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Upper St. Clair development project moves forward

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The former Consol Energy Inc. property in Upper St. Clair is moving toward redevelopment, one way or another, its owners said.

Upper St. Clair commissioners on Tuesday affirmed that the controversial project met conditions they set for a mixed-use development two years ago.

They signed off on preliminary plans for the 27-acre site at Route 19 and Fort Couch Road and set a November hearing date for the developers' backup plan, which would change the site's zoning if several challenges to zoning rules remain tied up in court.

“Two years from now, I hope to be sipping a drink on the balcony of one of the restaurants there,” said Jerry Cipriani, a partner in 1800 Washington Road Associates, which plans to redevelop the land with a Whole Foods Market, housing, restaurants and retail.

Upper St. Clair amended its zoning code in 2011 to make mixed-use development a conditional use for property zoned for special business uses, including the former Consol headquarters property.

That meant developers would have to prove they met the conditions set by the amended code for elements such as building heights and ratios of residential development to commercial development and open space, before getting the extra go-ahead from the commission.

Commissioners gave the 1800 Washington Road group that approval in a 6-0 vote on Tuesday, with Russell Del Re absent. They approved the preliminary land development plan 6-0.

Commission President Robert Orchowski said if the developers could show they met conditions for approval, the municipality couldn't legally deny it.

Residents have filed multiple challenges to the zoning amendment, alleging it wasn't passed with proper notice and that the conditions were tailored too much to benefit that specific property.

The municipal zoning hearing board dismissed one of those challenges on Aug. 28, on the grounds that it couldn't decide procedural issues and that the resident who filed the appeal, Moira Cain-Mannix, lacked standing to challenge the issues.

Another challenge that had been considered in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas now is the subject of an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The developers, trying to prevent delays should the zoning amendment become tied up in a lengthy court case, have asked commissioners to change the zoning for the site to a new category that would contain the same conditions as the amended special business zone. A public hearing will be held Nov. 4 on 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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