A historic group of buildings in Tamaqua will be coming down. Tamaqua Borough Council voted to approve the property owner's request to demolish three row homes at 647,649, and 651 East Broad St.. The motion was made by Councilman Tom Cara, despite the fact that council had not received meeting minutes from the Historical Architectural Review Commission (HARC) meeting, which was held on Monday night, and did not have an official recommendation from HARC as to how to proceed with the property.
"I don't know why you're trying to ram this through," said council President Micah Gursky. "I don't see why we wouldn't follow our procedure and not go by what is in the letter." According to Linda Yulanavage, a member of the HARC commission and Downtown Tamaqua executive director, the minutes were not submitted to council due to the fact that she was ill. Cara said that HARC's decision was publicized in The TIMES NEWS and everyone was aware of their decision. Gursky questioned making binding decisions based on information obtained from the newspaper, instead of an official communication.
Gursky continued to express his disapproval of the motion, despite HARC's pending recommendation and worried that HARC and council would be setting a precedent. "We have an ordinance that's specifically designed to prevent demolition of historic properties. I just don't like it when people devalue and end up demolishing properties."
"It's a very strong neighborhood, a very nice neighborhood. This is not a blighted neighborhood. This is going to be the first demolition in the neighborhood."
Gursky also questioned the matter was being handled differently because the property owner in question happened to be a local businessman. "I feel that if this wasn't a local person, we'd be acting differently. This is just my opinion. It's nothing personal."
Councilman David Mace asked for a motion to table the motion to demolish the structure, pending the receipt of the HARC minutes, however that motion died for lack of a second. Gursky and Mace then voted against the demolition, while the rest of council voted in favor of it.
Council approved a controversial feral cat ordinance, which will require anyone who feeds a stray cat to assume responsibility for that cat, particularly in event of the animal causing damage or injury. Representatives from the Tamaqua Area Animal Rescue and others have spoken out in favor of trap and release programs as an alternative to the proposed ordinance. Last night, William Hill, of Center Street, read an editorial to council from the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier, written by Nathan Dias, dated April, 2009, entitled "Feeding Feral Cats is Cruel." Hill expressed concern about feral cats contaminating local playgrounds, where his grandchildren play. "I don't want them playing in cat dirt," he said.
Hill also said that this isn't about feeding pet cats, it is about feeding what are technically "wild animals." Resident Herb Curvey added that he should not have to put up with other people's cats in his yard, citing damage to his outdoor furniture caused by them.
Cara asked why the borough had to be involved in this situation at all. "Our government makes too many laws; now we're going to make an ordinance that you can't feed a cat," he said. Councilman Brian Connely said, "we're not saying that you can't feed it. We're saying that if you feed it, you're responsible for it." Cara also said that if cats are coming into people's yards, they should just take them somewhere else. Councilman Ken Smulligan echoed Cara's opinion, saying that "we shouldn't be involved in this." Councilman John Trudich said that animals shouldn't be blamed for the problems that humans cause.
Cara asked how the ordinance is going to be enforced and expressed disbelief that it will be. "I guess that will depend if they are friends of yours," retorted Gursky, referring to Cara's earlier motion to approve the property demolition, despite not having received the proper communication from HARC. "I'll come back in a year and you'll tell me no one has been cited," responded Cara. The motion passed 4-3, with Gursky, Mace, Connely, and Don Evans voting in favor of it. Cara, Smulligan, and Trudich voted against it.
Council also approved the hiring of Dane O'Brien as a part time police officer. They moved to purchase 11 Glock 23 Gen 4 firearms and holsters for the police department and trade-in 14 fire arms, for a total cost of $652.60.
Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt advised council that the contractor working on the property at 223 Pine Street will most likely meet the 60 day deadline that council gave him to complete the rehab of the property. Steigerwalt said that one more property has connected to the public sewer system as part of the ongoing Wabash Creek sewer project.
Council approved a request from the Tamaqua YMCA to use the community swimming pool from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in the mornings, this summer. They appointed Pamela McCullion as the planning commission secretary. She was the only applicant for the position.