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Condo project leaves lot of space

| Monday, July 9, 2007

The property was supposed to become the a new condominium complex in Tarentum. For over a year, though, the grass and weeds have grown on it while neighbors watched an eyesore develop.

Now the owner faces an August hearing to address the "unsafe" conditions of the property, which is located on First Avenue between Adams and Wood Street.

Scott Rittman, of the Acorn Group, knocked down two homes in June 2006 as construction for a 40-unit condominium complex was supposed to begin.

The property has been sitting untouched for about a year. Several American flags along the fence were placed there for last year's Fourth of July celebration.

Bill Rossey, Tarentum's borough manager, said Rittman will be brought before Highlands area District Judge Carolyn Bengel at a hearing on Aug. 2.

Rittman is expected be given a timetable to address the problems with the property. If he does not make changes, he faces the possibility of being fined. Eventually, the borough might clean up the property and put a tax lien against it for the costs.

Rossey said he has spoken to Rittman several times, as recently as last week, but does not know why no work has been done.

Rittman did not return repeated calls from the Valley News Dispatch for comment.

Rossey said everything on the borough's end has been approved and Rittman could begin building tomorrow if he wanted.

The Landing complex was expected to open this fall. The two- and three-bedroom homes were to be sold for $225,000 to $300,000.

The property is now overrun with weeds, grass and debris, and Rossey says it has become a breeding ground for rodents.

"It's turning into a jungle," he said. "... I wouldn't want it across the street from me."

Tarentum Councilman Mike Gutonski said the potential for a beautiful structure in the borough has now become an eyesore.

"I think that is a disgrace to see the property sitting there right now," he said.

Several residents of the area have complained about the property at council meetings, Gutonski said.

Melanie Dabkowski, of Tarentum, has lived on First Avenue her whole life. She calls the property an eyesore.

But she added that she had been more surprised about the idea of building condos in Tarentum.

"I can't see people buying condos along the Allegheny River," she said.

Jodie Slimick, who also lives along First Avenue, said she thinks something needs to be done with the area.

She has been surprised that the owner has not been reprimanded over the lot's weeds and high grass when other residents are told to fix their lawns.

If the developer didn't plan on completing the condos, he should never have torn down the two houses, Slimick said.

The council will be working towards a solution to the problem, Gutonski said.

Councilwoman Mary Newcomer said council was excited about the drawings and plans for the complex.

The borough had high expectations about the property when it approved the idea a year ago, Gutonski said.

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