Due to conflicting reports and public concern, South Fayette commissioners will hire an independent consultant to review the potential impact of a residential and commercial development proposed for the former Mayview Hospital site.
Lancaster-based developer Charter Homes & Neighborhoods submitted projected tax revenue and student growth for its proposed development, called Hastings, based on numbers provided by Econsult of Philadelphia. The calculations were to account for the additional 620 residences planned at the development.
The school district contends that Charter’s numbers are low. Brian Tony, school district director of finance, produced different estimates, calling the developer’s conclusions “irresponsible.”
The disparity between the two sets of figures was enough to prompt township commissioners to approve hiring the independent consultant, postponing the vote to rezone the Mayview property until November. The Sept. 16 vote to hire the consultant was 4-0, with Commissioner Jessica Cardillo-Wagenhoffer absent.
The consultant's time will be billable to the developer as a part of the township’s ongoing project expenses, township manager Ryan Eggleston said.
Commissioner Lisa Malosh noted that different methodologies are being applied with complicated analyses. “No one is saying anyone is right or wrong, we just have to practice due diligence and make a decision that is best for the community as a whole,” she said.
Solicitor Jon Kamin said, “Due diligence is necessary. We would be better served having our own consultant work in collaboration with both the district and Charter so that we can determine the realistic impact to the community.”
If the school district’s higher estimates are accurate, administrators are concerned the district wouldn’t be able to handle the growth and programming would have to be cut and taxes increased.
The school board recently approved a 0.09-mill increase in the property tax rate to help offset the costs of a $34 million expansion at the high school.
Resident Phil Makowski said older residents on fixed incomes can’t afford rising taxes. "If the younger generation wants all the bells and whistles, then they need to pick up the tab. We are building the Taj Mahal, not the red school house. Somebody has to try to control the school board so that they don’t just continue to dig into our pockets and spend money like there is no bottom.”
Lisa Carney said, “I hope you can keep in mind the last thing we need is more housing. The only way to relieve the tax burden on residents is to bring in more businesses and only businesses.”
Mr. Eggleston later said, “Between 2012 and 2014, our taxable commercial property value has gone up 40 percent, that’s about $63 million.” Hastings would include about 100,000 square feet of commercial development.
For Charter to be able to build its proposed project, the board will have to approve a new zone called the Neighborhood Design District. Currently, the Mayview property is zoned B-1 and would not accommodate the developer’s plans.
“I would rather get more information and take a little bit longer and really think about this,” Commissioner Ray Pitetti said.
Amy Philips-Haller, freelance writer; firstname.lastname@example.org