Passionate voices spoke at the Millersville Borough Council meeting last Tuesday.
The meeting was held at 7 p.m. on October 27 and had public hearings slotted for that evening. The first public hearing was to propose an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would change three properties from “residential” to “neighborhood commercial,” a classification which would be unique to those properties.
The three properties in question are owned by the Millersville International House, who wants to change the zoning classification to protect its interests, as well as the tax interests for the borough. Matthew Creme represented the International House and the properties as he explained the proposal to the board.
“We have been at this process for nearly two years,” he explained, “We now have a better proposal — to rezone the property.”
The property will become a part of the University campus, in part a student residential area, and in part a community space. “This is not for permission for construction,” Creme continued to explain, “It is to adopt an ordinance so the applicant can design the space use and propose it anew to the council. I want to satisfy the committee that it is good use planning for property — that it meets the needs for additional neighborhood activity.”
Questions were raised during this hearing by members of the community, both for and against the property in general. Robert McClane, a borough property owner, was upset by the proposal, “It does affect the community adversely and is against public interest. We make no effort to stop the project, but to rearrange the plan. It is a disaster for the community. This is a visual community. We have wide open space, and there are enough community areas that are not effectively used now.”
McClane then discussed a petition of 20 immediate property owners who are concerned about the property and he claimed the list will become larger in time. He then asked that discussion about the house be put on hold.
Scott A. Baily, president of the borough council, asked McClane to clarify about the list. “The list is 20 signatures. It is a no to more congestion on Manor Avenue. The area and county is becoming a visual blight with poor planning. The location is the problem,” McClane responded.
June Heller then spoke, “I have been a neighbor of the International House since 1964. I don’t know the particulars of the plans, but they have been wonderful neighbors and never had any problems. I support the service they are giving.”
Baily then broke in again and explained, “This ordinance is not to approve a plan. No plan exists. The move is to change the ordinance to a mixed layer of planning. No council member is planning or supports a blight on the community. There is no plan, and if there is a plan, there is a bigger and different process to go through.
Vice President Jack W. Gardner then asked what kind of school the house will be, saying that it can be any kind of school, including, “a terror school.” Creme responded that if Gardner would, “Look at the proposal in context, that he could figure it out. We made a very narrow definition of what the school is supposed to be so nothing else can be slotted into the definition.”
Richard Cordell, a property owner located right behind the property in question, asked about future owners and their intentions, “The area is zoned historic, but when you said, current and any future owners, is there a way to restrict it so that McDonald’s can’t come in and buy up the place?”
Bailey responded, “I’m enough of a realist to know that we can’t predict the future. We have no way to say who will own the property in the future and they want to keep it in their hands. We are aware that the streetscape is a critical component. It will not become zoned commercial. It will be its own category.”
Creme added clarification to this question, “The property will never be subdivided. The plans in place give no ability to sell off parts or pieces of taxable portions.”
Steve Giverson then stood up and spoke his concerns about the property, “Traffic goes by our house to the college and I am concerned about the traffic increase. Also, after 9/11, the world has changed and we are concerned that it is an international house. What guarantees do we have that terrorists will not be admitted?”
One of the members of the International House spoke on this issue, “Applicants must have a student visa and it is extremely hard to get one now. That process is all cleared by the federal government. As far as guarantees go, we can’t guarantee anything, but trust the federal government to make sure that no terrorists get through the Visa system.”
The borough committee then voted unanimously to end discussion about this matter and end the first public hearing.
Other items covered at the meeting included Mayor Richard M. Moriarty’s report.
He said, “Every year for the past several years, we have received notice of pornography awareness campaign. It is a white ribbon campaign designed to raise awareness of the prevalence of pornography in society in the United States. We use the white ribbon to stand for decency. This will be the 22nd consecutive year that Lancaster has supported this movement and recognized the damaging effects of pornography in society.”
After this announcement, an award was presented to Jim Eshleman. He received the “Outstanding Service Award,” which was presented by the mayor, in acknowledgment and recognition of outstanding community service through the John Herr’s Villiage Market, in support of their worthwhile non-profit organization and frequent contributions of property for organizations to use for events. The mayor said, “I consider the community fortunate to have this business.”
Eshlemen was a fire chief, and at one point, helped the mayor drive through a snow storm. In response, Eshlemen said, “Thank you very much, our family tries our best.”
New officer Patrick Rudisill was present at the meeting and personally thanked and shook the hands of the council members for accepting him to be a new Millersville Borough police officer. This led into the monthly police report, which mentioned that calls for services were the lowest they had in three years for this time of year. Arrests were also low, as well as high clearances for this time of year.
Police Chief Rochat continued his report saying that in the event of a swine flu outbreak in the department, they will make sure the borough and campus police get coverage.
He also mentioned his support for the New York Yankees and said, “In the event that the unfortunate happens and the Phillies win the World Series, we will be prepared for what happens, unlike what happened last year.”
The Finance Committee presented the proposed operating budget for the borough for the month, and mentioned that sewer services will remain the same price. Solid waste removal will go up by more than $11 because of increase fuel and labor costs, as well as the cost to maintain the landfill. Council member Arnold explained, “The economy is down, so revenue is down, which makes prices increase.”
Prices for municipality electricity will go up as well, due to the borough savings account being hit with investment problems, but costs will be kept as low as possible. Details will be made available at the end of the November meeting when the council will have more details and charts to discuss and display.