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A positive first step on Bunkys, but what will the end result be?: Editorial

Posted 8/2/17

About a year ago, the streetscape project was still underway and Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works was just getting ready to open.

Now, look how much better the stretch of South Union Street …

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A positive first step on Bunkys, but what will the end result be?: Editorial

Posted

About a year ago, the streetscape project was still underway and Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works was just getting ready to open.

Now, look how much better the stretch of South Union Street from Emaus Street heading south appears to both residents and visitors.

Some changes are big, and some are small. But they build upon each other to change the landscape.

It’s been almost four years since the Klahr Building was demolished. The out-buildings in front of the McNair House also are long gone. With that building for sale by the borough’s Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, there could be changes coming to that spot as well.

One site, however, continues to stand out like a sore thumb. That is the former Bunkys, which stretches from 10 to 16 S. Union St.

We here at the Press & Journal get a first-hand look at the location every day. It is right next door, after all. Both the appearance of the front and back of the property leave something to be desired.

But that doesn’t make us biased in our belief that the action the borough is taking to press its owner into action is a positive step.

It could be a long process toward a resolution.

One of the first visible steps happened last week, when a structural engineer, armed with a warrant, hired by Middletown inspected the property. His report could be finished at any time now.

This was a bit of an extreme step, but legal and needed. Al Dolatoski of Mechanicsburg, who has owned the building since 1998, ignored a letter the borough sent to him in May, according to borough officials.

As Dan Miller reported in today’s edition, the borough’s next steps regarding the property depends on what is in the engineer’s report. It could give the borough the ammunition to legally compel Dolatoski to address any violations that are found. If Dolatoski refuses, the borough could try to remedy the violations on its own and put a lien on the property to try and recoup its expenses from Dolatoski. The borough could even seek to acquire the property.

We don’t necessarily want the borough to buy it. It already has property it is trying to sell. But we would like to see the lot that is in such a prominent location used for something.

According to Dauphin County property records, Dolatoski owes $5,697.12 in delinquent property taxes on the property for 2015 and 2016. So the borough and school district aren’t even getting their share of that money.

We don’t know what the inspection will find, so we are getting ahead of ourselves. But we are glad to see that the borough is making some resolution to the Bunkys situation a priority.

We don’t have a grand vision for it. It would be great if someone with plans to develop the spot would buy it for retail space. The structural report might make that very difficult, depending on what it finds.

Some might like it torn down and used for parking. That would not be our preference, but it would be better than what exists now, which is an embarassment for downtown Middletown.

We also want to say that we appreciate that the borough is making zoning in general a priority. For example, an old diner on Grant Street had been condemned as unfit for human occupancy more than five years ago by a code enforcement officer who has not worked for the borough for several years. Finally, a notice was sent to the diner’s owner, William Heckman of Bainbridge, in May. Now it is being torn down.

Code enforcement and zoning might sound boring, but they can help make our borough a more attractive place to live and work.

As far as Bunkys, in a year from now we hope it looks a lot different than it does now, one way or another. 

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