Residents request zoning change

Six householders wish to sell homes due to living conditions

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Borough Council members were sympathetic to Blair Street residents who want help out of a residential zone eroded by state highway projects, but they were not willing to throw out the cost.

Six householders on the 600 block of Blair Street are resigning themselves to selling their homes and moving to a place that doesn’t have as much noise, dirt and traffic.

But they are asking for a zoning change to commercial so they can recover some of their property value, according to Blair Street resident Robert Schaefer. He said he was advised by a real estate agent.

The six households signed a rezoning petition that was submitted to the council in September.

However, the borough requires a $600 application fee to initiate the rezoning consideration.

On Thursday, the council discussed the zoning change but determined it would not move forward without the application fee.

Council member Brady Leahey asked if the $600 fee could be waived.

“That’s something we can’t look past?” he asked.

The consensus seemed to be that if the council waived the fee in this case, then it would set a bad precedent.

Schaefer said paying the fee would be different if the householders wanted to move into the area, but it is the opposite. They want out.

“We already have investments in our homes — put a lot of money in them,” Schaefer said after the meeting.

He said he hopes the council will waive the fee.

The six householders asking for the change are in their 70s or 80s, he said. Even split among all six households, Schaefer said the fee is steep.

“I know they don’t have that money,” he said. “I don’t have $100 laying around.”

Blair Street was a place where Schaefer would have liked to live for his entire life if it had remained the way it was when he was young. But his 606 Blair St. homestead is no longer a place where children can play or even a place with on-street parking. With major highway projects over the decades, it is now hugged by traffic on Route 22 and Route 36 — across Route 36 from TK’s Six Pack.

And another PennDOT project is set to bring traffic a foot closer to his property, he said. The project is to widen the turning radius of the Route 36 northbound lane turning right on Route 22 East, according to PennDOT officials.

“We are satisfied with living where we are at, but progress and a change of times is really what this is about,” he said.

The borough has approved a “piecemeal” rezoning application from residential to commercial in the past.

Joyce Lowe noted that if the residents knew a business that wanted to move in, that business could pay the rezoning application fee.

Borough solicitor Nathan Karn suggested the residents go to other neighbors in the area and make the petition larger so that the $600 fee could be split more ways.

There’s no guarantee the application would be approved.

Borough Manager Jim Gehret said he did not know how many houses are on the 600 block or whether there are any households opposed to the rezoning. But if the application went through, then all neighbors would be notified by the borough and have the opportunity to submit their opinion, he said.

Sean Burke was the first of the council members to clarify his position.

“I am willing to act, but not without an application filed and the fee paid,” he said.

Other council members agreed.

Schaefer has been through the borough’s process before and been disappointed by the outcome.

On-street parking areas for Schaefer and his neighbors were taken over in 1991 with the installation of a left-hand turning lane. Schaefer submitted a zoning application and the required fee, but the zoning board’s decision was a compromise “business-residential” zone, which didn’t help the residential parking situation, he said.

“It’s in God’s hands now,” he said of the situation Thursday night. But he said he plans to continue exploring options to rezone the block to commercial because he believes no family would want to move there.

“With the noise, dirt and traffic, who would want to raise their kids there?” he asked.