Akron council will discuss Gate House proposal May 22

By on May 17, 2017

A Gate House proposal to transform the Boxwood Inn B&B into a residential treatment facility for recovering drug and alcohol patients was the lead topic at the Akron Borough Council meeting May 8.

Attorney James Welch asked council to accept a petition to propose a change to the borough’s zoning ordinance that would allow such a treatment facility in an R1 district.

In accepting the petition, Welch noted council would not be recommending either for or against the Gate House proposal. They would merely be passing the proposed change along to the Akron and county planning commissions for their consideration. Gate House officials would then work with the planning commissions to craft language they hoped would meet with council’s approval.

That would be a lengthy process, and Welch expressed the hope that council would forward the petition to the borough planning commission in time for their next regular meeting.

Councilman Tom Murray moved to accept the petition, but recommended holding off on forwarding it to the planning commission. He noted this was the first time council had seen the petition. He noted further there were only four of the seven council members present. While the four members present were a quorum, he felt uncomfortable handing the petition over to the planning commission without the absent members seeing it first.

The four members present voted to accept the petition, but said they would consider it further at a May 22 committee meeting. Council vice-president Justin Gehman, filling in for absent president John Williamson, said he shared Murray’s concerns and urged Gate House representatives to attend the May 22 public committee meeting. Committee meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. and are held in borough hall.

That whole process took about eight minutes, at which point Welch thanked council for its consideration and rose to leave the room. He was accompanied by Scott Althouse, who is the Gate House director of development and administration. On their way out, Welch addressed the attending citizens, saying he and Althouse would remain in the lobby for a few minutes to answer any questions.

About half the people in the room got up to go to the lobby.

Council returned to its agenda for the evening. A few minutes later, Donald Reese, a Miller Road resident, a member of the borough’s civil service commission and a frequent presence at council meetings, posed a question to council — “Why are all those people out there talking about this when they could be in here telling you about their concerns?”

Reese said he thought it was clever of the Gate House people to arrange to listen to any possibly negative comments out of council’s earshot.

There was a lot of head nodding and thoughtful looks by the four council members present. Murray noted his agreement with Reese and expressed the hope people in the lobby would return with their thoughts. Council members then returned to their regular agenda, completing most of their business in about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, Reese had gone out to the lobby to tell his fellow Akronites they were welcome to return to the meeting to express any concerns they had shared with the Gate House representatives to also share them with council.

The citizens returned but Welch and Althouse did not.

The returnees, most of whom are near neighbors to the Boxwood Inn, told council they do not like the thought of having a group of 24 recovering male addicts in the midst of their homes, their children, their wives and daughters and the nearby day care center and elementary school.

Several council members expressed their appreciation for the residents’ return to the meeting, and urged them to attend council’s May 22 meeting which begins at 6:30 p.m. in borough hall. They expect the Gate House request to be an important issue at that meeting.

In other business, finance chairman Tom Murray Sr. reported the borough’s total debt load at the moment includes $585,395 outstanding for the rail trail and roof repair projects. The interest rate on the loan is 2.8 percent. There’s also an outstanding debt for the new police cruiser of $9,666 at 3.74 percent. Both are payable out of the borough’s general fund. An outstanding debt of $262,880 at 4.7 percent is for a nitrate removal system at the water works. That debt is serviced entirely from water bill receipts.

Borough Manager Sue Davidson said she and other borough representatives would be touring the Colonial Drive park to talk about the planned, but still unfunded, handicap-accessible path from Colonial Drive, through the park and ending at the rail trail. A Go Fund Me account set up for the purpose of paying for the path has so far raised about $1,000 of its $10,000 goal.

Councilwoman Monica Hersh reported Akron Night at the Barnstormers has been set for Friday, June 16. Game time is 6:30 p.m., the Stormers will be trying to pluck the Long Island Ducks, and there will be fireworks after the game. Tickets are $8 per person, and are available at Weiser’s Market, Royer’s Pharmacy, and borough hall.

Akron Lions Club member Jeff Sherk said Akron Day in the Park is on for Sunday, June 10, at Roland park. He added that the Lions are prepared for the event and that the club did not anticipate needing much help from borough staff.

Councilwoman Tammy Ruth, who chairs the steering committee working on updating the borough’s comprehensive plan, said the committee had reviewed results from the recently completed survey of Akron residents. She said 458 survey forms, or about 25 percent had been returned. The next steering committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Akron Fire Hall. The public is invited to attend the open meetings, Ruth said, and encouraged all with an interest to attend.

Council approved the hiring of Jesse Whiteman for a temporary summer helper, and approved the appointment of retired Akron police officer Dale Putt to a part-time meter reader position.

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