Greencastle Borough Council's community development committee is going in a different direction than the mayor and planning commission proposed to resolve the zoning issue delaying the sale of the former Rescue Hose Co. Special Events Center.

The committee indicated 2-1 on Sept. 20 it wants to recommend to borough council that the fire company and the buyer pursue a hardship variance from the zoning hearing board rather than add an events center as a conditional use in the general residential R-2 zone.

Background 

The sale of the Special Events Center at 407 S. Washington St. to Denise and Paul Hutchison of Blue Heron Events and From Scratch Catering, who currently lease the property, was announced earlier this year. However, it is a nonconforming use in the general residential R-2 zone, but no documentation can be found indicating why it was allowed in the first place. The Rescue Hose Co. purchased the property in 1976 and the building was constructed in 1982.

The fire company was told to wait for a comprehensive rezoning initiative that would have changed the area of South Washington and South Carlisle streets from R-2 and industrial to mixed use, which would allow the facility.

It was announced at the Sept. 10 planning commission meeting that the rezoning has been delayed until next year, with the priority being placed on resolving the Special Events Center issue this year.

At the planning commission meeting Mayor Ben Thomas suggested adding a conditional use subsection to the R-2 section of the zoning code for a "multi-purpose venue — events center." He offered a definition as "an area or structure involving indoor or outdoor seating or space for meetings, conferences, conventions, trade shows, entertainment and performances, sporting events, assembly hall, including food service facilities."

At the end of the meeting, the planning commission agreed to pursue Thomas' proposal.

Community development committee 

"It's a nonconforming use and we can't establish how it was built there in the first place," Councilman Duane Kinzer, community development committee chairman, said at the Sept. 20 meeting. "We have erred and someone's gotta bend and I want to find the cheapest way to bend."

In a followup email, Kinzer wrote, "What is unique about this approach is that the borough has to do nothing. No costly changes to the zoning map plus publishing and approvals to a new zoning map. No suggested zoning changes to the south end of Greencastle, no down zoning to our industrial neighbors, Danco & PME, mainly to correct the fire company’s problem."

"It's a conundrum, it's been there so long," said Councilman Frank Webster, a member of the committee, who also favored the zoning hearing board variance approach.

Council President Steve Miller, sitting in for committee member Matthew Smith, continued to support the conditional use zoning change proposed by the mayor.

"Does the committee want to give options if it is not successful with the zoning hearing board?" asked Eden Ratliff, borough manager, who earlier in the meeting said borough staff and the solicitor agree with the mayor's proposal.

"I'd be open to conversation because we would still have a problem," Kinzer said.