Residential development on rise again in Peters Township

Harry Funk
Observer Reporter

During the peak years of residential construction in Peters Township, between 100 and 150 new homes sprang up annually.

“We haven’t been anywhere near that for a while,” township manager Paul Lauer said, attributing the decline to developers waiting for the results of a new comprehensive plan and accompanying zoning ordinance revisions for Peters.

“So now, what I think you have happened is they’re now ready to move forward,” he explained. “And so over the last year and a half, we’ve been seeing more developments being approved.”

As discussed during Monday’s annual workshop bringing together members of council and the school board, construction has started or will begin shortly on new residences totaling triple digits.

“I don’t think what you’re going to see is building several hundred homes in a year. The township never was and never will be building at the pace of a Cranberry,” Lauer said, referencing the Butler County township where the population is projected to reach 50,000 by 2030. “We just aren’t set up that way. The homes that are being marketed here don’t lend themselves to that.”

The comprehensive plan, adopted in late 2013 as a “blueprint for the future,” states as one of its guiding principles:

“Provide a greater range of housing choices to enable a diversity of people at all stages of life to enjoy Peters Township, including young adults, families, empty nesters, retirees, seniors, and people of different income levels.”

But among the residential developments in progress, target prices for homes, as announced at the workshop by planning director Ed Zuk, range from $280,000 to $650,000. And the lower figure on the low end of the spectrum is for units in multi-family buildings.

The new residences primarily are marketed toward so-called empty nesters, parents of children who have grown up and left home. As such, the impact on school enrollment could be minimal, according to Lauer.

“A lot of this type of construction is not going to generate the number of kids that normal single-family homes would generate,” he said. “There’s a projection for what the ultimate buildout for Peters Township is. We don’t see these types of developments changing that number.”

School board member Rebecca Bowman pointed out that expectations were similar for the Waterdam Farms development in North Strabane Township, but a substantial number of students are living here.

“Whom you intend to be the buyers may not be who the buyers are,” she said.

Bill Merrell, who also is on the school board, expressed similar reservations.

“My concern is that these empty-nester homes aren’t going to be empty. Even though they may not have the four or five kids per family that were here when I was going to school here,” he predicted that even two children per household would “push our schools to the max.”

Zuk, though, said that the buyers of the nearly 30 homes sold so far in the Sherwood Pond development, next to Pleasant Valley Elementary School, are “all empty nesters.”

As presented by Zuk, new residential developments that have received approval and are under construction or close to it:

  • Juniper Woods, 60 single-family houses off Thompsonville Road, $350,000 to $500,000
  • Brookwood Place, 38 townhomes off Brookwood Road, $280,000 to $400,000
  • Brookwood Village, 20 patio homes, $500,000 and up
  • Justabout Farms, 28 single-family houses in Phase 1, 46 total, $500,000 and up
  • Hamlet of Springdale Phase 6, 14 single-family houses, $450,000 to $650,000
  • Plans for the adjoining Phase 7 are expected to come before council for approval in February, Zuk said.

A plan for 70-plus homes, at this point named Westbury, is proposed for the Hackett neighborhood in the southeastern corner of the township. Nearby, property totaling 330 acres east of Bebout Road and north of Venetia Road is targeted for development in an area that is zoned for mixed use.

Council member Monica Merrell said that the purpose of establishing commercial and mixed-use zones in that general area was a point of discussion leading up to the adoption of the comprehensive plan.

“Now we’re in a very critical part of that whole picture,” she said. “Without commercial down there, we’re not going to solve the problem of people having to travel across town.”