Large property owners say South Fayette's plan could hurt development

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The owners of some larger properties in South Fayette are worried that a proposed township plan discourages development on their properties.

Several landowners told commissioners Jan. 9 that a "rural conservation" designation in the draft comprehensive plan could limit commercial and industrial uses, including Marcellus Shale drilling and potential business development around the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's planned Southern Beltway.

John Alan Kosky, a resident and chairman of the zoning hearing board, said the expressway could open up about 650 acres he owns. "We have an opportunity for economic development," he said.

The plan says a special district within the rural conservation area would "take full advantage of convenient access slated to/from the proposed Southern Beltway."

Bill Sray, who owns more than 200 acres on Old Oakdale Road and holds a drilling lease, told commissioners, "The comprehensive plan could lead to a taking of more property and property rights that we big landowners want to keep and maintain ... particularly the gas drilling."

Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling is not specifically mentioned in the plan.

About 80 people attended the public hearing on the draft plan, which is posted at www.south-fayette.pa.us. The deadline for written comments is Feb. 1.

Commissioners are expected to review the plan and could adopt it as early as February or March.

State law requires communities to review their comprehensive plan every 10 years. The purpose is to identify broad goals and strategies to guide future growth.

South Fayette's comprehensive planning process began in late 2009, before Marcellus Shale arose as a major issue in the township.

Carolyn Yagle of Environmental Planning and Design LLC in Pittsburgh said the comprehensive plan, which her firm helped create, defines general characteristics of land use but does not recommend any changes to the zoning law.

Dave Boehmer of Sygan Road -- a drilling leaseholder who has served as a township planner and as a member of the South Fayette Conservation Group -- said zoning regulations often follow comprehensive plans. "So I don't believe the conservation district is a good idea," he said.

Mr. Boehmer also said the plan should address the township's 2,200-acre agricultural security area.

Deron Gabriel, commissioners president, said after the meeting that the idea behind the rural conservation district is to ensure "a significant amount of green space even though we're undergoing a lot of residential growth and commercial/retail growth."

The plan's goal to develop a communitywide pedestrian trail system drew ire from some landowners whose properties were shown on maps as containing proposed trails.

Dennis Regan, the Aloe Brothers managing partner redeveloping the 180-acre site of the former Mayview State Hospital, said he is glad to participate in public/private partnerships, but he was not consulted about the possibility of a walking trail.

"How did we get to be part of the comprehensive plan without anybody ever talking to us?" he asked.

Matt Cochran of Union Avenue said the township needs to get more input from major landowners, and officials should revise the comprehensive plan to reflect new circumstances and to ensure sustainable, tax-friendly growth.

"No one really wants their properties to be infringed upon excessively," he said. "We don't want over regulation."

neigh_west - neigh_south

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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