Residents wonder why the college doesn't do something about unruly students.
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. -- About 15 homeowners have been told by council it won't be easy, but if they are willing to spend the time and effort, they can make a difference by cleaning up a triplex in their neighborhood.
The group, all of whom live near the structure at Vine and Park Streets, described ongoing problems, including fights, loud music and swearing in the middle of the night, speeding cars, squealing tires and standing garbage.
The neighbors gave council a copy of a letter they sent to the owners of the property, Edward and Katy Belle Bishop of Carol Drive in New Castle, asking them to either control their tenants or evict them.
Zoning violation: Council has also informed the Bishops that the borough is already aware of a zoning violation at the property and will remove an electric meter there this week because only two rental units are allowed at the address.
Police Chief Dick Hanna told the residents they must be willing to sign complaints against the tenants and testify before the district justice. Solicitor Tom Mansell urged them to be persistent, noting that the fine for a first violation might be small, but repeated complaints against the tenants would result in increasing fines.
Residents asked whether neighborhoods can be protected by using zoning to prohibit multifamily dwellings.
Several council members responded that progress has been made in doing that in several areas of the borough. Apartments already in place cannot be zoned out unless they cease to be used as apartments for one year.
Other questions arise: There were other questions about Westminster College's responsibility in the matter, because most of the tenants are students there.
Sandy Aquaro said that while the college has a lottery which allows only a certain number of students to live off campus, many find ways to get around the rules.
Councilman George Shaffer, chairman of the zoning committee, said a meeting has been scheduled with officials at the college to discuss the problems caused by students at rental properties.
Dave Copper, of 211 East Neshannock Ave., meanwhile, told council that for the last three years he has had problems with a rental unit at 203 East Neshannock. He said "screaming and carrying on at 3 a.m." is not unusual.
He said that although he has lived in his house for 18 years, he is thinking of moving.
Requirements: Council president Larry Wagner said council requires apartment units to each have a separate utility bill and that square-footage requirements have also been enacted to discourage the move toward multifamily dwellings.
Council member Fred Kingery noted that the borough is constrained by laws and zoning but wondered why Westminster doesn't do a better job of control. He encouraged the residents to complain, as a group, to the college.
Wagner said the Lawrence County Regional Council of Governments is considering hiring a housing code enforcement officer to be shared among many municipalities, which could help solve some of the problems, but the actual hiring could be six or more months away.