Thursday, October 8, 2015

What is the Cluster Up to on North Franklin Street?

That was the question that seemed to be on the minds of borough council members Wednesday during their regular work session council meeting.

The question began to form when Pottstown School Board member Ron Williams addressed council and urged them to send Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. to a meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals on Oct. 15.

That's when the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities will present its appeal to the county board for make the property at 61 N. Franklin St. tax exempt.

The former Wainman mansion, the building is adjacent to the Cluster's Outreach Center, where it distributes free food and clothing to the needy. It is located in the former American Legion building at the corner of King and N. Franklin streets.

Vice President Travis Gery ran the meeting due to the absence 
of Council President Stephen Toroney.
As Pottstown School Board member Thomas Hylton has pointed out in two paid advertisements in The Mercury, the borough's zoning code does not allow "client-based service providers" in either location.

The Cluster obtained a zoning waiver for the former Legion building in 2010.

But Garner said Wednesday night that the borough finally received a letter from the Cluster this week which gave a "vague description of use" for the property.

Council Vice President Travis Gery and Garner both said it seemed backward to ask for a tax exemption on a property before its use has been clearly defined and authorized.

Council seems inclined to send Garner, and to ask that School District Solicitor Stephen Kalis accompany him, to the board of assessment review committee and oppose the property tax exemption, although no formal vote was taken.

Council member Dan Weand, who asked that both solicitors attend, said Garner can be directed to go by Borough Manager Mark Flanders.

"Not to say anything against the Cluster, they do wonderful work," said Williams. "but we just cannot afford any more properties off the tax roles."
Jeff Gerber receives his award from Fire Chief Richard Lengel

Indeed, during a recent review of the 2016 budget, council's finance committee was informed that the borough's loss of assessed property value may make it difficult to hold the line on taxes for the third year in a row.

In other matters, council also prepared to make changes to the borough's animal ordinance and zoning ordinance as it relates to what triggers the need for a conditional use.

Jeff Gerber, the manager of the Turkey Hill on North Charlotte Street, was recognized for his quick thinking in preventing a catastrophe in July when a vehicle struck the gas pumps there and caused a small fire.

Flanders also updated council on the fact that all but one resident and business owner the borough has contacted is opposed to re-naming Cross Street after the late NAACP President Newstell Marable, primarily because of the expense of changing addresses on bank accounts, driver's licenses and business cards and stationary.

Here are all the Tweets from the meeting.

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