Oakdale retail center plans stall

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A proposal to build a 17,600-square-foot retail center in downtown Oakdale has stalled.

Last Thursday, Oakdale council declined to move forward with rezoning the site of the former Joy dog food factory from industrial to commercial, stalling plans by Tom Robinson of Peters to build a Dollar General store, bank and shopping plaza on the two-acre property he owns.

Borough attorney Vince Tucceri said Mr. Robinson is free to build an industrial development that fits existing zoning regulations.

Vice President Bud Sturgeon said after the meeting that council isn't ruling out the possibility of rezoning the site in the future to accommodate a different proposal.

"If we think it would be a better fit for Oakdale, we'd be very open to it," he said.

Mr. Robinson was frustrated with council members.

"They are not looking for a tax base," he said. "All they want is old-town Oakdale."

Landscape architect Steven Victor of Victor-Wetzel Associates in Sewickley presented plans in February for a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General, a 5,000-square-foot retail strip mall, a 3,500-square-foot bank with a drive-thru and a parking lot with more than 100 spaces.

He requested Oakdale rezone the site to accommodate the commercial plan at the corner of Union and Center avenues, beside the Panhandle Trail. But council members tabled a decision, citing concerns that the development would compete too much with the borough's small, independently owned businesses.

Last week, about 15 residents of Oakdale and nearby South Fayette attended the council meeting in the community center on Seminary Avenue.

Mr. Tucceri advised council members that they could move forward with the rezoning process by voting to hold a public hearing, or they could keep the zoning industrial by taking no action.

None of the five councilmen took action.

As an alternative to the retail plan, Mr. Robinson displayed an industrial proposal showing a 24,000-square-foot trash transfer processing station.

In general, such facilities, which require state permits, serve as places for garbage trucks to drop off municipal waste to be consolidated, compacted and transported to landfills in high-volume transfer vehicles.

Attorney Jonathan Kamin, who represents Mr. Robinson, said council faced the choice of industrial or commercial development in the middle of town.

"We are going to develop the property one way or another," he said.

Mr. Tucceri, the Oakdale attorney, stopped the developers from detailing the industrial plan, saying the issue at hand was the rezoning request, not the possibility of a trash facility.

"If what you are attempting to do this evening is attempt to embarrass this council [to] either consider rezoning this property or authorize a trash transfer station, I won't permit it to happen," he said.

The industrial proposal also showed five flexible-use warehouses totaling about 55,000 square feet on eight acres that Mr. Robinson owns across the street. But that part of the plan was not publicly discussed.

Dollar General Corp. of Goodlettsville, Tenn., has signed a letter of intent with Mr. Robinson outlining the terms upon which the company would pursue lease negotiations at 102 Union Ave.

Dollar General representative Timothy Weinman, a broker with Weinman Real Estate in Jeannette, attended the council meeting. He said the retail project would turn "an overgrown, vacant lot with a dilapidated building" into a landscaped lot with an attractive brick and glass store.

In 2004, Mr. Robinson's RAT LLC bought two acres, including the closed pet food mill, from Best Feeds & Farm Supplies Inc. for $70,000. The factory was demolished in 2006, but an associated structure remains standing.

The Dollar General store would employ 10 to 12 full-time and part-time workers, Mr. Weinman said.

He said the store would sell items such as household goods, cosmetics, clothing and groceries at "deep discount pricing" that competes with supermarkets and convenience stores.

Council President Ron "Huck" Gamble said the retail development would lead to empty storefronts in other parts of town.

Bill Beaumont, an Oakdale resident, agreed: "I'd hate to see the commercial part of [the plan] only because the old Oakdale that everyone's known would die off."


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


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