The Amity Township Board of Supervisors approved to re-zone 148 residential properties along routes 422, 662, Limekiln, and Monocacy Creek roads to highway commercial, light industrial to light industrial office but not every Amity resident is happy about it.The board of supervisors, planning commission, and the Economic Development Advisory Committee approved the zoning amendment on Aug. 6 to expand the highway commercial zone and attract additional commercial uses that would improve the tax base.

More than 20 affected property owners said they were concerned the re-zoning would lower their properties' resale value, despite the commercial value because of the development potential.

Anne Wiegle, 3019 Limekiln Road, collected 30 signatures of people opposed to the re-zoning. She said the re-zoning wasn't consistent with Berks County's joint comprehensive plan and was concerned there would be no specific regulation on building size.

Solicitor Brian F. Boland said the zoning amendment was approved by the Berks County Planning Commission. The re-zoning is consistent with the Berks Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan and also with the Amity/Exeter/St. Lawrence Joint Comprehensive Plan begun in May 2001 and adopted in October 2005.

Ten rural highway commercial properties were rezoned to residential.

The previous 450-foot highway commercial zoning depth of many properties along Route 422 was extended to the rear property lines to allow for larger commercial uses versus strip malls and small businesses.

New single family homes are no longer permitted by-right on the rezoned lots. A developer that purchases a residence in the highway commercial or light industrial or light industrial office zone may develop the property commercially but cannot build a new home on the lot.

The zoning amendment also added continuing care retirement communities nursing, and convalescent homes to be permitted by-right in highway commercial, and not by special exception approval by the zoning hearing board. Building height was increased in highway commercial, light industrial, light industrial/office and shopping center commercial from 35 to 50 feet.

"One goal for rezoning is to bring in age-qualified housing and we hope to get the tax structure changed," said Supervisor Robert R. Yanos. "Limekiln Road and Route 422 has more potential than many other intersections in the township."

"The board and EDAC (Economic Development Advisory Committee) are trying to be proactive and not reactive to development," said board chairman Richard L. Gokey. "This is the best way to guide development."

Supervisor Scott Stepp said the rezoning should have been done years ago.

"We're not being proactive now but re-active," said Stepp. "Our taxes are already high."

The re-zoning now allows for the 1,250 unit continuing care retirement communities proposed by Radnor Development, Wayne, for 33 acres along Route 422 west. The 1.5 million square-foot communities could generate as much as $8.2 million a year to the Daniel Boone Area School District without adding school age children to district schools or generating morning or evening peak hour traffic.

Amity Township Engineer John W. Weber said building size would still be dependent upon the land parcel size and allowable lot coverage.

The board approved the re-zoning 3-0-2, with Gokey and Supervisor Kimberly J. McGrath abstaining because they own land in the re-zoned areas.

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