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Penn Hills

Penn Hills poised to reject church's zoning request to preserve taxable land

Dillon Carr
| Wednesday, May 2, 2018, 2:36 p.m.
The site of the former Bottom Dollar store on Frankstown Road in Penn Hills could become a branch of the Monroeville Assembly of God church.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Tribune-Review
The site of the former Bottom Dollar store on Frankstown Road in Penn Hills could become a branch of the Monroeville Assembly of God church.

A Monroeville church that wants to move into Penn Hills suffered a setback recently when the municipality's planning commission rejected the church's request to rezone a former grocery store on Frankstown Road.

The Rev. Lance Lecocq, a pastor at Monroeville Assembly of God, asked Penn Hills to rezone the 22,600-square-foot building at 12012 Frankstown Road from commercial to residential. The Pentecostal Christian church wants to develop its fifth campus in the region at the former Bottom Dollar grocery store. The church serves about 1,300 parishioners at locations in Monroeville, Lower Burrell, Arnold and Forest Hills.

The commission voted 4-1 (member Ron Sapp dissented) to recommend against granting the zoning change. Monroeville's mayor and council have the authority to accept or reject the commission's recommendation.

Lecocq did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. He has said he plans to open a campus in Penn Hills whether it is at the building on Frankstown Road or not.

Commissioners said they are concerned the municipality would lose out on tax revenue. A place of worship is exempt from paying real estate taxes, according to Allegheny County's real estate website. Currently, the property is assessed at $1.4 million.

Aldi bought the building in 2015 as part of a $15 million sale of 66 Bottom Dollar grocery stores across three states. Aldi did not open a store at the location.

“I offered to help them find another location,” said Brent Rambo, a member of the planning commission. “The municipal building will become available soon and since the Catholic churches are downsizing, those might be available and they're already zoned and not on the tax rolls.”

Rambo said he and other commissioners were in support of the church's desire to move into Penn Hills.

“But we'd be losing tax money in that location,” he said.

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

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