After hearing comments from borough council members and the public, Planning, Zoning, and Code Enforcement Director Carly Marshall said she would draft an ordinance to create special events as a new zoning usage for borough properties.
Marshall said the council would be asked to decide which districts the new ordinance would apply to but that it would include at least the properties in the Elm St. Overlay District.
Marshall said special events are a trending use around the country. “This won’t be the last time we’ll see an application,” she said.
The ordinance will be based on a proposal to the borough from Scott English for a property on W. High St. The proposed ordinance would allow a maximum attendance of 100 people and an annual compliance review by the borough.
The borough said it would solicit input from residents and Adams County as it moved forward.
Councilmember Judie Butterfield spoke in favor of the idea, saying it met the goals of bringing businesses into the Elm St. Overlay District, and councilmember Chad-Alan Carr said his reading of the plan encouraged similar operations.
Council President Wes Heyser said he didn’t think allowing the zoning would have positive effect on the neighborhood.
Carr said people who had opinions should contact their council representatives to give input.
In the public comments session, Gettysburg resident Susan Cipperly reviewed the history of the Elm St. Overlay District saying it was designed to help the neighborhood, not to be an economic development program. She said the 2019 Central Adams Joint Comprehensive Development Plan also addressed neighborhoods, noting the conversion of residential uses to non-residential uses should be discouraged and that density standards should be employed.
Cipperly said the neighborhood was predominately residential and that recent zoning by the borough has prohibited vacation rentals to protect housing opportunities for residents in the neighborhood.
“In my view to insert a tourist attraction in the middle of this neighborhood would ignore all these efforts that have gone into these plans over the years and would a disservice to current residents,” she said. “People who actually live the neighborhood deserve quality of life and peaceful enjoyment of their neighborhood.”
Property owner Scott English who presented the proposal to the borough said the Elm St. Overlay specifically encourages the type of mixed use he is proposing for his building.
English said the project would enhance Gettysburg’s tourist-based economy and encourage more downtown activity in the Elm St. neighborhood. English said neighboring churches were already hosting wedding events and funerals with the same noise and parking issues as the business he was proposing.
English said he had changed the proposed request from a maximum of 150 to 100 guests and that events would only be held from 9:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. English said there were plenty of parking spaces available and buses would not be idling in front of the event center.
English said many local residents were in favor of the proposal. “It’s a high end event venue,” he said.
Neighborhood resident Rosemary Meagher spoke against the idea, saying “I don’t believe that residents in the surrounding neighborhood feel like they have a voice.” Said she thought parking would be a problem, that people would probably not walk from downtown, and that it was difficult to imagine people being transported to the center by bus. “Some issues have been kind of glossed over,” she said.
Former Gettysburg resident Jean Green said she was in favor of the project and that the Elm St. project was designed to bring businesses into the area. Green she had been on the Elm Street board “from it’s beginning to its close” when the area was created and felt the proposed project was appropriate. “This particular type of business falls directly with what we were proposing,” she said.
Green said when she grew up in the neighborhood there were stores on almost every corner. “I remember and wish they were back because it was a thriving little part of town,” she said. “I’d like to see that happen again. I’d like to have this part of the town showcased. Let’s build it up. Let’s bring the history.”
The borough will also consider making the existing parklet ordinance permanent, allowing no more than one parklet in each block and no more than 2 on the square. Each parklet takes up 2 or 3 spaces. Marshall said although the borough had studied the effects of the parklets on parking revenue the results were not conclusive.
Each of the proposals is likely to be on the borough council agenda in March.
Featured Image: Map of the Elm St. Overlay District showing existing businesses [Susan Cipperly]