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No-show Sewickley council members irk garage meeting attendees

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 2:03 p.m.

A meeting Thursday night offering details of a proposed 279-space parking garage in Sewickley left some who attended asking why more council members did not show up.

About 25 business owners and residents attended the meeting organized by Village Green Partners, including Borough Manager Kevin Flannery and council member Carole Ford.

“I keep hearing, ‘I can't speak on behalf of council,” (and) ‘I can't speak on behalf of all of council,” Sewickley resident Joan Miles said during the meeting. “Council should be willing to have a meeting on a project this big.”

Council has discussed the garage at many of its public meetings this year, Flannery said.

Miles said she wants to see council members offer a meeting solely to discuss the parking garage proposal.

“I thought that's what this was going to be,” she said. “I really expected council members would be here.”

Council President Bob Hague declined to say why he did not attend Thursday's meeting.

“I would, however, strongly encourage the public to attend our (Committee of the Whole) meeting and our regular meeting each month,” Hague said. “As you know, this has been discussed publicly for quite some time this year.”

Council member Tom DeFazio said he had another commitment.

“However, that being said, anyone is invited to attend our council meetings — and as you know, most of the time, people do not come,” he said.

DeFazio said he has met individually with residents who contacted him about the garage.

Vice President Susan Aleshire said she did not know about the meeting.

“I'm sorry I wasn't in attendance,” she said.

Like Hague and DeFazio, she encouraged residents to attend regularly held public meetings.

Council members James Morrill, Charlie Driscoll, Mike Glenn, Bill Cornman and Stan Ference did not return requests for comment.

The meeting was organized by Village Green Partners — a nonprofit with a focus of marketing the business district through events and other development efforts.

Council members began earlier this year discussing plans to consider a nearly 300-space parking garage on Walnut Street.

In July, council members approved the transfer of $910,000 from borough funds to cover the cost of purchasing more than 48,000 square feet of land where the former Ascot Motors stood on Walnut Street. In an 8-1 vote last month, 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 to cover costs associated with a garage.

Public hearings are planned Oct. 2 in front of the planning commission and Oct. 21 before council to consider rezoning parcels of the property, Flannery said.

Both meetings will be in council chambers in the borough building, 601 Thorn St.

Residents and business owners Thursday night questioned the process for the proposed garage.

“Don't you feel you're putting the cart before the horse?” Miles said.

“You're asking us to accept the assumption that we are actually going to have users for these spaces.”

Miles said she wants to see a needs analysis of a parking garage before council members commit to a project.

“We're rushing down this path toward borrowing $8.5 million, rezoning the lot, and yet, I'm also hearing that we don't really know if we're going to build this garage,” she said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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