Planning commission talks roundabouts and more at meeting

City Planners discussed the facade program, blighted property, and even roundabouts Wednesday morning.

Commission member David Hildebrand told members of the City of Warren Planning Commission that the downtown facade program is moving forward.

Members from the subcommittee – including two members of the planning commission and two members of the city’s redevelopment authority – will take the applications received by Friday of this week and begin discussing how to divvy up the $50,000 available, in $5,000 units, for a total of ten projects.

The projects will “support restoration and preservation of the historic integrity of downtown buildings and retain and attract businesses to strengthen the economic potential of Warren’s downtown,” according to program information available on the city’s website.

The project is a match program, meaning that the grant program will match building owners’ investments dollar for dollar up to $5,000 for eligible improvements to the facades of their buildings.

Around six applications have already come in, said Hildebrand, and the commission’s hope is that any interested business owners will access the city’s website to get information on the project and to submit a letter of intent indicating their interest in participating in the program by Friday, Aug. 17.

On Wednesday of next week, Hildebrand said, all applications received by Friday will be moved forward in the process, which includes review by the subcommittee.

“I’m real excited about this,” said Commission chairman Don Nelson. “Anytime that we can make an adjustment in downtown to make things better,” and anytime the interest is as high as it has been for this program, he added, “that’s just a really good problem to have.”

Also on the commission’s agenda Wednesday was the certification of a home at 103 Jefferson Street as blighted, which will move the property forward to the city’s RDA process.

While the commission agreed that the house itself is in structurally great shape, and that it carries great potential, they decided to move the property forward in order to keep the progress that has been made on it going.

There has been a lot done with the property, Building Code Official Terry Williams said, but some of the work done, including a set of steps replaced on the front porch, failed to meet code requirements.

There is no furnace in the home and the utilities have been shut off, she said, qualifying the house for blight.

“This is one of those properties,” said Williams, “that we chose to bring forward while it was in a condition where it could be remedied before it went too far down that path where it was too expensive and too far gone to do anything with.”

The goal of the blight process “is not about penalizing, it’s about getting remediation, and so if this is the process that we can use in order to bring this property back,” she said, it’s a good process to pursue.

The commission finished up Wednesday with a discussion over whether the current discussion about a roundabout being considered as an option to update the intersection of Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue West was something they ought to be weighing in on.

Commission member Pat Scutella said that he’s had several questions posed to him regarding the feasibility of a roundabout in that intersection and added that he is unsure how to address them.

“If you look at the very name of this group, we’re the planning commission of the city of Warren,” said Nelson. “so anything that’s on the horizon that has to do with the planning of Warren, I’m thinking that we should have some part in it.”

The commission agreed to have members attend an upcoming public meeting being presented by PennDOT at the Warren Public Library on Aug. 22.