Groups urging new green regulations for city projects

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Developers successfully convinced Pittsburgh City Council yesterday to think twice about attaching new strings to subsidies, but a coalition of groups proposed new threads that would tie aid to environmental advances and community benefits.

Labor, environmental, community and religious groups filled the lobby outside of Council Chamber to unveil pieces of their development agenda.

One proposal would require that contractors on city-aided construction projects use ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in their diesel-powered vehicles, starting next year. By 2014, they could only use trucks with the best available emissions reduction equipment on city-backed sites.

"I just want clean air, not just for my grandchildren, but for everybody," said Shirley Rucker, a volunteer for many organizations who lives in Manchester, close to North Shore development sites. She often cares for three grandchildren, who live in Brighton Heights and who receive medical treatment for asthma.

Ms. Rucker said her 13-year-old grandson is particularly affected by pollution, needing an atomizer, pills and breathing treatments to lead an active life that includes football and basketball.

That legislation also would require stormwater runoff mitigation on subsidized sites, and would enhance some requirements in the city code for open space in developments.

The other bill introduced yesterday would require that the city Planning Commission, before approving development, weigh the balance of positive and negative impacts on the surrounding community. It also would set extensive new rules ensuring meaningful opportunities for public comment on proposed projects.

"If we are going to invest public dollars in private projects, those dollars should do more than go into developers' pockets," said Councilman William Peduto, a sponsor of the legislation.

Council could vote tentatively on both bills on Dec. 2, or opt to hold public hearings.

Postponed, until after a public hearing, was a vote on an ordinance that would require payment of prevailing wages to hotel, cafeteria, grocery and building maintenance workers in developments backed by public money. Developers said the legislation was unclear, could put them at a disadvantage when trying to lure tenants, and was written without their input.

"If this has to happen, do it the right way," Brian M. Albert, assistant general counsel for Oxford Development, told council. "Touch base with all of the affected parties and try to figure out something that will work for everybody."

Though seven of the nine council members are backing the prevailing wage legislation, they agreed to hold a hearing and consider amendments.

One co-sponsor, Councilwoman Theresa Smith, said developers who oppose the legislation should declare how much they earn from city-backed developments. "We might have some suggestions for their salaries."

Council voted tentatively to give itself the power to set development-related application fees, currently set by the city Planning Department. The legislation's sponsor, Councilman Ricky Burgess, said council "may want to raise the fees. We may want to lower the fees."

A final vote on that could come Dec. 1.


Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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