Thursday, November 21, 2019

Columbia River Park Advisory Committee meeting canceled

Lancaster County Planning Commission memo lays out review of Columbia's proposed rezoning to be discussed November 25

Columbia Spy has obtained an internal memorandum (shown below) of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, which is a "staff draft of a review scheduled for discussion and action" at the commission's November 25, 2019 meeting. The memorandum lays out details of Columbia Borough's proposed changes to its Zoning Ordinance Map and text amendments. The map is the foundation of the borough's rezoning initiative, currently underway. 

A pdf of the document can be downloaded HERE.

At Tuesday's Columbia Borough Planning Commission meeting, Chairperson Mary Wickenheiser said that Vice Chair Jeff Helm, Borough Manager Rebecca Denlinger, and she plan to attend the November 25 meeting.

Columbia Spy published an article on Tuesday's meeting HERE.

More information on the proposed rezoning is posted on the Columbia Borough website HERE. (Scroll down.)

Rezoning projected to help Columbia's commercial tax base

Columbia is in desperate need of commercial tax base. That's according to Zoning & Planning Officer Jeff Helm and is the apparent reason for the borough's rezoning push. Helm made the remark at Tuesday night's Planning Commission meeting in response to a question by Councillor-Elect Sharon Lintner. Lintner had asked why rezoning was necessary.

In-home businesses and assessments 
Rezoning will not affect the tax assessment of residential properties unless an in-house business is added, Helm said. Some types of "invisible" businesses (for example, internet-based) are already permitted in-house under current ordinance.

Commission member Justin Evans said properties will be assessed according to use. "If you turn it into commercial space, the value of a thousand square feet of commercial space is going to be significantly higher," Evans said. Helm added that spot assessments could be triggered when permits are sent to the county office and there is a significant change in a property.

Lintner asked if neighbors will have a say if a resident opens an in-home business in a newly rezoned area. "Will the neighbors have an opportunity to say anything about that or will it just be automatically allowed? Could they object to what is going on in there or would they even have the opportunity to know what is going on in there?" she asked. Helm replied, "Presently we have no control over the downtown commercial district in terms of retail type uses."

Councillor-Elect Heather Zink said it was her understanding that an in-home business would be allowed unless it did not meet the zoning map and the current text of the downtown commercial zoning. She noted that residents wouldn't necessarily know and wouldn't have a say in what businesses are operating in their neighborhood. "If it meets those criteria, there would be no need for a hearing or a variance," she said.

Helm said such issues need to be examined and modifications made where necessary. "We need to look at some of those issues and we plan to do that," he said. "We understand that there will be some impacts, but we're hoping that we can modify those impacts based on text amendments and tabular use amendments in those areas."

Helm admitted that parking could become an issue in rezoned areas. He said the borough is looking through residential areas right now for parking possibilities for properties that may be affected by rezoning to downtown commercial. Backyards and off-street parking areas that are currently unused or under-used could be included to reduce parking problems. Parking hours of use could be regulated, he said. "Those are the kinds of things that could be added to the text amendments to the zoning so that there would be hours of operation that might allow a nice mix of in-and-out."

More to be done
Planning Chairperson Mary Wickenheiser added that there's a lot to be done yet. "The map is just the start," she said. If rezoning is approved, the language of individual ordinances will undergo changes necessary to reflect what will and won't be permitted in a particular zoned area. Wickenheiser said there are more zoning changes coming that would change the wording, which in turn, would determine whether a certain business is permitted or if a special exception is needed. Helm added, "There are some business possibilities with residential properties right now. This would allow some expansion of that for families that wanted to make a little extra money."

Lintner asked "And you don't see the change lowering anyone's property value?" She noted that an owner might want to sell in the future, but property values could be affected due to an undesirable business next door. Helm said "I think we'll have to wait and see what kind of businesses and what kind of definitions we can put together to actually make those types of opportunities assets, as opposed to negative neighborhood liabilities."

More varied uses
Helm said rezoning could allow some businesses more varied uses. "One of the reasons is that we need - we are desperate for - commercial tax base in this town. So, this will pull in some areas that have buildings that presently have very restrictive commercial uses." As an example, Helm cited riverfront commercial areas at Second and Chestnut that do not allow significantly broad and varied business uses. In addition, those areas are not close to the river and are closer to the downtown commercial area. Helm said that for those reasons and the fact that they are along the western gateway into town and a state road, that, "It makes sense that we capture those properties and make them more varied in terms of their uses."

Helm concluded, " If we just think about the negatives that this potential downtown moving to other areas would cause I think we miss the opportunities to grow this community in a way that makes it more desirable for young professionals to move into."

More information on the proposed rezoning is posted on the Columbia Borough website HERE. (Scroll down.)

Wickenheiser said that Helm, Borough Manager Rebecca Denlinger, and she plan to attend the November 25 meeting of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, where the matter will be discussed further.

Owners of McGinness property warn of prosecution for trespassers

[Peggy A. Knoll read the following letter at the November 12, 2019 Columbia Borough Council meeting. It is published here with her permission.]

Please note that the date of this publication, the Trustees and Executors of the George and Dorothy McGinness estate Peggy A. Knoll and James G. McGinness are registering a formal document as required under Pennsylvania code Title 18, Section 3503 code which details the requirements to name and prosecute violators to private property. A preliminary document was presented at the Borough Council meeting on November 12, 2019, read openly to the attending public and entered into record. The document was notarized and delivered to the Borough Council as well as the Police Chief of the Columbia Borough, on November 15, 2019. This will also be posted externally to comply with all requirements allowing prosecution. Our legal representatives are involved as well. Violators and those who trespass on our property will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible by law. The property has several types of 24 hour security with recording infra-red and sound/facial recognition to be available and presented for prosecution if necessary. This document includes all properties listed to the title of the McGinness Estate.

The exceptions to this declaration will be only those who are given permission by one of the two Executors of the Estate in writing, anyone visiting the property in the presence with one of these two people, and our business associates as established by the Executors. This does NOT apply to Uniformed Columbia Borough Police Officers responding to any issue on the property or requested entrance by the owners of the property. Also Uniformed Pennsylvania State Police Officers and Uniformed Fire personnel acting in any capacity responding to an emergency, are not included.

This November day of 2019

Peggy A. Knoll

James G. McGinness

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Student art exhibit to display river inspired artwork

On Friday, November 22 from 5-9 p.m., Sparrow Website and Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce host Art On The River, an exhibition showcasing local high-school students artwork inspired by the Susquehanna River.

Join us for the art exhibition featuring local high-school student artwork inspired by the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Sparrow Websites is partnering with the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce to provide this free event that will include door prizes, Hors d'oeuvres, and juried prizes for the student artists.

To RSVP for the event, for additional information, or for other questions, please visit

[Source: Press release]

Family Fun Night at the Library

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Seen Today (11/19/19) on South 2nd Street

Columbia Spy "spied" the banner shown above at 30 South 2nd Street this afternoon.  

According to notices posted around town, Columbia Borough Council is considering rezoning various areas of town. Council will hold a hearing on the proposed rezoning on Monday, December 16, at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Borough School District Administration Center at 200 North 5th Street. Afterwards, Borough Council will consider whether to pass the zoning map amendments as well as several other zoning changes. The public is invited to attend. 

One of the notices is shown below.

More information can be found HERE.