Judge denies appeal of Franklin Regional’s ‘elementary campus’ project | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Judge denies appeal of Franklin Regional’s ‘elementary campus’ project

Patrick Varine
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Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Site work has begun for the new building on the Sloan Elementary School property in Murrysville, seen here on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019.
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Screenshot/iJems
Judge Harry Smail Jr. denied the Sloan Project Concerned Citizens’ appeal of Murrysville council’s approval for the Sloan "elementary campus" project in the Franklin Regional School District.

The Sloan Project Concerned Citizens group has maintained throughout its appeal of Franklin Regional’s Sloan “elementary campus” project that Murrysville officials did not go far enough in imposing conditions on the project.

Paramount to the group’s appeal was its contention the Sardis/Crowfoot roads area was not suited for the increased traffic it will see, and the project will threaten public health and safety.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Harry Smail Jr. rejected those arguments this week, denying the appeal.

“Regarding Sloan Project’s contention that public health and safety will be threatened and a nuisance will be created by noise and light pollution as well as traffic, Sloan Project offered no credible evidence beyond mere speculation, which Murrysville was able to take into consideration,” Smail wrote in his ruling. “Looking to the record as a whole, Murrysville … did not abuse its discretion in granting the application on this basis, or any other basis, asserted by Sloan Project.”

The appellants’ position was that additional traffic from the Sloan project would be out of character for the area.

In his opinion, Smail pointed out that opposing the project based on traffic requires “there must be a high probability that the proposed use will generate traffic patterns not normally generated by that type of use and that such ‘abnormal’ traffic will pose a substantial threat to the health and safety of the community.”

To meet that standard, the appellants’ attorney would have to demonstrate that the completed Sloan project will generate an abnormally large amount of traffic for a sizable elementary campus — a permitted use under the land’s current zoning — rather than for a rural area dotted with housing developments.

“Here, it appears that (the appellants) presented only speculative possible impacts and dangers from the increased traffic, which Murrysville found did not meet the burden of being hazardous to the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Smail wrote.

Democratic school board candidate Susan Stewart-Bayne agreed with the judge that Murrysville officials appeared to have done their due diligence in assessing the project and placing conditions on it.

“It would seem that it is in the best interest of the taxpayers, Franklin Regional and students that we move forward with this project, and stop wasting taxpayer money on further lawsuits,” Stewart-Bayne said. “I hope that moving forward that the Sloan Project Concerned Citizens group will work with the district and not against it in accomplishing what is best for our community.”

Below, see a brief timeline of the project.

Neither Jeffrey Ries, a Pittsburgh attorney representing the Sloan Project Concerned Citizens, nor Robert Wratcher, representing the school district, could be immediately reached for comment.

The school district filed a cross-appeal, but agreed to withdraw it in exchange for Murrysville’s approval of a plan to haul 12,000 cubic yards of “poor soil” off the site.

Murrysville council granted that approval in late August, and site work is ongoing at the Sloan property off Sardis Road.

For project updates, see the “Community” tab at FRSDk12.org.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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