Tyrone council decisions affect borough businesses

Tyrone Borough Council worked on issues last night that impacted two businesses in the borough and could affect others in the future.
Councilman Bill Fink followed up on his request for council to address its zoning ordinance as it relates to handicapped accessibility. Last week, Fink had expressed concerns over a decision made last month by Tyrone’s Zoning Hearing Board. A downtown business owner, Paul Mahoney, was denied a variance to allow him to install a handicapped-accessible ramp along 10th Street to the landing at the Puff-N-Snuff store at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave.
Solicitor Larry Clapper told Fink that council could not overturn the board’s decision. He did say Tyrone could join Mahoney in an appeal before the Blair County Court of Common Pleas. Clapper said council could also take a look at its zoning ordinance as it relates to the handicapped access issue. Council agreed to take a look at the issue and it was discussed again last night.
Clapper and other borough officials came up with suggested language that could be used to amend the ordinance. He noted the borough would be required to hold a hearing before any amendment to the zoning laws could be approved.
Fink presented information to council he obtained from the United States Department of Justice regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and city governments.
The information indicated that city governments sometimes fail to consider modifying their laws so as to avoid discrimination of those with disabilities. It noted that a law that appears to be neutral could adversely affect a disabled individual. The printout that Fink presented also talked about property setback issues as it relates to access for the disabled.
A suggestion was also put on the table that the borough could wait and look at the zoning ordinance as a whole later this year when it comes up as part of the comprehensive plan that is being worked on in Tyrone.
A consensus of council showed a split with Fink, Mayor Jim Kilmartin, council vice president Bill Latchford and Steve Hanzir favoring doing something about the handicapped access issue now. Hanzir said business owners seeking a variance on a handicapped access issue could be affected between now and when the borough looks at zoning as a whole. Code officer Lang had pointed out it costs $200 to go before the Zoning Hearing Board to seek a variance. The rest of council indicated they did not want to look at the handicapped issue now or wanted to wait and look at zoning as a whole. With no clear-cut consensus, no action was taken on the issue.
Council did take action on an issue that affected another downtown business owner, Domer Hamer. He had asked council to change a Streetscape design to allow an additional 16-foot for a driveway for a lot he owns next to his repair auto garage at the corner of 10th Street and Logan Avenue. In February, council granted the 16 feet to run along Logan Avenue in addition to the curb cut for his garage.
Later, council decided to rescind its decision after hearing from former Mayor Patricia Stoner at a March meeting. Before leaving office, Stoner agreed to act as a liaison for the borough on Streetscape, the motel concept and other economic development issues.
Stoner said allowing Hamer the lengthy driveway entrance was wrong. She said it would cause a danger to pedestrians and cyclists because of an extra wide entrance. Stoner suggested the borough remove the driveway from in front of the lot next to Hamer’s garage and only allow the driveway for the garage.
Hamer was informed of council’s decision by letter and told there is no driveway for the lot. Hamer was told council took action to retain the curb design there and allow the driveway for the garage. He was also told if he used the lot in the future as part of his business he could apply to the borough at that time to address “any curbing removal issues.”
In the letter, Borough Manager Sharon Dannaway told Hamer that council had authorized the change in the design to the Streetscape plans because council was under the belief that a driveway existed for the lot. She informed Hamer that it was brought to council’s attention that there is no driveway at the location.
Hamer appeared before council again and requested they grant the driveway or curb cut for the lot. At that point, council decided by consensus not to take further action on the issue. Hamer then decided to file for a permit with the borough indicating he wanted to make alterations to provide access by means of a driveway for the lot.
He got a letter back from the borough telling him the lot could not be dealt with through the permitting process because of council’s prior action.
Last night, Dannaway explained to council that Streetscape contractors had held off doing work in the area of Hamer’s property so council could revisit the issue. Council was told there would be no additional cost to switch the plans back to show the additional 16-foot driveway for the lot. Council members were also told that the borough could face legal action from Hamer if they did not grant him the additional 16 feet.
Councilman Jim Grazier expressed concern over granting the additional feet for the driveway. He indicated it could set a precedent that could affect any future Streetscape project.
Council voted 5 to 3 to allow the additional 16 feet for the lot with Fink, Latchford, Hanzir, Virgie Werner and Mayor Kilmartin voting in favor of the motion with Jennifer Bryan, Don Boytim and Grazier voting against it.