Zoning change allows nuns to sell Ross motherhouse to Presbyterian SeniorCare

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Ross commissioners approved four items Monday that will allow the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth to sell their headquarters, or motherhouse, for senior housing.

Commissioners approved rezoning the property on Bellevue Road to R-4, multifamily residential. The property had been zoned R-2 for one- and two-family residential, although Commissioner David Mikec noted that the property has functioned as an R-4 since it was built.

Commissioners then approved subdividing the property to allow for the motherhouse to be converted to senior housing and the construction of a tri-plex for the sisters to live in on another part of the property. The site plan for the tri-plex was approved Nov. 18.

Doug Tait of Tait Engineering told commissioners the sisters do not need the large motherhouse any longer because their numbers have dwindled. The sisters plan to sell the building and 10 adjacent acres to Presbyterian SeniorCare, which will convert it into 42 apartments for seniors who earn $35,000 or less per year.

A daycare center operating on the first floor of the building will remain, and will expand to part of the second floor, said James Pieffer, senior vice-president and secretary of Presbyterian SeniorCare.

“That intergenerational model will be unusual in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Because of that, all tenants for the senior apartments will be screened for any criminal background.

“All residents would be fully screened as if they were a volunteer at the day care center,” Mr. Pieffer said.

The site plan for the changes to the motherhouse  also was approved Monday.

The 10 acres to be owned by Presbyterian SeniorCare will go onto the tax rolls when the sale is complete, Mr. Pieffer said.

Commissioner Grant Montgomery said Presbyterian SeniorCare will be an asset to the township. “Knowing their track record in Allegheny County and Washington County, they do a fantastic job.”

Commissioners also approved a site plan that will allow the sisters to convert a current two-story garage into office space.

All votes were unanimous.

In other business, Gerald O’Brien, who was elected tax collector in November, complained about the tax office being moved from the municipal building to a building in Evergreen Park. Commissioners had voted to move the office last February.

“To move this office, I think, is going to [show a] lack of respect for all the people who have paid for this building,” he said. “People are complaining about the lack of convenience and the lack of customer service in the tax collectors’ office.”

Mr. O’Brien, a former commissioner said when he ran for tax collector, he promised to be more available and to add online and credit card payments.

But, he said Monday, he cannot do that in the Evergreen Park building because it is rented out for parties so he does not want to keep computer equipment and private tax records there overnight.

Also, he said, the parking lot is unpaved, unlit and far from the office. “I wouldn’t want my wife, mother, sister, or whatever to go down there,” he said.

Commissioners also voted 8-1, with Grace Stanko objecting, to ask the state Ethics Commission whether Mrs. Stanko and Lana Mazur need to state the reason for abstaining on the bills each time they do so. Both women own businesses that do work for the township and abstain if theirs is one of the bills being paid. They filed a memo stating their reason for abstaining with the township, but do not state a reason each time they abstain.

Solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier said the memo is legal. Commissioner Stephen Korbel, himself a municipal solicitor, said both women are at risk when they do not state a reason each time they abstain.

“I ran on a platform of transparency and being open, and I think this goes to that issue,” Mr. Korbel said.

“I appreciate that you have these opinions, but I am the solicitor,” Ms. Brimmeier said.

During this debate,  Mrs. Stanko’s husband called out from the audience, telling Mr. Korbel to “shut up.” He later apologized to Mr. Korbel for his outburst.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a site plan for Brian Kampi to build an accessory building to hold equipment for his contracting business at 7830 Old Perry Highway.

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

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