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Developer waiting on dirt to start former Penn Monroe Grill site project

Dillon Carr
| Thursday, April 19, 2018, 4:39 p.m.
View of the demolition of the former Penn Monroe in Monroeville from Duff Road looking east down Route 22.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune Review
View of the demolition of the former Penn Monroe in Monroeville from Duff Road looking east down Route 22.

The developer of the site of the former Penn Monroe Grill in Monroeville has gotten the green light to start construction from council but doesn't have enough dirt to get the project underway.

Council approved McCandless-based Zokaites Properties L.P.'s site plan recently to build a 29,000-square-foot retail plaza and 7,000-square-foot restaurant at 3985 William Penn Highway with a condition: build a fence at the top of a hill where the development's parking lot will sit.

The condition was added to the project because residents who live in a neighborhood behind the proposed site complained about the possibility of headlights shining into their back windows through the night.

The condition was the 18th one given to the developer. Despite the long list, the project's manager, Frank Zokaites, agreed to it.

“I'm not opposed to that at all, happy to do it,” Zokaites said.

However, that fence and the development it will be part of won't be erected until the developer finds 41,000 tons of dirt to fill the hole that was left when the landmark Penn Monroe Grill was demolished in January 2017.

Zokaites' wife and communications manager, Dana, said they have had some leads for dirt, but nothing has come through yet.

In the meantime, Zokaites welcomes anyone with extra fill to dump it at the site, she said.

“We welcome the fill that we need. We're eager to do the project,” Dana Zokaites said.

According to a municipality planner and zoning officer, the developer has a year to finish the project before they would have to reapply for permits.

Some residents who live on Lilac Drive behind the site are unhappy with how the developer approached its project.

“We're not against it, but they could have come to us and talked to everyone involved,” Edwin Maddock III said.

He lives in a house on Lilac Drive and owns another on the same street.

“They have no concerns about us. I mean, it's in our backyards,” he said.

Council's approval of the project was the culmination of a months-long debate on how developers would ensure only minor impact to those backyards — which have become mud pits, some say, during the site's excavation.

The approved site plans include a 56-foot wall with a slight incline. Zokaites said it will be planted with grass so it eventually looks like a natural slope and he will plant up to 60 evergreen trees at the bottom of it.

The plan also includes a retention pond to divert storm water and ease flooding problems.

And as those residents wait for the wall to be built, Maddock said the backyards will continue to flood during heavy rains.

“There's standing water in the yards because there's a natural low point in the area. The drains ... all come down there,” he said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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