Local Matters

Letter 2 from the Sewickley Heights Borough

This follow up letter from the Sewickley Heights Borough addresses additional questions which have been advanced since recent meetings. Thank you for your responsiveness and transparency. 

 

Dear Residents of Sewickley Heights Borough,

Among the many messages of support received following our July 2018 letter to residents, we also received questions concerning the adoption of the Borough’s 2014 Zoning Ordinance and the legal fees to enforce and defend it.

Adoption of the 2014 Zoning Ordinance

The adoption of the 2014 Zoning Ordinance represented the culmination of a six-year process that began with an update to the Borough Comprehensive Plan.  The Borough then engaged the Allegheny Land Trust to gather information in a Vision Plan.  Residents communicated clearly and strongly that they value the solitude and privacy of a quiet rural environment amid the Borough’s historic and natural landscapes. 

The Borough partnered with Urban Design Associates to create the Pattern Book, guided by the community’s desires in the Vision Plan.  The Comprehensive Plan, the Vision Plan, and the Pattern Book formed the basis for the adoption of the 2014 Zoning Ordinance. 

Commitment to a Rural and Historic Legacy

Informed by the community’s input, the Borough’s elected officials adopted the 2014 Zoning Ordinance to protect and enhance the Borough’s rural and historic legacy.  The 2014 Zoning Ordinance provides for six unique zoning districts, including the A-Historical-Rural Residential District, the B-Conservation and Cultural District, the C-Multi-Family Residential District, the D-Mixed-Use District, the E-Moderate Density Residential District, and the F-Farmette Overlay District. 

The A-Historical-Rural District is characterized by estates, new and historic residences, and several farms, as well as by farming uses ranging from the raising of bees, chickens, sheep, goats and horses to the selling of farm products at produce stands. The Fetterolfs live on a portion of Dundee Farm was owned by the Chalfant family and is a significant example of this rural and historical legacy.  From time to time, the Chalfant family welcomed to their home members of their church and those associated with charitable organizations founded by the family.  At no time was the original  Dundee Farm operated as a fee-based commercial venue and public event space, as is the case currently.

Legal Fees to Enforce and Defend the Zoning Ordinance

Decisions to enforce the Zoning Ordinance against residents are never undertaken lightly, and efforts are always made by the Borough to seek voluntary compliance and avoid enforcement action.  Unfortunately, such efforts failed with the Fetterolfs, and legal fees continue to climb.  As of the date of this letter, the Borough has paid legal fees and costs close to $273,000.  This amount is more than double what the Borough anticipated in its budget and far exceeds the cost of enforcing the Zoning Ordinance in the few prior instances where this was necessary.

The Boroughs elected officials must preserve there rights of ALL residents with care, purpose, and transparency.  We believe that fighting to protect the priorities identified by the community in the Vision Plan continues to be in the best interest of the Borough and all its residents.

Sincerely,

John C. Oliver, III, Mayor of Sewickley Heights Borough

S. Phil Hundley, Council President, Sewickley Heights Borough