Hollidaysburg limits recreation zoning

First United Methodist Church’s plan to build facility met opposition

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Con­struc­tion of recreational facilities in Hollidaysburg’s residential districts are now permitted only after securing a special exception.

Borough Council members voted unanimously Thursday to amend the local zoning ordinance to further regulate recreation facility development in residential neighborhoods.

Prior to the Thursday vote, recreational facilities were a permitted use for buildings in those neighborhoods.

Zoning Officer Patrick Rabits said the amendment would remove that permission unless a special exception is granted by the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board.

“Such action would require any … recreational facility, public or nonprofit, proposed within the three residential districts to first obtain approval from the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board,” Rabits said.

That amendment got support from the Hollidaysburg Planning Commission and was reviewed by the Blair County Planning Com­mission, Rabits said.

During a public hearing prior to the vote, resident Robyn Redline of Walnut Street spoke in favor of the amendment.

“Our neighborhoods have a very comfortable feel, a very inviting feel,” Redline said, explaining the construction of a “massive” recreation facility could limit “residents from having the neighborhood they thought they were living in.”

Councilman Sean Burke was the first to move in favor of the proposed change, and his fellow council members followed, voting unanimously for approval.

After the meeting, borough officials confirmed that Burke had earlier requested discussion about the amendment.

On council, Burke represents the borough’s Ward 4 — an area where First United Methodist Church of Hollidaysburg officials plan to raze a former planing mill to construct a large recreation facility.

The plan has garnered widespread opposition from community members and, in January, Burke was one of two council members to oppose demolition of the planing mill on the 800 block of Walnut Street.

Demolition was eventually approved by a majority of council members.

On Thursday, Burke would not say if the zoning change was requested as a result of the pending church construction plans. He said the rule change will apply to the entire borough, not just his ward.

On Friday, church Business Manager Preston Ghaner said he suspects there was a correlation between the change and church plans.

“I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said.

Currently, the planing mill still stands. Ghaner said it is unclear when the mill and its associated buildings will be demolished, as bids are being considered.

“We’re getting close,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.