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Unity planners end legal battle over development

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 7:28 a.m.

Unity Township supervisors approved a revised plan for an upscale housing development Tuesday, effectively ending a six-month legal battle with the developer.

Carney Road LLC may now proceed with the first phase of Kingsbrook Estates, a planned residential development proposed on a 55-acre site along Carney Road near Mountain View and East High Acres.

The limited-liability corporation is looking to create 109 single-family and duplex home sites to sell at prices starting at $220,000.

Supervisors initially had denied the plan on Feb. 12, citing a failure to meet township open-space requirements and concerns for traffic safety.

The developer filed a civil land-use appeal with Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court. That was followed by a complaint seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive monetary damages with U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

County President Judge Daniel J. Ackerman overturned the supervisors' denial on June 2, and supervisors subsequently appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court.

But the dispute was resolved yesterday when the developer presented a revised plan that met the criteria cited in the township's initial denial.

Supervisors had feared entrances to the development were hazardous because of "blind spots" in an area where vehicles commonly exceed the posted 25 mph speed limit.

Ackerman had ruled that the traffic safety concerns were "not frivolous," but defended the landowners' right to use property despite "the unlawful conduct of others over whom the landowner has no control."

Nonetheless, the revised plan featured reworked entrances that eliminated the blind spots and improved sight distances by paring back roadside embankments and vegetation areas.

"There's good visibility for anyone exiting the plan out onto Carney Road," Stephen Pilipovich, of Tri-County Engineering, said on behalf of the developer.

The plan also redefined open-space areas to exceed township requirements.

Township Solicitor Donald Snyder said the Commonwealth Court appeal will be withdrawn as a result of yesterday's approval of the plan.

"The developer made a proposal to amend the plan," Snyder said. "We felt that it would be proper to hear it."

"Obviously, the changes that were made will make this development safer," board Chairman Michael O'Barto said. "But it's a shame that this process took us to the courts to get the safety and common-sense issues addressed."

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