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Referendums: Voters in Jackson against annexation; those in Pittsburgh, Munhall against bottle clubs

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

By Ed Blazina, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Voters in Pittsburgh and Munhall yesterday decided to tighten the cap on bottle clubs, establishments that typically operate after the 2 a.m. last call at licensed taverns.

Pittsburgh voters approved a ballot question increasing penalties on the illegal clubs; Munhall voters OK'd a question banning them.

Meanwhile, voters in Jackson, Butler County, overwhelmingly turned down an attempt by neighboring Harmony to annex land to accommodate a proposed townhouse development.

Voters throughout Butler County supported revamping the voting system. In Worthington, Armstrong County, indifference triumphed as a referendum on library funding was defeated 2-0.

In Pittsburgh, voters approved an increase in penalties for illegal bottle clubs, which typically open after 2 a.m., have a door charge and provide free liquor. Instead of a summary offense with a $300 fine, voters upgraded operation of a bottle club to a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

Voters approved the tougher penalties by 19,116-11,908.

In Munhall, a proposed ban on bottle clubs was approved, 1,323-400.

The annexation issue involved a proposal for Harmony to annex property along Wise and Little Creek roads in neighboring Jackson. Voters in both communities had to approve the annexation.

Jackson voters turned down the proposal, 863-72.

Harmony voted in favor of annexation, 154-74.

The issue centered on the proposed Creekside housing development, which includes building 120 apartments in Harmony and 240 in Jackson. Harmony and the developer proposed annexing the property in Jackson -- plus about 70 homes in the Jackson Manor housing development -- to settle a dispute over how the Jackson apartments would be supplied with water.

Harmony, through its water authority, has a Public Utility Commission permit to supply water in the annexation area. It recently unveiled plans to apply for a $6 million state loan to expand its water plant to serve the proposed apartments.

Pennsylvania-American Water Co. serves Jackson, but it would need to expand its service in the area, too. It offered to expand into Harmony, but the borough rejected the idea.

The developer, Creative Real Estate Development of Cranberry, supports becoming part of Harmony because that borough would not require the same types of traffic studies as Jackson.

Harmony, which has less than 950 residents, strongly supported the annexation and has proposed building a park for Jackson Manor residents.

Jackson officials lobbied against the proposal and sent mailings to all residents urging them to vote "no." Township Supervisor Ralph DiLuigi called the proposal "a game" by Harmony to acquire additional residents and water customers.

Jackson would lose about $24,000 in tax revenue from its $1.1 million budget. Because it has a higher tax rate, Harmony would gain about $30,000 for its $365,000 budget.

Butler County voters authorized revamping the county voting system, 12,705-8,773, but changes won't be made anytime soon.

The county still uses the "butterfly ballot" system that was implemented in 1983 and caused confusion in other states during the 2000 presidential election. County officials say they will change the system only if state or federal money becomes available because it would cost $400,000 to update the existing system and about $1.2 million for a new system.

In Armstrong County, few seemed to care whether Worthington-West Franklin Community Library receives additional money. A referendum that asked whether Worthington should levy an additional 0.75 mill of property tax to support the library was defeated in a 2-0 vote. A total of 105 ballots were cast in the municipality, but only two people voted in the referendum.

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