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City council approves historic designation law

By Andrew Conte
Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Only the owners of religious buildings will be able to nominate the structures for historic status in Pittsburgh under legislation approved by City Council on Tuesday.

Councilwoman Barbara Burns, who had opposed the measure in a preliminary vote, supported it in the end. She was joined by Bob O’Connor, the primary sponsor; President Gene Ricciardi, Jim Motznik, Twanda Carlisle and Alan Hertzberg. William Peduto and Sala Udin remained opposed.

Mayor Tom Murphy has not said whether he will veto the measure, which council might not be able to override with O’Connor’s departure. He left council yesterday to run Gov. Ed Rendell’s Southwestern Pennsylvania office.

“We believe in preservation rather than designation,” said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which supported the bill. He said the diocese has no immediate plans to close any parishes.

Udin said the bill takes too much authority away from council. “It removes the mayor, City Council and congregations from the process of historic designation for churches,” he said. “O’Connor’s bill is written in such a way that the only ones who can save a historic church are the ones who want to destroy it.”

In other business, council also unanimously approved spending $100,000 to light new Ultimate Frisbee fields in Highland Park and $50,000 to install Jersey barriers along McArdle Roadway.

Finally, Motznik introduced legislation directing the mayor’s office to investigate nightclubs and other venues where people gather for concerts. He wants the administration to also create an emergency training program for operators of those venues in the event of fires and other hazardous incidents.

His bill follows an incident in Rhode Island Thursday in which 97 people died in a nightclub fire. Four days before that, 21 people died in a stampede at a Chicago nightclub. Motznik’s legislation comes up for discussion and a preliminary vote March 5.

Andrew Conte can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. © Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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