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Penn Hills property owner joins fight to uphold rezoning

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Property owner and Penn Hills resident Joseph D'Andrea has joined municipal officials in fighting to uphold a zoning change council granted last year that potentially paves the way for expansion of the Vocollect Inc. business.

D'Andrea's attorney, Thomas Ayoob III, filed a notice of intervention Dec. 28. He could not be reached for comment.

Attorneys for the Chatelain Corp. and a group of private residents who live near Vocollect's Rodi Road property say that council's decision should be voided because of procedural errors in the decision-making process and say that it is a case of both spot and contract zoning, according to a court document.

Seven residents and the Chatelain Corp. — whose president is a resident of Gramac Lane, which is near the proposed rezoning — filed an appeal one month after council voted 4-1 in favor of rezoning about 10 acres of land from residential (R1-A) to mixed-use, as well as conservation district.

The mixed-use designation would allow the expansion of Vocollect and the eventual consolidation of its employees into one location. Vocollect currently has a second office in Monroeville.

The conservation district designation would dedicate a strip of land between Vocollect and nearby residents to the municipality as a permanent buffer.

Several residents who spoke against the rezoning at public hearings questioned its usefulness as a buffer, pointing to several portions which are only 50 feet wide.

Jonathan Kamin, attorney for the group that is appealing the decision, argued in the appeal filing that D'Andrea applied for a curative amendment but that the ultimate approval was for a zoning amendment.

“The substantial evidence of record establishes that the original curative amendment application cannot be amended to modify the request to a zoning amendment,” Kamin wrote in his brief.

Kamin also pointed to agreements between the municipality and D'Andrea regarding the recently installed traffic light at Rodi Road and Maple Lane.

D'Andrea said previously that Vocollect might have had to relocate if the traffic light could not be installed. The light ultimately was paid for through a combination of private money from D'Andrea and a grant from the county's Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund.

The county's Economic Development office has taken multiple views of the situation. One view, in a 2008 letter from Allegheny County Economic Development Planning Director Kay Pierce, cites the conservation district as meeting the definition for spot and contract zoning, both of which violate state law.

Another view, in the office's Spring 2012 newsletter, “The Latest Development,” finds a member of the Business Development Division touting the completion of the traffic light and the eventual Vocollect expansion.

“Now, after many years and substantial ground work to enable this project to proceed, a traffic signal ... has finally been erected to ensure the safety of Vocollect employees and to enable the company to grow in Allegheny County,” Jeb Feldman wrote in the newsletter.

According to county court records, a judge has not yet been assigned the case.

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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