New Castle News

November 13, 2012

Planning panel OKs agency proposal

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle Planning Commission has recommended approval of a land development plan for Lawrence County Social Services.

Under the plan, the agency proposes to construct a 46-by-60-foot addition to its office building at 701 N. Mercer St. to maintain its vehicles. The property is in a C-1 general business district of the First Ward.

Although a motion to recommend approval was voted down, J. Christopher Miller suggested the board vote in favor with the recommendation the city solicitor issue an opinion. That motion was approved 4-0, with Stephen Farris abstaining. He is related to James Farris Jr., who is is director of corporate assets for Lawrence County Social Services and Allied Coordinated Transportation Services.

The recommendation now goes to city council, which will make the final determination.

The site is across from a parking lot — in an R-2 residential district — which the agency developed for its vehicles. The New Castle Zoning Hearing Board of Appeals granted a special exception in May for off-street parking.

It also granted a variance for the agency to increase the height of the fence around the lot up to eight feet. A height of three feet is permitted under the zoning ordinance.

At the planning commission meeting, Andrea Przybylski of Laurel Avenue contended neither the parking lot nor the service garage comply with the zoning ordinance.

She said service garages are permitted only in industrial districts and that the developer must show a hardship.

“No hardship has been shown,” she said.

Przybylski also noted the development is in the North Hill historic district and adjacent to single-family homes, adding it will affect “the character of the neighborhood.”

Farris Jr. said the agency has invested close to $200,000 “to make sure we have an aesthetic pleasing facility.”

Przybylski replied her comments have nothing to do with aesthetics, but rather the legal requirements.

City zoning officer James Farris said the addition to be constructed will be a garage to service the agency’s vehicles. Any commercial business is permitted to add on and service its own vehicles.

Przybylski said she still doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for the historic district.

Farris Jr., who is the zoning officer’s son, said the garage will be used for routine maintenance such as brake jobs and oil changes and washing of vehicles.

He said he “can guarantee that it will never turn into an industrial facility.”

There will be landscaping, he noted, adding the agency believes “strongly in being a good neighbor.”

Audrey Przybylski said nobody will want to move to the area as a result of the development.

“I guess I respectfully disagree with you,” Farris Jr. said. “I feel we’re improving the neighborhood.”

He said he would be happy to meet with the Przybylskis.

“I want everyone in the neighborhood to be satisfied.”

Farris Jr. said the total that will be invested for both the parking lot and the building addition will be at least $400,000.