Akron welcomes new council member

By on October 19, 2016

nathan-imhoffBoard has lengthy discussion on  proposed changes to the borough’s temporary sign  and  zoning ordinances

By Dick Wanner

With a unanimous voice vote, Akron borough council appointed Nathan Imhoff to fill the a vacant seat on the council at its regular meeting Oct. 10

The seat was vacated last month when then councilman Philip Benigno announced that he was moving out of the borough and thereby needed to resign.

Imhoff, who lives on South 10th Street, was sworn in by Akron Mayor John McBeth, immediately took his seat at the conference table for the remainder of the meeting.

About an hour of the two-hour meeting was devoted to discussion about proposed changes to the borough’s temporary sign ordinance, and to the zoning ordinance. Nearly all of the discussion revolved around Sean Molchany’s challenges to the language of the two ordinances.

Molchany  lives on Meadow View Street in the borough, is a former member of the Akron planning commission, and currently is the full-time township manager-secretary for Manheim Township, where he has been employed for more than two decades.

Calling himself a “zoning geek,” he held out 15 pages of handwritten notes and said he would be a while. His first objection was to the use of the 1995 edition of Webster’s dictionary as a clarifying resource for definitions. He felt more recent editions would be more up to date. Borough Solicitor K. L. Shirk opined that it would place an undue burden on borough governments to expect them to adapt to changes as new editions of dictionaries are published.

Molchany disputed the need for a change to the temporary sign ordinance. Shirk said the change was due in large measure to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared signs to be speech, and thereby protected under the first amendment. That ruling made regulating signs a lot more complex, he noted.

Molchany had questions about the definitions of domestic animal, convenience store, restaurant, night club, auto and several other terms. His motivation, he explained, was to have the ordinances written in everyday language that ordinary people could understand without calling the solicitor for guidance.

He also several times said that his hope was to make the borough manager’s task as uncomplicated as possible.

As Molchany came to the end of his 15 pages of notes, council members agreed to refer the ordinances back to the planning commission to consider the issues raised by Molchany and a few others who were at the meeting.

The condition of the newly resurfaced section of Main Street between Rothsville Road and Crestview Drive came in for some discussion. Brian Boyer, who lends his insights to many council meetings, pointed out that it is bumpy, an opinion voiced by others at the meeting. Council Vice President and streets committee chairman Justin Gehman said that he and other council members would be “keeping an eye” on Main Street. He also said the borough had a year to address any deficiencies with the contractor, Stewart and Tate that had done the resurfacing.

A Third Street resident reported that he had recently installed 1,000 feet of concrete sidewalk, with an impervious surface that was perfectly engineered to direct water into the borough’s stormwater collection system. He wondered if the borough had any plans in place to accommodate recent federal mandates with stricter stormwater guidelines. His concerns were noted.

Tom Murray, council finance chairman, reported that C. S. Stauffer & Sons had submitted the low bid of $7,081 — out of three bidders — to replace all the windows in the borough water plant. He said he expects the work to be completed before the end of the year.

Tammy Ruth, who chairs the parks, property and planning committee, said she had met with a local landscaper to discuss the planting of shade trees by the rail trail where it passes by Colonial Park. The landscaper also suggested an ambitious plan for an arboretum on the side of the trail closest to Colonial Drive, but council’s sentiment leaned towards the thought that it would be best to stick just with the shade trees.

Kay McEllhenney, a Lions Club member and strong proponent of Roland Park, expressed his wish that council would consider what he called necessary repair and maintenance work at the Roland Park before spending money on shade trees at Colonial Park.

Ephrata Rec Center Director Jim Summers made his annual pre-budget appeal to council for funds for the Rec. It is a matter that will be taken up at an open budget meeting, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at borough hall.

Another public meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at a place to be determined. That meeting will be held for the steering committee that is working on updating the borough’s 25-year-old comprehensive plan.

At the close of the meeting, Mayor John McBeth reported that the Mennonite Central Committee had had made a voluntary in-lieu-of-taxes payment of $7,200 to the borough. He asked council to authorize the borough secretary to send a letter of appreciation to the MCC, which council did just before adjourning.

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