Elizabethtown council rejects college’s request to house students in president’s house | Community News
When: Elizabethtown Borough Council meeting, July 21, with all members present.
What happened: Council unanimously rejected a petition from Elizabethtown College to use 307 E. College Ave., the college president’s house, as housing for five students for the 2022-23 school year. A conditional use hearing at the start of the meeting drew several College Avenue residents opposed to the request.
Background: Robert Kerin, college vice president of operations and auxiliary services, explained that the college’s transitional president, already a college administrator, is not living in the house, which won’t be needed until July 1, 2023, when a new president is installed. The college is facing a “good problem” with a high number of incoming students, he said. (During a break, Kerin and Caroline Lalvani, director of institutional events and community relations, said that 546 students were expected at that time, with approximately 600 as the limit.) However, that number is “fluid” up until classes start, so it’s possible the president’s house wouldn’t be needed, Kerin said. Students could also live in the Royer dormitory, which has been used as a COVID-19 isolation building and is being eyed for upgrades. Students using the president’s house would have been upperclassmen or graduate students. Two student vehicles would have been allowed on the street, with the remaining three parked in the home’s garage.
Quotable: “We would be choosing five of our absolute best students with some very stringent guidelines about their behavior,” Kerin said. It wouldn’t be an “Animal House or party house,” and such activity would merit severe consequences, including expulsion, he added.
Resident concerns: Questions were raised about issues including student supervision and accountability, visitors and overnight guests, parking, alcohol use and littering. Sandra Koser said that while the college’s assurance “sounds well and good,” she and her family have encountered “disrespectful” student behavior in the past, including stolen items, litter, loud music, rowdy parties and being “slandered.” The neighborhood is “back to pleasant living,” she said. “Keep our neighborhood the way it is.”
The vote: Council members adjourned for nearly 20 minutes to consider the request in an executive session. Their no vote elicited residents’ applause. Council President J. Marc Hershey said that while this was a “difficult decision,” the residents’ comments weighed on the outcome. “Because this was such a short-term request, we didn’t want to create that potential disruption for such a short period of time,” Hershey said. With just five students, the council is hopeful the college can find other housing alternatives, he added.
Market Street Square: Council approved a one-month extension for review of the land development plan for the shopping center where the empty Kmart building is located. The deadline was moved from July 31 to Aug. 31. The shopping center is in both the borough and Mount Joy Township. The borough planning commission recommended conditional approval at its July 12 meeting. The property’s owner, Nassimi Realty LLC, is the applicant. Pamela Roberts, borough planning and zoning director, said that she anticipates the plan will be presented to the council Aug. 4, with a vote expected at the Aug. 18 meeting.
Downtown improvements: Council member Thomas Shaud talked about how local business owners have beautified the square, including landscaping work, and suggested that the borough could perform such tasks as painting the faded umbrellas, power-washing brickwork and painting curbs after the state Department of Transportation’s work on Market Street is completed. It could offer matching grants to businesses for beautification, Shaud added. The ensuing discussion indicated that funding for painting/cleaning efforts could be included in next year’s budget, and the Elizabethtown Development Authority would consider helping with grant funding.
Hair salon parking: Council discussed an application to the zoning hearing board from the owner of 300 Groff Ave., at the corner with Market Street, adjacent to where an AutoZone store is planned. The property, which housed an insurance office, is slated to house the Head Over Heels hair salon. The owner is asking for approval of additional impervious surface for parking. In May, council granted a waiver of a land development plan. At this meeting, council members discussed whether a land development plan is needed. Roberts will consult with the solicitor on that.
Ordinance updates: Council approved the advertisement of an amended stormwater management ordinance, to be voted on at the Aug. 4 meeting. Roberts and council members also discussed other ordinances that will be updated later this year: streets and sidewalks, and motor vehicles and traffic, including parking regulations.
Bridge contract: Council approved a $144,880 bid from Flyway Excavating Inc. for repairs to the South Spruce Street bridge.