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Demolition signals start for Speedway in Oakmont

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Employees from Pittsburgh Demolition tear down the former Lieberth and Sons Auto Sales on Hulton Road in Oakmont to prepare the site for a future Speedway gas station on Tuesday April 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Little was left standing of the former Lieberth and Sons Auto Sales on Hulton Road in Oakmont on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The site will become a Speedway gas station.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Employees from Pittsburgh Demolition tear down the former Lieberth and Sons Auto Sales on Hulton Road in Oakmont to prepare the site for a Speedway gas station on Tuesday April 29, 2014.

As Speedway prepares to build a gas station/convenience store in Oakmont, its plans have hit snags elsewhere.

Crews this week demolished the former Lieberth and Sons Dodge dealership along Hulton Road near the Hulton Bridge, the site for the sixth Speedway store in and around Pittsburgh.

The company, a subsidiary of Marathon Oil that's based in Findlay, Ohio, entered the regional market last summer. More recently, it has either made development applications or shown interest in sites in four Westmoreland County communities: Delmont, Penn Township, Unity Township and New Stanton. But nothing has advanced to the development stage.

Officials at Marathon Oil refused to provide comment to the Valley News Dispatch on the problems and opposition they have encountered as well as the scope of their plans for Speedway in the region.

Oakmont residents put up strong objections to Speedway's plans when they were proposed last year.

Most of the objections centered on safety concerns since Hulton Road is a major traffic artery for commuters into and out of Pittsburgh, and Riverview High School is just across the road from the Oakmont site. Critics said the Speedway will generate even more traffic congestion and will disrupt nearby residential neighborhoods with increased noise, glare from lighting, and its 24-hour operating schedule.

Still others objected because they felt it simply wasn't the kind of business the town needs or wants.

Oakmont's zoning laws were on Speedway's side. It sought approval as a conditional use and council approved it.

“By definition, a conditional use is a permitted use,” said Councilman Tom Briney. “But the borough has the right to introduce conditions to it so that the development represents the standards of the community.

“We felt very good about the elements of control that we were able to put in for that development.”

Briney, an architect, is one of the Oakmont Council members who worked on the Speedway issues and conditions that the borough sought that allowed the development. He said Marathon was anxious to “move the process along,” which aided the borough with what it was seeking.

“In our case, it was a permitted use — a conditional use in the commercial district,” Briney said. “We really evaluated it pretty carefully in terms of the ordinance. We made sure we got a clear idea of what the improvements were going to be, and access and safety were certainly two of the primary ones.”

A key addition was a traffic light on Hulton Road to help control access to the Speedway store. But in addition to that, he said Speedway agreed to make improvements off of its property in order to gain approval.

Briney said that involved upgrading the paving on neighboring streets, West Woodland Avenue and Third Street, to accommodate the fuel and other trucks that will make deliveries to the store, as well as widening Third Street.

He said Speedway added a landscaping and a “site wall” that lends some scale to the front of the site. It also limited the size and type of signs to be used.

“There are compromises, I guess, in anything,” Briney said, “but this was a permitted use, and we just worked with them through the conditions.''

Roadblocks elsewhere

The biggest roadblock the company has hit at other sites is in Delmont. Speedway's site is at Route 66 and West Pittsburgh Street in the northern end of town. It is the former site of Carney's Corner, a popular restaurant that burned down a few years ago.

Borough Solicitor Daniel Hewitt said Speedway is appealing the zoning board's decision in February to Westmoreland County Court. The zoning board allowed use of the property for a gas station but without access onto Pittsburgh Street. That apparently would allow access and egress to only southbound traffic on Route 66.

Hewitt said case documents need to be filed and no court date has been set.

The plan angered residents in an adjacent neighborhood who claim the gas station/convenience store would cause safety and pollution issues. Residents also cited plans to install three diesel fueling pumps as a problem, fearing the facility would become a truck stop.

Hewitt said Speedway has eliminated the diesel pumps from its plans.

“I know Unity had some of the same issues that the Delmont site had,” he said.

• The Unity site is at the intersection of Route 30 and Village Drive near the Inn at Mountain View.

More than 600 residents purportedly had signed a petition opposing the Speedway application for conditional use. But before they could present it to the supervisors, Speedway withdrew its application.

Unity officials did not return a call from the Valley News Dispatch seeking comment and concerning whether the application was refiled.

• An employee in the planning and zoning department at Penn Township, which borders Murrysville, confirmed that Speedway has expressed interest in building on a site at Route 130 and Pleasant Valley Road. However, she said the company has not submitted a development application.

• Mary Ann Roll, New Stanton's borough secretary/treasurer, said Speedway has withdrawn, at least temporarily, its plans to build a store on the site of an old motel along Pennsylvania Avenue.

She said that was not due to any residents' opposition but because of PennDOT's plan to widen the ramps for Interstate 70 and, along with that, Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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