Downtown Waynesburg received good news a few weeks ago when developers announced a planned investment of nearly $3 million dollars in the old county office building, a major blighted structure in the center of town.
The plan has many benefits for the citizens of Waynesburg. It will reuse a landmark structure, creating 28 quality housing units for the gas industry and other professionals. Both the building and its residents will add to the tax base and support local businesses. This is such a win-win development for the community that I am perplexed as to why Waynesburg University would oppose it.
According to an Aug. 6 article in the Observer-Reporter, their attorney submitted a letter to the zoning hearing board stating that “the university opposed the issuance of a variance because the proposed use of the building did not conform with the borough’s master plan or with requirements of the borough zoning ordinance.”
The university’s argument about the building’s “use” does not hold water, as housing is an allowed use in the B-1 district. Furthermore, the borough does not have a master municipal plan nor a planning commission, which is typically the entity that would create such a plan. Perhaps the university is referring to the “master design plan” it gave the borough in 2008. Such a plan could become part of a larger master municipal plan if it had been developed with open public input. This plan was not. It was privately created and paid for by the university. The final plan was presented at an invitation-only event on campus. Hardly a democratic process.
The parking variance requested by the developer is minor and an issue to be decided by the borough and Greene County. According to the developer, he has a verbal agreement with the county to sublet a seldom-used parking lot leased from the borough. The university’s only standing in this case is as a nearby property owner.
I urge Waynesburg University to be a good neighbor and withdraw its opposition. If the university’s leaders have additional motives for wanting these sites, they owe the community the courtesy of revealing them and explaining how they will better benefit the town.
I urge borough council and the zoning hearing board to support the developer’s plan as I believe it is downtown Waynesburg’s best hope for revitalization. The borough’s decisions will have long term implications for the future. If borough leadership creates a welcoming, supportive environment for private. tax-paying investment, more investors will follow, fixing up our buildings and growing local businesses.
Mary Beth Pastorius