Sidewalk ordinance input sought in Charleroi
Charleroi Borough Council is urging feedback from business owners before it finalizes new restrictions on commercial sidewalk displays.
Council President Mark Alterici said that even though council desires more stringent restrictions on such displays, it wants to hear from concerned parties.
He called on business owners to submit – in writing – opinions about language in the ordinance, which has been more than eight months in the making.
“Part of the problem is, some of the businesses in town have junked up the sidewalk, for lack of a better term,” Alterici said.
“It's made it inaccessible for people with disabilities to get through. Plus, we want it to look as presentable and neat as possible for them and for us.”
He said it is just a matter of cleaning up.
“Some places put live plants out front, some places put a washer and dryer out or racks of clothes to sell,” he said.
“We're trying to come up with a good compromise for everybody. We have an ordinance already in place, and the solicitor is trying to merge everything together.”
Mike Lucas is the borough solicitor.
Rhonda Jaquay, part-owner of Tim's Secret Treasures at 220 McKean Ave., aired her concerns. The store is known for elaborate displays, including stone statues and a giant rooster.
“The original sample you sent us was allowing certain businesses to have certain things outside, and that was our big problem,” Jaquay said.
“I don't want to see it being really discriminatory and unfair and saying, ‘This person can do this, but that person can't do that.'”
She asked if businesses would be able to further study the ordinance before a final vote.
“Absolutely. We're not going to jam anything down anyone's throats,” Alterici responded. “We've waited this long.”
“We've passed other ordinances a lot quicker than this,” Councilman Jerry Jericho added.
Councilman Paul Pivovarnik defended business owners.
“They are individual business owners; it's not like they are a group,” Pivovarnik said. “We need to sit down with those individuals, and for them to say, this is what we agree with and this is what we don't agree with that's in the ordinance right now.”
Pivovarnik said he has no problem with outside displays that are safe and that do not block the sidewalk.
“We sort of already have that now in our ordinances,” he said. “I don't want us, as a council, to tell an individual business owner, ‘No, you can't put out items on the sidewalk that you sell in your store,' as long as it's safely placed. And that's what we need to work on, not just to totally ban anything out on the sidewalk.”
Tim Bradburn, Jaquay's husband and business partner, voiced his concerns after the meeting.
“All businesses are different,” he said. “The things we put out on the sidewalk are what brings people in.
“If they don't have any safety issues or don't put garbage out, I don't want the borough to tell all the businesses to take everything off the sidewalks.”
Alterici said after the meeting all voices will be heard.
The ordinance would have to be advertised before it's approved, no sooner than March – but before the summer season.
“Rest assured, we're not going to put anything through without talking to you first,” Alterici told Jaquay. “I'm going through this now, and you think we're tough? I have a store in Canonsburg. They're not allowed sidewalk displays.”
Coyle cash wanted
The board is attempting to secure nearly $180,000 from the Washington County Redevelopment Authority, originally allocated for restoration of the Coyle Theater by the county Local Share Account.
The Local Share Account is fueled by tax revenue generated through gaming at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township.
A committee considers funding requests and makes recommendations for allocations.
“It's been about five years now since it was allocated,” Alterici said of the Coyle money. “The Coyle Project is still a feasible project, but the board said that money can only sit so long before the money has to go back to the state.”
The authority recently notified the Charleroi Cultural Trust that the money would no longer be allocated to the Coyle project. Alterici was “confident” the money would stay in the borough.
Pivovarnik said the authority seemed receptive and wants documented proposals on alternate uses for the money – which would include restoration of the municipal building's third floor as well as several demolition projects.
“We wanted to make sure this money stays in Charleroi, and we're looking to get them a written proposal by the end of January or early February,” Pivovarnik said.
The borough will install an experimental LED streetlight at the intersection of Fourth Street and McKean Avenue as early as today.
A light-emitting diode is a semiconductor light source that can be cheaper to maintain, last longer and require less energy.
The experiment could lead to a complete replacement of borough street lights.
The board agreed to obtain a $169,000 tax revenue anticipation Loan from Charleroi Federal Savings Bank.
The money will carry the borough through financially until tax revenue rolls in.
Borough Manager Donn Henderson said the amount is down significantly from two years ago, when the borough borrowed $550,000.
The board unanimously approved a number of board appointments:
Alterici (water authority), Sylvia Whiten (board of adjustment), Terry Newstrom and John Mollenauer (planning commission), Pivovarnik and Jericho (police board) and Jody Cheplic (vacancy board).
Councilman Randy DiPazza, who attended the meeting by phone because he is suffering from the flu, was appointed as police board alternate.
A planning commission seat remains open because no one sought the position.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.