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Berks

Reading seeking to finalize site for city's new fire station

Penn Street location may be ideal

READING, Pa. - Reading is on the hunt for the perfect site for a new fire station, and the city may be on the verge of committing to the 900 block of Penn Street.

Managing Director Glenn Steckman revealed that piece of news during Tuesday evening’s meeting of the city's planning commission.

Steckman said the city is not looking to build a "super station" but rather a regular fire station that can also house an ambulance.

Including modern features, a new fire station would house a decontamination area to allow firefighters to properly clean off after returning from fires and other jobs.

The city is also planning to upgrade other fire stations.

Steckman added that the fire department has been supportive. He called the plans a "modernization of city infrastructure."

Commission member Ermete Raffaelli said he wished the commission had been brought into the process sooner, saying, "We always come in on the end for our stamp of approval."

Action taken during the meeting included granting conditional approval on a final land development plan for a subdivision known as Crestmont Heritage. The plan, for 10 semi-detached homes, is located across two parcels of land at 309 and 323 Crestmont Street.

It was not the first time Berks Surveying and Engineering appeared before the commission regarding the project. The final plan incorporated some of the previous recommendations from commissioners.

"I'm elated someone took three or four of my recommendations for once, and I really appreciate it," said Raffaelli, who acknowledged that the exterior color scheme had been updated, as well as tree species and roof line changes, per his recommendations.

Commission member William Cinfici acknowledged a well-done planning job on what he called a "somewhat difficult site" because of the awkward parcel shape.

He also liked that the structures will be semi-detached, as it aligned with the commission's vision of "de-densifying" the city.

The project is awaiting review by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Assuming a passing verdict from the DEP, as well as the execution of a storm water narrative and delivery of packages to public works, the final plan was approved.

Also approved was a waiver for a final land development plan to install a Verizon telecommunication pole at 542 South Fifth Street. Verizon will be installing a 10-foot monopole and equipment on a raised platform. A six-foot fence will surround the installation.

The commission questioned why Verizon didn't look at installing a smaller pole on top of a seven-story building across the street, as it would surely be more cost-efficient for the company to utilize an existing structure. It turned out the site had been vetted, but Verizon compliance denied the location for a host of issues of a technical nature.

Finally, Peter Simone of Simone Collins Landscape Architect gave a presentation regarding revitalization proposals for the 18th Ward — the area of southwest Reading comprising the Millmont, Oakbrook and Wyomissing Park neighborhoods.

The goal of the project is to create a connected, sustainable community with more greenery — 500 trees — as well as bike and pedestrian paths. The project is being helmed by the nonprofit 18thWonder Association, which hopes to obtain grants to fund the projects.

Simone Collins conducted a survey of area residents to see what revitalization priorities are, with the top vote-getters being Lancaster Avenue streetscape, on-road bike routes, and gateways to the neighborhoods.

The Reading Planning Commission will meet again December 26 at 6 p.m. in the Penn Room at City Hall.


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