Allegheny Township bed and breakfast zoning battle remains unresolved
By George Guido
Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
The Allegheny Township Zoning Hearing Board expects to rule on March 6 whether the township's only bed and breakfast can continue to operate.
Board members heard nearly four hours of testimony on Wednesday night from township officials and those representing Larry Musselman, operator of the 1876 Bed & Breakfast on Markle Road.
Musselman, who has owned the property since 1978, contends that the use of the old farm house and barn on the site hasn't changed since the farm was established in 1876.
That was long before Allegheny Township adopted zoning in 1970.
Township officials contend that Musselman needs a conditional-use permit in order to continue operating.
The bed and breakfast has been closed since Dec. 5.
The facility is in a residential area, but also in an area that is an agricultural security zone. That designation has limited uses.
Musselman contends that land's use has been continuous, and that he is “grandfathered in.” Grandfathering in the state allows a property owner to continue using a site for an identical purpose after zoning has been established.The original township ordinance regarding residential uses didn't allow facilities such as bed and breakfasts, but conditional use allowing that type of activity was added in 1997.
Musselman also testified that he was told by various township officials in recent years that the use is grandfathered. He cited former township zoning officer Jack Allen and current Board of Supervisors chairwoman Kathy Starr as two people who told him about grandfathering.
Musselman has a portion of the farmhouse and a loft in the barn set aside for paying guests and others who work on the farm in return for a place to stay.
He said he once referred to the facility as “just a place to stay,” but began using the slogan “bed and breakfast” when that term was popularized.The farm produces hay and other crops and Musselman also uses the property for “rescue horses” that have been abused and abandoned by previous owners.
Recently, Musselman and a partner have been offering carriage rides to the public.
Much of Wednesday's testimony centered around the credibility of witnesses and township officials.
Attorneys for both sides attempted to impugn witnesses regarding issues such as how a notice of violation was delivered; how a nearby carriage business was impacted; why a township official signed a document in one color of ink and dated the same document with another color of ink; and whether a deceased township resident and handyman actually lived on the farm or in another home that Musselman owns elsewhere in the township.
Zoning hearing board Solicitor Larry Loperfito told attorneys Robert Liotta, representing Musselman, and Gary Falatovich, representing the township, to have to formally summarize the facts for the board by Feb. 27.
Falatovich pinch-hit for Allegheny Township's regular solicitor, Bernie Matthews Jr., who has also done work for Musselman.
Pennsylvania zoning hearing boards have 45 days to issue a ruling after testimony has been closed.
George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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