Bridgeville suit seeks to overturn settlement on Bedner Farms development

Councilman joins residents in appeal

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When Neil Lyons bought his home on Pesavento Drive in Bridgeville next to the Upper St. Clair border, he thought his neighbor would always be "clean and green."

Cows sometimes would wander through the pastures of his neighbor, the Bedner family farm, up to the fence behind his home, and an occasional tractor or pickup truck would drive across the hilly farmland behind his house.

All of that is about to change.

A bulldozer has cut a path through the meadow behind his house, and utility crews are poised to connect sewer lines on Main Street in Bridgeville to Bedner Farms Estates, a 136-unit housing development to be built on 120 acres of the former farmland. The homes will range in price from $350,000 to $1.5 million.

The developer, Bedner Farms Estates LP, in June sued Bridgeville in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to force the borough to open an access road from the farm to Main Street. The access road will run past Mr. Lyons' home.

Mr. Lyons said he is not opposed to the new homes but wants the developer to build his own access road, creating a direct link from the housing plan to Bower Hill Road and bypassing Main Street.

He joined Bridgeville resident Joel Lakus, borough business owner Robert Fryer and Bridgeville Councilman Bill Colussy in filing suit last month in Common Pleas Court, asking the court to overturn the July 8 settlement agreement between the borough and Bedner Farms Estates.

The settlement granted the developer access for a road by opening a 10-foot unpaved section of Main Street and granting permission to tap into Main Street's sanitary sewers.

Bridgeville solicitor Richard Ferris, who represented the borough in the lawsuit, said at an earlier public meeting that ordinances passed between 1949 and 1951 gave the developer access to Main Street, even though the road was never opened all the way to the Bedner farm.

In return for access, the developer will pay the borough $70,000 for sewer system upgrades.

The settlement was approved on a 6-1 vote at council's meeting on July 8, with Councilman Billy Colussy dissenting.

"I'm in it for the people," Mr. Colussy said as his reason for joining the appeal.

"There's going to be ton of traffic. It's not fair to Bridgeville. There are little kids who walk to Bower Hill Road to be picked up by the school bus and there are no sidewalks on Main Street," he said. "I don't mind development, but they need to do it right. Put sidewalks in. It's not right."

The appeal outlines two alternatives for access roads other than Main Street.

A 500-yard-long road that the Bedner family used for decades to drive trucks and tractors from the farm to their retail store on Bower Hill Road is one option proposed in the appeal. That road is now blocked by a gate with a no trespassing sign and is overgrown with vegetation.

A second alternative is to cut a new road from the former farm to Bower Hill Road.

"It can be built through the huge, gradually sloping 'V' cut that was formed in the hillside of the Bedner farm plateau by the stream that has been running through it over the last 1,000 years or more," the litigants stated in their appeal.

Marty Gillespie, president of Heartland Homes, the lead developer on the project, could not be reached for comment.

He said at an information meeting held last year at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department, "We are not putting a road over a cliff."

Mr. Ferris also could not be reached for comment on the appeal.

Two other access roads are open to the development -- Cook School Road and Scarlett Drive.

The reasons that the developer and Upper St. Clair engineer Ruth Ann Omer gave during the review process for not building a new road included that the grade for such a road would be too steep, there was underground coal mining activity on the site, and too much rock and soil would have to be removed.

Mr. Lyons said he doesn't believe the $70,000 offered by the developer to Bridgeville is enough to make the improvements to the sewers that will be needed to accommodate the sewage from the new homes.

In addition, he said, the grass and trees on the farm absorbed stormwater, but when the homes are built, excess stormwater will flow down Main Street and overflow the sewers.

Two stormwater retention ponds are planned for the site, and the developer's stormwater management plan was approved by Upper St. Clair.

Mr. Lyons, who has decided to run for borough council in the fall, said Upper St. Clair will receive $5 million in tax revenue from the development but isn't spending the money to build the roads and expand the sewer lines needed to serve it.

Mr. Colussy also is concerned about stormwater overflows into Painters Run, a tributary of Chartiers Creek that carries runoff from Upper St. Clair through Bridgeville. Recurrent flooding of McLaughlin Run, another tributary of Chartiers Creek carrying stormwater from Upper St. Clair through Bridgeville, is another sore spot with him.

"Upper St. Clair needs to put in a 100,000- to 200,000-gallon holding tank and build a retention pond to hold back water from McLaughlin Run. Maybe this appeal will open their eyes," he said.

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Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer:


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