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Jim Thorpe council has concerns over proposed office building

Published January 22. 2019 12:56PM

The Carbon County Commissioners have a few hurdles to clear before they get Jim Thorpe Borough’s approval for a proposed parking garage/office building on Susquehanna Street (Route 209).

Borough council has concerns about plans to remove rock from a hill next to a historic church, parking spots eliminated by the project, and whether the borough or the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation bears responsibility for the storm drains under Route 209.

The commissioners will open bids later this week for a proposed three-story parking garage/office building. The structure would provide 110 parking spaces, which would be for county employees only. It would also add 66,279 square feet of office space to alleviate the crowded courthouse and courthouse annex.

The commissioners recently asked borough council for conditional final plan approval on the project. Council said it couldn’t take action until the issues are resolved.

Parking spaces

During a recent council meeting much of the discussion dealt with eight parking spots which would be eliminated by the project. The parking spots would have to be removed so the building’s driveways meet PennDOT’s requirements for sight distance.

The commissioners and council have been negotiating an agreement to compensate the borough for the lost spaces. Councilman Jay Miller said he’s concerned not only about the loss of parking, but also the revenue from the parking kiosks.

“I personally don’t want to hold this up. However, we are losing income down there. I have to replace it with something,” Miller said.

The county has offered to pay the borough $100,000. The borough favors taking over eight parking spaces owned by the county. Miller has suggested the spots along Lehigh Avenue next to the entrance to the county’s current parking lot.

Rock wall

The project calls for removing tons of rock from the back of the property. Council has stated it wants the county to get agreements from the neighboring property owners who may be affected before it approves the project. Council said it would probably include the historic St. Mark and John Church and the former Blue Mountain Sports bike shop.

The borough’s consulting engineer, Matthew Boggs of Entech Engineering, said the plans aren’t specific enough on how contractors plan to remove the rock. The county’s contract for rock removal, one of the contracts up to be awarded this week, specifies that the contractor must hire an engineer who will provide more information.

“The rock excavator is required to have testing done on the rocks before it’s excavated. That information will be reviewed before anything is cut out of the hill,” said Jeff Gross of Form Space Design Architects, the architect on the project.

Storm sewers

Before the meeting, the commissioners’ attorney said the only outstanding issue that was left to be resolved was the highway occupancy permit from PennDOT, which the county has applied for.

But PennDOT requires a highway occupancy permit not only for the driveways, but also any utility that will connect to the property from Route 209.

That includes storm sewers, which may or may not be owned by the borough. Council said they don’t want to be responsible for doing work on a PennDOT road like Route 209. An engineer for the county said the borough will have to apply to PennDOT for a highway occupancy permit so they can connect the property to the storm sewer running under Route 209, in PennDOT’s right of way.

The county’s plans show that the borough owns a piece of the sidewalk in front of the proposed garage, which is why the county wants the borough to apply for the permit to connect their sewers. But borough officials said they wanted more proof.

“Apparently there is piping in the PennDOT right of way, and PennDOT says you should take care of that,” Ed Hughes, the county’s attorney for the project, said.

“How nice of them,” Miller quipped.

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