Lago de Vita residents, developer square off

| Thursday, May 27, 2004

Some residents of an upscale Hempfield Township neighborhood Wednesday night welcomed a developer's plan to build pricey new townhouses in their back yards, but only after the builder agreed never to seek to make any other changes to the community.

Joseph Kondisko, president of Allmar LLC, wants permission to build 16 townhouses on 4 12 acres in Lago de Vita. The three-bedroom, two-garage patio homes would sell for between $220,000 and $240,000, Kondisko said.

Lago de Vita is a planned residential community of single-family homes and condominiums that has its own township-approved rules governing development.

Kondisko's parcel currently is approved for commercial uses, including a golf course, clubhouse, tennis courts and swimming pool. Kondisko wants the site's use modified to allow for townhomes.

Kondisko, who lives in the development but also maintains a home in Florida, said he feels that townhouses are the best use for the property.

"It's residential," Kondisko said. "It's a beautiful neighborhood, and it should stay that way."

He also pointed out the site failed in its previous use as a golf course and has yet to attract a restaurant or other commercial development.

Kondisko stopped short of saying he would put a restaurant on the site if the area isn't approved for townhouses, but he did acknowledge he will seek a return on his investment.

Robert Johnston, a Greensburg attorney representing a dozen Lago de Vita residents who are organized under the group Communities of Lago de Vita Inc., said his clients fear if Kondisko's request is approved, the developer will seek additional changes that would eliminate an open space in the community.

The open space was part of the failed golf course. Kondisko said he never indicated he intends to build on the open space, but he did acknowledge he is constructing houses on a section of the course he owns in Unity Township. A portion of Lago de Vita lies in Unity Township.

Two Lago de Vita residents told supervisors they don't want the townhouses. Michael Pierce, of Lakewood Road, presented supervisors with a petition signed by 153 residents who oppose any changes to the community.

Pierce said although he prefers Kondisko's parcel be developed into a park or recreation area, he would not oppose a restaurant or public swimming pool.

Anthony Pacienza, of Lakewood Road, said granting Kondisko's request could set a precedent for other changes to the community.

Seven residents spoke in favor of the proposed change, including Diana Pandolph, president of the Casa Vita homeowners association.

Pandolph displayed photos depicting the former golf course's now-unkempt parking lot. She said the site also has become a dumping ground.

Ed Halusic, of Lakewood Drive, said he prefers townhouses over a restaurant.

"I've seen the backs of restaurants," Halusic said. "They don't look very nice. That's where the garbage is."

Residents who spoke in favor of modifying the site's use from commercial to residential also said they want assurances the open space on the former golf course is maintained.

Kondisko, after consulting with his attorney, Thomas Godlewski, of Greensburg, amended his request to include the open space. The amendment prohibits him from seeking any additional modifications to his property, and the restriction would remain in effect even if Kondisko sold the land.

Supervisors did not immediately rule on Kondisko's request and have up to 45 days to render a decision.

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