No new taxes in Akron Council also discusses rail-trail project
By: JAMES McGINNIS Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
Akron officials do not anticipate raising taxes.
Councilman Terry Reber announced at the borough meeting earlier this month that the preliminary draft of the borough’s 2013 budget includes $2,419,842 in revenue and expenditures. Taxes are expected to remain at their current rates due to an increase in revenue from the earned income tax.
"The good news is that there are no tax increases or rate hikes in the new budget," Reber said. "We initially didn’t know what the earned income tax revenue would be, but we now have a figure of $20,000 that will be added to the budget.
The final draft of the budget is expected to be passed in December.
Controversy over a recent decision by the borough’s zoning hearing board dominated the discussion at the meeting.
A group of about 17 residents attended the meeting to voice objections to a decision by the zoning hearing board in October to allow a resident who lives at 118 Front St. to construct an addition to his home, which would be located on an adjacent property at 111 Front St.
Several of the attending residents claimed that the addition would be turned into an apartment that would be rented to tenants. They said that this would violate the property’s existing R1 zoning, which only allows that construction of single-family dwellings.
"He wants to build a 2-unit apartment building in an R1 zone," resident Steve Caminouf, who rents a garage at 113 Front St., claimed.
"It seems that the zoning board is willing to break or bend the rules if you have money or connections," he added. "We already have enough apartments around here."
Resident Luke Stauffer, who said he lives "nearby," voiced concerns that new high-density housing could negate any improvements to the area that the proposed Lititz-Warwick Rail Trail could bring. The borough plans to construct the first section of this trail, which will eventually extend from the Warwick Township Municipal campus east of Lititz to the south end of Ephrata, next summer. Part of the trail will parallel Front Street between Fulton and Main streets.
"We have a nice rails to trails project going in off Front Street, then you drop this on us!" Stauffer said. "Do you want our area to look like the downtown?"
Mayor John McBeth agreed that the zoning hearing board should clarify its decision. He also claimed that a new apartment complex being constructed nearby, off Fulton Street, was built on land that has far more stone and asphalt than the 42 percent allowed by the borough ordinance regulating impervious surfaces.
"The zoning hearing board said that the property was within the 42 percent requirement, but I think it’s over 60 percent impervious surface," McBeth said.
The council agreed to appeal the zoning hearing board’s decision to approve the proposed addition following a brief executive session. Councilman Thomas Murray said that he could not guarantee that the borough would succeed, but promised that they "would look into the issues."
"Our appealing of the decision will not reverse it," Murray explained. "We do not know what the outcome will be, but we will take a swing at it."
Councilman John Taylor noted that he and borough manager Dan Guers had recently studied the Ephrata Linear Park in Ephrata and the Lititz-Warwick Rail Trail in Warwick Township to get pointers on what amenities to provide on Akron’s section of the Warwick-Ephrata Rail Trail, which will connect those other two trails when completed.
"We are about a year behind schedule," Taylor explained. "PennDOT was adamant about removing the Route 272 bridge over the abandoned Reading Railroad line and building a concrete culvert for the trail before we did any work of our own."
He noted that PennDOT has begun work to demolish the bridge and will replace it with a concrete culvert tunnel similar to the one that carries the Warwick Township Linear Park and Santo Domingo Creek under Newport Road north of Lititz.
Taylor also said that the trail is anticipated to most closely resemble the Ephrata Linear Park, which it will adjoin to the northeast.
"We may not use the same benches or lighting," he said, "but our trail will most closely resemble Ephrata’s."
The council also agreed to repaint yellow lines on curbs in "no parking" zones after several residents complained that they were fading. More AKRON, page A16