Thursday, February 28, 2019

Goodbye Historic District, Hello Las Vegas strip - but who ok'd it?

The LED sign at St. Paul Episcopal Church on Locust Street

St. Paul Episcopal's LED sign, a source of some recent controversy, is now mounted, wired, and ready to go, most likely on or about March 1, when the current printed calendar out front expires. The church is situated in the borough's historic district, where such signs are typically a no-no, but the church has fallen back on an obscure law regarding religious land use to justify using the sign. Or has it? The trail of explanations is byzantine, and one can only speculate what is actually in play here.

According to an LNP article dated July 25, 2016, Columbia Borough Council, in a decision supporting the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB), denied the church permission to install the LED sign:
Council denied a proposed LED-lighted sign at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 340 Locust St. Glenn Shaeffer, Historic Architectural Review Board chairman, asked that council create an amendment not allowing this type of sign in the future. 
“There are no other signs like this in the historic district and allowing it would open the door for others and have an impact on the historic nature of the district,” Shaeffer said. “The historic district should not look like the Las Vegas strip.” 
Council members Kelly Murphy and Cle Berntheizel removed themselves from the vote because they are members of the church. 
However, the church's intent to go forward with the sign became apparent in October 2017, when it surfaced, mounted on a steel frame, in front of the church building but behind the traditional wooden, freestanding sign. The church was subsequently presented with a "stop work" order from the borough's zoning enforcement officer Jeff Helm.

Shortly afterwards, the sign and stand were removed, only to resurface this past January - this time mounted to the historic stone and mortar of the church's front face, using metal support strips secured by a series of large bolts. A posting about the sign on Columbia Spy's Facebook page elicited these responses from Reverend J. Patrick Peters of St. Paul's:
"Well. First - we had a permit from the Borough to install as we did. It was posted during installation. If anyone would like to see it - just let me know. Second - we agree that the wooden sign is atrocious but it was the best we could given the misinformation we received before the first installation over a year ago. Third - we have been part of this community for almost 170 years and will respect our neighbors. It would be helpful - out of respect - to confirm the accuracy of information before posting. A quick phone call could have made the Columbia Spy posting accurate." 
"Columbia Spy the permit was signed by Jeff Helm you can ask him. My lawyer worked on this over the last year. Apparently an internally lit sign on the wall of a business is permitted under the zoning at the time of the permit application and thus does not need to go through anyone but the zoning officer. Freestanding internally lit signs were not permitted and that's where we were misinformed a year ago. Jeff has all the information."
When questioned about the sign issue at a council meeting earlier this year, borough officials seemed perplexed, but at the February 12, 2019 council meeting, Borough Manager Rebecca Denlinger said the sign is permissible based on a religious land use statute. Denlinger said the information should have been communicated to HARB via the zoning officer (Helm). "If it hasn't, it should have been, and it will be if it wasn't," Denlinger said. (A HARB representative told Columbia Spy today that no such communication was received by the board.)

Regarding council's decision to support HARB, Denlinger said, "I don't think that they were aware that that's what the church was going to come back - and what they did was that they came with their attorney weighing in, again with this religious land use act that said that borough was not able to deny the construction on that particular signage." Denlinger explained that although council voted to support HARB, it did so in error, not knowing about the religious land use statute, "and so we had to reverse that decision, and we did that administratively." An administrative reversal of a council decision seems peculiar because traditionally it would require a majority vote by council to reverse one of its decisions. In addition, HARB routinely bases its decisions on Secretary of Interior standards, bringing into question the assertion of an error.

Columbia News, Views & Reviews recently shined some light on the issue with a post that reads:
"St. Paul Church LED sign | Turns out the question about the inconsistent signage on the downtown church (reported by Columbia Spy here may have some legal standing under the “The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.” Meeting participants learned that last night as the borough manager said the church has argued it has special land use prerogatives under the act. "
The post contains a link to information on religious land use, which can be downloaded HERE. To the layman, however, the statute appears to offer scant support for allowing a church to install an LED sign.

According to HARB, the application that was originally reviewed and then denied by both HARB and Council was for a freestanding sign, and the church should have applied for the sign to be wall-mounted. Reportedly, this did not happen.

To summarize, the church chose to override a 2016 decision by HARB and borough council by mounting the sign on a metal stand in October 2017. The borough then posted a "stop work" order, and the sign and stand were removed. In January 2019, the sign was mounted to the church building's exterior. Reverend Peters stated that the zoning officer had signed a permit allowing the sign to be wall-mounted, because borough ordinance restricts only freestanding internally lit signs. However, according to the borough manager, the justification for allowing the sign is based on a religious land use statute. In addition, the decision by HARB and Council was reversed "administratively," an apparent break from proper protocol.

Furthermore, allowing the sign based on a religious land use statute may open the door to a grievance from the Haitian Maranatha Church on the next block down, which was prevented by borough officials from painting its building's concrete trim blue last summer.

Police seek info on alleged shooting incident at 3rd & Chestnut - Victim treated and released

On 2/23/19 at approximately 12:33 a.m. an Officer from a neighboring jurisdiction stopped a vehicle on Rt. 30 just outside of Columbia and discovered a shooting victim inside the car.  The victim, an 18-year-old Columbia resident, sustained an apparent gunshot wound to the hand.  Immediately, officers performed first aid and requested an ambulance.  The victim was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for his injury and released.  The injury was not life threatening and the victim is expected to make a full recovery.  During the investigation, Columbia Borough Police officers received information that the incident occurred in the area of Third and Chestnut St. in Columbia.  It was reported that a group approached the victim and his companion while walking North on Third St. in the area of Chestnut St. at which time a shot was fired striking the victim.  Neither the victim nor the witness provided suspect descriptions.  The Columbia Borough Police Department is seeking assistance from the Community with this investigation.  Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Officer Bryan Keyser at 717/684-7735. Source:  Columbia Borough Police Department 

Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®

Nifty Needles at the Library - Thursday, February 28

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

February 2019 Delinquent Tax List available at Lancaster County Treasurer's Office

The February 2019 Delinquent Tax List is available at the Lancaster County Treasurer's Office and can be downloaded  HERE.

Residents' concerns about borough council to be addressed at upcoming public meeting

From lancasteronline:

A group of Columbia residents worry borough council is violating the state’s open meeting law by holding information sessions in private prior to most of its public meetings.

Sharon Lintner, who helped create the Columbia Concerned Citizens group and who is running for a seat on council in the upcoming election, previously filed a complaint with the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office alleging council violated the state’s open meetings law, known as the Sunshine Act, when it voted in a closed-door November meeting to fund a proposed new position.


Columbia Concerned Citizens will hold its first public meeting Sunday, March 3, 2019. Former borough councilman Frank Doutrich, who helped organize the group, said he expected transparency to be a key issue discussed at the meeting.
Who: Columbia Concerned Citizens
What: Public meeting
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: National Clock and Watch Museum, 514 Poplar St., Columbia

More signs of activity at the former Colonial Metals building

We reported previously that California Metal-X (CMX) plans to reopen the former Colonial Metals operation at the North 2nd Street building this coming May. Signs of activity at the building on Wednesday afternoon seemed to confirm that news.

The letters on the side of the building have been removed.

This is how the building appeared previously. 

CMX's name now appears on the entrance door.

And that familiar low-key roar emanates from the building (along with the recording of bird calls).

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Police seek man charged in parking garage incident that left Columbia man critical

Ryan Scott Seals

*****ORIGINAL INFORMATION POSTED 2/12/2019***** On Sunday February 10, 2019 at approximately 0131 hrs. Officers from Lancaster Bureau of Police Platoon B responded to the area of Penn Square Parking Garage at 20 E. King St. for a report of an injured person. Responding Officers located a 25 year old male resident of Columbia Borough on the ground. The male was unconscious and unresponsive. Officers saw that the male was bleeding from a head injury. The male was taken to the hospital for treatment. Officers spoke with people that were in the area as well as people that had contacted 911. Officers were told that there had been some type of fight or altercation inside the garage. Police received information that the victim had been involved in the altercation and that as a result of that incident, the victim was possibly pushed or fell from a height of approximately (25) feet onto the ground below. Detectives are conducting additional follow-up investigations. They are also reviewing surveillance video from multiple sources in the area. The victim in this incident is in critical, but stable, condition.  Detectives have developed information indicating that there were a number of people in the area when the incident occurred and that there are individuals who likely have information about this incident, as well as what led up to the altercation. Detectives are seeking information from those witnesses. As of the time of this release, no one has been taken into custody and no charges have been filed.  (***On 2/15/2019 we published portions of surveillance video in an attempt to identify those involved***) *****NEW INFORMATION POSTED 2/26/2019***** Through follow up investigations and interviews, Det. Eric McCrady was able to identify several people that had been involved in the fight with the victim inside the parking garage. It was found that one of the combatants had struck or shoved the victim over the side of a wall and was responsible for the victim's fall and resulting injuries.  The suspect that struck or shoved the victim over the wall was identified as Ryan Seals M/28. Det. McCrady consulted with the Lancaster County District Attorney's office about the case. Charges were approved against Seals. Det. McCrady filed a Criminal Complaint against Seals before MDJ Richardson charging Seals with Aggravated Assault. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Ryan Seals.  Anyone with information on this case or the current location of Ryan Seals are asked to contact Lancaster Bureau of Police Det. Eric McCrady at 717-735-3359 mccradye@lancasterpolice.comor Lancaster Crime Stoppers at (800) 322-1913, or you can anonymously Text a Tip to Crime Stoppers by using your cell phone. Text LANCS plus your message to 847411. Callers may remain anonymous and do not have to give their names. Docket No.:  MJ-02201-CR-0000046-201 Date Issued:  Friday, February 22, 2019 Warrant Type: Criminal Charges: Aggravated Assault Issuing Authority:  MDJ Richardson Holding Dept:  Lancaster Bureau of Police Source:  Lancaster Bureau of Police

Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®

Man flees with 25 lottery tickets taken from Chestnut Street minit market

On 2/24/19 at approximately 10:06 pm the Columbia Borough Police Department was dispatched to the 300 Block of Chestnut Street for a retail theft.  The caller stated that a clean shaven white male with black, square frame glasses, approximately 5'10" with a heavy build, black jacket and a black beanie cap took 25 lottery tickets without paying for them.  The clerk said she gave the male the tickets to look at them and he left out the front door and fled to the rear of the store without paying for them.  The value of the tickets was $250.00.  Anyone with information regarding this crime should contact the Columbia Borough Police Department at 717-684-7735 or text LANCS to 847411. Date:  Sunday, February 24, 2019 Reference ID:  27846-02-24-19 Case Status: Current Case Type: Criminal Case Region: Northeastern Source:  Columbia Borough Police Department

Sourced via CRIMEWATCH®

Sunday, February 24, 2019

About Town 2/24/19

This week's photos from around and about Columbia
(Click/tap on photos for larger, clearer images)

Dressed for the weather

 LED creeping in the historic district

There it is, creeping.

 Reflections on Columbia

 Brickwork at the Market House


 Missing plate

 Shop there

 Service center

 Peeling and flaking paint.
The Codes Department needs to cite the Public Works Department.

 Scarf bombing

 Hats hangin'

 More so

 Violators will be persecuted. Henchmen do the dirty work.

 Big hole in the ground. Now what?

 New Knox in town

 OUT OF SERVICE overtakes 17 COLUMBIA for the lead.

 Why do people do this?

 Vigilant vulture

 Code violation

 Goose tracks - evidence of a wild goose chase?

 Heroes temporarily under snow

 Door to Door Service

 So ya wanna be a rural carrier?

 The bank financed the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge that was burned in the Civil War, the piers of which still remain at Columbia River Park. The Federal Government owes $170 million dollars (in today's money) for the destruction of the bridge, but don't count on getting it any time soon - or ever. Congressman Joe Pitts tried it in 2003.

According to 
In 2003, Rep. Joe Pitts took up the cause. By then, with interest, the claim had grown to $170 million dollars. According to the Star News, August 31, 2003, he joked that he would push Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to include payment for Columbia’s lost bridge in reparations to rebuild war-damaged bridges in Iraq “just for fun.” However, White House Office of Management and Budget spokesman Trent Duffy replied that the claim had expired and added, “The bridge might have to be counted, with bravery, as Columbia’s contribution to liberty.”

Stephen Smith, once an indentured servant, eventually earned enough to buy his freedom and then established a lumber and coal business, making him one of the wealthiest African-Americans in Columbia. Smith invested $9,000 into the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge that was burned in the Civil War. A claim was filed with the Federal Government, but the money was never repaid, as noted in the previous caption.

 Stephen Smith was ordained as a minister in the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church on South 5th Street, shown above.

 Smith was ordained in 1831, but this church building was not built until 1872.

 And rebuilt in 1921

 Front view of the church

 The memorial plaque for Stephen Smith is in the lower left.

Just in time for Christmas - next Christmas

Edgar Allan Poe made $5 per column writing for The Columbia Spy

Edgar Allan Poe

As we posted earlier, Edgar Allan Poe wrote for the original Columbia Spy in a series of columns titled "Doings of Gotham." In the book An Old Turnpike Road, author Jacob L. Gossler recounts that the Columbia Spy paid Poe $5 per column, each of which was a letter on the goings-on of people in New York and Philadelphia.

Of the amount, Gossler recalls:
"We thought this a moderate compensation, but it was really extravagant in comparison with, as we afterwards learned, the salary of ten dollars per week that he received for editing the Magazine, which, at the time, after the North American Review, was the most popular, and considered the highest literary authority, in this country."
At the time of his association with the Spy, Poe already had a worldwide reputation, and his poem "The Raven" had just been published to great acclaim. The Spy's editors therefore thought publishing Poe's letters would garner greater attention for the newspaper.

According to Chris Vera, president of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Gossler's book is rare due to the limited printing for friends and family, although the Society has a copy in its collection.

A digital copy can be found HERE.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Mount Bethel to hold Victorian Hair Weaving Workshop

Victorian Hair Weaving Workshop

Sunday March 10 at 1 p.m.
Mount Bethel Cemetery Cottage
700 Locust Street
Columbia, PA

Step back into the Victorian Era and Create your own Hair Flower

The workshop will teach participants how to construct a customary Victorian hair flower, used to commemorate the dead. Supplies will be provided to complete a simple flower. If you elect to bring your own swatch of hair, it must be at least 10 inches in length and the diameter of a pencil and placed in a zip lock bag. You may opt to make your hair flower into a pin or display it in a glass or wooden box (available for purchase). Start your family heirloom today!

About the instructor: The workshop will be led by Civil War re-enactor Lucy Cadwallader, from York County. While researching her hobby, Lucy became interested in Victorian hair art and mourning customs. For thirteen years Lucy has been perfecting the art of hair jewelry; human hair intricately woven into bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces. Hair flowers were created into wreaths and proudly displayed in Victorian parlors. Lucy has made and repaired hair wreaths, she also owns a vast collection of original Civil War jewelry artifacts.

The cost is $35 per person. Advance registration is requested.
Jane Moore
(717) 575-9760

[Source: Press Release]