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Plan for installing carport in historic district meets some opposition

Published November 16. 2011 05:01PM

Tamaqua's Historic Architectural Review Commission's recommendations to issue certificates of appropriateness met with some opposition from Tamaqua Borough council.

One request was from a resident who wished to install an aluminum carport at a residence on Arlington Street. Council heard from Antonio Rodrigue, who is a member of the borough's planning commission. "I believe that type of a structure in our historic district is incongruent with the theme and the structures that we have," he said, calling the carport "totally inappropriate."

Councilman David Mace also objected to the approval of a certificate for the carport. "One of the items in the HARC minutes, part of their reasoning for approving it is that it is in a low traffic area," he said. "I'm not aware of any language that permits non-historic things in low traffic areas."

Despite the objections, the certificate of approval was approved, with Mace and Councilmen Dan Evans and Micah Gursky voting against it.

Council unanimously approved the certificate of approval for a business at 125 E. Broad St., but several members balked at approving a request to install a sign at 118 W. Broad St. The sign in question is actually the original bank sign and clock from the building that currently houses the town's historical society and museum. The building was home to the First National Bank of Tamaqua from 1911-1960. The sign dates from those years. It was thought to have been scrapped until it was discovered in a former bank employee's garage in 2008. The sign and clock have been fully restored by Bartush Signs.

The current HARC ordinances prohibit the installation of internally illuminated signs. The bank sign and the clock are both internally illuminated. Mace said that as far as the ordinance is concerned, the clock and sign would be considered new signs and would not be grandfathered.

Councilman Brian Connely recalled a recent controversty when the Tamaqua Italian Club replaced a sign on their building and had to reconfigure the lighting to comply with the ordinance. "I don't know, how can you approve one sign and not approve another sign? We had no room to move or work with the Italian Club," he said. "I have a real problem with this."

Rodrigue again spoke up regarding the approval of the certificate of appropriateness. He suggested "bifurcating" the sign. "One part is the advertisement for the old bank. That is clearly prohibited from being internally illuminated. The clock itself is arguable. It may not be a sign," he said. He added that he thought the clock would make a "fabulous addition" to the downtown. Rodrigue added that in addition to the internal illumination, the bank sign would violate a zoning ordinance that no sign will be placed advertising a business. Connely and Mace both voted against the approval, but it passed with a 5-2 vote.

Other business

Council agreed to tentatively adopt and advertise the 2012 budget. At this time, the budget is still approximately $229,000 in the red.

Council president Gursky said that the FOP organization has responded to a request for a meeting to discuss how the borough can work with the police department to reduce costs. Gursky said the borough is still waiting to hear back from the United Auto Workers about a similar meeting.

There is currently no tax increase anticipated for 2012.

Council approved a request to hold a bonfire at Rabbit Run, in the parking lot, on Thursday night in celebration of the Tamaqua football team's Friday night game, however, the approval is pending the cooperation of other organizations involved, including Walker Township and their fire company, and the Rabbit Run Association.

Council approved a request from the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce to hold the annual Santa Claus parade on Friday, Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m. The parade will kick off the weekend long Spirit of Christmas celebration.

Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt reminded residents that the upper dam at the Owl Creek Reservoir is under construction and is closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Council members and Mayor Christian Morrison all expressed concerns about the upcoming weekend closure of Route 309. Gursky said, "There has been a lot of discussion regarding the closing of the bridge. Our emergency departments have a good plan to be able to provide service to the entire community." He added that council is not opposed to having additional manpower available in the police department for the weekend.

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