Peters may get new farmers market

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A new farmers market may be coming to Peters this year at St. David's Episcopal Church on East McMurray Road.

Church members who came before council Monday unanimously received a special permit to conduct a farmers market from May 28 through Sept. 24.  The market would be open from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.

"Part of the church's vision is to be a place for the community to gather," said the Rev. Kris McInnes, who said the church hopes to secure about 65 vendors that would sell a mix of locally grown produce, eggs and meat products.

Rev. McInnes said the church has 75-100 spaces that could be used for parking, while the market would be set up outdoors in tents also in the large parking lot.

Council members expressed concern about parking along the street and said the permit may have to be revoked if police can't control traffic at the market. They also expect traffic to be worse due to ongoing work at Valleybrook Road.

"Our biggest concern is parking on McMurray Road," said council President James Berquist.  "Otherwise, I think it's a great idea."

But not everyone was as enthusiastic.

Bob Simmons of Simmons Farms said church members "graciously" contacted him to inquire whether he would like to sell produce at the market.  But, Mr. Simmons said he already operates two farmers markets and participates in 13 others.

"When these markets pop up it's a double-edged sword for us," Mr. Simmons said.  "In my opinion, I have no choice."

Mr. Simmons said he feels he must participate to maintain a competitive edge, but he said that the township has previously been restrictive of his markets, requiring police presence and other expensive mandates.

"I object to it a little bit," he said.  "It's a little frustrating for me."

Rev. McInnes said temporary placards may be placed along East McMurray Road to control traffic.  He said a board of directors is organizing the market and will be on hand to make sure the market goes smoothly each week.

Also Monday:

■ Council heard from frustrated patio home owners who object to a township ordinance requiring them to maintain sprinkler systems in their homes.

Donna Huffner Spencer told council her 82-year-old mother's home sustained $60,000-$70,000 in damages during two sprinkler system leaks earlier this month.  Nancy Huffner was displaced by the incident and can't return to the home until the damages are repaired, her daughter said.

Other residents in the Hidden Brook and Preston Woods developments told council they too had breaks when the sprinkler pipes froze, causing major water damage to their homes.

"I'm worried sick about the system malfunctioning and blowing up," said Preston Wood resident Paul Jorgensen.  "I can't describe to you the constant worry."

Residents in patio homes are required to have the sprinklers due to a 1997 ordinance, created due to the close proximity of the homes, which are usually less than 15 feet apart.

The cost to maintain the sprinkler systems is about $320 per year, residents said, and they asked that the requirement be lifted so that systems would be voluntary.

"I would urge you to consider making it optional," Mr. Jorgensen said.

But, first responders and council members said they believe the systems save lives.

"We're worried about residents' lives and firefighters' lives," said Mike McLaughlin, deputy chief of the township fire department.

Township solicitor John Smith said because the requirement is in the form of an ordinance, it can't be casually lifted by council members. 

"You can't waive a law," he said.

Mr. Smith said that provision of the ordinance could be amended, but doing so would only effect future construction, not units occupied.

Council members said they would investigate whether changes are warranted.

■  Council also approved an inter-county liquor license transfer from Carolyn's Bar & Restaurant in Donora to Valdor LLC, operated by Doreen Valentine, who plans to open a fish taco restaurant in Donaldson's Crossroads at the site of the former Dozen's Bakery.

Ms. Valentine said she hopes to have the restaurant open by May.

■ The township has not had a response yet from a group of homeowners who were recently sued by the municipality for installing a gate across Mount Blaine Drive.

The township sued the group on Jan. 14, after negotiations between the sides broke down.  The township is seeking to have the gate removed from Mount Blaine, which is near the intersection with Old Oak Road and Nevin Drive.

Residents who installed the gate in October said they did so to curb dangerously fast traffic in the neighborhood.  Because they privately own that portion of the road, residents felt it was within their rights to install the gate.  The gate is unlocked and therefore does not block other residents of Mount Blaine from using the roadway, they argued.

But the township is demanding a judge order the group to remove the blockage, saying it presents a public safety hazard.


Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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