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Resident group appeals Vocollect rezoning in Penn Hills

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 3:20 p.m.

A group of residents has filed an appeal of the Penn Hills council's Nov. 5 decision to approve a rezoning request that could pave the way for expansion of the Vocollect business.

Seven individual residents and the Chatelain Corporation — whose president lives on Gramac Lane near the rezoned parcel — filed an appeal on Dec. 5 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, seeking to overturn council's decision to rezone about 10 acres of land designated R1-A (residential) to mixed-use and conservation-district.

Jonathan Kamin and Ryan Wotus, attorneys at Pittsburgh firm Goldberg, Kamin & Garvin, argued in their brief that what council approved is not what was requested.

“The (June 13, 2008) application specifically provided that (the) applicant was seeking relief in the form of a curative amendment … upon the rescheduling, the agenda for council however indicated that such request was now a zoning amendment, not a request for a curative amendment which was voted on by the planning commission,” the appeal states.

A curative amendment, according the Pennsylvania Municipalities Building Code, allows a landowner to challenge “on substantive grounds, the validity of a zoning ordinance or map … which prohibits or restricts the use or development of land in which he has an interest.”

Essentially, if a property owner feels that a certain use should be permitted under a given municipal ordinance, he or she can make a case that a “cure,” in the form of an ordinance amendment, should be implemented.

In the case of Vocollect, the property in question is zoned R1-A (residential), but attorneys for the property owner, Joseph D'Andrea of Penn Hills, argue that it is abutted by property zoned for mixed use.

The appeal brief also references a 2008 letter from the Allegheny County Economic Development office to Penn Hills Principal Planner Chris Blackwell, in which ACED Planning Manager Kay Pierce says her office “found nothing in the application to indicate that it was intended to be a curative amendment,” and also notes ACED's opinion that the proposed conservation district “meets the definitions for both spot zoning and contract zoning.”

Both spot and contract zoning are prohibited under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. Kamin and attorney Michael Frachioni — who is not representing anyone involved but lives on Gramac Lane — made a similar argument at the November meeting where council voted to approve the rezoning request.

Vocollect is looking to consolidate its employees and offices into one location. The company, which produces voice-recognition software, currently has an office in Monroeville, and those employees would come to the Rodi Road location if the expansion is realized.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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