North Huntingdon officials hope to spur more development
By Brad Pedersen
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
North Huntingdon could take ownership of Ronda Court, a privately-owned roadway leading from Route 30 to Walmart, in an effort to encourage more development.
Township officials hope the public ownership of this road would allow developers to avoid building access points onto Route 30, which requires PennDOT permitting and approval, according to township manager John Shepherd.
Ronda Court, which runs half a mile off 30, near Ashton Court in Lincoln Hills, is adjacent to a 14.4-acre tract of land, owned by RWS Development, near the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Shepherd said.
When a municipality takes ownership of a road, it is responsible for winter maintenance and making necessary repairs, Shepherd said.
“By accepting Ronda Court, we're opening up some property for future commercial development,” Shepherd said. “If that road is public, there would be no issue with the state, and would take PennDOT's commands off of it.
“For three months, the board (of commissioners) has talked about encouraging economic development, and this is something that could really assist the township in getting this property ready for development, and right now, it's our most prime piece of land.”
PennDOT hopes to limit the amount of traffic coming onto Route 30 from Ronda Court, which it qualifies as a driveway for Walmart, instead of a road, Shepherd said. The qualification limits the amount of development along Ronda Court, he said.
Due to the limitation, several development projects have stalled and eventually died, Shepherd said.
Over the last several years, Shepherd said, officials approved plans for several businesses in the undeveloped Lincoln Hills Business Park, including Albensi Dental, but the projects fell apart because of constantly changing highway occupancy regulations from PennDOT to create access points along Route 30.
Don Torosky, a representative of Lincoln Hills Real Estate Associates, said developers have been working since 2007 to get a highway occupancy permit for Lincoln Hills' residential development. Since that time, developers submitted 13 different sets of plans to the state, which take several months to review, and have not been approved due to continual updates to PennDOT's highway occupancy requirements, he said.
Lincoln Hills developers submitted their most recent set of plans to PennDOT in November, Torosky said.
“We don't access or abut a state road, but their position is that, since we'd be using Ronda Court, we're going to be directly accessing Route 30, so we'd need a highway occupancy permit,” Torosky said. “If it were a township road, we wouldn't need it.
“We want to develop our property, and we have multiple opportunities to do that and bring good jobs to this municipality, and this is the step to get this ball rolling.”
Torosky said several large companies approached RWS Developers, which he would not identify, but he fears long PennDOT reviews and high engineering costs will discourage developers.
RWS Developers representatives plan to attend a convention in Las Vegas next week and have meetings with three Fortune 100 companies about the property, Torosky said.
“There are three or four sites these companies are looking at, but these PennDOT issues are a problem,” Torosky said.
Solicitor Bruce Dice said the township's ownership of Ronda Court would negate PennDOT's ability to intervene in any projects happening in the area that do not have direct access to Route 30.
According to plans by Walmart developer DeBartolo Development, which installed Ronda Court, the township can take ownership of the roadway at any time, Dice said.
Shepherd said taking ownership of Ronda Court could show businesses that the township is serious about accommodating development.
“We need to figure out how to make development happen in North Huntingdon,” Shepherd said. “This is something we can actually do to make it happen.”
The commissioners plan to develop an ordinance to take ownership of Ronda Court, which the board will discuss during its June 13 workshop meeting.
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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