Cranberry supervisors approve study for recreation center

A feasibility study for the proposed Cranberry Township Recreation Center will soon be underway, after the Cranberry Township supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved contributing $10,000 toward the cost of the study.

The township was the last piece of the puzzle for providing the $30,000 necessary in matching funds to obtain a $60,000 grant to fund the study.

The Cranberry Area School District and Venango County had already agreed to pitch in $10,000 each to fund the grant match, Cranberry Township supervisors chairman Matt McSparren said.

The township’s portion will be drawn from the general fund, and McSparren said the money was there for it, although it would be a two percent deviation from the township’s current budget.

“I was kind of on the fence, but the more I thought about it, I think the feasibility study is worthwhile,” McSparren said. “It will let us know what’s available, and what’s needed.”

He added that the hope is that the recreation center, of which there are no similar facilities nearby, will draw traffic to the area and benefit local businesses, as well as increase township revenue to help offset inflation in the face of a “stagnant tax base.”

“It’s not just a township project, it’s county-wide, but it’s located in Cranberry Township,” McSparren added.

Kyle Melat of the Cranberry school board, who attended the meeting, remarked that the multi-use facility could attract traffic from as far as Sharon, Wexford, Dubois and even Erie, as “there’s nothing really comparable in that range,” especially eastward, he said.

While the feasibility study will help determine exactly what would be included in the recreation center, some proposed features include basketball and pickleball courts, an indoor track, and a weight room. The building is intended to serve all ages, including senior citizens.

It could also be a future site for basketball tournaments, track meets, robotics competitions, and other such events which would draw traffic from outside the region.

Supervisor Bob Betzold said when his children were in the Cranberry schools, “we traveled all over to do the stuff we’re doing here,” he said. “It would be nice to keep the money in the township.”

The feasibility study would help to determine who would eventually maintain and run the center, since the township, the school district, and the county all “made pretty clear” that it wasn’t going to be them, McSparren said.

“They’ll probably look for a private operator,” he said.

The center would cost an estimated $4 million to construct, and Melat noted that grants are available to help fund that type of facility, but a feasibility study is required to become eligible. He estimated it would take about six months to complete the study, once started.

“There are a lot of unknowns with this project moving forward, but the first step is to get the feasibility study done,” said supervisor Mike Deibert.

Zoning matters

While the township planning commission works in conjunction with a consultant on a comprehensive update to the township’s zoning code, township zoning and code enforcement officer Regina Deloe presented supervisors with a list of intermediate zoning amendments with a hoped-for adoption date of July 1.

The supervisors approved the list of amendments, which will not be implemented yet but will first be sent to the Venango County Planning Commission for review and potential revision.

Proposed amendments include adjustments to the junkyard regulations to simplify the definition of “screening” and set the minimum screening height and setback distance from property lines or public rights-of-way.

The proposed amendments would also fix some ordinance numbering inconsistencies, provide additional guidance on nonconforming uses, and create a “catch-all” provision to provide for permitting non-listed zoning uses, which would otherwise likely be presumed to be prohibited, Deloe said.

The county planning commission will have a minimum of 30 days to review and comment on the proposed revisions, she said.

She added that the township planning commission has had “a lot of public interaction, people coming to planning commission meetings and giving feedback.”

Supervisors also approved the resignation of Thomas Carothers from the zoning hearing board after a 30-year run on the panel, thanking him for his service.

“He will be missed,” said Deibert.

Deloe said Carothers had been on the board since approximately 1994.

“Some other residents have stepped forward and want to serve, and he feels that it’s his time to step down,” said Pamela Exley, township open records officer and administrative assistant.

Other matters

  • Exley said the Oil Region Joint Sewage Agency had discussed how to reduce the number of no-build clauses in local subdivisions at its annual meeting on Wednesday. “The (Department of Environmental Protection) is trying to come down on no-build clauses in subdivisions,” trying to reduce them so that future owners don’t “have to fight with the DEP” to be able to build, she said.

She explained that frequently, when property owners subdivide property without a working septic system, they don’t want to pay for the required percolation test for the septic system on the new plot, so “they just say it’s non-buildable.”

  • Exley also said she had attended a spring dinner for the Venango County Association of Township Officials, where Venango County Commissioner Sam Breene had spoken to attendees about the importance of seeking grants for the new digital radios that will soon be needed for local fire departments, once the new digital-radio 911 center is up and running. The radios cost about $4,500 each, she said.
  • Supervisors approved selling the township’s used belt-loader for $195,000, and approved contracts for oil and aggregate for road paving in the amounts of $195,875 and $99,275, respectively.
  • Supervisors also unanimously approved the conditional use for Bark & Bath Pet Spa and Boarding, a dog kennel and grooming business to be opened in the old Cranberry High School building in Seneca, for which a conditional use hearing was held March 6.
  • McSparren congratulated the Cranberry Area School District’s robotics teams who have qualified to travel to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas in April and May.