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Westmoreland

Jeannette's new city council plans to reverse zoning vote on gas station for Monsour property

Renatta Signorini
| Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, 3:24 p.m.

The developer selected to take over the former Monsour Medical Center property in Jeannette filed a site plan Wednesday that includes a gas station, a day after the newly seated city council reversed a Dec. 26 decision that would permit that land use.

Don Tarosky Jr., owner of Colony Holding Co. and a Jeannette native, said he was frustrated with council's decision at a reorganization meeting Tuesday.

“I'm investing in the community, and I feel left out,” Tarosky said Wednesday after learning of the vote.

He called it “unfortunate that the city doesn't realize the opportunity that they have in front of them,” adding that council is “trying to go behind my back” and make changes.

“All they had to do was call me and have a discussion, and they haven't,” he said.

Colony Holding was selected by county officials in August to buy the 6.4-acre property for $2.1 million. The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. last year finished a $2 million project to clear the Route 30 property and prepare it for redevelopment.

On Tuesday, council voted 4-1 to prepare an ordinance that would again prohibit a gas or service station on the property. The proposed ordinance must be advertised and will come before council at a future date for a final vote.

Councilman Chuck Highlands cast the dissenting vote.

“I think it's good for the city,” he said.

He was among three council members who, against the city planning commission's recommendation, on Dec. 26 approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that permitted a gas or service station at the site.

The other two council members who approved it — Gabriel Homan and former Mayor Richard Jacobelli — were replaced on the board by Councilwoman Nancy Peters and Mayor Curtis Antoniak. The new members were sworn in Tuesday.

Reorganization meetings are held to assign board members to various positions, but other matters can be brought before the group under the third-class city code, said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. Antoniak sided with the planning commission. He is concerned a gas station could bring in crime and drug activity.

“I want to see that property marketed,” Antoniak said. “It's a prime site. Let's see what's out there, see who wants to come in.”

The county industrial development group marketed the property last year. Colony's pitch was one of three received. County officials selected the developer because of Tarosky's track record with other area developments.

Tarosky began marketing the property shortly after being selected by the county.

Antoniak would prefer “something better,” such as a doctor's office or professional building.

“That is our main gateway,” he said. “I am standing firm on no gas station.”

Councilwoman Robin Mozley agreed.

“I just thought that we could do a lot better than that gas station,” she said.

Tarosky has said he has been having discussions with six or seven “nationally known tenants” and a “top five grocer in the world.” The gas station would serve as an anchor tenant. He has cited nondisclosure agreements with those potential tenants in declining to name them. The site plan was not available from the city Wednesday.

The county's land bank purchased the property in 2014 at a judicial sale for about $15,000 after the hospital and adjoining buildings were left vacant when the medical center was closed in 2006 after a series of failed state inspections.

The county, through its industrial development agency, used state grants and loans to demolish buildings on the site and remove contaminants to ready the property for reuse.

The property sale has not been finalized.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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