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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

a few more thoughts on the YMCA request for a zoning change

COMMERCIAL USE

An argument was made last night that the buildings acquired and razed by the YMCA were already being used for commercial purposes.  Further, the YMCA argues that across North Market in the same location there are commercial buildings - church, cemetery, dentist, insurance agent, attorney - and so they ask why object to re-zoning this section of town as commercial.

Well, that's just an argument for commercial creep and encroachment.  Every residential lot abutting a commercial parcel is at risk with this argument.

The decision before Ligonier Borough Council is about protecting residential space.  This isn't about whether the buildings that were torn down were beautiful or not.  This is about changing the use of the underlying land and fostering a creeping loss of protected residential zones.

LOW IMPACT COMMERCIAL USE VERSUS HIGH IMPACT COMMERCIAL USE

The church, cemetery, dentist, insurance agent and attorney on North Market have a low impact commercial presence. The church and cemetery are old and lovely. The dentist, insurance and law offices retain their residential look, have low traffic and low light impact at night.

Contrast that low impact with the high impact of a new YMCA facility with a parking lot.  If you have a hard time imagining what that might look like, go to Somerset Trust on West Main or the Excela EMS station on North Market. Try to remember what these spots looked like at night before the lights went on and then imagine living next to them now that the evening sky is obscured by the bright security lighting.

NON-PROFIT CREEP AND LOSS OF TAX REVENUE

YMCA expansion and acquisition has cost Ligonier five structures that generated tax revenue. As the YMCA expands, it adds services that compete with for profit businesses. The YMCA gobbles up tax producing real estate and drives away tax paying businesses that can't compete.  In addition, the YMCA doesn't even want to support the community by paying for parking.  Ligonier Borough has an underused municipal parking lot across the street from the YMCA.  Ligonier Borough sells parking permits, which if purchased by the YMCA for their employees would support the municipal services enjoyed by the YMCA and their patrons and ALSO protect their employees from parking fines.

YMCA - How about a bit of support for the Ligonier Borough community?  At least pay your way by paying for parking. Support our police and sidewalks and playgrounds and street lights and parks. You sit on Ligonier Borough land. Pay your way.

TRAFFIC

YMCA - The engineer who created the traffic study observed YMCA patrons who park for 30 minutes in the drop off zone. Those of us who drive on West Church Street during drop off and pick up periods know that these cars aren't always orderly.  Before recent improvements, the road was clogged with cars disregarding the needs of others to pass through. The curb cut improvement on West Church Street has resolved the drop off situation.  It was a good fix.  Traffic flow is normal now.

Don't mess up our lives by taking away Wellington Alley and forcing a new traffic pattern onto an already crowded West Vincent Street. You won't be able to fix that with a curb cut.  You won't be able to prohibit parking on a street where residents have no other parking options. Your plans will route YMCA patrons onto an already clogged and congested school bus route.  The engineer who created the traffic study said he did not spend time in observation of the traffic flow of West Vincent Street.  That seems crazy to me because West Vincent Street will be the exit point for newly re-routed traffic.

What exactly will happen on West Vincent Street when normal resident and worker traffic already mixed with school bus traffic increases because of the loss of Wellington Alley and then add to that parents coming from the YMCA out of Elm Alley and turning left or right. When there are no more open spaces for cars to take turns, you will have grid lock. Grid lock will back up onto North Market. Grid lock will back up into the YMCA and onto North Fairfield and onto West Church Street. Grid lock will back up down West Vincent and into the lower parts of town.  You will have Fort Ligonier Days style traffic every morning and you won't have the option of prohibiting parking on West Vincent or making it a one way street - or will you?  Is that the next big change to be forced upon this residential neighborhood?