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Wilkinsburg park sale approved

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Wilkinsburg neighborhood group lost in court to stop the school district from selling a park, but the legal fight likely will continue, if only as a stall tactic, a resident opposed to the sale said on Friday.

An appeal to Commonwealth Court could delay the property's sale until after the Wilkinsburg School Board elections on Nov. 5, said Linda Kauffman, 73, who lives on Mifflin Avenue across from Green Street Mini-Park.

“Sufficient delay would bring us to the point where new members of the (school) board would be elected” who might be willing to keep the property, she said. Five of the nine school board seats are up for election.

School districts can sell only property they deem to be unused and unnecessary, but courts must approve the sales.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alan Hertzberg on Wednesday approved the Wilkinsburg School District's request to sell the park, nine months after it filed a petition to do so.

“It's been a long fight, but the decision proves that we were within our rights to sell the property. And we're just relieved, obviously, that this has taken place,” said Philip Martell, the school district's director of finance and operations.

The cash-strapped district plans to sell the small park at Mifflin Avenue and Green Street for $71,000 to Akator Construction LLC of Westmoreland County. Akator wants to build six single-family homes on the property.

Kauffman and 26 other Wilkinsburg residents, plus the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association Inc. and its executive director, filed an objection to the sale in March through attorney Michael Wojcik. The petition said the district didn't properly advertise and vote on the sale and disputed that the land wasn't used.

Residents contend the park provides valuable green space for the neighborhood. The school district has said Wilkinsburg borough declined a 2012 offer to take title to the property. School board President Karen Payne said on Friday she had been out of town and hadn't heard the decision.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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