Zoning change sought in Upper St. Clair

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Developers who envision retailers, offices and residences at the former Consol Energy Inc. headquarters are trying a new way to secure zoning approval.

Years of work to tweak Upper St. Clair's regulations led to a court case involving the 27 acres at Route 19 and Fort Couch Road.

The partners known as 1800 Washington Road Associates continue to defend a 2011 amendment to the township's zoning code that made a mix of homes and stores a conditional use on land zoned for special business.

When Commonwealth Court sent a resident's appeal of the amendment back to Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, the developers opted to seek approval for a complete change in the property's zoning. Commissioners will consider the matter and hold public hearings, though probably not in September.

“What you're seeing is us doing the exact same thing, just in a different way,” said Jerry Cipriani, one partner in 1800 Washington Road. “The plans are the same; the project will look the same.”

Cipriani said the township initially presented two options for allowing mixed-use development on the site: Amend the special business zone so retail/residential project would be a conditional use, subject to review and approval, or change the zoning entirely to something that allows a mix of uses.

Since changes to the special business zone are still challenged in court, Cipriani said he and his partners would try the zoning change.

The developers propose a three-phase project, anchored by a Whole Foods Market. They would build underground parking along Route 19, semi-detached houses and townhouses, and two levels of stores, restaurants and professional offices.

Residents Jarrod Shaw and Moira Cain-Mannix sued the township, seeking to overturn the decision allowing the development. They claim township officials didn't properly notify neighbors of the proposed changes. Shaw since has dropped out of the suit.

Attorney Tom Ayoob, who represented them, said the developers' new approach validates some of his clients' arguments.

“We'd been saying from the beginning that the original ordinance was a (zoning) map change when it was being presented as a text amendment,” Ayoob said. “Now the developer is resubmitting the same ordinance and calling it a map change.”

Proposed zoning for the site would be “mixed-use special development” and would follow the requirements to which the township and developers agreed under the current zoning, said Scott Brilhart, director of community development.

Township officials posted a notice of the proposed zoning change on the property and mailed notices to neighboring properties.

“The staff recommended approval because it was basically the same ordinance the township passed two years ago,” Brilhart said.

The planning commission, which helped commissioners refine rules and conditions the developers must meet, recommended approval of the zoning change.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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