Disability Options Network set to host luncheon

Disability Options Network's (DON) request for a lot consolation for their neighborhood revitalization project was denied last month, but the organization will resubmit the plan at Tuesday's  New Castle City Council's caucus meeting.

DON, a nonprofit that focuses on people with disabilities living independently, submitted a lot consolation request for their Court Street Project. The project has been revitalizing declining neighborhoods, such as the Lower East Side, through demolition and rehabilitation of homes over the past two years.

Before a council caucus meeting on Oct. 22, a representative from DON was invited to appear before council in a public hearing to present reasons for the request. No one from DON attended the hearing.

"(DON) was given the opportunity to present evidence," Jason Medure, the city's solicitor, said during the public hearing. "They haven’t presented any evidence, so council has the ability to vote it down on Thursday (Oct. 24)."

"Jason, the law is the law,” Councilman Tim Fulkerson said during the caucus meeting. "I mean we ask people to come. We ask them to explain what they’re doing, how they’re doing it. Not unless they (DON) just think we’re all in agreement without any explanation."

Although, there is no ordinance mandating anyone from attending a public hearing, the hearing is an opportunity for the applicant to explain the reasons for their request to council.

Medure said each application, including lot consolation, is treated on an individual basis. 

"They have to go through the process all over again," Medure said during caucus. 

DON's request was denied two days later at the council's voting meeting by a 3 to 0 vote. Fulkerson and Councilman Richard Beshero were absent.

When the motion was made for the approval or denial of the request, Councilman Tom Smith asked Medure if council had to deny it.

“You’re not obligated to deny it, but the fact is, it would be difficult for you to approve without having any statement at the public hearing to support why they’re asking for the lot consolidation in the first place,” Medure said.

Although there was some confusion on whether council meant to table the request instead of deny it, council first voted to remove the request from the table and then voted to deny the request.

Stephanie Dean, the city's business administrator and chief financial officer, confirmed the request was denied.

Phil Berezniak, administrator of community resources for DON, will be presenting the lot consolation plan to council during Tuesday's caucus meeting.

DON's home revitalization project stemmed from the Building New Castles and Blueprint Communities initiatives.

Blueprint, who chose the Lower East Side, targets three areas of New Castle: downtown revitalization, the Riverwalk Trail and revitalization of neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown.

"We wanted to make a couple of homes accessible and provide more housing choices for individuals with disabilities," said Court Hower, DON's executive vice president of community resources and development, last month about why DON became involved in the project. 



Maria Basileo is a news reporter. She covers Laurel and Shenango school boards and municipal government.

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