Lycoming College will have to wait to demolish three residential properties it owns on Union Avenue.
City Council voted 4-2 Thursday, with one abstention, to table the action to vote on demolition requests for 91, 97 and 81 Union Ave.
An early zoning hearing board rejection of a variance to expand its parking and create a more suitable entrance to the Robert Shangraw Athletic Complex, where the college football, soccer and lacrosse teams play has brought the issue before council.
City Council listens on Thursday to Dr. Sue Gaylor, of Lycoming College, (not visible) as she discusses the college’s proposal to raze three houses. Council tabled the issue.
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he views the impasse as a larger tax reform that must be dealt with by the state Legislature.
"Every time we take down property, someone else who lives in the city has to make it up," he said. "Tax reform in Harrisburg is needed."
Solicitor Norm Lubin said neither he nor assistant solicitor J. David Smith could find any other municipalities able to prevent demolition outside of historic districts or historic structures.
Dr. Sue Gaylor, representing the college, said the college would like to use a donor's gift to expand parking, but since that isn't possible it will pursue demolition and seeding the ground to make a green space.
She said neighbors near those houses are concerned about them being left vacant.
Councilwoman Bonnie Katz said she met neighbors of the stadium who expressed how they want to see improved communications.
She said they expressed reservations about parking during games and practice, and bus engines running for hours during games and emitting fumes in front of their homes.
"Why can't buses stay down at the college?" Katz asked on behalf of the neighbors. "Why can't there be shuttle buses?"
Another concern, Katz said, was that teams practice as early as 6:30 a.m. on Sundays and some of the student-athletes play loud music and use foul language on the field.
Katz also observed how narrow Huffman Street is and noticed vehicles parked on lawns with little room for emergency vehicles.
"Two of the homes are gorgeous," she said, "one of them is built in Craftsman style."
In response, Gaylor said the college is trying to improve its relations with neighbors. She said the college doesn't have the luxury of expansive parking such as Penn State's main campus does. Plans also are in the works for students to approach residents and offer to volunteer to rake yards or clean up the areas that are impacted by their activity.
Councilwoman Liz Miele, chairwoman of an ad hoc committee established to explore potential changes to the city demolition ordinance, said it would be best to hold off on the demolition vote until the college can define what its plans are for the green space.
Councilman Randall J. Allison said the council must look at privacy rights but also realize the city has limited space to build on such as neighboring municipalities.
"It's reaching critical mass where it's going to be hard to recover from," Allison said of razing buildings and removing them from the tax rolls.
Council President Bill Hall said anyone who lives near a college should expect to deal with some parking issues.
"Trying to force government to try to make somebody else fix it doesn't seem right," Hall said.