Zoning disputes usually arise when open spaces are dissected by new roads and carved up into small lots.

This case is the reverse.

The dispute in Cambria Township is over plans to combine unsold lots and eliminate a road from the map.

Both sides, and township officials, agree it is a potentially precedent-setting case.

The crux of the matter is the future of Glen Heather Estates, a planned residential subdivision on Tanner Street Extension developed by Ebensburg businessman Duane Mohney in 1973.

The land originally was an 80-acre tract in what was then a rural area.

A dozen lots were sold, but 38 remain.

Now, one man wants to purchase 33 of the 38 lots, combine them into one lot, call it Aspen Estates, eliminate a road and build one house.

Neighbors are objecting, saying a road cannot so easily be eliminated, and that they bought their one-acre lots because of the restrictive covenants in the subdivision plan.

“Normally we hear requests to subdivide land into lots, but in this case, it’s combining them,” said Dennis Simmers, chairman of the township’s planning commission. “The question is when does a planned, recorded subdivision no longer be a planned, recorded subdivision? Is it legal or not to just wipe it clean?”

The commission is recommending rejection of the application because of a lack of sewage approval and proposed elimination of the road.

The matter next goes to the township supervisors.

Attorney William Barbin, who represents applicant Scott Archangelo in municipal matters, sees the case as a clash between private rights and zoning ordinances.

“Private rights are the main issue here. The Cambria Township planning commission says the zoning ordinance prohibits them from changing roads. But Mr. Archangelo can’t build the house he intends to build with the road there,” he said.

“So, if the planning commission is unwilling to move the road, nothing further can be done. So the problem now is how do we get from where we are today to where we want to be?” he said.

Simmers said that neighbors, about 45 of whom attended the commission meeting last week, are expressing concerns about the road and the changes overall.

“Residents who purchased the Glen Heather lots agreed to abide by the restrictive covenants recorded in the Glen Heather subdivision, such as the one-acre lot restriction,” he said. “They have concerns about what happens if those covenants are wiped out.”

Some neighbors said that, if a planned subdivision is wiped off the books, something like a trailer park, or tiny lots could be substituted. That would be unfair to those who bought the one-acre lots, they say.

Barbin acknowledges that is the central controversy.

“One neighbor said how would they know that my client wouldn’t try to subdivide it later a different way,” he said.

“There seems to be no disagreement that my client wants to build just one home, but the fear is what might happen in the future,” he said.

“It appears that some kind of strong covenant language might satisfy residents, so they would know that approval of my client’s plan would not wipe out zoning protections that now exist,” he said.

“We have to come up with a way to give nearby residents the assurances that they need,” he said.

Mohney declined to comment on the zoning issue when contacted by The Tribune-Democrat.

Township supervisors are expected to discuss the issue at their regularly scheduled meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at the Cambria Township Building on Municipal Road.

Susan Evans can be reached at 471-6778 or sevans@tribdem.com.

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