Group mulls alternate location for animal shelter

By Jeanne Starmack

The animal-rescue group had run into opposition to building its shelter in the city.

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — An animal-rescue group that was fighting for a permit to build a shelter on 20 acres in the city is considering different property now.

Neighbors near the 20 acres, bordered by Elder, Vine, Ash and Scott streets, were protesting Promises for Pets’ application for a conditional-use permit to build in the neighborhood.

The issue had passed the city planning commission in April and was going before the city council, which has the final say over it, after a public hearing that was to be May 12.

Susan Papa, executive director of Promises, said she asked for an indefinite postponement at the hearing because her organization is considering pulling out of an option to buy the 20 acres, now owned by Solid Rock Ministries. The group had an offer to buy the property for $125,000 that was contingent on whether the city approved the shelter plan.

Promises wanted to put about 50 dogs and 80 cats in the 6,000-foot no-kill shelter. The organization now houses its rescued animals in foster homes.

Papa said that the group wanted to put a shelter in the city because most of the problems it deals with related to abandoned and abused animals originate there.

But a revelation that the New Castle Area School District might expand Lockley Elementary School, located next to the 20 acres, caused the group to reconsider, she said.

She said that a feasibility study from 2005 shows that the district is considering options that include expanding the school, and that it could use eminent domain to take part or all of the 20 acres for that expansion.

George Gabriel, superintendent of New Castle Schools, said that a discussion about eminent domain is premature.

He said the study, which is on the district’s primary centers for grades one through three, takes a look at the overall condition of the centers and offers options on what can be done in terms of renovations or new construction.

An expansion of Lockley, he said, “is one among many” of those options.

Papa indicated, however, that Lockley is the only elementary school the district has that is not landlocked.

Gabriel said that the feasibility study hasn’t been presented to the school board of directors yet, and a final decision on it won’t be made for several months.

Gabriel pointed out that when the district acquired land for the junior-senior high school, none was taken by eminent domain.

“I think that speaks volumes about the district,” he said.

Papa said that Promises has looked at nearly 80 acres of land outside the city limits in Scott Township off Croton Avenue. She said the group has decided it would like to have that property.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” she said, and added that it would cost about the same as the 20 acres in the city.

She said she has to meet with school-district officials to get information to tell Solid Rock Ministries.

Papa has said that the group wants a “first-rate facility” with a wing for cats, a wing for dogs, a courtyard, walking trails and fenced exercise areas.

Neighbors had concerns about dogs getting loose, noise, odors and property values in the neighborhood.

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