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Thorpe prepares to vote on Ferris wheel

A public hearing on a proposed Jim Thorpe ordinance came and went Thursday night with no comments from borough residents.

The opportunity for comments was required before council votes next month on the ordinances, which include zoning amendments to designate where medical marijuana facilities can be located in the borough and another modification that could pave the way for a Ferris wheel atop Flagstaff Mountain.

Tom Romanchik, who along with Catherine Jaindl-Leuthe, purchased the former Flagstaff Park property for just over $709,000 at a sheriff’s sale in 2020, asked council for the amendment because a Ferris wheel is not a current permitted use in the R2 medium density residential district under the borough’s zoning ordinance.

“This opportunity kind of came out of the blue,” Romanchik said in November. “I had an opportunity to purchase a Ferris wheel that is similar to what was originally at Flagstaff. It is a Nittany wheel made in State College. I have to make a decision on it and that is why I brought the request to council.”

Should council approve the amendment in February, it would permit “amusement structures or rides” in the R2 district including Ferris wheels, trams, and zip lines provided the land where it would be located is over 10 acres.

In November 2018, Jim Thorpe businessman Andrew Roberts was granted several variances by the borough’s zoning hearing board for a Flagstaff Park project that was to feature a five-story, 45-room hotel and restaurant, ballroom, gondola system connecting to downtown, a Ferris wheel and 340-space parking lot.

Roberts got up to speak at Thursday’s hearing, but noted he would withhold comment until he got a chance to read the proposed ordinance.

A Ferris wheel was originally installed on the property in 1915.

Medical marijuana facilities

Another part of the zoning amendment up for vote in February regulates where medical marijuana facilities can be located in the borough.

The ordinance calls for clinical research centers to be allowed via special exception use in C-1 neighborhood commercial, C-2 general commercial and industrial zones, growers/processors to be allowed via special exception in the industrial zone and dispensaries to be allowed via special exception in the C-3 neighborhood commercial and industrial zones.

The facilities can’t be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public, private or parochial school, charter school or day-care center unless a waiver is granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Councilwoman Jessica Crowley said Thursday night she thinks the ordinance is too restrictive.

“I’d like to see the zones expanded for dispensaries to include the C-2, C-1 and R-4 districts,” Crowley said. “I’d also like to see the parking revisited. I feel it’s very limited.”

One parking space is required for each 200 square feet of floor area for dispensaries.

According to the ordinance, a buffer planting is required where a medical marijuana dispensary adjoins a residential district.