Right down their alley Council considers petition to open alley; neighbors protest

By on April 3, 2013

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

It seems one person’s alley may be another’s backyard.

A rare public hearing was held Monday night in Ephrata Borough Council chambers to consider a petition to officially open an alley between Ephrata Avenue and Penn Avenue from Second Street to Third Street. This neighborhood is just west of downtown, near Ephrata Community Hospital.

Currently the alley is grass with a small portion of paving at each end. Property lines for the alley run to the edge and not to the center line of the alley which was originally laid out in the 1930’s or 1940’s when the development was planned.

Under borough code, where a previously unopened alley goes unused and unopened for more than 21 years, residents can petition the borough to open it if the petition has at least 51 percent of the affected residents sign the petition. Fifteen lots with 14 separate owners border both sides of the proposed alley. Originally 12 of those property owners signed the petition in favor of the measure, however two have since dropped out.

Yet, while ten property owners signed the petition, those present at Monday night’s meeting were anything but supportive of the issue.

"I am not in favor it it," said Penn Avenue resident Wayne Zamby. "I feel the increase in traffic would be negative. All the hospital employees parking on Third Street would find this an easy access route. I’m also concerned about the interruption of water run off that is currently in place."

Council President Dale Hertzog recused himself from the proceedings since his property adjoins the proposed alley. In his stead, vice president Susan Rowe led the hearing with borough solicitor Robert McManus presenting the facts with assistance from the borough’s planning and engineering manager, Nancy Harris.

Harris confirmed that if the proposed opening were to ever come into existence, the cost of the project could be between $75,000 and $100,000 , which would be split 50/50 between the borough and homeowners. That would mean that each of the adjoining property owners would be required to split the cost of between $37,000 and $50,000. Harris also confirmed that the project would include storm water management construction to assure that run off from the newly paved area would not be a problem.

Josephine Bechtel has lived in the development since she and her husband built their home almost 50 years ago. Mrs. Bechtel is also not in favor of opening the alley.

"I see things in the alley at night (now) that are upsetting to me," said Bechtel. "I’m not sure why they want to open it. I don’t know of anyone who wants it. The only reason that they may want to open it is that some people don’t have garages but I have not heard anyone say they want to build a garage. I just feel it would be an awful burden."

Council member Vic Richard pointed out to those present that the hearing was strictly as a result of the petition submitted by homeowner. He stressed that the measure was in no way the result of borough council or borough administration action.

Council now has several possible courses of action with regard to the matter. It could consider a motion to dismiss the petition or it could vote to propose a new ordinance to open it. Even if council does vote to pass an ordinance opening the alleyway, residents opposed to the measure could file an appeal.

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments and questions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More BOROUGH, page A15

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