Concerns over a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and downtown fast-food projects took up much of Tuesday’s Indiana borough council meeting.
Heartland Restaurant Group LLC, based in the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, owns the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise at 1669 Oakland Ave., White Township.
He is planning another Dunkin’ Donuts outlet in a commercial lot at 518 Philadelphia Street, at the corner of Philadelphia and South Fifth streets.
The matter came up at a council hearing on December 7, where a hearing was held regarding the conditional use of parking other than at the rear of the property.
Attorney Patrick Dougherty said the council approved the conditional use, but did not have the Indiana Planning Commission’s blessing.
“The advanced parking design conflicts not only with best practices for downtown development corridors, but also with Indiana’s C-1 (zoning) vision as outlined in our plan and codes. complete,” IPC President Charles Manges wrote on November 2. 24.
Manges also expressed concern for what he called a historic structure there.
“As one of Indiana’s oldest buildings, it has great intrinsic value and should not be arbitrarily demolished,” he wrote.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council board chairwoman Poom Sunhachawi-Taylor said she would have a proposal for four parking spaces in March. Community Development Board Chairman Ben Ford said he would propose a “friendly amendment” to divide the parking lot between the front and the side of the restaurant.
One of the speakers during Tuesday’s public comment period, Eric Barker, said the plan was not as pedestrian-friendly as it could be, and said parking should be behind the building.
He recalled “a friend who was killed not too long ago while crossing in front of the McDonald’s along Wayne Avenue”.
Another speaker, Carson Midkiff, said, “It would be ridiculous to construct this in this particular way.”
In a narrative supporting the conditional use, Heartland said it could not proceed with construction without front and side parking, and said “the proposed use will not materially compromise the integrity of the global plan of the borough”.
Councilman Luke DeBuyser said more should be made public about the benefits of the proposal, including the perspective of about 25 employees. Heartland offers a 1,650 square foot freestanding Dunkin’ with a drive-thru for customer service.
March could be when an order is presented to council that would cover the decriminalization of marijuana possessed for personal use, typically 30 grams or less, and could also cover drug paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana.
Last month, the council gave Dougherty the power to write a draft ordinance, which would make Indiana the 16th municipality in Pennsylvania with such a law.
Speakers Tuesday night included a former president of the Indiana County Medical Society who believes decriminalization should happen sooner rather than later.
Dr. Kim Hatcher drew attention to an “As I See It” column he wrote for the December 1, 2019 Indiana Gazette, in which he highlighted the newspaper’s continued coverage of drug-related arrests.
“We do not classify a criminal – unless he commits a crime – a person who is addicted to nicotine, food or alcohol,” he wrote. “But there’s nothing wrong with humiliating a drug-addicted person by labeling them a criminal and bringing them into the criminal justice system with all the long-term negative consequences.”
On the other hand, resident Tammy Graham Curry said, “I’m adamantly against it.” She said there should be a public forum that would bring together the state police, the Indiana County Sheriff’s Office and the Indiana University Police Department in Pennsylvania.
“If they arrest someone, they’ll follow state law,” Curry said.
Board chairman Dr. Peter Broad said he believes borough officials have allayed fears of Indiana area school district officials after a recent meeting with administrators about the matter, including Superintendent Michael Vuckovich.
However, IASD board chairman Walter Schroth, speaking as a business owner, told the board his concern was the impact it could have on licensed truck drivers. a commercial license or CDL, who must undergo random drug testing.
Schroth said he views this issue from a libertarian perspective, but federal and state laws still impact what happens.
Police Chief Justin Schawl said he will provide the Indiana Borough Police Department’s perspective on the matter at the start of council committee meetings this month.
This includes Community Development on Monday at 7 p.m., Public Safety on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., Public Works on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., and Administration on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. 3, at 7 p.m.
The IBPD received a boost on Tuesday night when the board voted to extend a conditional job offer to Noah Miller, subject to a successful background check, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of John Scherf, the department’s chief detective, who capped a period of 25 years. career on January 27.
Miller would be tentatively hired starting March 1.
Committee meetings this month will also be a forum for what to do with the second round of U.S. bailout money coming to the borough, Director Nichole Sipos told the council. The borough is planning an additional $689,089.76, to bring the total federal grant to $1,378,179.52.
The money must be committed to projects that must start by 2024 and end by 2026.