Planning commission approves Montessori school

STEUBENVILLE — A conditional use approval was granted Monday evening by the City Planning and Zoning Commission for a proposed Montessori school at the former Christ’s Community Church building at 1300 Maryland Ave.

The commission held a public hearing about the application from Tom and Noelle Crowe, who said the school is hoped to accommodate as many as 25 children ages 3-6.

LaBelle View resident James Hostetler said he put together articles of incorporation for the school’s nonprofit status and said the school will have Christian principles to teach children. The Crowes say they plan to raise funds to defray the cost of tuition to remove finances as a barrier to those who want their children to attend.

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said conditions for approval will include making sure site lighting is away from the street and adjoining properties, Dumpsters are screened from view and signs meet the city zoning code.

The commission gave unanimous approval to the Crowe’s application.

The commission requested City Council introduce legislation to vacate a portion of Canary Street, the eastern dead-end stub, and split it between adjacent property owners, with an easement for a city water line.

Petrossi conducted the first public hearing on the 2018 Consolidated Plan update that is a requirement for the city to continue receiving Community Development Block Grant money from the federal government.

Petrossi noted Congress hasn’t yet approved the allocations for 2018, but added amounts have been shrinking since a peak of $1.06 million in 2002. In 2017, the grant was for $571,043.

Petrossi said there are three basic permitted uses for CDBG money: To serve a low- or moderate-income area, to provide direct benefit to low- or moderate-income households or to use for a facility that serves a low- or moderate-income area.

Money can be spent to combat blight, meet an urgent need that couldn’t be met without other resources and 70 percent of the money must benefit low- or moderate-income residents.

Over the years, CDBG money has been used to pay for everything from street repaving to fire trucks, parks, a water tank installation, demolition programs and police surveillance cameras among other uses.

Petrossi said the second public hearing will be held May 7, when requests for funds will be heard.

The final public hearing will be held June 4 and the commission then will request City Council introduce legislation adopting the plan. Submission to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will happen on Aug. 8, with approval anticipated in October.

For current CDBG spending, Petrossi reported the city demolition program is on hold, pending completion of a city audit, while bids will be opened March 14 on a list of streets to be repaved.

The streets include North Fifth Street from Franklin Avenue to Mooney, North Sixth from Franklin to University Boulevard and the spur that runs behind North End field; Sherman Avenue; Mooney Avenue from North Fifth to its north end; an alley from North Fifth to Mooney and North Seventh Street from Franklin to University. An alternate would add North Fifth Street from Washington Street to Market Street.