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North Huntingdon commissioners warn barn owner to stop hosting events

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:47 p.m.

North Huntingdon commissioners are trying to make sure that a backyard barn that has been used for weddings and banquets does not hold more events until it meets the municipality's requirements for things such as safety, parking and handling storm water.

“I received a telephone call from a person who informed me that they had a wedding planned (at the barn) for July,” Commissioners Brian West said at a recent commissioners meeting. “My understanding is the owner is taking reservations for his property. I think we need to take steps further than we already have.”

Commissioners voted in December to deny a site plan for the Guffey Barn Venue, 14179 Lincoln Way. The municipality has granted the owner, Steven Guffey, multiple extensions to complete work needed before he can obtain an occupancy permit to hold public events at the facility.

Guffey submitted a revised site plan to the municipality on Jan. 13, but it was rejected because it was incomplete, said Andrew Blenko, the township's planning director.

Guffey did not return multiple telephone messages seeking comment.

A letter attached to the revised site plan that was rejected disputes the municipality's classification of the proposed venue as a bar/restaurant, which requires one off-street parking space for every 50 square feet, or a minimum of 93 spaces for the 4,647 square-foot building.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Norwin Star, argues that since the municipality's ordinances does not specify the amount of parking required for a banquet hall/reception facility, it should follow the standards for “undefined uses,” which would require a minimum of 47 parking spaces. The site plan includes off-street parking for 56 vehicles.

The other issues that must be addressed before the site plan can be approved cover the township's requirements for exterior lighting and the design of detention ponds to manage storm water.

Commission chairman Richard Gray said Guffey previously agreed not to host events at the barn until all the issues are resolved.

The letter sent to Guffey in December telling him that his latest site plan for the property had been denied also informed him that he cannot use it for events until the municipality's criteria have been met, Blenko said.

Municipal officials will inform Guffey by certified letter to reiterate their position on use of the property.

If he defies the order and hosts an event, he could face fines, said John Shepherd, municipal manager.

Bruce Dice, the township's solicitor, said municipal officials also can seek an injunction from a Common Pleas Court judge ordering Guffey to cease operating.

Dice said citing Guffey or seeking court intervention would be appropriate only after the barn is used for an event.

Gray said the latest effort to prevent Guffey from using the barn for public gatherings is being taken “to protect the people who are considering renting the facility.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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