Gettysburg plans to create special events zoning in the Elm St. Overlay neighborhood

In a split vote, the Gettysburg Borough Council voted Monday to consider sweeping zoning changes that would allow special event locations in the Elm St. Overlay district.

Chris Berger, Matt Moon and Chairman Wes Heyser voted against.

The vote allows the borough to move forward in thinking about the changes. A public hearing will take place before a final vote.

The rezoning request came from Scott English of 1210 Pumping Station Rd. in Gettysburg to allow for the creation of a special events center at a home he owns at 66-68 W. High St.

English said the historic grand house, on the corner of High and S. Washington Sts., and known as Gettysburg Academy, was originally built in 1813 as the first public school in Adams County and was used as the first building of Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary (1826-1832) and the first building of Gettysburg College (1832-1837).

English requested that a provision be added to facilitate a special event venue in the Elm Street overlay district. He said the proposed use would “further enhance downtown” and that he was “working in the Elm Street Overlay District to enhance the vitality of the Third Ward.”

The application asks the Borough to create a new special events venue that would include:

  • Removed the maximum floor area restriction of 2000 square feet to allow for larger buildings
  • Allowing the organization of community gatherings, educational events, historical interpretive functions, family weddings, art exhibitions, parties, bridal showers, assemblies of cultural significance and other events similar where large groups of people are gathered, usually involving food, drink and music.
  • Opening hours: would be between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
  • The maximum attendance for outdoor events would be 150 people.
  • English requested that the ordinance be written to say that “at no time during the event will the lighting produce glare beyond the property lines.

English requested that the ordinance require applications to submit an annual “management plan” for review and approval by the borough, fire department and Gettysburg municipal authority, which would include:

1. Opening hours and maximum attendance

2. Proposed parking location, layout, surface material and demonstrate ADA compliance for on-site parking.

3. Location and proposed use of off-site properties for parking or other support facilities. Copy(s) of all offsite parking agreements and transportation plan for shuttle service to offsite parking areas.and

4. Provisions for safety, sanitation, waste disposal and emergency care.

5. Off-site and on-site management measures and procedures, including directional signage.

6. Noise and lighting control measures

7. Certificate of insurance

At the meeting, English said buses would transport attendees to and from the property from local hotels and the proposal had already been approved by the Gettysburg Planning Commission.

Two neighborhood residents present at the meeting spoke out against the plan, saying 150 daily visitors would create traffic and noise and that the proposal would be a major impact on the character of the neighborhood and conflict with the purpose of the Elm program St. which was designed to create long term neighborhood sustainability. Stakeholders also expressed concerns about security and parking.

Before the vote, Moon said, “Idling buses are noisy. They affect the quality of life of residents.

Heyser expressed reservations and said zoning would affect quality of life.

Before casting her vote, Councilwoman Patti Lawson said the house was in a nice pedestrian zone where people could enjoy a special event. She said it might allow more visitors.

Director of Planning, Zoning and Code Enforcement Carly Marshall said English was asking for a “broad text amendment” that would create the new use of special events, define it and consider its use. “The text amendment is substantial and would apply to all districts, she said.

“I know we’re talking about a landlord looking to use their property for this, but the text amendment is a substantive amendment. The language has multiple zoning districts,” Marshall said.

Marshall said she anticipates the borough will see more value in using local buildings for special events in the near future.

Charles Stangor is publisher and editor of the Gettysburg Connection.