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Residents have issues with propsed Heidelberg day care

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
 

Some Heidelberg residents fear parking and safety issues from a day care proposed for a former school that's been approved by the borough zoning hearing board.

Susan English, owner of Wee Care Children's Center, has not completed the purchase of the building at 1819 Ellsworth Ave. but intends to move her center from Lindsay Avenue in Scott, where she has been for more than 30 years. English received five zoning variances for the building and operation at a Feb. 18 Heidelberg zoning board hearing, despite concerns raised by several residents.

Ellsworth Avenue resident Jack Wolf said he worries what will happen to parking on the street from the day care's employees and parents dropping off children. There are 18 parking spaces at the facility.

“I think it's going to increase traffic and tie up some of the police,” he said. “They definitely don't have any parking. They're going to have to park on the street.”

Built in the late 1950s, the building housed Heidelberg Elementary School until 1996. It was used for commercial purposes until it was bought for $550,000 by Three Hierarchs Eastern Orthodox School, which occupied the building from 2007 until last year.

English received variances on zoning ordinances regarding undersized outdoor play area and pick-up and drop-off, signage and proximity to neighboring property. The zoning hearing board also approved a variance for the day care center to operate in a residentially zoned area.

English said the school will be safe.

“Absolutely it is,” she said. “We got all the variances that the borough said that we needed. We have an architect working on it, and he knows all about the variances.”

English's variance request said the center will care for about 93 children. Borough zoning laws set a maximum at 177.

The ordinance also requires pick-up and drop-off areas be eight feet by 55 feet. The current driveway does not meet this footage. English said they will continue to use the existing driveway area.

Richard Losego, who lives on Ellsworth Avenue across from the building, said he worries that parents will be parking on the street, putting children in the line of traffic.

“There's this safety factor of children in the car and that activity going on on a public street,” he said. “That's the reason you have an ordinance. We say we want to protect the kids, then get them out of traffic lanes.”

Losego, Wolf and other Ellsworth Avenue residents attended the hearing to voice their concerns.

“They voted it in anyhow,” Wolf said. “You can't blame them for that – they want to put it back on the tax rolls.”

Heidelberg's zoning laws allow for variances when property shape or conditions would not allow for the zoning ordinances to be met. The zoning board can attach conditions it deems necessary that a property owner must implement.

“I don't see a problem with it, and I don't think the rest of the board sees a problem with it,” said David Morgan, zoning hearing board president. “We wanted to have the best use of the property.”

He said he does not think the residents' safety concerns are legitimate.

English said pick-up and drop-off will not create more traffic in the area.

“Pick-up and drop-off are spread out throughout the day,” she said. “Not everyone will be coming at once. We don't have a large number of cars coming and going at the same time.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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