Ligonier panel fails to OK approvals to allow Ligonier Valley YMCA expansion

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Ligonier's planning commission voted to report to council that it does not recommend approving two zoning ordinance amendments related to the Ligonier Valley YMCA's expansion.

The amendments in question include a proposed ordinance to amend the zoning classification for the two properties owned by the YMCA at tax parcel numbers 16-01-15-0-163 and 16-01-15-0-164 from R-2 to C-2 and a proposed ordinance to allow surface parking lots as a conditional use in the C-2 zoning district.

Last Monday, borough council held a public hearing on the ordinances. Council asked the planning commission to consider the testimony and evidence that was heard at the hearing and make a recommendation to council.

During the meeting on Monday, commission Chairman Joe Willard announced that by virtue of state law, commission members Patti Campbell, Richard Flickinger and Chick Cicconi had to “remove themselves from being able to serve impartially in their official duties as to these applications as they took an adversarial position with respect to the ordinances presented to council at the public hearing,” said attorney Daniel Hewitt, who is acting counsel for council in the matter.

Flickinger challenged the rule, but Willard said he felt the board had no choice in the matter.

Commission member Dirk Matson also removed himself from the deliberations because of his involvement with the YMCA as a board member.

Commission members Willard, Jim McDonnell and Terry Murphy voted unanimously to not recommend the amendments' approval, citing concern for public safety as the board's rationale. They spent much of their deliberation discussing how traffic flow could be affected by the YMCA's proposed changes, which include routing traffic through Elm Alley.

Willard questioned the traffic study that was done in regard to the YMCA's proposed expansion because it was not conducted during the school year when buses and other vehicles are transporting students.

“A traffic report in itself would have to be redefined to pick up additional circumstances,” he said.

McDonnell said he thought it would not serve the best interests of the borough or residents to approve the amendments, primarily because of the traffic estimated to go through Elm Alley.

“It invites safety issues,” he said.

Murphy stated the traffic issues that could possibly arise concerned him.

Once the board came to its decision, Willard invited members who did not participate in the vote to comment on the matter. Matson asked the board what facts it had to contradict the traffic study, adding that he believed it said the traffic would not affect safety. Willard said he thought the study was incomplete.

During public comment, resident Merwin Dean, who lives near the YMCA, read from a copy of the traffic study that he said stated that traffic coming out of Elm Alley will create a site problem.

Secretary Patti Campbell will submit a report to council stating the board's decision and rationale.

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 28.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or

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