FARRELL, PA. Council moves on housing plan

The goal is to build a housing authority complex that looks more like a traditional residential area.
FARRELL, Pa. -- The city has advanced plans to create a special zoning district for the rebuilding of the Steel City Terrace public housing project.
City council passed the first of two required readings of an ordinance Monday setting up a Traditional Neighborhood Development zone for the Hope VI project, named after a federal housing program that is putting $9 million into the effort.
A final vote is slated for February.
The Traditional Neighborhood Development will give the project developers, Mercer County Housing Authority and Ralph Falbo of Pittsburgh, greater freedom in redesigning Steel City as a more livable community.
Improved design: Instead of stacking 100 apartments into several buildings, the Hope VI project will spread those units and 35 more throughout a much broader area than the old Steel City boundaries along Spearman Avenue.
The new housing units will be built as duplexes and triplexes and designed to blend in with a more conventional neighborhood setting that the old barracks-style apartment complex.
Getting the special zoning designation helps to get rid of the old project boundary, Falbo told council.
It allows the developers more flexibility in what they want to design and build and will avoid the need for a string of requests for zoning variances, special exceptions or conditional uses in an area that is already zoned for single-family, multifamily and light industrial use.
The area is roughly bounded by Bond Street on the north, Kedron Street on the south, Spearman Avenue on the west and a line midway between Hamilton and Emerson avenues on the east.
The special zoning doesn't give developers an entirely free hand. Their development plan must spell out building locations, designs and uses and city council must approve that plan.
Total cost: The total project cost is estimated at $28 million.
In a related matter, some residents in the targeted area asked that the concrete barricades blocking Spearman Avenue at the southern end of the Steel City complex be removed.
The Mercer County Housing Authority and police had the barricades placed there years ago to combat drug traffickers doing business in the area of the housing complex.
Similar barricades were placed on streets around a housing authority complex in Sharon.
Complaints: Betty Simmons, who lives in Steel City Terrace, and Lorr aine Jones of Wallis Avenue said the barricades aren't needed.
"We're barricaded in like we're in jail," Jones complained.
Mayor William Morocco said city officials will discuss the issue with police and the housing authority and will have an answer at next Monday's council meeting.
The barricades will have to be removed anyway as part of the project construction, he said.

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