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Sewickley Country Inn ruling upheld

Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

A zoning change that would allow the former Sewickley Country Inn site to be redeveloped with offices and town homes can stand, Sewickley zoning hearing board members say.

The board decided last week that the property along Route 65 can remain a mixed-use development zone.

Sewickley Council made the change in July 2010, and resident Michael Lyons filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the ordinance. The lawsuit led to a Commonwealth Court decision in 2012 that said the zoning board should hear the challenge.

The board's 12-page decision said creation of an Ohio River Boulevard Mixed-Use District “does not create a situation where the property is being treated unjustifiably different from similar surrounding land.” Members Gary Gladowski and Robert Lavery wrote the opinion, while Chairman James Eichenlaub recused himself in February because of what he termed a conflict of interest.

Lyons said the board's decision is “disappointing and patently wrong.”

“I expect to appeal it,” he said.

He said the board's decision “comes on the heels of the borough having wasted over two years and $50,000 of taxpayer money by raising certain procedural matters that Commonwealth Court rejected as clearly without merit.”

The zoning hearing board decision listed nearby properties in Sewickley and Glen Osborne with varied zoning parcels. Commercially zoned properties such as the Critmore building are across Boundary Street in Glen Osborne and across Route 65 in Osborne Plaza.

After the demise of the Country Inn in 2009, developer Cody Mueller — under the name MCM Ventures — presented plans to demolish the hotel's several buildings and replace them with office buildings along Route 65 and town homes along Thorn Street on the nearly 4 acres. The property is assessed at nearly $2.5 million, according to Allegheny County records.

Zoning hearing board members in their ruling said a mixed-use zone would offer additional tax revenue from the business-privilege tax imposed on people employed at any future commercial development and also from earned-income taxes collected by future residents.

“The redevelopment of the property within the parameters of the (mixed-use district) will clearly benefit Sewickley by increasing the tax revenues available to it,” zoning hearing board members wrote.

Crews began tearing down the former motel in January, but no plans for construction have been finalized.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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