South Fayette has rejected a proposal for coal mining on the former Mayview State Hospital site, but the property owner could appeal the decision.
The zoning hearing board Feb. 27 denied an application from Aloe Brothers LLC of Pittsburgh for a three-year project to remove millions of tons of coal from 37 acres of the Mayview land prior to building a business park.
"Taking the coal from that area is going to help offset the cost to build in this area," project manager Dennis Regan said.
The applicant has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Regan did not immediately know if Aloe Brothers would appeal.
After a lengthy meeting and public comment, zoning board members Fred Cardillo, Michael Iagnemma and David Bradley voted 3-0 to deny the request.
Special permission for coal mining was sought because the Mayview property is in a business district, where South Fayette zoning law does not normally allow mineral removal.
About 50 people attended the meeting, including South Fayette, Upper St. Clair and Bridgeville residents concerned about truck traffic, the use of explosives and adverse effects on nearby parkland.
Preston W. Shimer, president of the volunteer group USC Citizens for Land Stewardship, urged board members to reject the coal mining, or else to require measures to lessen impacts on the environment, including Chartiers Creek and the parks.
"Thousands of people use those parks on a regular basis," he said.
The Mayview property is adjacent to 474-acre Boyce-Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair, 125-acre Fairview Park in South Fayette and 80-acre Wingfield Pines, a land trust that spans both townships.
Coal mining activities were proposed about 1,000 feet downhill from Boyce-Mayview, which includes facilities such as a recreation center, swimming pool, sports fields, hiking trails and an outdoor classroom.
Attorney Irving Firman, the solicitor for Upper St. Clair, said the township is concerned about adverse effects on the park, and he asked for the opportunity to discuss the proposal with the Mayview property owners to ensure the park is "adequately protected."
Some homes in Upper St. Clair are located within a half-mile of the proposed coal mining site, and Upper St. Clair's Baker Elementary School overlooks the Mayview valley.
The proposed six-mile truck route from the mining site involved Mayview Road, Boyce Road and Route 50/Washington Pike/Morganza Road to Interstate 79 near Hendersonville in Washington County.
As many as 50 tri-axle trucks, carrying up to 1,000 tons of coal, would travel the route each weekday, said Sean Isgan of CME Engineering LP in Somerset.
"That's ridiculous," said Ed McClure, who lives on Boyce Road in South Fayette. "The people on Boyce Road don't want any part of that."
Blasting, or the use of explosives, would occur about once or twice a week during the three-year mining operation, Mr. Isgan said. Two years of site reclamation would follow.
In addition to local approvals, coal mining requires a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Mr. Isgan said the Mayview application to the state would involve a permit area covering 81 acres of mining operations, including 37 acres where strip mining would occur at depths of 40 to 100 feet.
Brothers David and Mark Aloe bought the 152-acre Mayview property from the state in March 2011 for $505,505 and later bought eight adjacent acres for $29,000, according to Allegheny County real estate records.
Work has been ongoing to remove asbestos from much of the 1.4 million square feet of existing buildings and to demolish the structures in preparation for eventual construction of a light industrial and mixed-use commercial campus.
Nick Rodi of South Fayette said he wants to see the business park built soon.
"Develop the land and forget about the coal," he said.
South Fayette is negotiating with Aloe Brothers to buy 68 acres, which aren't part of the mining proposal, to expand Fairview Park and create about 750 acres of contiguous green space in the region.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently awarded the township a $425,000 grant to help purchase the parcel. Township manager Ryan Eggleston said a purchase price has not been determined.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com