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A complete overhaul of McKeesport's zoning ordinance represents a vision of what the city could look like in the future.
One of the biggest changes is a newly created zoning district along the Monongahela River waterfront that allows single-family homes and townhouses like those at Homestead's Waterfront development.
On Wednesday, city council by an 7-0 vote adopted the 139-page comprehensive zoning ordinance, which is the outgrowth of a planning process begun in August 2013 with help from what was then called the Twin Rivers Council of Governments.
- Download the new zoning ordinance (9MB, PDF file, PDF reader required)
"This is really about envisioning what the city is going to look like after we're all gone, 20, 30, 40 years from now," Mayor Mike Cherepko said Wednesday. "This is designed to help us market the city."
That land is part of the RIDC Industrial Center of McKeesport --- the industrial park at the former U.S. Steel National Works site, which stretches for more than a mile along the Monongahela waterfront from the mouth of the Youghiogheny River almost to the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.
Under the new ordinance, the land has been divided into "general industrial uses" and "urban industrial uses." The "urban industrial" category includes residential and commercial buildings as well as light manufacturing and warehousing.
The industrial park is owned by the non-profit Regional Industrial Development Corp., whose board of directors includes Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and a variety of regional and local real-estate and economic development experts.
(Above: RIDC photo)
Zoning regulations describe permitted uses in certain neighborhoods --- residential districts that include single-family homes or apartment buildings, commercial districts for stores and offices, industrial districts for warehousing and manufacturing. They don't force property owners to develop land, or pay for that land to be developed.
City officials have expressed frustration in the past that potential tenants for the industrial park have been told their uses are "not allowed" by McKeesport's zoning.
Andrew J.G. Schwartz of Pittsburgh-based Environmental Planning & Design, which worked on the zoning ordinance with McKeesport officials, told council that in many cases, deed restrictions on the industrial park block certain uses --- not the city's zoning ordinance.
In any case, the zoning ordinance should clarify any confusion over whether shopping and housing areas are permitted by McKeesport on the RIDC parcel, Cherepko said.
The changes to McKeesport's zoning ordinance aren't revolutionary --- no large areas have flipped from one use to another --- but evolutionary.
"We've made some changes in some of your industrial districts as you go up the Yough, to make clear what your vision is for the future of the city," Schwartz said.
Other changes attempt to draw distinctions between regional shopping districts and more neighborhood-oriented shopping districts, he told council.
In addition, social services agencies, in the future, are going to be encouraged to locate near UPMC McKeesport hospital.
"There are people outside this city --- and it's not just in McKeesport, but in the Mon Valley as a whole --- who think that these communities should be a dumping ground for any kind of use," Cherepko said. "We don't agree."
Few property owners will notice any immediate differences, said A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director. Properties that do not conform to the new zoning regulations may continue to be used for their existing purposes, he said, and owners of single-family homes will, by and large, not face any changes.
"For the most part, with the new zoningm we tried to anticipate our needs," Tedesco said. "And we did try to protect our neighborhoods as well. We did gear the area around the hospital to be more social-services friendly, and we want to encourage retail businesses to locate Downtown again."
The new ordinance "tightened up a lot of problems throughout the city," he said, "not just for today for many, many years in the future."
Questions about the zoning ordinance may be addressed to Tedesco or to Chris House, the city's building inspector, at (412) 675-5020.
Originally published April 10, 2017.