Apollo council ready to force action to obtain land it wants

The Roaring Run Trail crosses vacant parcels south of the Leonard C. Miller Bridge on Astronaut Way in Apollo on June 5, 2013.
The Roaring Run Trail crosses vacant parcels south of the Leonard C. Miller Bridge on Astronaut Way in Apollo on June 5, 2013.
Photo by Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, June 6, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

Apollo officials are considering using eminent domain to acquire two riverfront properties near the Leonard C. Miller Memorial Bridge.

The borough has a few uses in mind for the vacant area on the southern side of the span, Council President David Heffernan said.

They include planting a permanent town Christmas tree, a canoe launch, gazebo and bike racks.

The borough wants to reposition the Roaring Run trail in that area closer to the Kiski River. Heffernan said that would allow the borough to improve and create a parking-meter lot along Kiski Avenue.

Heffernan said the borough has been unable to agree on a price with the Difilippo family, which owns one of the parcels, and has not gotten a response from Shanelle Hawk, the listed owner of the second, which borders the river.

Heffernan said he intends to bring the issue up for discussion and possibly a vote at council's next meeting June 27.

“I figure now the best way to get a response is you have to force the issue,” he said. “It's not to my liking. It's called progress. If that's how we have to get progress to run, that's how we'll do it.”

The owners of the properties have different stories, as does the president of Roaring Run trail, who says his organization owns the parking lot and opposes meters.

The Difilippo property, which borders the parking lot, is listed in the names of Virginia and Flavio Difilippo, according to Armstrong County. Both deceased, they were the step-grandmother and father of Pete Difilippo, owner of Flavio's Restaurant.

The interest in the property is now divided among family members, according to Pete Difilippo. He said the borough asked the family to donate the parcel to the borough.

“We felt it just wasn't the right thing to do,” he said. “There should be some compensation for it.”

According to Armstrong County, the 0.16-acre parcel is assessed at $7,165 for tax purposes. Heffernan said the family wanted $28,000 for it, which he said is more than the borough is willing or able to pay.

Pete Difilippo said a billboard company had approached the family about placing a sign on the land. The borough recently amended its zoning ordinance to prohibit billboards in that area, restricting them to the borough's industrial-zoned area.

Measuring 0.27-acre, the Hawk property is between the Difilippo property and the river. It has a tax assessment, by Armstrong County, of $3,075.

Hawk's husband, Jeff Shaffer, said he and his wife bought the land about 20 years ago for $2,400 because of its river frontage and proximity to Route 66.

Shaffer, of Mayport, said they thought it would be a good location for a canoe livery.

Shaffer said Apollo expressed an interest in buying the property about three years ago but never made an offer.

He said they would gladly sell it at a “reasonable price.”

“Make us an offer,” he said Tuesday. “They need it, and we don't really need it.

“We bought it as an investment. It would be nice to get a return after 18 years.”

Both the borough and Roaring Run trail are claiming ownership of the parking lot.

Trail President Neill Andritz said the borough leased the land to the trail for 99 years.

He said the borough can't put parking meters there without the group's permission, which he said it is not willing to grant.

Andritz claims the borough's main interest is in metering the parking lot.

“It kills them they don't make any money from that parking lot,” Andritz said. “All we're interested in is keeping the lot open for trail use. We don't want meters there.”

Heffernan said metering the lot would be fair to other borough business owners where parking is metered.

Heffernan said that while “technically” the trail owns the lot, it was due to a mistake with map numbers, and the lot was never meant to be conveyed to the group in the lease for the trail.

“It was an honest mistake,” Heffernan said. “All I want is an honest correction.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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