Ross housing plan rejected

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A planned residential development on the site of the former Highland Country Club in Ross will be heading to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Ross commissioners Monday rejected tentative approval of the development, after which an attorney for the developers said they will appeal.

When that happens, any concessions that the developer had agreed to will be moot, attorney Jonathan Kamin said.

"They made a political decision that is shortsighted," he said of the commissioners. "We offered them a number of conditions" that are now off the table.

Limerick Land Partners planned 134 single-family homes and 167 townhouses on the property on Highland Avenue.

Some commissioners who voted in favor of the development said it was the township's best chance to mitigate existing traffic problems in that area and decrease accidents on Highland Avenue and Gass Road.

One of the conditions was a traffic impact fund. Limerick would have been required to place $1,000 per single family home and $500 for each townhouse -- a total of $217,500 -- into an escrow account that would be used for signals and other traffic improvements.

Another condition now off the table would have given the township the right to approve or disapprove PennDOT's issuance of a highway occupancy permit.

"Maybe we can get some relief to these accidents," said Commissioner David Mikec, whose parents live near the proposed development. "I don't know if I will be able to face my parents after this vote tonight, but I think this is a golden opportunity for the township."

Joining Mr. Mikec in voting to approve the development were Dan DeMarco, Peter Ferraro and John Sponcer. Commissioners Chris Eyster, Lana Mazur, Gerald O'Brien, Grace Stanko and chairman Grant Montgomery said no.

Approximately 80 residents attended the meeting, and many spoke against the project. The residents cheered when the tentative approval was defeated.

Mike Andrzejewski said the area cannot handle an additional 600 to 900 cars a day that would be generated by the development.

"Some residents who have lived there 20 to 50 years have already said they will move," he said. "Would you vote 'yes' if you lived in the neighborhood? Can you handle your conscience if someone is killed?"

Resident Michael Newmeyer of Gass Road said his family alone had four vehicles that were totaled and a dog that died because of the traffic on his street.

"Highland already has the lowest highway rating that PennDOT gives. It has an 'F' rating," he said.

Mr. Newmeyer also contended that the proposed development does not meet the township's guidelines for a planned residential development, including lot size and the amount of land set aside for green space.

"The hillside is not usable space for public space," he said. "Some of the lots do not meet the guideline. ... They're not even close."

Attorney Bill Sittig, who was retained by the township as special counsel on the project, said updated plans submitted March 14 meet all the requirements of the planned residential development ordinance.

Mr. Sittig said the main question is traffic control, but PennDOT will not issue a highway occupancy permit, which requires further study of traffic, until the development has been approved by the township.

"It is a chicken-and-egg situation," he said. "The developer is trying to do a balancing act."

Sharon Corsello said chemicals were applied to the golf course over the years, and the soil should be tested for arsenic, particularly on the tee boxes and putting greens. She also asked about underground gasoline storage tanks and asbestos in the underground watering system.

Ross solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier said the soil testing "came up clean" and any asbestos that is found will have to be abated.

Mr. Sittig said there were no underground gas tanks on record, only above-ground tanks.

Mr. Kamin said the developer had a separate environmental study done that found asbestos in the country club building, which will be abated according to the law, but no other environmental concerns.

He noted that Limerick has done more to accommodate the concerns of Ross officials and residents than is required by the ordinance, including two separate engineering studies and two different traffic consultants.

"It is like nothing I have seen for tentative PRD approval. What we have been through in Ross is above and beyond what is required in your ordinance," he said.

Even though she voted against the approval, Mrs. Mazur, in whose ward the development sits, acknowledged that Limerick "has tried to accommodate every request that the township has asked."

Still, she added, "Nobody likes change."

neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com


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