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South Fayette approves initial request for UPMC hospital

| Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 11:09 a.m.
A site plan for UPMC’s proposed $200 million hospital in South Fayette.
A site plan for UPMC’s proposed $200 million hospital in South Fayette.

The controversial plan to build a new UPMC hospital in a South Fayette multi-use development has cleared its first hurdle.

The township commissioners approved a conditional use for the UPMC facility at Newbury Market at a meeting Wednesday night.

Commissioners put further conditions on their approval to UPMC and Newbury developer EQA Landmark Communities.

One point of contention for UPMC's plan stemmed from tax revenue, as many of its facilities are tax-exempt based upon services provided.

Greg Peaslee, executive vice president for UPMC, pledged that 40,000 square feet would be taxable.

In addition, Peaslee pledged $50,000 to $100,000 in annual payments to the township. Commissioners made those pledges conditions for approval.

Commissioners President Joseph Horowitz stressed those concessions may be the best deal the township could get.

Horowitz told a packed house of residents commissioners could only judge if UPMC and EQA Landmark met the requirements for the conditional use.

As many residents expressed frustration they were promised retail — and that a UPMC facility is could hurt nearby St. Clair Hospital — Horowitz again stated those issues were not under consideration.

“That's not what we're deciding — if it's bad for another hospital (or) would it be better with retail.” Horowitz said.

EQA Landmark Communities President Brett Malky previously told the board the retail industry's downturn in recent years has made drawing big-box stores to the area difficult. Malky noted EQA still needs two anchor tenants.

Many residents spoke at the often-heated meeting.

Former commissioner Bob Milacci said Newbury's plans always included a tax-exempt portion — a community center and public library. Milacci spoke in favor of the plan because some tax revenue will be generated by UPMC.

“This is going to be so much better than we envisioned,” he said.

Another resident, Michael Rynn, disagreed. Among other things, Rynn took issue with statements that after approval of UPMC and Topgolf, other tenants will follow.

“They're coming. They're coming. But who? What? When?” he said.

Rynn also disputed the findings of a financial impact study by economic consultant Fourth Economy, which states the township could see almost $170,000 in taxes, with South Fayette School District receiving almost $390,000 annually.

Jerry Paytas, vice president of Fourth Economy, said some of their conclusions were based upon rough estimates.

UPMC and EQA Landmark still need final site plan approval from the township.

Horowitz and Commissioners Jessica Cardillo and Gwen Rodi all voted in favor of the conditional use.

Commissioner Ray Pitetti, a physician for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, abstained.

Commissioner Lisa Malosh was absent from the meeting but had previously stated she would abstain. Malosh is employed by Presbyterian Senior Care, a partner with UPMC.

Before the public hearing, a nearly 15-minute executive session was held with the commissioners, Solicitor Robert Garvin, Manager Ryan Eggleston and attorneys for UPMC and EQA Landmark.

Garvin said the group discussed procedures for the hearing and insisted the session did not violate the Sunshine Act, mandating open meetings.

“It was legal matters to discuss the process,” he said.

Eric Eisert is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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