Zoning change probed in Moon

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Moon supervisors will hire independent counsel to investigate what chairman Marvin Eicher has called improper actions by two board members regarding the zoning change that will allow a University Boulevard hotel to become a Robert Morris University dormitory.

Mr. Eicher's motion Aug. 7 for the board to hire independent counsel was approved by a 3-1 vote. James Vitale, one of the investigation targets, dissented.

John Hertzer, the other supervisor target, joined Mr. Eicher and Frank Sinatra in voting yes. Andrew Gribben was absent.

Mr. Hertzer, contacted after the meeting said, "I look forward to the result of the investigation. I am totally confident that the investigation will show my statements to be accurate."

Mr. Vitale voted against hiring independent counsel.

He that he couldn't hear everything that was said because he was on vacation and on speaker phone.

Mr. Vitale said that he voted against hiring independent counsel because he didn't think the township should waste the money. He said that he was asked to participate in the meeting over the phone because there wouldn't have been a quorum.

Mr. Eicher said that Mr. Vitale and Mr. Hertzer met with RMU president Gregory Dell'Omo and renegotiated the terms of the agreement outside of a public meeting that would allow RMU to operate the former Pittsburgh Airport Holiday Inn as a dormitory. Operating a dormitory was not an approved use in the University Boulevard overlay district.

Mr. Eicher said that because of this meeting the negotiations were reopened at the public meeting on July 22.

Mr. Hertzer disputed Mr. Eicher's statement.

"The public hearing was not reopened on July 22. It was continued from July 1 because nothing could be resolved on July 1 and RMU was anxious to get resolution as they needed to get ready for students to move in," Mr. Hertzer said.

Mr. Eicher said that the outcome of the meeting was that Robert Morris would agree to accept responsibility for traffic light improvements and pay the standard developer fees saving the township an estimated $275,000. Mr. Vitale said that everything that was said in the meeting that he and Mr. Hertzer had with Mr. Dell'Omo was disclosed at a public meeting.

Mr. Eicher said that this behavior -- two board members meeting with RMU in private -- has caused a division in the board and has called his integrity into question.

He said that the meeting was improper. Township solicitor Tim Bish previously stated that the meeting was improper at the July hearing.

Mr. Hertzer said, "The division in our board is essentially one member. Four of us maintain a perfectly fine working relationship. The division is a result of a personnel issue and one member's reaction to and handling of that issue."

Mr. Hertzer said he and Mr. Vitale acknowledge they met with RMU officials, but not to negotiate on behalf of the board.

"We met with them to try to soothe some of the acrimony that resulted from the July 1 public hearing," Mr. Hertzer said.


Kim Lawrence, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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