Gettysburg Council discusses library move, thefts, and towing

The Gettysburg Borough Council discussed a zoning amendment, vehicle thefts, and towing fees during its February meeting.

Zoning Proposal

Council unanimously advanced an initiative last week that will help the Adams County Library System move its Gettysburg branch. After much discussion, the council unanimously voted to draft an ordinance that would allow libraries in the borough’s Institutional Zone.

Gettysburg Borough

For about a decade, library leaders have explored moving from Baltimore Street. Library officials have cited an aging building, poor layout, non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and lack of parking as the move’s driving factors. Renovation costs would match the price of a new building without solving all of the problems, Executive Director Laura Goss said previously.

The library is under an agreement to purchase a parcel of land on the seminary campus. The property is located near the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County. It includes the seminary’s Aberly, Heiges, and Stuempfle Halls, which will be demolished. 

Zoning Discussion

Councilperson Chris Berger motioned to draft the ordinance. Councilperson Patti Lawson urged the council to delay a decision on the proposal. Lawson said she was concerned that moving the library to the borough’s western borough contradicted the borough’s recent efforts to be a pedestrian-friendly community. 

Councilperson Chad-Alan Carr reminded his colleagues that the library is an independent non-profit organization. He said he believed the library’s board, not the borough council, should have the final say in where the library goes.

“If they don’t feel their building is conducive to what they want for their library, who are we to say they have to stay there?” he asked.

Councilperson Alisha Sanders agreed, adding that she did not believe the council had the authority to legislate away an organization’s right to move. Council President Matthew Moon noted several libraries already exist in the Institutional Zone at United Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg College, and Gettysburg Area School District.

Gettysburg Borough residents and property owners will have the opportunity to share feedback on the proposal during a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., April 8.

Vehicle Break-ins

During his report, Police Chief Robert Glenny stressed the importance of locking vehicles. The police department has investigated several thefts recently, Glenny said. Glenny acknowledged that thieves could still enter a locked vehicle, but all recent incidents involved unlocked cars.

“If it takes someone longer to get in, maybe someone will see them and call us,” Glenny said.

Towing Fees

Acting on a request from Glenny, the council also unanimously authorized staff to prepare an ordinance that will increase the maximum fee a towing company can charge when completing a request from borough police. 

How much that fee will increase has yet to be determined.

Glenny suggested the fee be increased from $125 to about $250. He said one company recently stopped working with the borough because the fee was so low. He suspects another may be following suit. Glenny also asked the council to decrease the impound fee to $75 from $110.

Councilperson Judie Butterfield advocated against doubling the current maximum fee. Butterfield said she called neighboring municipalities and learned their maximum fees are similar to $125. If the council increases the fee, Butterfield said she preferred an incremental increase over several years. 

Lawson agreed, citing concerns that people without AAA will not be able to afford to retrieve their vehicle. She also disagreed with Glenny’s assessment that towing companies will stop working with the borough if the council does not increase the maximum fee.

The council unanimously voted to authorize staff to prepare the ordinance. Members will further discuss the associated fee during their Feb. 26 workshop.

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​Alex J. Hayes, Editor, has spent almost two decades in the Adams County news business. He is heavily involved in the community through his volunteer roles at the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, United Way of Adams County, and Healthy Adams County. Alex is also a freelance writer for several other publications in South Central Pennsylvania.
Alex encourages readers to contact him at ahayes83@gmail.com.

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