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Murrysville, Export give agreement a second chance

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 8:34 p.m.

The joint planning agreement between Murrysville and Export is getting a second look.

Murrysville council voted 5-0 Wednesday to reconsider the joint agreement after rejecting it at the March 3 meeting in a 4-3 vote. Councilman Dennis Pavlik, who voted against the agreement on March 3, was absent. Councilman Robert Brooks, who previously voted in favor of it, was also absent.

Council President Lawrence Keller voted along with Pavlik, G. Ted Mallick and Jerry Bruck to reject the agreement on March 3. But at Wednesday's meeting, Keller said that after discussing the plan with Mayor Joyce Somers and the municipal administration, he felt council should hear additional information.

"We have not given it fair hearing or time," Keller said.

The agreement provides for the creation of a joint planning commission that would be the first of its kind in southwestern Pennsylvania. It would make recommendations to both municipalities, create a planning map for the communities and a uniform development code enhanced by graphics.

At the March 3 meeting, council members voting against it said they believed it would conflict with Murrysville's interests, such as completing its own ordinances and comprehensive plan.

"My main concern is that we all have a chance to look at this, look at the benefits of this and then decide what we want to do with it," Somers said. She asked council to take 30 days before taking final action.

"I'm not asking anyone to make a decision on this now," said Don Pepe, Murrysville's chief administrator.

Mallick directed some criticism at Pepe and the administration regarding the situation with grants involved in the project. He said after the planning agreement was rejected, Pepe was quoted in newspaper articles as saying the situation was "a mess," and he was uncertain of whether grant monies already used would have to be repaid or affect the municipality's chances for grants in the future.

Mallick and Keller said that in a briefing from the administration before the previous vote, nothing was mentioned about having to repay grant money that was already spent.

"I think the impact of it is to give council a black eye and it really didn't deserve it," Mallick said.

Pepe said that was not his intention. He said the administration has provided council with factual information about the agreement, but perhaps did not present it in a manner that was easily understood.

Keller said he also was under the impression that Murrysville's comprehensive plan would be replaced by the joint comprehensive plan. However, Somers said neither municipality would be forced to accept something it did not want and that they could pick and choose what they like or don't like.

"I think you can keep your comprehensive plan but they have to have one and you might have to merge them together," Solicitor George A. Kotjarapoglus said. "I think there is still a lot of meat to flush out."

He suggested that one of the opposing council members make a motion to reconsider the joint planning effort and then have council table it, which is what Mallick then did. Council tabled it until its first meeting in May.

Before the discussion ended, Pepe stressed that there is not a rift between council and the administration on the joint planning effort, despite Mallick's comment.

"Perhaps we should have had this discussion earlier," Keller said.

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