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Zoning change could help sell former Whitehall Country Club

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A rezoning of the 4.3-acre former Whitehall Country Club property on Provost Road could help the owners of the now-defunct swimming hub market the site to potential buyers, borough officials said.

“We really don't feel that it's going to have any value as it's currently zoned,” borough Manager James Leventry said.

Whitehall Council, in a 5-0 vote last week, authorized borough Solicitor Irving Firman to draft an amended zoning ordinance that would allow the rezoning of five properties along Provost Road to R2-AS residential, a category that allows four single-family dwellings or 12 town houses to be built per acre. The properties that would be rezoned include the former country club site and 50 town houses on Shadow Drive.

Council members Harold Berkoben and Bill Veith were absent.

The draft ordinance will be presented to council at its next meeting for review, Firman said.

The Whitehall Country Club, complete with a large pool, tennis and volleyball courts, was opened by a group of residents in 1959. A decline in membership led the club to close within the last five years.

Rising Sun Martial Arts Inc. purchased the property in 2009 for $72,000, Allegheny County assessment records show. Former country club manager Charles Hosler said at the time that the plan was to construct an indoor recreational facility on the site for the martial arts school, where he teaches.

But Rising Sun was unable to secure funds to do so, Hosler's wife, Patty, said earlier this year. The property then was listed for sale. The Hoslers couldn't be reached for comment.

Two companies have expressed interest in purchasing the site but could not develop it as planned with the current zoning, Leventry said. Instead, the vacant property has attracted thieves and vandals, officials said.

“They've already stolen all of the copper out of it and vandalized the hell out of it,” Councilman Robert McKown said. “Let's get this back on the tax roll instead of sitting there and being an eyesore.”

Council in February tasked the Whitehall Planning Commission with reviewing the zoning of the Whitehall Country Club property and determining if a change was needed.

Commissioners on June 6 recommended rezoning that property, plus four others in the area.

Three of the five properties, including the former country club, are zoned R2-S, which allows fewer homes per acre. The other two properties, including the Shadow Drive Plan town house association common area and 50 existing town houses, are in R-5 zoning, which allows for eight town houses or a multifamily dwelling containing 20 apartments per acre.

“They're keeping the same criteria of single family dwellings or town houses, but in essence the R2-AS allows more density so you can build more town houses,” said Ruthann Omer, the borough engineer. “That's really the difference.”

McKown said he wants to ensure that this is the best zoning for the country club property.

“I think it's going to sit there in that condition as an R2-AS,” McKown said. “I think we need to take a more serious look at that. ... You'll never get your money back out from an investment in town houses.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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