A 64-year-old ordinance provided the key to resolving a two-year battle pitting Bridgeville residents and the borough council against the developer of a 136-unit housing plan in neighboring Upper St. Clair.
Council members voted 6-1 Monday, with Councilman William Colussy dissenting, to enter into a settlement with Bedner Farms Estates, the developer of the 120-acre Bedner farm in Upper St. Clair.
Phil Sbrolla, an attorney for Bridgeville's insurance carrier, said an ordinance passed by council between 1948 and 1951 permitted the extension of Main into Upper St. Clair.
A 10-foot section of grass separates Main from the former Bedner farm. The development would be built along the Bridgeville border.
Bedner had sued Bridgeville in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, seeking a link from the development to the borough and to allow a sewer tap-in on Main Street.
The suit sought legal fees and reimbursement from the borough for lost income caused by delays in the project due to Bridgeville's failure to act on the developer's requests.
Upper St. Clair, which approved the development in April 2012, intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Bedner.
As terms of the settlement, Bridgeville will receive $70,000 from the developer, allow the sewer tap-in and permit the extension of Main to the development.
The settlement also calls for working out additional details between Upper St. Clair and Bridgeville to share some of the costs involved in the new sewer tap-in, said Phil Sbrolla, a lawyer retained by the borough's insurance carrier.
The agreement did not go over well with many Bridgeville residents at the meeting, particularly those from Pesavento Drive, Main Street and Cook School Road.
"This is chump change," Bridgeville business owner Bob Fryer said.
"I'm very disappointed in all of this. The judge should be told there are other access points. Forget the $70,000 settlement," Mr. Fryer said.
Main Street resident Cee Cee McNulty, who has been fighting the proposal to open the street and to allow the sewer tap-in for almost two years, was upset with the settlement.
"Why didn't we know two years ago about the ordinance passed in 1949? To me, this shows incompetence or fraud," she said.
She told council members she believes the solicitor did not do a competent job handling the case and a new lawyer should have been retained.
Solicitor Richard Ferris said he understood the concerns of the residents, but the ordinance passed 64 years ago opened Main all the way to Upper St. Clair.
Neil Lyons, who lives on Pesavento Drive, adjacent to the section that will be opened, was incensed.
"You guys dropped the ball," he said.
Mr. Lyons had petitioned to have the disputed strip of land removed from the borough street map and to be allowed to become the property of adjacent property owners.
Borough manager Lori Collins said she and other officials presumed that if the road hadn't been opened in 21 years, the property would be turned over to adjacent property owners.
"But, the 1949 ordinance was still in effect," she said.
Mr. Lyons said, "It's perplexing. One ordinance applies, and another doesn't."
But Mr. Ferris said, "The law was never repealed. The road can be legally opened."
As Mr. Lyons' anger grew, he was escorted from council chambers by police Chief Chad King, but he was allowed later to return to the meeting.
Mr. Sbrolla said the borough could be held liable for damages in the form of lost income to the developer.
"As time went on, this could become [financially] astronomical," he said.
Mrs. McNulty, who said at previous borough meetings that she was not opposed to development, but wanted the developer to pay for his own access road via Bower Hill Road, wondered aloud who would be responsible in the event of a traffic accident injury.
There are no sidewalks on Main, and she has maintained that the additional traffic generated by the development will create hazardous conditions for children and the elderly.
"Now we have the traffic and the excrement from Upper St. Clair," she said.
"It's up to the people. We should do what they want. I don't care if we go bankrupt," said Councilman William Colussy, who voted against the settlement.
Councilman Bruce Ghelarducci, who voted for the settlement, replied, "I do."
Mr. Ferris said council members have to do what's in the best interests of the whole community.
Correction, posted July 11, 2013: In an earlier version of this story, the number of acres for Bedner farm was incorrect.
Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org