The Sayre borough council Thursday voted 7-2 to begin the process to adopt a series of proposed zoning changes, despite critical comments from several citizens in attendance.

The council's administration committee recommended the 16 proposed changes earlier this month to reflect areas officials said lack compliance with their modern uses. Council members Gene Osmun and JoAnn Sabatura voted against moving forward with the proposal Thursday.

During a 40-minute comment period, concerned citizens, including two members of the borough planning commission, stated several concerns with the proposed changes. Residents decried a lack of resident input, made accusations of "spot zoning" and pointed out that some of the changes fail to coincide with the borough's 2008 comprehensive plan.

One of the proposed changes, which would rezone parts of Hayden and Chemung streets from multi-family residential to medical campus, drew the most criticism from citizens. Residents of the area stated that they did not want to see structures allowed in a medical campus zone to be built in their neighborhoods.

Resident Sharon Cook said she and her neighbors already have problems stemming from Guthrie's nearby helicopter pad and continue to worry about the campus expanding into their neighborhood.

Many said they are concerned Guthrie will continue to buy residential homes in the neighborhood, many of which are later torn down. Guthrie currently owns 17 residential properties, council president Henry Farley said Thursday.

Resident Jay Olisky feared that the continuation of the practice would result in a loss of tax and sewer revenue for the borough, driving up costs for residents. The loss of the houses - many of which are historic, Olisky said - also results in a loss of character in the borough.

"It's a shame to lose that," Olisky said. "We're a community of people and families, and I'd like to see it stay that way."

The proposal steps on the planning commission's time spent reviewing and recommending changes to the zoning ordinance, said commission chair Barbara Ault. The commission was supposed to present its recommendations to the council last year, but the meeting never occurred, Ault said.

Sabatura said she felt the planning commission's work was disregarded in developing the proposed list of changes and wanted the council to discuss the issue further before voting on it. "I share many of your sentiments," she told residents in attendance.

Osmun added that he also felt the proposal needed further review before proceeding. "To get it right is more important than doing it quickly," he said.

Following Thursday's passage, the proposal will be forwarded to the borough and county planning commissions for review and comment, Farley said. Both groups have 45 days to respond. The council would need to hold a public hearing before formally adopting the changes, he said.

Areas to be rezoned under the proposed changes include:

- the Enterprise Center property on South Elmer Avenue, from industrial to light commercial.

- properties owned by Jeffrey Agnew on Lake Street and College Hill, from single-family residential to light commercial.

- Hayden and Chemung streets from South Wilbur Avenue to, but not including, the St. John's Lutheran Church property, from multi-family residential to medical campus.

- South Thomas Avenue from East Hayden Street to the borough's public works building, from light commercial to downtown commercial.

- properties on South Elmer Avenue from Packer Avenue to Lockhart Street, including the Sayre Public Library, Rock Your Style salon and the hospital parking lot next to CVS Pharmacy, from single-double family residential to downtown commercial.

- Hospital Place, including the corner of Wilbur Avenue and Lockhart Street, from single-family residential to medical campus.

- the First Citizens Community Bank parcel on Lockhart Street, from single-double family residential to downtown commercial.

- Epiphany School on Stevenson Street, from single-family residential to flood plain/conservation.

- the west side of Lehigh Avenue from Cross Street to Mohawk Street, from light commercial to multi-family residential.

- the properties at the intersection of Lehigh Avenue, Spring and Mohawk streets, from light commercial to highway commercial.

- the east side of Spring Street, from industrial to highway commercial.

- the west side of Spring Street, from light commercial to highway commercial.

- the Guthrie pediatric center and the Sayre Health Care Center on North Elmer Avenue, from light commercial to medical campus.

- properties on South Elmer Avenue from Packer Avenue to Park Place, including the Sayre Theatre, the Sayre First Presbyterian Church and a residence on the corner of Elmer and Packer avenues, from light commercial to downtown commercial.

- the Greater Valley EMS property on North Lehigh Avenue, from light commercial to highway commercial.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.