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Future Land use Planning Underway

As the effort to update the Hermitage Comprehensive Plan winds toward its conclusion, organizers put it to the comp plan steering committee to envision what they would like to see in nine key areas of the city.

Consultant Amy Wiles of Mackin Engineering Co. asked committee members not to think about how the areas are zoned or should be zoned, although the land use map that results from the plan study will be the basis for proposed zoning ordinance amendments.

Members of the Hermitage Planning Commission and Hermitage Community and Economic Development Commission and city commissioners also were invited to share their thoughts.

Participants looked at North Hermitage Road, just south of the border with South Pymatuning Township. The area includes the large tracts of farmland on the west side of North Hermitage Road, but also Joy Cone Co. and the houses, churches and a few businesses on the east.

Steering committee member Angie Palumbo pulled the boundary a little farther south, to the intersection of North Hermitage and Lamor roads, and said something had to be done about the abandoned gas station at the corner, which she called an eyesore.

While city Commissioner Michael Muha said he would like to see business uses opened up in the area, Paulmbo said she was against large-scale commercial or office development in the area. “We need to contain it,” she said, meaning promote such development more in the traditional commercial area south on North and South Hermitage roads and East State Street. She advocated for continued agricultural use where it exists.

HCEDC Chairman Rex Knisley was more in the middle. He said he could see related uses to what is already there, such as a grain-processing facility, but also residential construction such as condominiums and small-scale shops with tie-ins to agricultural uses, such as trails. Knisley added that he could envision businesses related to Joy Cone popping up around the ice cream cone manufacturer's factory.

The group considering the area around Hermitage Road and East State Street also espoused varying preferences. Planning Commission Chairman Chuck Rogers said he would not like to see businesses such as Lowe's, Home Depot and GetGo migrating north to the area in and around the Shenango Valley Mall, calling them inappropriate for a city center.

Noting that a section of the mall parking lot is being used for automobile storage, city Commissioner Bill McConnell asked if car dealerships should be banned from the city center, and HCEDC member George Kraynak added that car dealers limit walkability, which has emerged as a goal for the central business district.

Planning committee member John Hudson said Lowe's, Home Depot and GetGo are marked improvements to what was located on those sites 15 years ago, and also advocated for multi-family housing in the area.

Steering committee member Dan Gracenin picked up on Rogers' contention that there is too much parking in the area by noting some communities are setting limits on the maximum amount of parking spaces instead of setting a minimum based on peak season parking demands. He also said he would like to see city investment in sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly improvements.

In some of the other areas looked at, participants advocated only minor or no changes. In the northern part of Patagonia, which is residential with one ball field in use and another overgrown, participants said they would basically like to keep it the way it is now, forbidding large-scale commercial and industrial uses.

Looking at the area north of Lynnwood Drive and west of South Hermitage Road, planning commission member Matt Liburdi said single-family residential and commercial development would not be appropriate, except along Hermitage Road, but that Longview Road should be improved to make better access to the area for light industrial development. The area has slope issues that make construction difficult.

City Director of Planning and Development Marcia Hirschmann said city officials hope to have a draft of the comprehensive plan written in December, with the plan adopted early in 2019.