Following a length visitor portion concerning the Ellwood Electric Department, the Ellwood City Borough Council proceeded with Monday’s agenda. On that agenda was an amendment to the zoning ordinance dividing the business district into four sections. Council passed the new zoning in a 6-1 vote.
At a public hearing on June 27, several business owners and realtors opposed the zoning ordinance. The passed ordinance was created by council over a several year period in conjunction with Town Center Associates, a downtown consulting agency.
The vote was not without discussion. Council member Judi Dici, who took office in January, was not involved in the process of creating the new ordinance and at the hearing said she would look over the regulations before voting.
At Monday’s meeting, Dici said she had read over all 40 pages of the ordinance and throughout the process, couldn’t help but think of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” and the song by rock band Rare Earth, “Hey Big Brother.”
“I’m 100 percent in favor of rebuilding this city and bringing businesses in,” Dici said. “But this seems to be too much regulation. We want to control how everything looks and what can go where.”
Council vice-president David DeCaria, an outspoken proponent of the zoning, responded with, “I believe in politics that’s called pandering.”
“Are you accusing me of pandering?” Dici said.
“I am accusing you of pandering,” DeCaria responded.
In defense of zoning, DeCaria referred to Town Center Associates as experts who have provided calculated, measured and proven steps to revitalize a downtown. In addition, as a member of the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce, he knows many business owners who are in favor of the zoning.
“With our current zoning, we have not prospered,” DeCaria said. “This new approach funnels retail into one location.”
DeCaria brought up a previous split council decision regarding police civil service rules and regulations*. Dici and council member Marilyn Mancini voted no the regulations because the final version didn’t follow all of the recommendations given by an outside consultant and instead favored recommendations by Lt. Dave Kingston, the police department’s ranking officer.
“Why did we pay this man $1,100 to make regulations if we aren’t going to follow them?” Dici asked.
DeCaria returned to Dici’s comment when discussing the zoning ordinance. “Mrs. Dici wants us to listen to experts in one area but not another,” he said.
After the discussion, Dici said it was inappropriate for DeCaria to accuse her of pandering during a meeting, to which the vice-president apologized. However, when it came time to vote, DeCaria had an emphatic “yes” to which Dici responded with an equally emphatic “no.”
Correction [noon]: The article previously said “Canine Policy” which Dici voted in favor of.
Photos below by Katy Hiser/EllwoodCity.org