Akron Council opposes developer in effort to protect rail trail land

By on August 18, 2011

By: MICHELLE REIFF Review Staff mreiff.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

Months after processing a request for rezoning the future site of multiple apartment buildings, Akron Borough Council discovered new information which could alter the course of progress for the developers.

In an executive session of council which followed the regular meeting Aug. 8, members met to discuss apparent problems and a potential matter of litigation for Latitude 17, who recently made a request for special exception and variances from the zoning hearing board for a property neighboring the rail trail in Ephrata, according to solicitor Kenelm Shirk.

The developer submitted plans this past winter to construct two apartment buildings on a 2.6-acre piece of land at 103-109 Fulton Street in Ephrata, adjacent to the rail trail. There are two houses currently on the property, one of which is going to remain. On July 11, council approved the rezoning of the property from R2 to R3, making it a higher density.

When council reviewed the plans for special exceptions and variances prior to going to the zoning board, they felt they were "stabbed in the back," according to Shirk. Latitude 17 included in the property a portion of the rail trail, owned not by the developers but by Akron Borough, in what Shirk feels was an attempt to take the borough’s public trail.

"We believe that has been an intentional act because they need the extra land to get what they want to build on the property," said Shirk. "One of their buildings would be in the middle of building setbacks if they didn’t own their land."

Shirk said borough manager Dan Guers spoke to a representative from Latitude 17 prior to the council meeting who admitted at that time that the developers intentionally included the trail in the plans. Additionally, the same representative expressed interest in meeting with borough officials to discuss the matter within the last several days.

Attempts to reach Latitude 17 for comment were unsuccessful.

Borough officials have voted unanimously to oppose the application. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 13, at which time Shirk will be present along with borough officials to testify against the petition. More AKRON, page A16

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