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SALISBURY TWP., Pa. – Salisbury officials are looking at making several zoning changes in town involving tree plantings, sidewalks, age-restricted housing, and conversion apartments.

On Tuesday, the Salisbury Township Planning Commission approved recommended updates, modifications, and changes regarding definitions in the grading, zoning, and tree ordinances. In addition, updates were recommended for design standards including those related to sidewalks and curbing.

The proposed changes are being made as part of updates to the municipality's subdivision and land development ordinances. The amendments will be sent to the township board of commissioners for review, likely at their May workshop meeting.

Officials also discussed updating the current zoning for age-restricted housing and conversion apartments. No formal action was taken on these items. Township Zoning and Planning Officer Kerry Rabold will begin drafting amended ordinances for the two matters.

Rabold suggested that the township include a planned residential development, or PRD, in the zoning. The PRD would allow for cluster developments with smaller lot sizes closer together but additional larger open space areas within a community.

"I'd like to see the option to have it in every residential area of the township," said Rabold.

"There are a number of municipalities that have age-restricted, cluster-type developments in their ordinance; they can be beneficial,” said Township Engineer David Tettemer. “Very often with age-restricted housing, you get smaller units.“

Rabold said she has also received numerous phone calls from township residents about creating in-law suites and accessory apartments in their homes. Neither, however, is allowed in the township.

"I'd like to try and make them allowed but have controls on them," said Rabold. "I'd like to allow it in all the residential districts but with requirements."

Currently, accessory apartments to care for older adults are allowed to dwelling units in the commercial districts only, officials said. A special exception from the township is needed for approvals but the township cannot verify if someone other than an elderly relative is residing in that home.

"I'd like to offer it in the residential districts with some of these restrictions," said Rabold.

"I don't have a problem with a family member doing that but I have a feeling that once we get into this, we're opening a can of worms," said Vice Chair Richard Schreiter. "What are the teeth to the ordinance?"

Schreiter added several concerns including lowered property values, illegal conversions and what happens to a converted property after it is sold.

"If we approve it as an accessory apartment, it has to sell as an accessory apartment," said Rabold. "They can't sell it as a rental if required owner occupied in one unit."

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