Siena at St. Clair gets OK in Upper St. Clair

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A new development on Route 19 in Upper St. Clair that will include a Whole Foods grocery store received a second go-ahead Monday from township commissioners, despite some objections. 

Michael Parrish, a lawyer for 1800 Washington Road Associates, testified during a public hearing Monday that a local grocery chain, which he did not name, was trying to prevent the new development, called Siena at St. Clair.

"It isn't very hard to connect the dots here," Mr. Parrish said, referring to a resident's legal appeal of the township's initial approval of the the development.

The resident, Moira Cain-Maddix, works for the law firm that represents Giant Eagle. She was represented at Monday's township meeting by a lawyer who said she has valid concerns about the development.

"I've been saying this is spot zoning for years," said lawyer Tom Ayoob, who also said he believed the approval was a violation of the state municipal planning code.

Another resident, Margaret Whitner, also was represented at the meeting by a lawyer who repeated many of the same arguments against the development.

"It still has substantive problems," lawyer Matt Racunas said.

Other residents also have objected due to traffic concerns at the intersection of Route 19 and Fort Couch Road.

Although the commissioners previously voted to amend the township zoning code to allow the mixed-use development, they decided to reapprove it after the residents objected, saying the development represented spot zoning and that proper notice wasn't given to all residents.

The Siena development will be on 26 acres that was formerly home to Consol Energy headquarters. In addition to Whole Foods, it will contain several restaurants, possibly including a Burgatory and Wild Rosemary Bistro; several retailers and offices; and 33 housing units.

Giant Eagle owns a store in nearby Village Square in Bethel Park. In addition, a new Trader Joe's grocer and Fresh Market are along Route 19 in Mt. Lebanon.

"We feel the project is an exciting one for the community," Mr. Parrish said.

The township and school district "have already been deprived of $1.4 million in tax revenues," due to the delay, Mr. Parrish said.

Asked after the meeting when the development might be finished, developer Gerard Cipriani said, "If it was up to us, we'd like to open next year, but we'll see."

When contacted, Dick Roberts, spokesman for Giant Eagle, said: "Giant Eagle does not respond to speculative comments." 

Also Monday, the commissioners:

• Unanimously approved a conditional use request by residents Olga and Aaron Leimkuehler to renovate a former women's club opened in 1967 on Edgewood Drive to a private residence. The couple purchased the 3.6-acre site in August and agreed to remove a 60-by-300-foot parking lot and to build a two-car garage after the home renovation is completed.

• Approved a five-year Agility Agreement with the state Department of Transportation for an exchange of services program. The program would allow the municipality and state to barter services, such as grass mowing or guide rail installation, instead of paying money for small projects.

• Recognized retired planning commissioner Marvin Haddox for 34 years of service to the township.  Mr. Haddox, who retired in December, served as an official on the planning commission and helped to oversee several major residential projects, as well as writing comprehensive plans for the township in 1985, 1995 and 2005. Commission Chairman Robert Orchowski said no other volunteer "had come close to the dedication" that Mr. Haddox had given the township over the years. 

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