ShareThis Page

Rezoning proposal for former Hempfield golf course to go to mediation

Matthew Santoni
| Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, 11:05 p.m.

The owner of a former Hempfield golf course avoided a long and potentially contentious meeting before the board of supervisors Monday by seeking mediation over a proposed rezoning of the land.

Mark Allison, who closed the former Scenic Links of Westmoreland golf course in October 2015 after just one season of owning it, had proposed to subdivide about 20 acres surrounding Birdies Pub and Grille and rezone it for commercial use. The other 85 acres of the course were to remain zoned for agriculture, where the golf course and bar were originally conditional and accessory uses approved by the township.

Neighbors and concerned residents filled the board's chambers to standing-room only and signed up as “objectors” to the proposed rezoning. But Allison's attorney, Kevin McKeegan, invoked the state's municipal zoning code that let him, an attorney for one of the neighbors and the township solicitor choose a mediator to handle the zoning dispute at a later date.

“We're really kind of between a rock and a hard place,” McKeegan said. “We have an existing business people for the most part don't want to see shut down, but we have neighbors who don't want to see a sledgehammer-like rezoning process.”

McKeegan emphasized the mediation would be open to the public. He would work with Daniel Hewitt, the attorney for one of the neighbors, to choose a mediator, set rules for the process and set a date for a hearing, the results of which would be brought back to the board of supervisors.

“When I moved to this community, it had a lovely golf course, it was quiet ... I did not choose to have all the things that local commercial zoning could bring,” neighbor Dominick Domasky said. He and others were concerned that Allison could sell the property once it had been rezoned and his relationships with the neighbors would mean nothing.

Hempfield solicitor Scott Avolio said the township would provide notification for the next meeting on the property once decisions were made about how the mediation would proceed.

In other action, the board approved rezoning part of the property owned by St. Emma's Monastery from residential back to agricultural use. The Benedictine nuns of St. Emma's had owned the land since 1944 and had always had either a resident farmer or someone leasing the land as pasture for cows.

“We had chased cattle ourselves as part of our services,” said Mother Mary Ann Noll, prioress at the monastery.

“They were Holsteins so it's kind of hard to tell,” she added in a nod to the nuns' black-and-white habits.

The board unanimously approved the rezoning, undoing what chairman R. Douglas Weimer said was an inadvertant effect of a township-wide rezoning in 2014 that the nuns hadn't weighed in on.

The board also approved a subdivision plan that would allow PennDOT to build a compressed natural gas fueling station at the Westmoreland County Transit Authority's bus garage off Business Route 66 starting next year.

The state will cover the $4 million cost of installing the new refueling depot, and the transit authority will start converting its 41-bus fleet from diesel to CNG when 23 buses are up for replacement next year.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.