Rail trail chugging along in Akron Cabinet-maker can resume business

By on January 30, 2013

By: JAMES McGINNIS Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Akron Borough Council heard a detailed description of plans for its section of the Warwick-Ephrata rail trail, slated to be built this summer.

Hugh Cadzow of the ELA engineering firm of Lititz gave a presentation showing an asphalt-paved multi-use trail. It continues southwest on an abandoned section of the former Reading-Columbia railroad line from the current southern terminus of the Ephrata Linear Park, just north of Parkview Heights Road. It crosses a small section of Ephrata Township before entering Akron just west of the Route 272 bridge, which PennDOT plans to replace with a smaller, concrete culvert this spring.

Once in the borough, the trail will continue following the old railroad grade, turning in a more westerly direction and extend to Main Street. It will connect via a wooden staircase constructed by a local Boy Scout as part of his Eagle project in 2011. Later phases of construction will extend the trail further west to the Warwick Township municipal campus, where it will connect with the Lititz-Warwick trailway, which extends to the east end of Lititz.

Cadzow informed borough officials that Akron’s section of the trail will closely resemble the Ephrata Linear Park. The trail will be 10-feet wide, lined with benches and feature shoebox lights every 120 feet. It will be mostly level, with a two-percent grade in most locations, going as high as four percent just east of Fulton Street. The trail is suitable for bicycles, baby strollers, inline skates and other forms of non-motorized transportation.

Although Akron mayor John McBeth favored placing solar-powered lights on the trail, Cadzow said that LED lamps would be more appropriate.

"Some of the solar lights out there are ugly as sin," Cadzow explained. "They are very modernistic and stick out from the aesthetics of most trails."

McBeth responded by noting that sections of the Thun Trail in West Reading utilizes solar lighting, and officials in Conoy Township recently applied for a grant to line their section of the Northwest River Trail with solar lamps, but then said he would support LEDs if the council decided to choose this option.

Reber responded to a resident’s question about security concerns by noting that the trail will be continually patrolled.

"The police will have a presence," he said. "They will ride bicycles and the trail will be well-lit. Security will be a priority."

Cadzow noted that the plans are still preliminary and have not been finalized. Guers said that he expects an agreement with Ephrata Township over the section of trail between Ephrata and Akron to be formalized later this winter and for the project to be bid out to contractors in the spring. Construction will start following PennDOT’s completion of the culvert on Route 272, anticipated to occur in June.

Back in Business

An Akron cabinet-making business got the OK to get back to work.

Borough council unanimously voted to allow LMS Woodcraft LLC to resume their operations at 111-113 Front St., effective immediately. The decision comes two weeks after the borough’s zoning officer sent the business owners, Luke and Faith Stauffer, a letter ordering them to cease and desist operations in response to a complaint filed by an unnamed resident who pointed out that it was in violation of the town’s zoning code.

The code stipulates that the Stauffers and surrounding properties are zoned R1, meaning that only single-family residential dwellings can be built there. A commercial operation would violate this usage.

Luke Stauffer informed the council at their Jan. 14 meeting that they had followed correct procedure when they applied for a permit to build the garage that later became their cabinet shop in 1987, and again in 1991 when LMS Woodcraft was officially established. He displayed a borough-issued document from 1991 stating that the building was a "cabinet shop."

"This is public record," Luke said.

Faith Stauffer backed her husband’s assertions that they had followed proper procedure back when they constructed the building and established the business more than two decades ago. "Why is this a question?" she asked council. "We did everything required at the time."

Most — if not all — of the approximately 20 residents who attended the meeting also voiced support for the Stauffers. Robert Landis, who lives on nearby Wolf Road, accused the borough of unfairly scapegoating the Stauffers since a controversy began over a new apartment complex at the corner of Front and Fulton streets last fall.

"This has turned into a witch hunt," he said. "They (the Stauffers) are honest, hard-working people. Leave them alone!"

"Luke has gotten Akron on the map and has business in several states," another nearby resident, Sue Martin, concurred. "I have lived on Wolf Road for a long time and it has been a wonderful neighborhood, and the Stauffers contribute to that."

"However, since the apartments have gone in, some of the older residents have left and you have motorists speeding down the street," Martin added. "Why are you picking on the Stauffers when you have worse problems in the area?"

Council president Terry Reber responded by pointing out that the borough sent the letter in response to a complaint filed by a resident in November, which stated that the Stauffers were operating a business in an R1-zoned region. "It is not council’s objective to deny anyone their livelihood, but we do have an obligation to the individual who filed a complaint with the police as well," he explained.

Although borough solicitor Kenelm Shirk noted that the zoning code has been in effect in the borough since 1963 and manager Dan Guers said that the Stauffers’ property has always been zoned R1, the council unanimously agreed to cancel the cease and desist letter and allowed the Stauffers to resume their business. The decision was met with applause from attendees and the Stauffers personally thanked and shook hands with each councilman.

Stauffer also lightly joked after the decision was made.

"So, I’ll have to go to work tomorrow?" he said. More AKRON, page A6

About Ephrata Review