Pottstown Zoning Board Approves Variance For iCreate Cafe

iCreate Zoning Supporters

Front row: Left, Peter Dolan, Esquire, Right, Ashraf Khalil

POTTSTOWN, PA – Wednesday evening the Pottstown Zoning Board heard testimony from iCreate Cafe owner, Ashraf Khalil, regarding his request for a zoning variance to operate a cafe and computer training center at 130 King Street, Pottstown. The neighborhood is zoned TTN or Traditional Town Neighborhood.  After receiving a violation notice from the Pottstown Codes Department in August, a hearing was originally scheduled for September 17th.  However, Mr. Khalil’s attorney, Peter Dolan, requested a continuance to adequately prepare his case. The hearing was rescheduled for October 15th.

A large group of supporters gathered in the 3rd floor council chambers to hear the evidence be presented. After Mr. Khalil’s sworn testimony and some clarification questions from the board, the meeting was opened to public comment. More than a dozen people were allowed to speak in favor of iCreate Cafe and Mr. Khalil.

After the public testimony, the board met in Executive Session.  After a short recess, the board returned to the council chamber and rendered their verdict for Mr. Khalil and iCreate Cafe by allowing the variance.

First of all, we thank the Pottstown Zoning Board for being open-minded and seeing the value of this niche market small business that draws customers from all over the Delaware Valley and beyond.   Based on the passionate testimony made during the public comments, it’s obvious this is a very special place.

Secondly, we feel now that Pottstown is getting serious about economic development and tourism (by developing a Tourism District and leveraging all the attractions that surround Memorial Park and the Western Gateway) having a highly rated locally owned restaurant within walking distance is a win-win.  If you want people to come to Pottstown and “spend the day” they will need to eat.  They are not going to want fast food or chain restaurants.  They are going to want something they cannot get at home.  iCreate Cafe is the total package when it comes to something you cannot get just anywhere.  From the unique decor to the vegan/vegetarian food with a Middle Eastern flair, it’s far from ordinary.  Add a chef/owner with the gift of hospitality and you have a winning trifecta.

This was a great victory for small business and for Pottstown.  If Pottstown could attract more unique restaurants like iCreate and some funky boutiques so people could do some shopping while they are visiting, you would have yourself a destination.

Congratulations to Ashraf Khalil and iCreate Cafe.  We wish you much success.

Website: http://www.icreatecafe.org/

Toilet, Debris Litter Luzerne County-Owned Lot In Hazleton

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HAZLETON, PA — Barry Postupack tried to buy the litter-strewn lot next to his Hazleton business for around $12,000 when Luzerne County government put it on the market in 2008, but he was told he’d have to offer at least $18,000, the appraised value then.

The lot, which has about $80,000 in county fundsinvested in it, was never sold.

As a toilet, broken glass, shopping cart and other debris piled up, Postupack said he continued to inquire with various county offices about buying the land but was never given an opportunity to negotiate. He gave up two years ago.

But the real slap in Postupack’s face was news that Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi asked the cash-strapped county to sell the lot at 56 N. Cedar St., last assessed at $15,500, to the city for $1.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1427119/Debris-covers-county-owned-Hazleton-lot

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Allentown Planners Warm To Cottage Houses Proposed At Former Montex Plant

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A developer proposing a community of cottage-style houses at the former Montex Textiles plant in Allentown hopes to start working on the homes by the summer.

The 52-home complex, first proposed last year, emphasizes shared community green spaces and pedestrian-friendly streets to encourage a “front-porch culture” among neighbors.

The Allentown Planning Commission reviewed the sketch plan for the Sixth and Cumberland streets project today, and although a final vote will be held in the future, the early feedback was generally favorable.

“I think it’s a refreshing approach,” commission Chairman Oldrich Foucek said of the project, which is called Trout Creek Cottages.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/03/allentown_planners_warm_to_cot.html

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New Reading Authority Racing To Meet Deadline For State CRIZ Application

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At its second meeting in as many days, the newly formed City of Reading Revitalization and Improvement Zone Authority continued racing a Nov. 30 deadline to apply for a state CRIZ designation.

“If we win, I hope the new zone will create jobs to help stimulate our economy and the community’s growth,” said Mike Toledo, director of the Daniel Torres Hispanic Center and authority treasurer.

The CRIZ program was created by recent state legislation to provide economic development and job creation within a city. Only two Pennsylvania third-class cities will receive that zone designation in 2013. Other candidates are Allentown, Bethlehem, Altoona, Wilkes-Barre, Chester, Erie, Lancaster and York.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=519889

Ten Years Of Cabela’s: Tons Of Taxes, Tons Of Business

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a poor place for businesses, planners thought.

The slopes of farmland in northern Berks County would be difficult to build on.

Nearby roads were heavily traveled, but didn’t provide a good way in.

The infrastructure improvements necessary to fix those problems would be expensive, and zoning laws would complicate the process.

That was how the Berks County Planning Commission and a national site selection firm viewed 150 acres of fields near Route 61 in Tilden Township a little over a decade ago.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=513221

92-Home Development Proposed In Douglass (Mont.)

Location of Douglass Township in Montgomery County

Location of Douglass Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DOUGLASS (Mont.) — A developer has proposed clustering 92 single-family homes on 47 acres off Congo Road and leaving the remainder of the 70 acres of the property as open space or park land.

Located on a 117-acre pice of land known as the “Hallowell Tract,” the site is located at the intersection of Congo and Hallowell roads and is a former farm.

In fact, the site is surrounded by farmland that has been permanently protected, said township Supervisor Fred Thiel.

Montgomery County Planner Meredith Curran told the members of the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee Thursday that the project was first submitted in 2005 and so is guided by the previous zoning for that area of town, which allows for one house per acre.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130329/NEWS01/130329256/92-home-development-proposed-in-douglass-(mont-)#full_story

Johnstown Battles Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JOHNSTOWN, PA — What was once The Rib Rack restaurant is now an eyesore and a hazard.

The building, located at 405 Strayer St. in Johnstown’s West End, is in a state of decay, with crumbling bricks, broken rain spout, boarded windows and weeds.

Soon, though, the building will be razed.

Its demolition is part of an ongoing effort by City Council and the Community and Economic Development Department to remove blight from the town.

Since the fall of last year, 66 structures have been razed.  The Rib Rack is next on the list.  Work has started in the past few days.

Read more:  http://tribune-democrat.com/local/x1951926811/City-battles-blight

Showing Our Age? Lancaster County Looking At Slowing Growth And Aging Population

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lancaster County is growing, but the growth is slowing.

That report in last week’s Sunday News undoubtedly gave advocates of agricultural preservation and open space cause to celebrate.  After a 30-year period (from 1980 to 2010) of 43.3 percent population growth, the percentage is projected to be 25.5 percent by 2040.

While that translates into another 132,555 residents — moving the population from 519,445 in 2010 to 652,000 in 2040 — what gives us pause is the demographics of the projected growth.

Lancaster County planners said the biggest bump in population is expected to come from people older than 65. In other words, the county, already on its way to becoming a retirement mecca, will be growing by graying.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/760892_Showing-our-age-.html#ixzz2A2c3OHxm

Scranton City Council Threatens University Of Scranton With Zoning Roadblocks

Editor’s note:  This is just irresponsible and shortsighted.  The University of Scranton brings jobs, money and prestige to Scranton; as well as a reason to go downtown.  Scranton City Council needs to get their act together instead of retaliating against a good corporate citizen.

Miffed over the University of Scranton’s recent lawsuit against the city over its new parking tax, city council on Thursday threatened to oppose any zoning variance that the college may need from the city for various improvements, such as dorms or parking lots.

Asked by council President Janet Evans to address this issue, council solicitor Boyd Hughes said he was dismayed that the university sued the city over the parking tax, because over the years the city has facilitated the university’s growth.  Rather, the college should be donating millions of dollars to the city, he said.

The university’s growth since the 1960s stemmed from what was known as the “University Plan” approved many years ago by the Scranton Redevelopment Authority, which involved the SRA condemning properties for university expansion, he said.  But the college has since spread beyond its “institutional district” into residential areas, Mr. Hughes claimed.

The university has received variances from the city zoning board for improvements such as a dorm and parking areas in residential areas that “should have never been granted” by the zoning board.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-city-council-threatens-university-of-scranton-with-zoning-roadblocks-1.1376796

Shuttered Schools Are Costly To Keep But Selling Them Can Be Unprofitable

When a school’s doors are closed for good, a building that cost millions to build can sit vacant and unused for years until it’s sold for a fraction of its worth.

The state of the economy, zoning laws and the institutional makeup of the structures all make schools a hard sell. And as long as the district owns the building, it has to pay for maintenance even if no warm bodies are moving through the hallways.

Doug Haring, a city real estate appraiser, said selling schools has become brutally expensive.

“Everything is a lot harder to do today, and that translates into more expense,” Haring said, referring to stricter zoning laws and municipal building code restrictions.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=396633