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Robinson officials at odds over zoning

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Robinson commissioners this week approved a deal with neighboring Kennedy for a proposed townhouse development that would sit in both municipalities, but the Robinson board is at odds with zoning officials in the township.

Whether shovels will ever hit the dirt in Robinson remains in question.

Robinson commissioners are appealing a March decision by the township's zoning hearing board to grant a variance that would clear the way for McKees Rocks-based Duckstein Properties Inc. to build 41 townhouses off Herbst Road, including four in Robinson. The variance is needed because the townhouses would be in an area zoned for single-family houses.

In a separate matter, Robinson commissioners are appealing the zoning board's approval of a variance for a hockey training center in Parkway West Business Park. The proposed business, Overtime Hockey, withdrew its variance request this week and instead is seeking permission to operate as a health club, which wouldn't require a variance, said Christopher Jones, who would run the business with his wife, Michelle Jones.

The hockey center would feature a synthetic ice surface and open by Sept. 1, Jones said.

In a complaint filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, Robinson commissioners accused the township's zoning board of granting variances that violate the state's municipal planning code.

The Robinson zoning board has a pattern of granting variances that amount to illegal spot-zoning, Commissioner Earl Mapel contends.

Commissioners are sending a message that their board will use its “authority to make sure that the ordinances are held up to the letter,” he said.

Albert Zangrilli, solicitor for Robinson's zoning board, responded: “I was surprised that, if those matters were so important to the municipality, (commissioners) didn't appear before the zoning hearing board and voice their concerns or objections.”

Duckstein filed its own appeal against Robinson commissioners, alleging Robinson is illegally trying to prevent construction of the townhouses while its appeal of the zoning decision is pending.

“We're hoping for an amicable resolution that saves taxpayers money, as well as my clients, money,” said Duckstein's attorney, Maureen Sweeney of Downtown-based Blumling & Gusky LLP.

In the deal with neighboring Kennedy, Robinson would get property taxes for townhouses within the township and Kennedy would assume responsibility for infrastructure in Robinson, including streets.

Kennedy commissioners are scheduled to vote on the deal on Tuesday, said Gerald Orsini, Kennedy's consulting manager.

Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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