REZONING INDUSTRIAL PARCELS FOR RESIDENTIAL use isn't new. But here's an unusual snafu that came up in Pennsylvania: If the land to be rezoned for housing abuts other, viable industrial-zoned land, home builders can end up on the opposite side of the table from commercial developers.

For example, commercial developer J.G. Petrucci, of Bethlehem, Pa., found himself defending his industrial land holdings recently. As owner of a piece of industrial-zoned land in Allen Township, he raised concerns when the town council allowed industrial property next to his to be rezoned for residential use. The town ultimately rejected Petrucci's argument and went ahead with the rezoning.

According to the Morning Call, a local newspaper, the Allen Township board of supervisors approved the rezoning, ironically, to pay for the infrastructure costs of residential development sprawling out from one of the local boroughs. The land had been for sale for years, without any commercial developers stepping forward, so when a residential offer came through, the supervisors decided to take it.

“This was an unusual situation,” says Greg Roger-son, in-house attorney for Petrucci. “We think this situation is an anomaly. Certainly, housing is more prevalent, and you do have to be aware of the pressure [to go after industrial-zoned land], but it's not what I'd call a trend.”

Other towns have had to circle the wagons to maintain a base of industrial land, because demand for homes is so great. In Oregon City, Ore., for example, the city's comprehensive plan recommends protecting industrial property so that it is available when needed.