McCandless residents fight township's approval of Wal-Mart store

Appeal says officials hurried Super Center proposal

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More than a dozen McCand­less res­i­dents are ask­ing a court to over­turn the town­ship’s de­ci­sion to ap­prove a Wal-Mart Su­per Center off of McKnight Road near North Park.

In an ap­peal filed in Al­le­gheny County Court of Com­mon Pleas on Thurs­day, 15 people al­lege town­ship of­fi­cials did not give residents enough time or in­for­ma­tion to eval­u­ate the com­plex pro­posal. They said the con­duct of town­ship of­fi­cials “has been ob­du­rate, vex­a­tious, in bad faith and con­trary to its … fi­du­ciary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to its con­stit­u­ents.”

Dwight Fer­gu­son, their at­tor­ney, said one of the things the residents want to de­ter­mine is whether Wal-Mart con­trols the prop­erty where the pro­posed store would be lo­cated. He said doubts about that have been raised by a fed­eral court case in­volv­ing a real es­tate part­ner­ship that al­leges it was bank­rupted be­cause of Wal-Mart’s fail­ure to sign a land lease for the real es­tate.

“That’s a very fun­da­men­tal point worth ex­plor­ing,” Mr. Fer­gu­son said.

The town­ship’s at­tor­ney, Gavin Robb, did not re­spond to phone calls and emails seek­ing com­ment. Town­ship man­ager Toby Cordek could not be reached for com­ment. Wal-Mart could not be reached for com­ment.

McCand­less’ town coun­cil ap­proved plans for the 150,000-square-foot store on Bla­zier Drive at its July 28 meet­ing.

The res­i­dents in­volved in the suit ei­ther own prop­erty ad­ja­cent to the 23-acre site, live in the neigh­bor­hood or would be hurt by the store. In their ap­peal, they said Wal-Mart’s pro­posal does not con­tain any res­i­den­tial el­e­ment, which is re­quired based on how the prop­erty is zoned.

But their big­gest com­plaint is that town­ship of­fi­cials pro­vided very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion to residents in ad­vance of the July 28 vote.

They said the coun­cil never held a pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posal, that Wal-Mart did not make a full pre­sen­ta­tion about the proj­ect to the full coun­cil or the pub­lic, and that the pub­lic was not pro­vided with any part of Wal-Mart’s ap­pli­ca­tion in ad­vance of the vote.

The town­ship also balked at right-to-know re­quests for the in­for­ma­tion made by their at­tor­neys and Giant Eagle’s at­tor­ney, Wil­liam Sit­tig, the res­i­dents said in court doc­u­ments. In each case, the town­ship asked for 30 ad­di­tional days to pro­vide the in­for­ma­tion, an ex­ten­sion that is al­lowed un­der the state’s sun­shine law.

Despite the res­i­dents’ re­quests for the in­for­ma­tion, coun­cil mem­bers re­fused to post­pone the vote “in com­plete dis­re­gard of the rights and in­ter­ests” of the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity, the ap­peal states.

The res­i­dents are ask­ing the court to al­low them to pro­vide more ev­i­dence once they re­ceive it from the town­ship and to ei­ther send the case back to the town coun­cil for re­con­sid­er­ation or to re­verse the town coun­cil’s de­ci­sion.


Len Bose­lovic: 412-263-1941 or lbose­lovic@post-ga­zette.com

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