Residents in Foster Township, PA are trying to explain why Wal-Mart feels the need to rezone land that is currently classified as forest/slope residential to commercial. The parcel in question has significant residential properties adjacent to the proposed Wal-Mart, and residents know that the value of their homes will fall if the project is built. Planning officials in the Township have unveiled changes in the zoning code that deal with screening and buffers, but residents like Jim Weaver question whether any form of screening matters when you are constructing retail on the scale of a Wal-Mart supercenter. Weaver, a McKean County Commissioner, also faulted the Township for not using the Comprehensive Plan for guidance before proposing these dramatic zoning changes. Another township resident told Planning Commission members this week that the Assessor’s office admitted that houses near a large commercial development would be reassessed at a lower amount, to account for the loss of appraised value when large scale commercial malls encroach on nearby residential property.
Ironically, the township apparently owns the land in question, and so is playing a direct role in devaluing the property of residential taxpayers. Rezoning of land is not a right, but a discretionary act on the part of the Township Supervisors. The Supervisors are under no obligation to any developer to rezone land. And any rezoning should be consistent with the area’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and meet criteria found in the Foster zoning ordinance. These are protections to keep homeowners from being unpleasantly surprised by a developer who choses not to build on commercial land. For contacts with the anti big box residents in Foster, contact [email protected]