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Special report:
Shell picks Potter
The economic effect of Shell Oil building a petrochemical plant on the former Horsehead site in Potter, and/or another company building a similar plant on the Aliquippa riverfront cannot be overstated.
"An informed citizen is the only true repository of the American will."
      -- Thomas Jefferson
TODAY
QuippaDrone
Hopewell Dog Park, a local Scout's Eagle project, has its grand opening
Hopewell Area High School student and Eagle Scout candidate Chandler Dameron recently cut the ribbon on his project a dog park at Hopewell Community Park. CLICK HERE TO SEE A GALLERY of photos from the Oct. 26 event.
bv today photos
Oct. 26 provided a dog day afternoon for Hopewell canines as a project four years in the making was officially opened.

For his ambitious Eagle Scout project, Chandler Dameron raised more than $25,000 to build a dog park in Hopewell.

He had the assistance of many local businesses and groups, including his sister's Girl Scout troop, which provided the park's agility equipment.

The park is on Laird Road, near the entrance of the community park.

It features separate areas for agility, large dogs and small/elderly dogs, as well as an area in which leashed dogs can frolic in a stream.
Board discussing future of Hopewell Area school buildings
The Hopewell Area School Board has begun discussing the future of its five school buildings in earnest

VEBH Architects recently presented a feasibility study of district facilities.

Among the challenges identified was the growth of the elementary population, and the lack of classroom space to accommodate students
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Currently, the high school building houses students in grades 9 through 12. The junior high houses students in grades 5 through 8

Three elementary schools – Hopewell Elementary (“Kane Road”), Independence and Margaret Ross – educate students from kindergarten through grade 4.

Several options were provided by VEBH for board consideration. The entire report can be found here.

Zoning hearing board to deliberate before ruling on VFW's gun range
bv today photos
ABOVE: Commander Cliford Waller (left) speaks to the zoning hearing board as VFW attorney Lawrence Bolind looks on.

AT LEFT: Board chairman Dave Leipchak (left) listens to testimony. On the right is the board's solicitor, George Patterson II.
Hopewell Township contends that a gun range is not a permitted use under its zoning regulations.

The local VFW post, which operates a rifle range, argues that such a facility is legal because it falls under the zoning code’s allowance for recreation.

Ultimately, it is the township zoning hearing board that will decide the matter. The board has 45 days to render a decision after a lengthy Feb. 11 hearing conducted before about 60 audience members.

Neighbors of the Stone Quarry Road post have complained about noise from the range, with those complaints becoming more frequent as range activity has increased in recent years.

 The state has ordered a cleanup of the lead-containing earthen backstop.

The hearing addressed Robert W. Young VFW Post 8805’s appeal of a December 2019 cease and desist order from township zoning officer John Bates that shut down the range.

Bates testified at the hearing that the post has been in two different zones over the course of the years, and a gun range is permitted in neither.

The first zoning ordinance was adopted in 1961; the VFW acquired its property in 1967.

While he also said that there is no specific mention of gun ranges in the zoning ordinance, the landowner would have to seek a special exception for anything not specified.

Lawrence Bolind, the post’s attorney, said that the range should be permitted as a recreational use in the VFW’s current zone. He submitted a 2008 letter from Bates to the post congratulating it on safely operating a range for more than 30 years.

“The township acknowledged its existence,” he said after the hearing. “They knew it was there, and they had no objection” until more than a decade later.

“The members of the post are very sympathetic regarding their neighbors,” Bolind said. “They want to be good neighbors. They want to get along.”

Documents entered into the record showed the post lost tens of thousands of dollars during 2017 and 2018. “We’ve been losing money every year,” said Commander Clifford Waller.

Bolind said the VFW paid $3,000 for a noise study, and has “a gigantic cleanup coming up” at the range.

Regarding how that will be paid for, “They’re still trying to raise it,” he said.

Both Commander Waller and Past Commander Ken Nestor, a founding member of the gun range, denied that the range has been used as a “profit center” for the post.

Board solicitor George Patterson said the zoning hearing board will schedule and advertise a hearing at which its decision will be revealed.