Zoning decision pending on Faith Forward’s plan for new Latrobe office space
Faith Forward Ministries, a Latrobe nonprofit that offers counseling services, will have to wait until August to see if city officials will allow it to expand its offices to a residential section of Depot Street.
Martha Faust, who heads the faith-based organization’s board, told the city zoning hearing board Tuesday Faith Forward has outgrown its Main Street office on the first floor of the landmark 1890 Mozart Hall and wants to set up office space for herself and a caseworker in a donated three-story home at Depot and Ridge Avenue.
While the organization is growing its client base and forming partnerships with other agencies, the staff is “all crammed in” a renovated portion of the Mozart Hall, Faust said. “We don’t all have an office,” she said.
Part of Mozart Hall also is occupied by a consignment shop that raises money for the group.
Zoning panel member Stuart Albaugh’s motion to grant Faith Forward a variance for the commercial use in the residential zone died for lack of a second.
Solicitor David DeRose told the four-member panel it could take up the matter again at its next meeting on Aug. 20. If the board takes no action in 45 days, Faith Forward’s use of the space will be granted by default, he said.
Zoning board member Eric Cosby said his concerns about parking for the offices were satisfied when Faust mentioned that Faith Forward has been granted use of a neighboring church parking lot, but he said he was still considering the group’s proposal.
A garage on the property would be used to store a lawn mower, not for parking cars, Faust said.
Tom Horwat said parking continues to be an issue for him. “Who’s going to be liable, the church or (Faith Forward)?” he asked. “You’ve got a liability to leave somebody else park on your property.”
He said he believes there are other county agencies that provide services similar to what Faith Forward offers.
Zoning board Chairman James Miller abstained from voting since his brother, Michael Miller, testified as treasurer of the nonprofit.
Albaugh expressed support for Faith Forward’s intention to reoccupy and maintain the vacant home, which features a wraparound porch and turret.
He said the homes in that neighborhood include “some that are probably as old as the town itself. If you have someone who is willing to put in the time and effort to take care one of those homes, it would be a plus for the community, don’t you think?”
William Miller said Faith Forward has made plumbing improvements in the home and is considering electrical upgrades and possible installation of a new roof — work that he said could total between $100,000 and $150,000.
Ralph Jenko, who indicated he was speaking for himself and not as a city councilman, said he also supports reuse of older buildings but questioned conversion of a residential building for commercial use.
“It just makes me wonder why anyone would invest that amount of money simply to have two offices,” Jenko said. “There has to be more going on.”
Faust said only administrative offices are being proposed for now. She withdrew an additional request to conduct counseling at the Depot Street home.
She said plans for further use of the Depot Street home and continued renovation of Mozart Hall will depend on what the municipal building code and zoning will permit.
Faith Forward’s services include addiction recovery support, employment and housing assistance, life coaching, prison release support and family relationship counseling. Its Angel Arms program provides outpatient services for children born into addiction and their caregivers.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .