Wellsboro OKs hospital’s plan for parking lot

WELLSBORO – A parking lot for Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital soon may be located where the St. Peter’s Catholic Church rectory now sits.

The rectory, which houses Father John Chmil, will be torn down and a 28-space paved parking lot will be put in if the hospital’s application for an increase in allowable pavement is approved by the zoning hearing board, said borough manager Daniel Strausser.

Council held a conditional-use public hearing just prior to its regular meeting last week on the hospital’s request to remove the rectory building at 38 Central Ave. to make room for the lot, which it says it needs for its recently added expanded emergency department.

The hearing ended in a vote of council in favor, Strausser said.

Council President Joan Hart, and members Mike Wood and John Sticklin all voted against it, and members Rudy Scharf, John Wheeler and Terry Bryant voted in favor, leaving it to Mayor Jim Daugherty to break the tie, which he did by voting in favor, Strausser said.

“There was some public comment both against and in favor of the project,” he added.

The hospital now will have to overcome one last hurdle before it can proceed, Strausser said.

“They want to put a bigger parking lot than is allowed. Only 45 percent impervious surface material is allowed and they want to make it 75 percent, so their next step is to apply for a zoning variance before the zoning hearing board,” he said.

The hospital proposes making a swap for a house it owns at 47 Central Ave., almost directly across the street from the church, Strausser said, and the church has said it is willing to make the trade.

In other business last week, council let bids on its new borough offices out, with bid opening set for March 11 at 2 p.m. The bids will be presented to council during that evening’s regular meeting, Strausser said.

AJH Design, of Elmira Heights, N.Y., has been hired to do the architectural design at a cost of $8,600, he added.

Once the bids come in, Strausser said, council will know how much the work on 14 Crafton St. will cost. If work starts immediately, the new offices should be ready by sometime in July.

The new offices are sorely needed to replace just 900 square feet inside the John E. Dugan Municipal Building, where they now are located, he said.

“There will be a new council room, a much bigger storage area, four offices, a conference room and restrooms,” Strausser said.

The new rooms will provide nearly 3,000 square feet of space, he added.

Borough police will take over the rooms vacated in the municipal building.

A state liquor store located next to the new offices will stay where it is, Strausser said.

That could change if the governor sells all the state liquor stores, as he has proposed doing, he added.

Council also:

Approved applying for grants for a feasibility study to either renovate or replace the Packer Park swimming pool, which is more than 40 years old and leaks. It also is not ADA compliant, Strausser said.

Ground water leaks into the poll and, in summer when full, water leaks out.

Approved applying for a grant to do a master plan for Woodland Park, which has had renovations through the years, but never a master plan. The plan could make the over 10 acre park more eligible for grant funding.

Approved putting what’s known as the approximately one-acre “quarry property” on West Water Street up for sale. It is out for bid to the highest bidder, Strausser said. Bid opening for that property will be held March 11 at 2 p.m.