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Design opposition halts housing plan for Ligonier armory

| Saturday, June 16, 2012, 6:32 p.m.

The developers of a proposed housing plan for the former National Guard armory in Ligonier say they will "explore" other options after opposition from local officials who felt the architectural style wouldn't mesh with borough neighborhoods.

John Skiavo, executive director of the Economic Growth Connection in Greensburg, said it will consider other types of housing that might be suitable.

Meanwhile, he said, the armory may be razed "to keep the project moving ahead."

Victor Pensiero of Somerset had planned to build 16 patio-style homes, but planning commission officials said his plan was at odds with the style of existing homes.

"The primary issue is basically a push by the planning commission and some members of council for two-story residential homes that's more in line with the character of Ligonier," Skiavo said.

Patti Campbell, a member of the planning commission, said members are willing to listen to other ideas. She opposes Pensiero's proposal because of the architectural style of the patio homes.

Skiavo said a marketability study will be done to determine whether two-story homes will interest potential buyers.

"We're not sure they can sell," Skiavo said. "We may have to move ahead in another way. We may consider tearing the building down to keep the project moving ahead."

Pensiero was supposed to present his plans to the Ligonier planning commission last week but decided to delay the presentation because of members' opposition.

"If we ever get through the planning process, we will go for (requests for proposals) to see what kind of project we'd be interested in looking at," Skiavo said.

A second developer may be interested in developing the armory site.

Ligonier Mayor Ormand "Butch" Bellas said he met last week with Marc Anthony, president of Denison Investments LLC. Earlier this month, council rejected Anthony's proposal to build a $1.2 million housing project on West Church Street in Ligonier. By a 3-2 vote, council rejected his plan to build four houses, each costing $400,000.

Skiavo said he recently received a letter from Denison Investments expressing interest in the armory property.

"They called; they're interested," Skiavo said.

The Economic Growth Connection bid $600,000 for the armory, then offered to sell the property to Pensiero, the losing bidder, for $526,000, the same price that Pensiero bid.

Some Ligonier officials wanted the site developed as a public safety center that would house the police station, fire department and ambulance service.

Building a public safety center, however, may cost more than the borough can afford.

In search of financial support, they approached the R.K. Mellon Foundation, which awarded a $600,000 grant to the Economic Growth Connection.

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