Last updated: February 19. 2013 10:33PM - 549 Views

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PLAINS TWP. – The township Zoning Hearing Board on Monday approved a funeral director's request for variances to construct a parking lot on South Main Street after the lot had already been installed.

John Corcoran, owner of Corcoran Funeral Home and a former Luzerne County coroner, had sought approval from Zoning Officer Kathy O'Boyle to construct a parking lot at 27 S. Main St. to be used for overflow parking from the lot of his funeral home at 20 S. Main St.

O'Boyle denied the request because use variances and variances to reduce the minimum setback and to erect a 4-foot-tall retaining wall instead of a 6-foot-tall fence on the property were necessary and could only be approved by the board.

Corcoran testified he purchased the house that was on the lot on Nov. 7 after it had gone into foreclosure and had the structure razed because it couldn't be salvaged. After the zoning officer denied permission for the lot, he worked with the zoning office, he said, to find out what would be needed to satisfy the board.

Corcoran said that after consulting with an engineer, he went ahead with construction before cold weather could prevent it. He said it has made the street safer because overflow vehicles from large viewings and from congregants at a nearby church could park in it instead of on the street.

A paper street – a non-paved, 13-foot-wide alleyway that exists on paper records but has not been maintained by the township – will be used to access the lot, and neighbors who currently park on it can still use it, he said.

Board member Mike Wascavage asked if the lot would increase stormwater flow. Corcoran said he took measures to guard against that by building a rain garden to collect water during storms.

Chairman Mike Somoga asked about lighting. Corcoran said he installed three lights and they were designed not to cause a glare into neighbors' homes.

Elaine Perta, of 31 S. Main St., testified that the congregation of Living Hope Bible Church increased significantly and finding parking was difficult during services. She said Corcoran's allowing the church to use the new lot will alleviate that problem.

Fred Silveri, of 28 Abbott St., testified he was concerned about stormwater runoff worsening the flooding problem he already has in his basement, given that commissioners have not addressed the problem. He said if the rain garden prevents additional flooding, he would have no problem.

Corcoran assured the board that if flooding got worse, he would work to rectify it.

The board unanimously approved Corcoran's requests.

Somoga said he had no problem with Corcoran performing the work before receiving board approval. He said if the board did not grant approval, Corcoran would have had to demolish the lot unless a court overturned the board's decision.

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