Appeal on table over Sewickley Country Inn zoning
By Bobby Cherry
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
While the former Sewickley Country Inn was demolished a year ago, a fight over the zoning of the land continues as borough leaders say legal costs are escalating.
Resident Michael Lyons filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Sewickley Borough and the zoning hearing board to fight rezoning that would enable office space and homes to be built on the former hotel site along Ohio River Boulevard.
Lyons lost in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. This month, he appealed that decision to Commonwealth Court.
“I decided to file an appeal because the rezoning of the property, permitting commercial office buildings, was unlawful spot zoning that devalues the neighboring residential properties and violates our joint comprehensive zoning plan with Aleppo and Glen Osborne,” said Lyons, an attorney and former councilman.
“I believe that Judge (Joseph) James' ruling was incorrect, and that Commonwealth Court will reverse it.”
“Spot zoning” refers to singling out a parcel with a specific zoning designation that differs significantly from properties around it.
The property of the former hotel, which was built in the 1960s, is surrounded by residential and office properties.
Common Pleas Judge Joseph James agreed with the zoning board's decision — which it affirmed earlier this year — that Lyons did not meet the burden of proof that there is discriminatory spot zoning.
Lyons made additional arguments, and then won the right in Commonwealth Court to offer more testimony to the zoning hearing board last year.
The borough has spent more than $62,000 in legal fees from March 2010 through December 2013 on the case, records show.
“We are getting zero revenue,” Sewickley Councilman Tom DeFazio said. “We're not getting any real estate taxes, we're not getting any building permit fees, any earned income tax. The businesses aren't getting (more) business, so it results in a business privilege tax.
“As a taxpayer, I'm upset. I would think that a lot of other taxpayers in this borough — if they knew what was going on — would be upset as well.”
MCM Ventures, led by developer Cody Mueller, has proposed redeveloping the property it owns into office space and single-family homes. Mueller could not be reached for comment.
Sewickley officials rezoned the land after Mueller 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 $950,000, according to Allegheny County real estate records. It had been assessed at nearly $2.5 million before buildings were demolished.
Lyons said he will ask the Commonwealth Court to overturn James' ruling.
“I believe my position is sound, I have given no thought to further appeals,” he said.
Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sewickley Herald honors: Memorial Day celebration crew recognized
- Quaker Valley students extend their school day — willingly
- Keep your family organized with a command center
- Leetsdale park, boat ramp could see upgrades
- St. James youth in Sewickley say ‘YES’ to helping others
- Photos: Easter egg hunting in Sewickley
- Quaker Valley property owners could face tax increase
- Quaker Valley board to begin interviewing superintendent candidates
- The Way I See It: Get out! No, really, get out there
- Photos: Gone fishin’ in Bell Acres
- Abandoned vehicles cause concern in Leetsdale