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Ligonier ends battle with YMCA

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 11:42 p.m.

In an effort “to avoid continuing litigation and expense,” Ligonier Borough council voted 4-2 to withdraw the pending appeal of the Ligonier Valley YMCA's deemed approval request and approve its land development application.

At council's meeting Thursday night, Michael Bieterman made the motion to squelch the appeal of the YMCA's claim for a deemed approval of its conditional use application for a surface parking lot in its commercially zoned property. It was seconded by James B. St. Clair. President Robert Helterbran and Matt Smith voted in favor of it, while Judy Hoffer and Jim McDonnell dissented.

Council member Pat Scanlon was not present at the meeting.

Bieterman also made a motion to authorize the advertisement of a hearing for the YMCA's newly filed conditional use application for a surface parking lot, which was filed Wednesday. St. Clair seconded it, and Helterbran and Smith voted in favor of it. Hoffer and McDonnell dissented.

YMCA Chief Executive Officer Ben Wright said he is “happy to be moving forward.”

The conditional use hearing, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 4, will be followed immediately afterward by a meeting to act on an ordinance abolishing the borough planning commission.

During his personnel and planning commission committee report, St. Clair said he felt it was “in the best interest of council” to establish a planning committee consisting of three council members to carry out the duties and powers set forth in the municipalities planning code, because of the fact that “planning and development of the borough have become a priority matter.” He made a motion to authorize the advertisement of the proposed ordinance and a council meeting to act on the ordinance to dissolve the planning commission at 7 p.m. March 4.

Bieterman seconded the motion, and Helterbran and Smith voted in favor of it. Hoffer and McDonnell dissented.

Residents Louise Dean and Gay Wasserman, who live near the YMCA, expressed disappointment with council's actions during public comment.

“With the new changes...I'm shocked by them,” Dean said. “I'm not happy about them.”

Wasserman said she continues “to be appalled by the way things are done.”

“I just cannot believe all this continues to go on,” she said.

Helterbran said the matter of abolishing the planning commission is a “tough move,” but council members had thought about it for more than a year.

Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. March 4 for the conditional use hearing, followed by a meeting to act on the ordinance abolishing the planning commission at 7 p.m.

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

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