Pittsburgh bed-and-breakfast dispute returned to zoners by court

Neighbors 'pleased' by ruling on parties

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The three-year legal conflict between Shadyside neighbors and the Mansion at Maple Heights over its outdoor parties inched another step toward resolution with a recent ruling by the zoning board of adjustment.

The board originally heard the case in 2011, deciding that a tent used for outdoor parties could not be considered a permitted accessory use to the bed-and-breakfast. Its most recent ruling reaffirmed that the parties were unrelated to the bed-and-breakfast business.

Owner and former Steelers lineman Chukky Okobi's attorneys appealed the 2011 ruling to Common Pleas Court, which reversed the board's decision. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Patricia Lemer and Drew Elste, appealed that decision to Commonwealth Court, which sent it back to the zoning board for more evidence.

Neither Mr. Okobi, who owns the property at 5516 Maple Heights Road, nor his attorneys could be reached for comment as to whether they will appeal the board's decision again.

"We're very pleased with the board's decision," said Jordan Strassburger, one of the plaintiff's attorneys.

Alan Shuckrow, also a plaintiff's attorney, said that if Mr. Okobi appeals, the judge will "only be looking to see if the zoning board's findings are supported by the record."

According to the board's decision, catered events for up to 150 people were held 78 times between 2010 and 2012. The board calculated that, based on maximum attendance, "up to 11,700 guests" attended catered events during those two years, compared to 2,372 guest nights at the bed and breakfast.

The board determined that 74 percent of the mansion's revenue in 2012 came from catered events, "not including fees paid by caterers, DJs, flower services, etc., for exclusive status with the subject property."

In its conclusion, the board's ruling reads, in part, that "the manner in which the catered parties are operated, with 150 attendees, over two dozen employees, utilizing amplified music, as a matter of law cannot be an accessory to a five-bedroom bed and breakfast in the residential district in which it sits."

neigh_city - legalnews

Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk


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