New Castle seal

New Castle seal

A North Hill couple and their neighbors will have to wait a little longer to see if the city will allow what they describe as a take-out restaurant to locate on their street, which is zoned residential.

New Castle City Council set a public hearing on the matter for 5:30 p.m. May 27, prior to its regular meeting. At issue is a conditional use requested by Dawnelle and Donnell Washington to create a home-based, take-out food business at their home at 319 E. Edgewood Ave.

Last month, the city’s planning commission approved the request by a 2-1 vote. However, the commission is only an advisory board; any final determination must be made by city council.

Council had the issue on its agenda at its Tuesday night work session in order to schedule the public hearing. However, neighbors Greg and Nancy Mohr, of 321 E. Edgewood Ave., used the public comment period to express their opposition to the plan.

Reading from the city’s code ordinances, Greg Mohr cited a section pertaining to home businesses that states “a home occupation shall not be interpreted to include, for instance, commercial stables and kennels, restaurants or repair services.”

“They’ve placed a metal outbuilding in their driveway and turned that into a restaurant, basically,” he said. “They have a pick-up window. No where in the code is there room for that, not under permitted uses or even conditional uses.

“That’s what the code says, so I don’t see how they can do this. I’d like to see the council act on that.

Mohr, who also had provided council with a petition signed by other residents in the neighborhood, said he and his neighbors are concerned about excess traffic, parking and the narrowness of the street.

Nancy Mohr, Greg’s wife, added concerns about the potential impact on property values, as well as privacy issues.

“When they go to the order window, they’re going to be looking in our dining room window at us,” she said. “I don’t know if we’re going to have to come to city council for a 10-foot fence if that would happen.”

Council president Tom Smith advised the Mohrs that council’s intent at its caucus meeting was to schedule a public meeting, at which time all those opposing or supporting the plan may present their thoughts.

Councilman Tim Fulkerson advised Mohr that if he and his neighbors are really serious about their concerns, that they show up in numbers at that public hearing.

“Everyone who signed that petition should be here at that public meeting to voice their opinion,” he said. “If nobody shows up, then everyone’s going to say, ‘Well, the neighbors don’t give a hoot.’

Councilwoman MaryAnne Gavrile echoed Fulkerson’s thoughts, saying that she has attended many zoning and planning commission meetings as a protester.

“I’ve come before city council as a protester because my thoughts are, you have to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood,” she said. “When I found there were things in my neighborhood that were coming before this board or the other commissions, I felt it was my right to come and protest it.

“I was nervous at times because sometimes it may look like you’re the only one who’s doing something. And sometimes you wonder if you’re starting a neighborhood war. So I understand your feelings, but please come when we schedule this hearing because it’s important that we hear what everybody says.”

Council also scheduled public hearings on three other recommendations of conditional use requests made last month by the planning commission for 5:30 p.m. June 8. These include: a request by DON Enterprises to combine four lots in the Lower East Side into two lots for the purpose of building two new homes; another request by DON to create a space to make vodka, gin and bourbon, as well as tasting room, in the former train station and Clark Studios at 334 E. Washington St.; and separate plans to create games of skill businesses, by Matthew Blakely at 341 E. Washington St. in the former Chica’s Pizza location, and by Justin Sheldone and Patsy DeFrank at 100 E. Reynolds St. in the Plaza South. 

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Dan Irwin is currently a reporter and page designer. He was most recently the editor. He started with The News in 1978 and spent 10 years as a sports writer. He's a '78 Slippery Rock University graduate with a B.A. in English.

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