Etna residents petition to save parking spaces

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ETNA, Pa. - A small community parking lot has caused controversy in Etna as two sides argue over what should be done.

More than 200 residents have signed a petition that opposes a businessman's application to lease the PennDOT-owned lot on Spang Way, an alley next to Route 8, where neighbors say they long have been permitted to park for free.

“People have been parking there for 60 years,” said Tony Perrelli, 50, of Etna, who organized the petition. “(Eliminating it) is a detriment to the neighborhood.”

Businessman Len Lachina, president of Lachina Drapery & Blind Factory, contacted PennDOT this year to inquire about leasing the lot, said H. Daniel Cessna, PennDOT District 11 executive. PennDOT hasn't leased the spot since acquiring it in 1954, he said.

Cessna said PennDOT has asked Lachina, 50, of Indiana Township, and Etna residents to come up with a compromise. If they can't, it will be put out for a competitive bid, he said.

Lachina said he hopes to build a retail business in a building he owns on the corner of Higgins Street and Spang Way. The leased lot would provide parking for customers, he said. The lot has room for eight to 10 cars.

Perrelli said he sent the handwritten petition to the borough, PennDOT and local representatives. Lachina said he met with borough officials and some residents to try to work out an arrangement that would allow access to at least some of the spaces.

“I don't want problems with anyone, so whatever I need to do with the community to work it out, I'll do,” Lachina said. “I want to be a good neighbor.”

Etna manager Mary Ellen Ramage said some residents likely object to a change because they've parked there for free, and many contend with scarce on-street parking, Ramage said.

On Monday, Channel 11’s Alan Jennings talked with one mother who said she’s been parking in the lot for free and she can’t afford to pay for the spot.

Others echoed the woman’s complaints and said they’d appreciate the lot to stay as is.

“They're going to isolate these homes even more than when they put the highway in there,” Perrelli said. “Why wouldn't they just give it to Etna and make it a community lot?”

Ramage said the building Lachina is renovating was starting to become an eyesore.

“We were happy that somebody was going to take care of it,” she said. “And not just put it back on the tax rolls, but fix it.”