Greensburg prepares to dissolve Historic and Architectural Review Board
The agenda at Tuesday’s meeting of the Greensburg Historical and Architectural Review Board was typical — approving a straightforward sign change at a gas station. The circumstances, however, were not.
The meeting was likely one of the board’s last, as city council moves to dissolve the organization that serves as gatekeeper for most commercial development in Greensburg.
Board members said they didn’t know about the city’s plan to dissolve the board until after council’s preliminary vote Monday.
That vote directed the city solicitor to draft an ordinance to abolish the Historical and Architectural Review Board.
That ordinance could be introduced at the June meeting and put to a final vote the following month.
Mayor Robert Bell said the board created unnecessary extra steps for developers in Greensburg. Those who wanted to build or renovate a downtown property would need to seek the recommendation of two boards — the planning commission and HARB — before getting final approval from city council.
“We just felt that there was redundancy there,” Bell said. “We’re trying to facilitate development.”
The seven-member board oversees all proposed construction in downtown Greensburg and along Main, Otterman, Pittsburgh and West Newton streets — the main roadways through the city.
Chairwoman Barbara Jones has served on the board since it was founded in 2007. She said she wishes the city well with its decision but defended the work the board has done over the years.
“It’s been to maintain the character of historic Greensburg,” she said. “The design guidelines weren’t meant to be onerous in any way.”
Ashley Kertes, director of the Greensburg Community Development Corporation and a HARB member, said she thinks the board has done good, but understands the city’s desire to streamline the development process.
“I do think the HARB board did have its value, but I can also see both sides,” she said.
The HARB cannot approve or deny projects. It makes recommendations to council, which has final say over development.
Bell said the planning commission will assume HARB’s duties.
Jones said she hopes someone from HARB is given a seat on the planning commission to help continue the board’s mission in a new capacity.
“Someone has to be responsible for the look of the city,” she said.
The decision to dissolve HARB is one of several sweeping changes council has made related to planning and development.
In February, council fired longtime planning director Barbara Ciampini. The reason for the firing remains undisclosed.
The city will hire two people to replace her, Bell said — a planning director and a code enforcement officer.
The city’s previous code enforcement officer retired in 2015. Ciampini assumed many of his duties, and the city hired Pittsburgh company Code.sys to handle much of the day-to-day code enforcement work.
The city will continue to contract with Code.sys once it hires a new officer, Bell said.
Officials have twice postponed a vote on a new planning director.
The city has interviewed several candidates but wants to take its time to ensure it makes the right choice, Bell said.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .