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Gettysburg considers creating special events zoning in the Elm St. Overlay District

On a divided vote the Gettysburg Borough Council voted on Monday to consider broad zoning changes that would allow special events venues in the Elm St. Overlay District.

Voting nay were Chris Berger, Matt Moon, and President Wes Heyser.

The vote enables the borough to move forward on consideration of the changes. A pubic hearing will be held before a final vote.

The request to make the zoning change came from Scott English of 1210 Pumping Station Rd. in Gettysburg to allow a special events center to be created at a house he owns at 66-68 W. High St.

English said the large historical house, on the corner of High and S. Washington Sts., and known as The Gettysburg Academy, was originally built in 1813 as Adams County’s first public school and was used as Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary’s first building (1826-1832) and Gettysburg College’s first building (1832-1837).

English requested a provision be added to facilitate a special events venue in the Elm Street Overlay District. He said the proposed use would “further enhance the downtown area” and that he was “working within the Elm Street Overlay District to improve the vitality of the Third Ward.”

The request asks the borough to create a new special events venue that would include:

  • Removing the 2000 square foot maximum floor area restriction to allow larger buildings
  • Allow the hosting of community gatherings, educational events, historically interpretive functions, family weddings, art shows, parties, bridal showers, culturally significant assemblies, and other similar events where large groups of people are gathered, generally involving food, drink and music.
  • Hours of operation: would be between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
  • Maximum attendance for outdoor events would be 150 people.
  • English requested the ordinance be written to say that “at no time during the event shall lighting produce glare beyond property boundary.”

English asked that the ordinance require applications to submit an annual “management plan” for review and approval by the borough, fire department, and Gettysburg Municipal Authority which would include:

1. Hours of operation and maximum attendance

2. Proposed parking location, layout, surface material and demonstrate ADA compliance for on-site parking.

3. Location and proposed use of off-site properties for parking or other support facilities. Copy(s) of all off-site parking agreements and transport plan for shuttle service to off-site parking areas.and

4. Provisions for security, sanitation, refuse disposal and emergency care.

5. Off-site and on-site management measures and procedures, including directional signage.

6. Noise and lighting control measures

7. Certificate of Insurance

At the meeting, English said buses would shuttle attendees to and from the property from local hotels and that the proposal had already been approved by the Gettysburg Planning Commission.

Two neighborhood residents at the meeting spoke against the plan, saying 150 daily visitors would create traffic and noise and that the proposal would constitute a major impact on the neighborhood character and conflict with the purpose of the Elm St. program which was designed to create long term neighborhood sustainability. Speakers also expressed concerns about security and parking.

Before the vote Moon said “idling buses are loud. They affect the quality of life of residents.”

Heyser expressed reservations and said the zoning would affect quality of life.

Before voting in favor, councilmember Patti Lawson said the house was in a beautiful, walkable area where people could enjoy a special event.  She said it might allow more visitors.

Director of Planning, Zoning, and Code Enforcement Carly Marshall said English was asking for a “broad text amendment” that would create the new special events use, define it, and consider its use. “The text amendment is substantial and would apply to all districts,” she said.

“I know we’re talking about one property owner looking to make use of their property for this, but the text amendment is a substantial amendment. The language has multiple zoning districts,” said Marshall .

Marshall said she anticipated the borough would be seeing more interest in using local buildings for special events in the near future.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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  • If you would like to know more about this proposal to insert a tourist attraction in a predominantly residential area, it is on the 2/28/2022 Borough Council Workshop agenda at 7:00 pm. Or watch the video on Community Media website or broadcast. This is proposed for the Elm Street Overlay district between Middle Street and South Street.

    • Hi Susan,

      Yes, the proposal to change the Elm St. Overlay zoning to allow special events is on the borough council work session meeting agenda for this evening. If you have questions about it you might consider showing up and asking them at the public comment session. There won’t be any final decision made tonight I don’t believe but it’s important for the public to have their voices heard early in the process.

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