BY STACI WILSON
Montrose Borough Council held a special hearing on Monday, July 16, for two ordinances that would amend the town’s zoning ordinance.
One amendment would allow for art studios to be opened in residential neighborhoods.
The other amendment – which deals with changes to the downtown business district – ended in a 3-3 tie; with Mayor Thomas LaMont not weighing in with his descision at the hearing.
The amendment would prohibit medical clinics – including vision centers, dentists, etc. – in commercial (C-1) and office, institutional, professional (X-1) zones. Existing providers in the Public Avenue and Church Street areas would not be affected by the change.
Council President Sean Granahan said the change is an effort to make the downtown area more inviting to retail businesses and restaurants in the “red light area.”
“We are not content to let (Montrose) close up and go away,” Granahan said, adding that many small towns are facing shuttered businesses and empty storefronts.
Councilman Craig Reimel said that with the closing of his family’s store – Lee’s Furniture – it was not likely that a large retailer would be coming to the downtown.
He voiced concern about restricting opticians, chiropractors from opening offices in that area of the borough. “It smacks of being awfully restrictive,” he said.
Mayor Tom LaMont said clinic-type businesses could petition the zoning hearing board to be allowed into those zones.
Granahan added that the purpose was to make opening a store in Montrose “easier for retailers.”
LaMont said the change would help to direct the growth of the town – and the downtown toward retail.
In the discussion, hindrances to opening a storefront in Montrose were also brought up. “We stop them every time they start,” Reimel said, noting differing interpretations of the UCC Code. He advocated for making it easier to allow business to open.
Council discussed problems some business owners were having in getting the required permits, citing one matter coming to head in recent weeks.
“It’s a symptom of what’s been happening the past two years,” Reimel said.
Councilman Tom Follert suggested bringing on a business development specialist to help target the types of retail businesses and niche shops the borough would like to see open.
More discussion about issues brought forth during the hearing is expected to continue. Montrose Borough Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held Monday, Aug. 6, 7 p.m., in the borough building on Cherry Street.