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North Hills

Laurel Grove Development moves forward despite protests of neighbors

| Monday, March 12, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

The Pine Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously March 5 to approve Phase 2A of the Laurel Grove development plan despite the protests of a number of residents whose homes surround Lake MacLeod.

Many homeowners voiced their frustrations and concerns over sediment and runoff they believe is flowing downstream from the development and entering the 13-acre lake.

The plan calls for 244 townhouses, patio and single-family homes. The board approved Phase 1 of development in June 2017. Solicitor Gary Gushard said that the developers are in compliance with the preliminary approval issued as part of the overall plan.

Last month, the planning commission recommended approval of the Phase 2 plan to build 84 units.

Resident Christy Karmanos presented two enlarged photographs to the supervisors, one showing her children swimming in the lake when the water was clear and another taken in November 2017 after the lake turned brown.

“I'd like you to compare the pictures and understand that this is my home,” she said, adding that the lake has now been brown for 120 days. “This is what we look at now every day. We feel as a neighborhood we're viewed by your board as people who simply like to whine and complain. That is not true. We are good Pine people and we love where we live. Please help us work with the developer of Laurel Grove to do all that we can to maintain the beauty of our lake and our neighborhood.”

Board Chairman Michael Dennehy Jr., responded by asking what more Karmanos thought the township should be doing.

“Should we talk to the weatherman?” he said.

Karmanos asked if the situation with the lake bothered him, to which Dennehy responded, “Sure, but who do we complain to? God?”

The Lake Macleod Homeowners Association has expressed concerns about the development from the outset over the fear of runoff entering the lake. In August 2016 they filed an appeal asking the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to reverse the supervisors' preliminary approval of the Laurel Grove development. The case is still in litigation.

Jeff Fisher, another Lake MacLeod resident, said neighbors told the board their concerns May 9, 2016, because they'd already experienced problems with mud and sediment running into the lake from the construction at Pine-Richland High School that was completed in 2010. The Laurel Grove development is across from the high school in what used to be cornfields.

Homeowners were told at the time by Marty Gillespie, of Cavalier Land Partners, L.P., that the regulations had changed since then, and Bob Firek of Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering, Inc., said he'd reviewed the plan and that there should not be any runoff or sediment, Fisher said.

“Does that look like there isn't any runoff?” Fisher asked.

Resident Jeff Romano presented a photo taken recently of two streams merging before emptying into a retention pond next to the lake. One, which he said came from the development, was muddy, and the other, which came from undisturbed land, was clear.

“There's no denying where this sediment's coming from,” he said.

John Kamin, the attorney for Cavalier Land Partners, said that a lot of the issues about which the residents were concerned existed before they started the project.

“If you look at the exact same minutes of May 9, 2016, you will see a number of residents of Lake Macleod, including Mr. Romano, complaining about the condition of the sediment in the lake, the fact that the lake has to be dredged already because of the sediment that's in there and that it's difficult because of the gas line,” he said.

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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