Share This Page

Homer City council approves zoning change for distillery

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 3:27 p.m.

The Homer City Borough Council ended months of impassioned debate about a potential microdistillery on Main Street during Tuesday night's meeting. The panel voted unanimously to pass an ordinance amending the borough's zoning code to include “craft distillery establishment” in the list of “uses by right” in commercial zones.

The borough's planning commission voted 4-0 on April 23 to recommend the change.

With the passage of Ordinance No. 489, the borough effectively cleared the way for Indiana University of Pennsylvania geography professor Bob Sechrist and his retired colleague Bob Begg to finalize their purchase of the former Runzo grocery store building at 30 S. Main Street for use as a small-scale distillery.

The site has generated controversy due to its location next to the Homer City United Methodist Church. The church plays host to weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings for individuals struggling with substance abuse, addictions and other challenges.

Begg and Sechrist said the building will require major renovations to meet state building codes, including a new sprinkler system and new interior walls. The distillery, Disobedient Spirits, will also require federal and state licenses before it can open for business.

Council President Richard Morris limited public comment to new information, citing the numerous opportunities for the public to voice opinions on the proposed distillery at previous council and planning commission meetings.

“If it's repetitive and it's been repeated at the other two meetings, I'm not going to entertain it,” he said of arguments regarding Disobedient Spirits.

Rev. Joe Stains of Homer City United Methodist Church asked council members whether they understood his group's objections to the distillery plan and whether they had received petitions circulated throughout Homer City and surrounding communities opposing the business.

“Every concern that you have voiced has not fallen on deaf ears,” Morris insisted. “I want you to know that these gentlemen have given us a wonderful plan, and if they do anything short, which is a violation of state laws, they will be recognized and correct it immediately or there will be other issues that will arise. What we're giving them right now, through the voice of the public overall consensus, is that we're giving them an opportunity.”

Morris also pointed out that federal and state inspectors will review the distillery before it can open.

“If they go according to plan, this should not create any havoc or unruly conditions,” he said. “And if it does, I can promise you, we will address those issues as we would any other business.”

In other business, council:

• Awarded the contract for a paving project on Columbia Avenue to Quaker Sales of Johnstown, which was the lowest of four bidders at a cost of $37,242.50.

• Learned from borough manager Rob Nymick that MGK Technologies, Inc. has expressed willingness to allow the borough to use a portion of its property to move the Hoodlebug Trail away from Route 56.

• Tabled action regarding a traffic study that determined the borough would need to either upgrade or remove the traffic signal at Main and Elm streets in favor of four-way stop signs. Upgrading the light, Nymick said, would cost the borough roughly $250,000.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.