Eighth public hearing in Jefferson-Hills, UPMC saga takes place
The public will get a chance to weigh in on a challenge already underway from 104 Jefferson Hills residents who are appealing the issuance of a zoning permit to UPMC that would help make way for a proposed hospital.
Eight public hearings already have been held over the residents’ challenge during the last few months. The latest took place June 11, with about 30 residents in attendance.
When the hearing resumes on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Community College of Allegheny County South’s auditorium, the public will be the first to comment at the meeting. Each resident will be given three minutes to talk, lawyers said.
“The entrance is right next to my driveway,” Janet Waldron, 60, a 20-year resident said during a break in the hearing. “My concern is if they get rid of the green space there and I’m standing on my patio, I might be able to wave at people in their rooms.”
The appeal challenges the borough’s zoning hearing officer’s decision to grant a zoning permit to UPMC, under the name AUUE, Inc., for a medical center comprised of a hospital, medical clinic, medical professional offices and helipad, indicating it can serve as an accessory use in the borough’s office park zoning district.
A portion of the property purchased by AUUE Inc. in 2018 is zoned for office park use, while the other part is zoned residential. The permit limits building to the office park portions of the land. UPMC has indicated that is where they plan to build.
Lawyers for the residents are arguing that the permit should not have been issued.
At the June 11 hearing, lawyers continued to cross-examine zoning officer Mark Reis on the issuance of the permit.
Last year, UPMC unveiled plans to build a 225,000-square-foot, 63-bed, three-story hospital at the intersection of Route 51 and Elliot Road. The plans include an emergency room, imaging center, women’s health facility and operating and recovery rooms. About 30,000 square feet will be dedicated to doctor’s offices.
The site will include about 700 parking spaces.
UPMC leaders have expressed a need for the hospital to fill a void for their health insurance members in the South Hills. Others have questioned its proximity to Allegheny Health Network’s Jefferson Hospital, located roughly one mile away.
Thomas Ayoob, who is representing AUUE, and lawyers from Marcus & Shapira LLP, who are representing the 104 residents, both declined to comment after the hearing.
Residents have rallied against the building of a hospital, forming the group “Say No To UPMC South.”
More than 500 people have signed a petition opposing the hospital, said resident Len Mesina, 55, who has lived on Old Clairton Road just above the property for 28 years.
“You don’t want a helicopter landing next to your home, do you?” he asked.
Residents give a list of concerns about the proposed hospital that include noise, the planned helipad, traffic, lighting and declining property values.
Triscia McCann learned of the planned hospital just after buying her house on Elliot Road in Jefferson Hills in October 2017.
“It’s not what I bought into. They were supposed to be a ‘best place to raise a family,’” said McCann, 37. “They got one of these awards and we bought into the peacefulness of it and now a helicopter will land underneath my fire pit.”
Following public comment on June 18, lawyers from all parties will provide closing arguments.
Lawyers will be given 30 days following the closure of the hearing to submit briefs. The zoning hearing board will have 45 days from then to render a decision, lawyers said.