The developers of a proposed affordable housing development for seniors say that they’ve identified additional parking for their project, as they seek to gain approval from Harrisburg’s zoning board.
At a special hearing on Tuesday, Bethel Village officials explained additions that they made to their plan to try to appeal to neighbors for the proposed project at N. 6th and Herr streets, especially regarding parking.
“Looking back, we would’ve benefitted from more outreach,” said Esch McCombie, an attorney with McNees, Wallace & Nurick, the law firm representing Bethel.
At last month’s Zoning Hearing Board meeting, the project received a range of feedback from residents, a majority of whom were opposed to the project. Most believed that the four off-street parking spots proposed for the 49-unit building were not enough.
Officials from RB Development and Gardner Capital, two of the partners in the project, maintained that few parking spots are needed, as they expect most residents will not own cars.
However, community members questioned where guests, nurses and staff will park.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Bethel Village officials said that they believe an agreement with nearby Tabernacle Baptist Church for use of 15 surface parking spaces will address the neighbors’ concerns. However, they do not yet have a lease signed with the church, McCombie said.
They also pointed out there are at least 10 on-street parking spaces on Herr Street and 38 newly constructed spaces on N. 6th Street from Herr to Reily streets.
At the meeting, neighbor Stephen Rzonca said that he walked the street recently, taking pictures, and saw no open spaces.
“Consider this was on a Tuesday afternoon, when not all of the 20,000 state employees that were teleworking have returned,” he said. “Two, this was on a day when the Broad Street Market was closed. Thursdays through Saturdays, the parking situation gets considerably worse.”
However, for some residents, such as Olivia Rindfuss, Bethel’s additions to the plan were enough to gain their support.
“Previously, I attested that the plan in its current condition would not be to the best public safety of the city,” she said. “In correction of that statement, I am in support of this project based on improvements to the plan. I hope my neighbors will join me in support of this project.”
Overall, Tuesday’s meeting received more positive comments for Bethel, with a number of Bethel AME Church members voicing support. The church is a partner in the project, and their building formerly was situated on the land where the proposed senior housing would go.
In response to a petition opposing the project submitted by neighbors at last month’s zoning meeting, Bethel collected over 70 signatures on its own petition in support of the project.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the housing go up, and I’m looking forward to helping our seniors,” said resident Ruby Doub, who also is the communications liaison for Dauphin County.
Members of the zoning board said they were not ready to make a decision on the case yet and would continue it to the board’s Aug. 16 meeting at 6 p.m.
“It [parking] is not a safety and health issue. It’s a convenience issue,” McCombie said. “It’s having to walk further to find parking. It’s having to drive around for 20 to 30 minutes to find parking. I absolutely appreciate their concerns […] but at the end of the day, the application complies with the requirements.”
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