. “Rezoning this area is a better use than open space,” Miller said. “It’ll give the borough some money. Like I said I think we need more of it in town. There’s quite a few examples of poorly zoned properties.”

The planning and zoning commission recommended changing only one of the parcels to commercial zoning, keeping the land on the corner of Haugen and 12th street as open space.

Giesbrecht said the borough has not had interest in any businesses purchasing that corner parcel, but the other land closer to the post office has drawn interest.

Assembly member Bob Lynn moved to amend the proposed ordinance to change only the land closer to the post office and keep the corner lot open space. “Because I think that really needs to be remained open space at least for the time being, because that is a safety issue, of being able to see around that and doing something,” Lynn said.

The zoning on that parcel can still be changed by the assembly at a later date through another ordinance. Building official Joe Bertagnoli told the assembly the borough could also just choose not to sell that land. “You know we’d still own section B and we could choose to just hold onto it forever if we wanted to,” Bertagnoli said. “That was the idea I believe in rezoning the whole thing right now so if anything ever did want to get developed on that corner then we wouldn’t have to go through this process again.”

The parcel that would remain as open space is also the home for the high school sign. That was moved up the hill on Haugen during sidewalk and paving work this year. Lynn’s amendment to keep that corner lot undeveloped land passed 6-0. New assembly member Eric Castro was not at the meeting. The vote was also 6-0 for the amended ordinance in second reading. That measure still needs one more approval before the change goes through.

In another zoning decision, the assembly gave Aaron and Katrina Miller until July 15th of next year to remove fishing gear stored on single family residential land on Arness Heights Drive, about two miles south of downtown. The assembly last week voted down the Miller’s appeal of the borough’s order to remove that gear.

Jeigh Stanton Gregor said he liked the July 15th date for a couple reasons. “One it give the Millers time to work for solutions with planning and zoning and later the assembly,” Stanton Gregor said. “And two it doesn’t feel punitive. I think through this process things can feel punishing at times. I don’t think that’s the role of the assembly to be punishers, or be punitive in our rulings. And what is that, I think that gives, nine months give or take, and I’m assuming an adequate amount of time to take the necessary steps. So I’ll definitely be voting for this.”

The assembly voted unanimously to approve a written decision on last week’s appeal decision that includes the July 15 deadline.

Petersburg’s planning commission nearly has a full roster with the appointment of local resident Yancy Nilsen. That leaves just one seat still open on that commission.