Despite the approximately three hours of public testimony regarding a proposed Windmont Farms Preliminary Planned Residential Development in Hampton Township, council approved to extend the public hearing to March 13 to accommodate additional discussion.
All seats were filled and other attendees had to stand in the hallway at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Hampton Township Council, most of them there regarding the development which has been under review since last year.
The applicant, Crossgates Inc., is requesting to develop approximately 63 acres of land at the intersection of West Hardies and South Pioneer roads, consisting of 14 duplexes and 40 single-family houses for a total of 69 units, according to Marty Orban, township zoning information officer.
Those who provided testimony were asked to swear-in prior to speaking.
This public hearing has been extended several times from an original date in October
Developer Crossgates Inc., located in McMurray, first presented its testimony, led by Matt Prather, an attorney of Sebring and Associates, representing the developer.
KoKo Chalfant and Debbie Grady, daughters of the late Charles and Margo Chalfant, who owned the property, were also there to provide testimony as to why they supported the project.
Grady wanted to share that her father, now deceased, had started meeting with developers beginning in 2006.
“He always intended it to be developed,” Grady said.
She said the house will be restored and land protected.
Grady added though they’ve been offered more money from other developers they felt that the current development was something they could support and stand behind. Along with Crossgates, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which has placed a historic landmark plaque on the Chalfant log house, is connected to the project.
“We are honoring his wishes,” Grady said.
Much of last week’s testimony centered on a review of the revisions done by the developer and reasoning for several requested variances to the township.
The developer has to remove a number of trees to accommodate development and requested a variance reduction in the number of trees to be replanted. This has been a major concern for residents who live nearby, as noted in previous council meeting public comments. They strongly feel that the removal of trees would cause potential flooding on their property.
Several developer exhibits were entered into the testimony including one that shows 17.31 acres of land, including its trees, will remain undisturbed permanently, according to Bob Sapsara, Crossgate vice president of construction.
“In our plan, 44 percent of the land will remain ‘treed’,” Sapsara said.
This does not include the more than 1,000 trees of different varieties to be planted along streets and property, he said. The Hampton Environmental Advisory Council did not recommend the current project per its last meeting in February, according to Prather, indicating they said it would “stretch the limits of the land.”
The developer offered testimony on how they disagreed with that decision and/or how they would address specific concerns of EAC.
After the developer’s testimony and questions from the public and council, residents and other experts were allowed to present documents they submitted.
This included Bill Moul, president of the North Area Environmental Advisory Council, who said disturbances and removal of trees on a whole would adversely affect the Pine Creek watershed and surrounding land, including losing a natural water retention source which would most likely contribute to flooding.
Moul noted that replanting of trees, done to replace trees which were removed, will take decades to reach maturity and provide the same retention benefits currently offered.
And a group of students from Hampton Township School District also presented. They did a class project studying the tree deforestation at the proposed development and recommended it was not advisable, citing similar reasons as Moul, including removing a natural sound barrier.
Two experts will testify on the opposing neighboring residents behalf at the next meeting, as presented by Merrit DesLauriers, a resident of Lakewood Drive who has been a vocal challenger of the project.
The township council made a decision that both developer and residents must submit any expert testimony or related documents by March 1.
Vince Tucceri, legal representative to Hampton council, recommended that no expert may testify at the continued public hearing next month if they did not present their report to the township by the deadline.
This gives the developer and residents a chance to review everything and nothing new will be presented at the meeting.
“I have a sense there’s a lot to hear,” said Mike Peters, council president.
Tucceri recommended the public hearing should be completed March 13. The council will then make a decision at a later township meeting.