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More testimony taken on meth center special exception request

| Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009

The Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board has 45 days to make a decision on a Washington County-based company's petition for a special exception for a methadone treatment center in Perry.

LLS Realty LLC wants the special exception for the treatment center in a building it owns on Route 51.

A hearing on Oct. 28 was continued because a PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit for the business was not available.

Attorney Joshua Farber, representing, LLS, said the permit was not for the special exception, but for the office's current use, a non-methadone based treatment center. He objected to the idea that the ZHB had any jurisdiction in highway occupancy permits. "They are under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation."

Louis Waller of Canonsburg, one of the property owners, said the current permit classifies the office as a low-volume driveway. Under questioning from Don McCue, Perry Township solicitor, Waller said he believed the permit, for work to be completed in March 2006, still applies.

Waller said the permit anticipates 54 average daily trips. McCue asked if the methadone clinic would actually have 250 cars entering in a five-hour period. Waller said this would be the case.

PennDOT defines this as meaning more than 25 average daily trips or less than 750 average daily trips. A vehicle entering the site and then leaving equal two daily trips.

Engineer David Gault, PennDOT district permit manager, said the permit was issued for 54 average daily trips.

McCue asked if the increased use would be acceptable, even though it would be under the number required for a low-volume driveway.

"No, it would not," Gault replied. He said a change of use, to a higher vehicle volume, would require a new application. Additionally, PennDOT is in the process of revoking the permit because required work has not been done. He said the driveway has been paved, but must have curbs added to define it for safety reasons and double yellow lines must be changed to dotted yellow lines for legal vehicle movement.

Jack Purcell, solicitor for the Frazier School District, asked Gault what should be done.

"They need to reapply for a permit, even in low volume, but not with the original use." He said an engineering study may be necessary to determine what may be needed for safety.

Purcell asked what would happen if 400 cars came to the site daily.

"An 800 average daily trip volume would be a medium volume driveway and require a traffic impact study," Gault said.

Farber asked if PennDOT had yet notified LLS of the pending revocation. Gault said it was in process and the applicant could either appeal or file for a new permit.

Perryopolis resident Roy G. Giovanelli asked Gault if the permit process took into account the potential for drug users to be driving at the site.

Gault said it did not.

Farber said permits were issued for bars, where drinking takes place.

McCue provided a "Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheet" and a report from HRG, Pittsburgh, called the Route 51 Transportation Initiative to the board.

LLS Realty applied for a special exception in March 2005. The zoning board approved the request, but Perry Township appealed. Judge Steve Leskinen sent the matter back to the board.

Instead of pursuing a special exception, LLS Realty opened the office with a different type of drug treatment.

In August 2008, the zoning board upheld a cease-and-desist order against LLS's facility.

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