New Kensington officials are considering new design guidelines and overlapping neighborhoods that would regulate the town’s ongoing development and revitalization.
The design guidelines are intended to become the city’s primary tool for evaluating proposed developments, building reuses, facade renovations, landscaping designs and signage proposals.
Three overlay districts – Design Review, Historic, and Riverine – would be created.
The proposal also includes best practices for creating murals, as well as a paint and decal program for vacant storefronts.
“It’s an eye to the future to make sure the city is developed in a thoughtful way,” said city attorney Tony Vigilante. “We don’t want to stifle development. We want this to be done in an attractive and sustainable way.
The city’s planning commission will begin its review of the proposal when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
Commission President Richard Bruni said he expected an outline of the proposal to be given and, although it was not a public hearing, people present can ask questions and make comments.
“Our job is to allow an owner to use their property as they see fit and, at the same time, balance the interests of the city,” Bruni said. “We don’t want to overload a developer. We want to make sure things are appropriate and safe.
A public hearing will finally take place before the municipal council. After review by the county, the proposal could be voted on by July at the earliest, said Tony Males, city engineer and zoning officer.
Copies of the proposal are available at the town hall on request.
New Kensington officials worked with a consultant, Barb Ciampini, to develop the guidelines from 2019. She is a real estate agent with over 30 years of experience in land use planning and municipal administration and a former manager of Greensburg planning.
“Their goal was more than just design guidelines,” she said. “They wanted to maintain the pride of the town of New Kensington and retain their historic buildings. Due to the new development, they realized that they might need guidelines to guide the development. They wanted to have a say and they wanted it to be a partnership with the developers.
The men said the erection of a steel pole building prompted the development of new guidelines. Although Males said such a building was not appropriate for downtown or along Tarentum Bridge Road, nothing in the city ordinances prohibited it.
He did not identify the building.
The guidelines cover residential, commercial, industrial, and public and institutional buildings. They also deal with parking, signage, lighting, landscaping, utility functions and streets.
Although the city’s downtown is the primary focus, Males said, the guidelines would apply to the entire city.
“The guidelines are a tool to help developers, to help landlords and to help the Town of New Kensington continue on the successful model it follows and be proud of its town,” Ciampini said.
Ciampini said they worked on drafts until they came up with something that was ready for public viewing.
“The public also has a say,” she said.
When discussing the proposal, city officials often used the word “flexibility.”
“The nature of this order is to work with building owners,” Males said.
Mike Malcanas, owner of Olde Towne Overhaul and Voodoo Brewery New Kensington, has purchased over 30 buildings in New Kensington with approximately 40 outlets. He and COO Michelle Thom reviewed the proposal.
“I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the city hopes to adopt programs that are both very progressive and creative, while also focusing on the historic preservation of downtown buildings,” Thom said. “It’s also nice to see a reflection on waterfront development and also encouraging building owners to maintain properties before they reach a point of disrepair.”
While saying he likes the requirements, Malcanas said his concern was whether they would actually be used and used to solve big problems rather than minor ones.
“Sounds great, but is it just going to sit on a desk somewhere?” he said. “Are they going to step over a collapsed building to go after someone for a sign?”
Best practices for creating murals come from the “Rescue Public Murals” initiative. It presents recommendations for matters such as planning, wall selection, wall and surface preparation, painting, coating and maintenance.
The window program would use paint and decals instead of plywood panels and steel panels to enhance the appearance of empty storefronts while protecting property values and discouraging vandalism and graffiti.
As proposed, the city would partner with local artists and students to develop a theme. There would be no cost to owners.
While covid put a damper on the process, Ciampini said she was pleased with the results.
“It was a fun partnership,” she said. “Everyone’s heart is in the right place. They don’t want to create some sort of painful situation. It’s a partnership. »