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Cal U loses alcohol appeal

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 12:36 a.m.

A Washington County judge has dismissed California University of Pennsylvania's appeal of a borough decision to assess fees on alcohol sales.

Judge Valarie Costanzo's order agrees with the California Zoning Hearing Board's contention that the university missed the deadline to file its appeal.

The university can still sell alcoholic beverages at the convocation center, but only if paying the fees designated in borough Ordinance 534.

The university had no immediate comment.

California Council passed Ordinance 534 in November 2012.

Ordinance 534 amended the borough's existing zoning code to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages at the university's Convocation Center as a conditional use in areas zoned I-Institutional under the California Borough Code. Ordinance 534 requires — only for Convocation Center events at which alcohol is served — that the university pay set fees.

The university had contended that the fees were not related to costs the borough sustains because of these events.

The ordinance sets the following fees, based on attendance at the Convocation Center:

• Up to 1,499 attendees, $750.

• 1,500 through 2,999, $1,500.

• 3,000 through 4,499, $2,250.

• 4,500 through 5,999, $3,000.

• More than 6,000, $3,750.

The ordinance was passed despite the objections of Cal U officials.

On Dec. 21, 2012, the university filed a notice of appeal to the zoning hearing board, seeking interpretations of the ordinance. The notice was filed by Robert J. Thorn, vice president of administration and finance for the university.

Following numerous hearings, the zoning hearing board issued its findings, upholding the ordinance during a public meeting Dec. 9.

According to the motion to quash the appeal filed earlier this month by zoning hearing board Solicitor Jason Walsh, indicated a copy of the findings was presented to Thorn at that special meeting. The motion further claims that the university had 30 days to file the appeal following the Dec. 9 ruling.

The university claimed in its response to Walsh's motion to quash, said it had mailed its appeal to the Washington County Prothonotary office Jan. 8. It was received Jan. 9, but without a check for the filing fee. A representative of the prothonotary's office contacted university officials about the oversight. The check was mailed, not hand delivered, to the prothonotary's office and received Jan. 10.

The university had claimed it had filed the appeal Jan. 9, the day it was received by the prothonotary's office, not the day the filing fee was received.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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