Fate of Wilkinsburg's Green Street Mini-Park is in hands of court
A group of Wilkinsburg neighbors and a nonprofit won a court victory in their fight to stop the school district from selling a small park to a developer, but the victory could be short-lived unless a higher court takes up the case.
On March 20, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith Friedman sided with the neighborhood group, but she indicated that if the Wilkinsburg School District were to fix procedural issues involved with the planned sale, she would have no reason to block the sale of Green Street Mini-Park during a May 16 hearing, said Linda Kauffman, one of the residents who objects to the sale.
School districts are required to obtain court approval to sell property they deemed unused and unnecessary.
Twenty-seven residents oppose the Wilkinsburg district's planned sale of the park at Mifflin Avenue and Green Street near Regent Square. With the Wilkinsburg-based Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, they filed an objection in court last month, arguing that the school district should not be allowed to sell the park because it is valuable green space that residents use and maintain.
“It's not a beautiful park, but it's the only one we have,” Kauffman said.
Philip Martell, the district's assistant director of business affairs, said the district maintains the park and maintenance is a financial burden.
Friedman ruled that the school district failed to comply with Pennsylvania School Code because it did not properly give public notice of the planned sale. The judge said the district violated the spirit of the law by having two people from the same real estate firm sign a property appraisal, instead of seeking more than one independent appraisal.
The district corrected those issues and submitted an amended court petition on April 17, district Solicitor Matthew Hoffman said.
“We're simply providing ample notice (of the sale) on and around the property,” Hoffman said.
On April 19, however, the opponents filed a notice of appeal to Commonwealth Court.
Hoffman argues they have no standing to appeal because they prevailed in Friedman's court.
“It's our intent to quash their appeal as premature,” he said.
The neighborhood group's attorney, Michael Wojcik, could not be reached for comment.
One issue contributing to the debate was uncertainty over who owns the property. For years, everyone thought the borough owned the property, but last year, the borough and school district discovered that the district has owned it since 1905, Wojcik has said.
If Commonwealth Court hears the neighborhood group's appeal, it's possible the school board's makeup could change during the delay. Five of the nine school board seats are up for election — four seats with four-year terms and a seat to complete the two years left on the term of Shannon Bennett, who resigned from the board.
A new board might be more willing to give the park to the borough, Kauffman said.
Wilkinsburg school board members did not return calls for comment.
The cash-strapped district has entered into an agreement to sell the park for $71,000 to Akator Construction of Westmoreland County, contingent upon the court's approval. Akator wants to build six single-family homes.
Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5662.
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.
- Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple in Monroeville plans expansion
- Vending business in new hands after pot-growing operation found in Lawrenceville
- $4M floor project at Pittsburgh International Airport to replace drab gray, clickety-clack tile
- Pittsburgh, Allegheny County completing 911 center merger
- Icy water, donations to fight ALS flow with social media’s help
- Feds dispute ex-PA Cyber chief’s claims of illegal attorney-client recordings
- People loved when Sophie talked like Sophie
- Renowned forensic pathologist Wecht critical of 3rd autopsy in Ferguson death
- RiverQuest science education program stays afloat with foundation support
- Barred Mt. Oliver firefighter turns up in gear at blaze, spurs investigation
- Afghanistan gives New York Times reporter 24 hours to leave country