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Board denies vets center

Ivyside neighbors argued it would create parking, noise problems

The Altoona Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday denied a request from Penn State Altoona for a Student Veteran Center in a donated house in Ivyside.

Neighbors argued it would create parking and traffic problems, violate the donor’s wishes and should be located on campus.

The college proposed to create the center on the 500 block of East Wopsononock Avenue for use during daytime hours for veterans to study, relax between classes and make lunch, given their tendency to avoid socializing with traditional — and younger — students, according to MaryAnn Amato, director of development and alumni relations, and Toni Feret, her associate director.

The house in the single-family residential neighborhood would contain the office of the veterans education benefits administrator, and she alone would have permission to park there, while the veterans would be instructed to walk from the campus 3.5 blocks away or from a shopping center parking lot on East 25th Avenue, two blocks in the other direction, according to the college representatives.

The house would not be used for overnight sleeping, for parties or for any other events, and would draw probably no more than a handful of veterans at any one time, according to the representatives.

It would be accessed by keycards only, and those would be disabled after 5 p.m., Amato said.

The house would afford veterans needed privacy that is currently unavailable for their regular meetings with the administrator, according to Amato.

The house was donated by former professor Athleen Stere to be used for visiting professors, researchers, speakers and other temporary guests of the college, but the college has other facilities for that — including arrangements with local hotels — and doesn’t need the Stere house for that purpose, Amato said.

Rather, it is needed for veterans, who number about 120 on campus and who deserve consideration for the sacrifices they have made, according to the representatives and a “white paper” submitted to the board.

There are donors prepared to finance the interior build out of the house, which is currently gutted, the representatives said.

“I’m not acting out against our veterans here,” said neighbor Brian Ianuzzi. “They need all our support — but in the right way.”

The right way would be a “dedicated space on campus,” he said.

Using the Stere house, with its single lane driveway that would be occupied every day by the administrator, would inevitably create parking issues, given the distance from campus, Ianuzzi said.

“I totally support veterans,” said neighbor

Daryl Sarver.

But it’s “incorrect” to imagine that would refrain people from driving there, he said.

“To prevent people from driving would be pretty hard,” especially during inclement weather, said neighbor Dan Finelli.

“It would be hard to use the building effectively” without causing parking and traffic control problems that would have a “deleterious effect” on the neighborhood, said board member Horace McAnuff.

“You can’t tell people they can’t drive there,” said board member Ted Beam.

The vote was unanimous among members present.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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