Car dealership plans win approval in Ross

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Ross commissioners approved a demolition and an addition at North Hills Toyota on McKnight Road Monday.

But one commissioner said he wanted a “gentleman’s agreement” that the dealership would consider adding a sidewalk in front of its nearby service center on Browns Lane.

The approved project involves tearing down the former service center and turning the land into a parking area for vehicle display. The company also plans to add a two-bay garage for car detailing and a canopy under which new cars can be delivered to owners, said Justin Dickey, engineer for the project.

The building will get a new facade.

“This will be a really nice-looking building,” Mr. Dickey said. “It will clean up that site and give it a nice new look.”

Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, who has said in the past he wants to make a priority of accommodating pedestrians, wanted to tack a sidewalk onto the project, but Dan Hankins, building code and zoning officer, said that would require the project to be redesigned.

There will be a grass buffer between the building and McKnight Road, but the grass is part of the storm water management plan, Mr. Hankins said.

“A sidewalk would take up 48 inches, which would take up most of the green space,” he said. “Everything in storm water management has been calculated and would have to be redone if we require a sidewalk.”

Commissioner Dan DeMarco said requiring sidewalks would require township officials to reconsider previous priorities.

“For years, we have been pushing 'green,’” he said. “That is a dilemma that has to be addressed. If we are going to require sidewalks, how do we make that work?”

Joe Amra, vice president of operations for North Hills Toyota, said he would be willing to consider adding a sidewalk to the service building on Browns Lane.

“With a gentleman's agreement, I would be willing to go back and look at it,” he said. “I'm all for making everything look better. We're long-term players here and we want the area to look better.”

Commissioners approved the plan 8-0 with Lana Mazur absent.

Mr. Shaffer revisited the topic of sidewalks during “commissioners comments,” asking Mr. Hankins how they could encourage developers to include sidewalks.

Mr. Hankins said “full new developments,” such as the housing plan at the former Highland Country Club and the Northway Mall redevelopment, will be required to have sidewalks.

Commissioners’ President Grant Montgomery formed a development subcommittee that would work with the planning commission, zoning hearing board and Mr. Hankins on new developments. He appointed Commissioners Steve Korbel, Paul Trilli and Mrs. Mazur to the committee.

Commissioners also gave the Holly Hill Civic Association permission to install a “Holly Hill” sign at the entrance of the plan. A sign had been installed in 1996, but was stolen in September 2013. The sign will be above the existing stop sign on the approach to Babcock Boulevard.

Three changes to the township’s pension investments were approved. The changes were recommended by the pension consultant and a commissioner's subcommittee of Mr. Shaffer and Mr. Montgomery.

The first item calls for the township to pursue proposals for another small cap fund manager because the current  fund has “significantly under performed the benchmark for the last five years,” Mr. Shaffer said. They also reallocated $1 million, or 3 percent, from real estate investments to fixed income investments because the amount invested in real estate exceeded the target allocation of 10 percent. Third, commissioners gave the pension committee permission to make small changes without taking them to the full board. The committee will email any proposed changes to commissioners and give them five days to comment before approving them.

Mr. Montgomery said the committee cannot make decisions that are outside of the previously approved policy statement.

The items were approved 7-1 with David Mikec opposing them. Mr. Mikec said he thought they were giving too much responsibility to committees.

“We’re talking about long-term investments where two weeks don’t matter much. I don’t think these are emergency actions,” he said. “I want it to be part of a public meeting.”

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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