Plan for VFW site receives conditional zoning approval

Monday, June 17, 2019 | 6:00 AM

The former VFW is one step closer to becoming a parking lot.

Gus Mantia and his son purchased the Veterans of Foreign Wars property at 529 Beaver St. earlier this year. By end of summer, they will likely have the approval necessary to pursue their plans.

The Mantias purchased two adjacent land parcels, which contain the building itself and a parking lot. At a June 11 meeting, Sewickley borough council approved consolidation of the two parcels, with the condition that a rezoning application be approved.

VFW membership has declined in recent years. This factored into the decision of Post 5756 members to put the property up for sale last year, the Sewickley Herald reported. Mantia said VFW members have endorsed his plans for the property.

“During winter my son and I purchased the VFW parking lot with the goal of providing parking for the community,” Mantia told council.

“The building itself had a lot of deferred maintenance because the veterans had dwindled down and couldn’t sustain it very well, and the building may require significant improvements to be serviceable,” Mantia said. “So we have looked at the process of taking down the VFW building and using the space for additional parking.”

Mantia hired Environmental Planning & Design for work on the property. Katie Kovalchik, a landscape architect for the company, spoke about zoning considerations at the meeting.

One land parcel lies completely in the C-1 commercial zoning district, while a portion of the other parcel is zoned into a residential district. A commercial parking lot is not permitted as a use in residential zones.

“We are applying to … unify the parcels into one and rezone it all into C-1 so that the use of parking, which it has been used for for many years, is now in compliance with the zoning of a C-1 use,” Kovalchik said.

The planning commission has already given a recommendation of approval for rezoning of the property, council President Jeff Neff said.

Mantia said he received positive feedback from community members during an April planning commission meeting. He said he has shown diagrams to residents living adjacent to the lot.

“None of them were dissatisfied or had any negative comments about the intentions of what we’re doing,” he said.

John Dunn, a council member who also serves on the planning commission, said residents he spoke to support the plan.

The property will eventually contain 44 parking spaces, Kovalchik said. Mantia said the community needs additional parking and said businesses could lease spaces in the lot.

Sewickley Parking Authority Chairman Richard Webb said the authority supports what it has heard of Mantia’s general plan to improve and slightly expand the lot’s footprint.

Zoning officials will review the rezoning application and make a recommendation to council at a later date, Dunn said.

Council could give a final vote of approval by August.

“If for some reason the rezoning doesn’t go through, we can’t have one property that has multiple districts in it,” Sewickley solicitor Richard Tucker said of the conditional approval for lot consolidation.