Large crowd forces Bellefonte Borough Council to delay vote on Garman demolition

Members of the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association came out in force for Monday night’s Borough Council meeting.

So much so, the council chambers were well beyond capacity, and the vote on whether to allow demolition of the Garman Theatre was delayed to a later meeting.

More than 60 people tried to squeeze into the room that has a capacity of 44, with even more standing in the hallway. Fire Chief Tim Schreffler had to ask people to leave, saying it was a safety hazard.

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart has only seen that many people at a council meeting once, about 10 years ago, and he said that meeting also had to be delayed. He said they will try to schedule a special meeting before the next council meeting on Nov. 18.

“Obviously a room has to be available and members of council have to be available,” he said, “but our plan is to schedule it.”

Stewart said it was the right call to reschedule the vote, but no official date has been announced for a makeup.

The Bellefonte Historical Architecture Review Board passed a measure 3-2 last month to recommend council approve a request from developer Ara Kervandjian to demolish the Garman and neighboring Hotel Do De. Kervandjian, who owns both buildings, plans to combine them with the nearby Cadillac Building, also fire-damaged, to make 32-workforce housing apartment units.

The members of the BHCA are continuing their efforts to gain control of the building and raise funds to turn it into a regional arts center. The group filed a notice of appeal to the Commonwealth Court after Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler denied an injunction request on the possible demolition.

In a work session prior to the meeting, Schreffler said the building is unsafe in its current condition, and it had vagrants living in it before the fire.

“Looking at it from a Bellefonte Fire Department perspective, that building is nothing but a trap,” he said.

When Council President Frank Halderman announced that the issue would be tabled, most people left the room, and the rest of the meeting went on as scheduled.