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Residents oppose impound proposal

City zoning board tables plan to build vehicle garage, lot near Westfall Park

The Logan Township Zoning Commission recently tabled a request by the city to build a vehicle impound garage and lot near Westfall Park, after more than a dozen neighbors objected.

The city asked for the delay so when the hearing resumes, it can provide stronger arguments for a “special use permit,” while better reassuring residents the project wouldn’t degrade their neighborhood.

The impound site would create annoyances from flashing lights, noise and security lighting and would mar the semi-rural character of the area around the park, residents said.

The delivery of vehicles to the site would be sporadic, and the site would be hidden by trees, 400 feet from the nearest house, city officials said.

The city is seeking a special use permit for a public building, as allowed in agricultural zones, provided an applicant can show that the use wouldn’t be deleterious to the general health and welfare of the neighborhood, said Planning Director Cassandra Schmick.

The city wants to build a 40-by-50-foot garage and a 20-space lot on less than an acre in a currently wooded area behind the Penelec substation on the 2300 block of 17th Avenue.

It wants to replace the current impound garage at the highway yard on Sixth Avenue so it can build a salt storage shed and have room for materials currently in rental space, according to Jane Gill of the city’s Public Works Department.

There would be a locked gate on the road to the site.

The city hoped that locating the impound site “out of the way” would be seen favorably, officials said.

The city only impounds vehicles of evidentiary importance and would reserve the garage, rather than the lot, for vehicles most in need of protection, according to Police Chief Joe Merrill.

Some vehicles have been impounded for years, Merrill said. There would be no drugs or other materials attractive to burglars left in the vehicles.

Tow truck operators accompanied by a police officer would bring the cars as needed, according to Merrill.

Other than for periodic security checks, there might be no activity for a month, then there might be deliveries — or removals — a couple of times in a week, Merrill said.

The city couldn’t have picked a worse place, according to neighbor Jim Riley, who spoke at the hearing.

It would be much better to locate the impound facility in a commercial or industrial area, where it wouldn’t clash with the surrounding neighborhood, he said.

If the project is approved, there would not only be flashing lights from tow trucks but backup beepers and tie chains clanking in the middle of the night, Riley said. It would be especially problematic in summer, when windows are open.

The locked gate would only keep honest people out, said neighbor Steve Rose.

“Essentially, you’re bringing a junkyard into a scenic area,” said neighbor Regina Edwards.

“An eyesore hiding behind the trees,” said neighbor Michael Riley.

Penelec has already imposed on the neighborhood with its recent expansion at the substation, said neighbor Patti Kline.

It not only detracts from an area where wildlife thrives but could “open the door” for an expanded, unwanted, presence, she said.

“This wasn’t our first choice,” said city Public Works Director Nate Kissell, who spoke of unsuccessful efforts to buy a former scrap yard property, an educational property, railroad property near Juniata and property owned by a family prominent in local development.

When those efforts failed, locating at Westfall seemed a reasonable alternative, he said.

“I guess also we didn’t think it was going to be such a huge impact due to the infrequency” of the deliveries and removals, Kissell said.

The current lot on Sixth Avenue, below the Highland Park neighborhood, has generated no complaints from neighbors that he’s aware of, Merrill said.

Moreover, because the city already owns the Westfall property, the impound project would be cheaper, Merrill said.

“(But) I recognize the concern,” Kissell told the neighbors.

“I 100 percent understand,” Merrill said. “I take no offense.”

It’s good that people are “passionate” about where they live, Merrill added.

“We need more of that,” he said.

Still, while no one may want the impound facility in their backyard, “it’s got to be in someone’s backyard,” Merrill said.

The township will inform all the residents who signed in for the recent hearing when hearing will resume, Schmick said.

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

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