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Penn Hills

Penn Hills OKs community center at tiny homes complex for veterans

Dillon Carr
| Wednesday, May 2, 2018, 10:51 a.m.
A rendering of the 'tiny homes' project for homeless veterans planned along Jefferson Road in Penn Hills.
A rendering of the 'tiny homes' project for homeless veterans planned along Jefferson Road in Penn Hills.

The Penn Hills zoning hearing board has given a nonprofit permission to build a community center at a complex of tiny homes for military veterans despite some concerns about increased traffic.

Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard in March sought a variance that would allow it to complement its project, which will feature homes, a garden, greenhouse, pavilion, walking trails and a stormwater retention pond, with the community center it described as a “group care facility.”

The community center will feature a commercial kitchen and cafe where veterans can receive professional development training, said Shawn O'Mahony of the Bring Out the Best Project, which is partnering with Veterans Place in the development of the tiny homes community.

The variance was granted at an April meeting. Veterans Place now must get approval for the project's site plan from the planning commission. That meeting has not been scheduled.

Neighbors who have opposed the project are mulling whether to appeal the zoning hearing board's decision to grant a variance for the community center.

“It's a good cause, but they're putting a commercial building in a residential area,” said Anthony Sosso, an attorney representing Robert Paganico, who lives next to the proposed site on Jefferson Road.

The Penn Hills zoning hearing board issued the developers a variance that will allow them to build the 5,000-square-foot community center.

“In order for projects to qualify for variances, you have to show the property has unique physical characteristics that prevent it from being in accordance with the zoning,” Sosso said.

“(The zoning hearing board) even asked them, ‘can you develop this without the community center?' (Veterans Place) said yes,” he said. “So I'm surprised they got the variance.”

Paganico said he is fighting this because he's worried about increased traffic on the residential road.

O'Mahony said he and the developers have done everything right and they're confident the project, which has been in the works for two years, will come to fruition.

“We've been working with (the planning commission) all along because we wanted to make sure all our t's were crossed and all our i's were dotted,” O'Mahony said.

Rebecca Fenoglietto, 53, who lives on a road near the proposed site, is disappointed the project could get tied up in court.

“They're taking an empty parcel of land and doing something that benefits our veterans,” she said. “This facility, this tiny homes community, is a marvelous use of this space. I will personally welcome them to my neighborhood.”

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

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