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Some question council forging ahead with Sewickley parking garage plan

Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

As Sewickley Council members move forward with considering a $6 million, nearly 300-space parking garage in the business district, some leaders are questioning the process.

In an 8-1 vote Monday night, council approved having Downtown-based financial services firm Janney Montgomery Scott LLC provide due diligence for a bond in the amount of $8.5 million. Council member James Morrill voted no.

Councilman Stan Ference questioned council's process.

“I'm trying to figure out why we are … putting the cart before the horse, and going out and getting the financing when we don't have everything lined up for the project,” Ference said.

“We haven't started the process with planning commission (and) there are zoning changes to be made that expose us to the risk of litigation.”

Council members could consider rezoning the area of the proposed garage as commercial, borough Manager Kevin Flannery said.

Ference said a “more appropriate path — if council is truly interested in a garage — is to start the processes, and once we have everything in order, then go and secure financing.”

Council members last month approved the transfer of $910,000 from reserve funds and the general fund to cover the cost of purchasing 21,000 square feet of land where the former Ascot Motors stood on Walnut Street.

Borough leaders have said repayment of the garage and a proposed upgraded parking meter system would come from those who use the spaces — not from borough residents.

Council members Monday night did not move forward with plans to repair Hoey's Run — a stream that runs from War Memorial Park, under the proposed parking garage area and out to the Ohio River.

Flannery said repairing the stream could cost $600,000.

Council member Robert Glenn questioned the entire plan without more information.

“I don't think we should go ahead,” he said. “We don't even have solid bids on Hoey's Run.

“I wouldn't be borrowing money if I didn't know what I could get the job done for.”

Planning commission member Sharon Pillar said she, too, questions the project and wants to see more communication between the commission and council.

“Some of us are very concerned that we have not seen a traffic study or needs assessment done for this garage,” Pillar told council members. “I wish the planning commission had been involved in this process throughout so that we could add some input.”

Council President Bob Hague said leaders have not made a final decision on a garage, and he expects public hearings to be held within the next two months to allow for more discussion on the proposal.

“We're not going to make quick and rash decisions,” he said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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