Work continues on a 15-unit affordable housing project next to the Petersburg Medical Center (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Petersburg’s borough assembly may revisit a sweeping revision of local law on zoning and building, along with a controversial new map that proposed to change some of the land zoning in the community.

Zoning spells out intended and allowable uses on different types of land and it aims to reduce conflicts between property owners. The assembly passed an overhaul of that part of borough law in December of 2018. The following year the planning commission recommended additional changes based on community feedback.

The global health pandemic eventually sidelined that process. And the assembly never did vote on a new zoning map that implements some changes in what’s allowed where. Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht summed up the current status.

“Now that we’ve had a year off worrying about COVID, let’s reopen the file and figure out OK, what’s the next step on this? Have we rethought any of it? I mean there was a lot of community involvement and discussion,” Giesbrecht said.

The development code revision and new zoning map had multiple public hearings. Public comment ran the gamut, with some seeking specific changes to others asking the borough to throw out the revised code and start again.

Assembly member Dave Kensinger was on the planning commission during the public review.

“From my experience on planning and zoning it was very frustrating to work with the ambiguities of our existing code,” Kensinger said. “And I think we’re going to be doing ourselves a disservice and more importantly I think we’re going to be doing the property owners in the community a disservice if we don’t address this sooner than later.”

Kensinger also called for better notification of land owners this time around.

In a related issue, assembly member Jeff Meucci called for a discussion on ways the borough can encourage more affordable housing options. He suggested the borough sell more land.

“I think we need to really focus having places for, as one somebody told me, they said some place that my kid could come back here and move to and afford it,” Meucci said. “As we all know housing is limited in Petersburg. I just wanted to get the conversation started.”

The community is seeing construction of some additional affordable residential space this year but assembly members agreed more is needed. In 2019, the planning commission recommended the assembly appoint a committee on that topic.

The revised development code takes steps for more residential housing options, implementing some of the recommendations from the borough’s 2016 comprehensive plan.