PUNXSUTAWNEY – Punxsutawney Borough Council has again been approached by residents of the West Mahoning Street neighborhood to share their opinions and a bit of history ahead of the public hearing later this month on the possible change zoning of several lots.
Council encouraged all those who had not had time to fully share their opinions to come and share them during the public hearing scheduled for May 19 at 6 p.m. at the community center.
Bill Smathers is a repeat speaker on the issue and once again brought new information to some of the board members. Smathers brought with him a notice board showing a map of the neighborhood and a bit of history on Milo Ritten, the Pittsburgh developer who owns the land.
He told council that on May 19, 1999, a developer in Pittsburgh, later recognized as Ritten, had purchased four residential lots on the 500 block of West Mahoning Street. Smathers said this is where he intends to set up the Advanced Auto Parts store.
“These are the same lots that we are discussing today, the same developer, but the zoning council rejected their request at that time to put the Advanced Auto Parts in it. So the owner of the land went across the street to the Rubens Garage Ford Cadillac dealership and bought this land because this zoning council prohibited commercial consolidation on residential land, the Advanced Auto was built. where it should have been built, ”Smathers said.
He said the zoning process was working because the business was established on land that was already commercial and the city was still seeing the revenue. Smathers pointed out that the same person is once again attempting to build a commercial building on these same lots.
Smathers said the site’s current zoning allows for many different uses for lots such as apartments, clinics, professional buildings, home businesses, or any type of minimal activity.
“What interests me is that since this whole process started, several residents have informed me that they had tried to buy these lots for one of these uses… the owner would not sell them. In other words, for the last 22 years, the owner was not interested in selling a property, this property, for its intended use, ”said Smathers.
He ran out of time to finish everything he wanted to say, but said he would be at the May 19 public hearing to fully express his thoughts. Councilor Larry Chenoga thanked him, saying he learned something new every time he spoke to council.
Several other residents also approached the council to share their thoughts. Deborah Fleckenstein, a resident of West Mahoning Street, said she would not be able to participate in the public hearing and therefore came to speak at the meeting.
Fleckenstein became emotional as she read her speech to the council, having had to pause several times during the reading. She said that she and her husband bought their house in 1974 and raised their family there. She pointed out how great the neighborhood is and how friendly all the residents are to each other.
She also focused on the historic value of homes in the neighborhood and said that many homeowners can share the details that make each historic home unique.
“The biggest concern for myself, my husband and our neighbors is that if you vote to allocate a commercial area to this residential property, it will threaten the historic heart of our city, which is Main Street or West Mahoning Street, and will lose the small town. the charm and sense of place that so many people cherish, ”said Fleckenstein.
S. Thomas Curry also addressed the council as someone who does not live in the neighborhood, but who said he felt the need to speak out against the possible rezoning and do his part as a citizen. .
He served on the Planning and Zoning Commission in the past when it updated the 1960s master plan. He said the overall plan was well thought out with professional advice. He said at the time that they were introduced to new terms such as “traditional neighborhood development” rather than just residential.
“And I prefer that break which is right there which divides the expansion of the shopping area into which is the district remains separate,” said Curry.