New Castle controversy over demolishing 2 historic sites heads to court

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WYTV) – One neighborhood in New Castle is wrestling with the question of whether to preserve two pieces of neighborhood history or allow a Speedway gas station to move in to help the economy.

Under the plan, a house and a funeral home that have been standing since the 1880s would be demolished.

“They filed this land-use appeal because the New Castle city council granted authorization to build this Speedway gas station,” said Ryan Hamilton, an attorney for Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services.

Which some people say is illegal.

“My clients and I believe that the local ordinances prohibit demolition of the historic properties that are currently at that location,” Hamilton said.

But, local business owners say the economic needs of the town should trump preservation.

“If we have more people paying into the tax base of our town, and have more people employed in our town, it will help,” said Connie McMichael of Connerly’s Cleaners.

Not everyone agrees though.

“There’s a lot of research demonstrating that preservation of historical properties results in positive economic and social impacts for a community,” Hamilton said.

Business owners say the high taxes are tied to a lack of revenue in town.

“If you were in business, you would know what it’s like to be paying taxes as a business owner, you would be paying taxes,” McMichael said.

She argues that while the location may not be perfect for a gas station, it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s not the perfect solution or the best solution for our town, but if it brings jobs or brings tax base into our community, that’s what we need to do,” McMichael said.

The next steps in the debate will be to go to court. An oral argument appealing the conditional use authorization is scheduled in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.




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