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North Huntingdon barn owner seeks zoning help from commissioners

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By Amanda Dolasinski
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A North Huntingdon man whose backyard barn unexpectedly became an in-demand spot for social events stood before commissioners seeking a fifth extension to meet zoning criteria to stay open and operating.

Commissioners approved the extension last week.

The site plan for the barn was set to be denied, based on eight criteria owner Steven Guffey failed to complete.

“In the last two months, I've gotten nothing further to address the (criteria), but he assured me that if an extension was granted that something would be forthcoming,” Andy Blenko, township planning director and engineer, said.

“I'm not trying to put anybody out of business, but this plan has been under review for many, many months.”

The barn, on the rear of a single-family lot in North Huntingdon, has been used for banquets, receptions and weddings.

It has not been inspected or approved for public assembly, according to township zoning minutes.

“You built the barn — I guess the original intent was for agriculture purposes — and then you took it upon yourself to make it a commercial venture on a residential property,” Blenko has previously said. “Now we are trying to make it legal for what you have already done.”

A resolution outlines eight criteria, including parking calculations and landscaping, that have not been completed for the property on Lincoln Way.

Once Guffey learned of the pending denial, he asked commissioners for the fifth extension.

“We've always had a good time at the barn,” Guffey said. “My oldest daughter got married there, and that's kind of what started all this. It caught me by surprise. A friend wanted to use it. So now I am trying to make it fit the township's criteria so that it is a safe place and people can continue to use it.”

The barn was built in either 2002 or 2003, according to meeting minutes. It can be accessed through either Guffey's driveway or a private road that leads up to Guffey's other business, a Johnston the Florist branch.

In January, Guffey went before the township's planning commission to go over his parking-lot plan.

Although the township generally calls for paved parking areas, officials agreed to allow Turfstone Pavers to conform to the “rustic atmosphere of the barn,” according to meeting minutes.

He was back in February to modify a rezoning plan. At that time, officials discovered the barn was built on a different property in the complex, which contains three single-family homes.

The barn actually was built in the corner of an adjoining lot, owned by Guffey's mother, according to meeting minutes.

Guffey told commissioners last week that he will present a new site plan with extensive changes.

“Whatever I can do to make it work, I'm willing to do that,” he said. “I'm not looking to do anything out of the ordinary. I want to make it work.”

The extension, which is for an additional two months, was granted by six commissioners. Commissioner Donald Austin was absent.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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