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Litigants against Fayette jail look to join forces

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Thursday, July 24, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Litigants in two land-use appeals seeking to stop construction of Fayette County's $32 million jail want the cases consolidated, according to a motion filed on Tuesday.

Attorney Rich Bower of Connellsville filed the motion seeking to consolidate an appeal he is handling with another filed through attorneys Leslie J. Mlakar and Michael T. Korns of Greensburg.

Bower represents North Union residents Evelyn Hovanec and John Cofchin, and husband and wife Ralph and Jerrie Mazza of Franklin Township. Mlakar and Korns represent husband and wife Terry and Diane Kriss of Dunbar Township.

The two appeals challenge a May decision by the Zoning Hearing Board that granted variances allowing the county to build the new jail on a lot smaller than the required 150 acres, to plant 143 fewer trees than required and to permit a small section of barbed wire fencing to be visible to the public.

The board granted a special exception allowing the jail to be built on land zoned for industrial use on 18.87 acres of a 61-acre site off Route 119 and Mt. Braddock Road in Dunbar and North Union townships, near Laurel Mall and the Meason House.

The two appeals allege various zoning requirements were not met before the board granted the variances and special exceptions. They want the board's decisions reversed.

In the motion seeking to consolidate the appeals, Bower argued it should “be done for judicial efficiency.” He attached affidavits from Mlakar and an attorney for the county indicating they are agreeable to the consolidation.

A visiting judge, Senior Judge William Ober of Westmoreland County, will hear the cases. Fayette's judges recused themselves “to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” according to the orders recusing them.

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