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Ligonier wants hearing on Y expansion

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Ligonier Planning Commission decided on Monday to submit a recommendation for a public hearing for Ligonier Valley YMCA's proposed rezoning and conditional use applications.

YMCA executive director Ben Wright presented a slideshow detailing the plans for the YMCA's expansion, which includes a larger drop-off area with a new main entrance, expanded fitness area, therapy rooms, squash court and parking lot. The YMCA's facilities will be used by Excela Health, which has partnered with the YMCA to share therapy resources.

In order for the expansion to occur, the residential properties where the YMCA plans to build its facilities must be changed to commercial. Additionally, the borough's zoning ordinance maintains that parking lots are prohibited in residential and commercial districts. The YMCA wants to have the borough amend the ordinance and change the state of the property to commercial.

Several residents expressed concern about the negative impact the parking lot would have on the residential area, the values of their homes and the traffic near Elm Alley, Wellington Alley, North Market Street, West Church Street and West Wellington Alley.

The parking lot will be primarily used by Excela Health patients. YMCA members and staff may use the lot after Excela Health's hours of operation.

Planning Commission member Jim McDonnell, as well as resident Karen McCullough, expressed concern for residents who use Elm Alley to back out of their garages.

“You can build your expansion,” McCullough said. “But don't build the parking lot on these two little alleys. I love the idea of the expansion. It's just the parking lot, traffic and safety (that concern me).”

Gay Wasserman, who lives on Fairfield Street, voiced her worries about the project, mentioning that the expansion could potentially lead to more parking lots in Ligonier.

“This is such a huge footprint in such a little town,” Wasserman said.

Others showed support for the project, such as Lynne Stano, of Cook Township, who said she feels the project would initiate “progress” in town.

“I have two young boys and they might stay at this new, nice Y instead of going to Latrobe,” she said.

Mike Vernon, resident of Ligonier and owner of Westmoreland Financial Services on Main Street, views the project as a valuable investment for members of the community.

“You have to look at the 4,000 people in Ligonier Township and Borough who utilize the Y,” he said. “The Y supports families in this area.”

The YMCA is still waiting for a traffic study's results to determine how the parking lot will impact traffic in the area.

The planning commission will submit its minutes and the proposals to the borough council. A public hearing will be scheduled.

Nicole Chynoweth is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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