The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


August 20, 2013

Decision has us scratching heads | Hilltop shuns another plan for business

JOHNSTOWN — It’s hard to imagine that any community could be classified as anti-business in this economy, but it’s beginning to seem that way after Wednesday night’s Westmont Zoning Hearing Board meeting.

The board denied a request by CVS Pharmacy to have the properties where the former Stutzman School and a playground rezoned so that the company could build a pharmacy.

Rather than green light a project that would get rid of an empty building and bring some more retail options to a neighborhood almost devoid of them, the zoning board said thanks but no thanks.

“I think the community on one hand wants development in the community, but on the other hand doesn’t,”  said Timothy Leventry, a lawyer representing CVS.

Frankly, we’re not sure that Westmont does want development in the community. It certainly doesn’t seem that way.

Some residents complained that increased traffic would be a big concern if plans went ahead for the pharmacy. That would be understandable if the plot of land was at the intersection of two quiet, hardly used streets. It’s not. It’s on the corner of Goucher Street and Menoher Boulevard, which is arguably the busiest intersection in the borough.

The second argument against the project that was floated at the meeting – that a problem with storm runoff would become worse – seems equally ludicrous. We’re confident that CVS could come up with a plan to address the situation if it were to construct a new building on the site.

Instead, the Stutzman School will continue to sit unused and, inevitably, deteriorate over time.

It’s not the first time that Westmont has made decision that we’ve questioned. Remember Save Westy, the group which shouted down a plan to rezone land in the borough that would have enabled commercial development?

How about the ruckus created when PennDOT unveiled its plan to widen a portion of Goucher Street in Westmont? Again, a plan that could help bring business to the borough in the long run – by making it more accessible and easier to navigate – was loudly criticized by some in the borough.

It really does make us wonder, especially when one considers the fact that the Westmont Hilltop School District has increased taxes in 25 of the past 27 years. Yes, it has held the line for two consecutive years, but part of the problem is that there is such a small tax base in the borough.

Evidently that’s not a big concern for the people of Westmont, as evidenced by the recent decisions there concerning potential businesses.

Perhaps Camp Hill-based WAM Enterprises Inc., which had pushed for the rezoning in 2009, put it best in its release.

“Life is too short, so we are going to fish in other waters and take our business elsewhere,” WAM said in its release after the negative reception it got from Westmont residents.

If Westmont’s waters ever dry up there will be plenty of people lamenting the recent decisions.

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