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Property value tumbles; owners request rezoning for the former Whitehall Country Club site

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Chuck and Patty Hosler had big dreams for the 4.5-acre haven on Provost Road in Whitehall.

In the summer, families would spend time together at the former Whitehall Country Club site and children would play in the the 25-meter pool. Baseball games would be played year-round inside a new building and the Holsers' martial arts school, Rising Sun, would move from Baldwin Borough to the property.

“That's when the financial situation hit,” said Chuck Hosler, 49, of Bethel Park.

The Hoslers tried unsuccessfully to secure a loan for the project as the economy struggled, then gave up on their vision about two years ago and put the property up for sale. Now, they're asking Whitehall leaders to rezone the land to make it more attractive to developers or other prospective buyers.

Chuck Hosler said the couple has had trouble selling the former Whitehall Country Club site, which they purchased under the name Rising Sun Martial Arts Inc. in 2009 for about $150,000. They invest as much as $10,000 a year into the property, he said.

Allegheny County real estate records show the property sold for $72,000, but Chuck Hosler said the couple also had to buy out the country club's remaining shareholders and invest in improvements before the purchase was finalized.

Whitehall Country Club opened in 1959 and close in 2008 because of dwindling membership.

The Hoslers opened the pool and tennis courts in 2010 under the name The Pool at Rising Sun Fitness Center.

After that summer, Chuck Hosler said, they realized they couldn't afford to keep operating the pool and listed the property for sale.

The current zoning, classified as R2-S, hasn't helped to attract potential buyers, he said, and he and selling agent John Thatcher of All Pittsburgh Real Estate pleaded with Whitehall Council last week to proceed with the rezoning.

A public hearing on the potential rezoning of five properties along Provost Road, including the former country club, initially was scheduled last week, but was postponed so that land surveying could be completed, borough Manager James Leventry said. The hearing likely will be rescheduled for November.

Whitehall officials are considering rezoning the properties as R2-AS, a residential category that allows four single-family dwellings or 12 town houses to be built per acre. Properties that would be rezoned include the former country club and 50 townhouses on Shadow Drive.

“We're looking for this to expand the possibility of the way that site can be developed,” Thatcher said.

The property is listed for sale for $179,000 and while there have been several offers, all fell through at the last minute, Thatcher said.

“We're looking for either a person that wants to put in one nice custom home — in which case you wouldn't need to rezone the property — or an upscale development that can put in a limited number of town homes on the property,” Thatcher said.

The court-ordered Allegheny County reassessments also posed a problem for a potential sale. The former country club's value was increased from $110,000 to $870,000, Chuck Hosler said.

After appeals, the value was dropped several times to $243,000, but in the meantime, a buyer was lost, Thatcher said.

While Whitehall considers the property as residential, Allegheny County classifies it as commercial because of the pool, Thatcher said. That, too, has been an issue while trying to sell the site, he said.

The Hoslers hope to keep the property intact, at least what's left of it. All the copper piping was taken, and skateboarders have been caught on the property, Chuck Hosler said.

“Yesterday,” Chuck said. “That's when we need it to sell.”

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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