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Sewickley Twp. zoning officials delay decision on variance

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

North Huntingdon housing developer Robert Shuster will have to wait yet another month to plead his case for a building permit to construct a garage to house two flatbed trailers adjacent to his existing warehouse in Sewickley Township.

The Sewickley Township Zoning Hearing Board intends to conduct a hearing on Aug. 27 on Shuster's appeal of Sewickley Township zoning officer Michael Stack's rejection of Shuster's request on June 25 for a building permit for his property at 540 Dicks Station Road. The request was made in the name of Shuster's company, R2MC Co.

Shuster on July 17 appealed Stack's rejection of a revised application for a building permit to construct a detached garage of 40 feet by 100 feet on the Dicks Station Road property. Stack said following the meeting that he denied the request because he believed that there were some “gray areas” that required a zoning hearing board decision.

Shuster's request to expand his warehouse – a nonconforming use in the residential area – has been opposed by some neighbors in that area. Stack also had rejected Shuster's initial application earlier this year for a building permit, in which Shuster proposed to build an attached garage at the warehouse site.

In other matters, the board postponed for a month a decision on a Murrysville developer's request for a variance to avoid constructing sidewalks in his proposed development of eight residential buildings containing 19 condominium units on a 7.8-acre parcel off Pinewood Road.

Donald Hixson, a New Stanton engineer representing Gregory Serakowski on the proposed housing development, argued that it was not feasible to build sidewalks along a 24-foot-wide road in the proposed housing development, when the 18-foot-wide Pinewood Road does not have any sidewalks. The township's ordinance requires housing developments of at least 10 units to have sidewalks within the plan.

“It's silly to put a sidewalk along this street, with no likelihood of sidewalks being on Pinewood,” Hixson said.

Hixson said the development meets the requirement for exterior lighting and does not need a street light because each unit will have an outdoor lamp.

A road running through the housing development will end in a cul de sac, Hixson said. The developer plans to build the road to township specifications and expects the township will adopt the road and maintain it, Hixson said.

Serakowski plans to build units that will sell for about $200,000 and be marketed to people whose children have grown and left their family home, Hixson said. A homeowners' association will own the land and be responsible for exterior maintenance, while residents will own their units, Hixson said.

The developer purchased the land in April for $88,000 from the estate of Dorothy J. Fiume, under the name of Bell Rock Development LLC of Murrysville, according to documents in the Westmoreland County Recorder of Deeds.

Several residents living near the site objected to the proposed housing development, raising the concern that stormwater runoff from the site will increase the possibility of flooding along Pinewood Road.

One neighbor, John Sebbens of Skyview Drive, predicted that the new housing development will result in more flooding in the area. Sebbens urged the board to reject any request for a variance and force Serakowski to build the housing development “to the letter of the law.”

“The drainage on Pinewood is so bad, I can't see nothing but bad things happening at the bottom of that hillside,” Sebbens said.

Hixson said, however, that the Westmoreland County Conservation District is reviewing the stormwater management plan. The township's ordinance requires that the water flowing from the development is released at a rate less than the current flow. The development plans call for two stormwater retention ponds, he said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-836-5252.